How to Approach Production Amidst COVID-19

by Matt Weber

Short-term and long-term solutions for remote content & video production

Content and video production are going to see an increase in demand during this time of self-quarantine and social distancing. According to Nielsen, we could see up to a 60% increase in video consumption. Now more than ever, people will be looking for content to distract themselves from everything that is going on in the world and the endless news cycle that has taken over due to COVID-19. 

There is no denying the fact that almost all live-action production has come to a halt for the foreseeable future. Social distancing makes it nearly impossible for cast and crew to work in close quarters with each other, locations are no longer available or open to outside groups, and non-essential companies are altering their hours or pausing operations for the next few weeks or months.

These sudden changes bring with them a big challenge. How can you still produce quality content while working remotely? Below, we’ve outlined a few short-term and long-term solutions to help you weather this shift in production approach:

Quick-Turn Production:

Leverage existing assets to create additional content.

  • Re-edit previous projects to make new content (cutdowns, micro-content, etc). 
  • Revisit old ideas from a new perspective, or take inspiration from current happenings to brainstorm new content opportunities.
  • Think of ways to optimize content for mediums and platforms that were not previously considered or approved due to time or budget constraints.
  • One note to keep in mind—check all licensing and usage agreements for music/talent/imagery and negotiate additional usage as needed (this consideration is sure to please your business affairs team).

Concept with stock footage and images in mind.

  • Some stock houses offer annual memberships that provide unlimited downloads and make projects more affordable compared to licensing individual clips.
  • Stock can be leveraged for great storytelling when you don’t specifically need to show a specific brand or product. 
  • Stock photography is already leveraged on many projects when custom photography is not needed or doesn’t fit into the budget.  
  • Stock photography is a great way to get print and digital content out quickly given the current environment. A lot can be done with design and retouching to make these pieces of content shine.

Look at motion graphics/animation as an alternative solution to bring content to life.

  • Text animation, explainer videos, 2D/3D motion graphics are all potential substitutes for live-action productions.
  • This type of work does not require a big production shoot and can all be done remotely.   

Create product-focused content.

  • Teams can shoot in a studio with minimal staff and crew, utilizing collaboration tools to make sure key members are included
  • This is a great opportunity for teams with lots of experience styling and art directing product and still life content.

Consider audio production. 

  • Podcasts are a great medium to leverage and are rapidly growing in popularity.
  • With minimal equipment, podcasts can be produced completely remotely, with a quick turnaround time, and within a small budget.
  • Compared to video content, audio content like podcasts are much more accessible and convenient for users to consume. 
  • Radio/Sponsored content for streaming services
  • Note: radio advertising should see a decrease as people are spending less time in their cars and offices, and more time plugged into their devices, which is why content made for digital and streaming is a good idea. One note of caution, content for digital and streaming will be in high demand—pushing media costs up and inventory down so make sure to pull in your media team to help make the best recommendations for the project. 

Long Term Production:

  • The current environment is temporary -- production as we know it will get back to normal at some point. And when it does, you need to be prepared.
  • Expect a rush of previously and regularly scheduled production to hit all at once (most likely the back half of Q2 and all of Q3 and into Q4).
  • Plan now so you can be ready once the current situation passes and everything gets back to “normal”.  Everyone is in the same boat and everyone will want to jump on their production coming out of this. That means directors, production companies and crew alike will all be in very high demand. To combat that, start planning early and position yourself to be at the front of the line, getting your preferred dates, locations, and talent—and not at the back of the line accepting only what’s available to you when the time comes.
  • Bigger productions typically require anywhere from 6-8+ weeks for discovery, concept development, and pre-production. These efforts do not need to change or be rescheduled just yet. If you are kicking off a new, larger-scale project now, chances are it wouldn’t be shooting until late-May or June anyway. Of course, you’ll need to be ready to reassess if the self-quarantine and social distancing period remains throughout the spring.

Shifting landscapes can be overwhelming, but it’s important to be aware of all of the solutions you have available to help you continue to produce quality content. As our friends @_the_poolhouse say,  “Pivot, Don’t Panic”. And remember, redpepper’s content production team is here to support all of your needs.

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