Creating video content for businesses has come a long way since the days when corporate video meant filming a predictable parade of talking heads. These days, creative film makers such as the film and motion design team at Investis Digital rely on storytelling narrative for corporate video production just like Hollywood filmmakers do. They depend on technologies such as 3D, augmented reality, and virtual reality to help businesses make emotional connections with their audiences, ranging from employees to shareholders to customers. To learn more about the art of corporate video, we sat down with Mark Senior, who is head of film and motion design at Investis Digital.
This is an exciting time for Mark and his team. Televisual magazine just named Investis Digital one of the Top 50 corporate video production companies in the United Kingdom (Investis Digital ranks 17 out of 50). This accolade affirms that Investis Digital has arrived as a leading creator of video content for businesses ranging from Rolls-Royce to fragrance company, Symrise.
In the following Q&A, Mark sheds more insight into how Investis Digital helps clients connect with audiences through the power of corporate video.
How long have you been doing video work personally?
I’ve been involved in corporate video for more than 12 years. Before that, I worked in television. (Editor’s note: prior to being in corporate video, Mark worked on TV productions such as “You Can’t Fire Me, I’m Famous!” Learn more about Mark’s background via his LinkedIn profile.)
What do you and your team do for Investis Digital clients?
We create a variety of content, ranging from corporate films to branded content – and everything in between.
The films range from drama to animation to documentary style. We meet any number of challenges ranging from communicating to shareholders to customers to employees. For example, we helped fragrance company Symrise tell its “about us” story to shareholders. Instead of taking the traditional approach of a CEO talking to a camera, we created animation that told the company’s story, with the CEO providing the voiceover.
Videos are typically five minutes or less in duration. Shorter is better in a world where you don’t get the consumer’s attention for very long.
Another example of our work is for engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce was launching a new jet engine and wanted to illustrate the enormity of the technical challenge of building an engine.
We created a 3D animation that essentially exploded a diagram of a jet engine and showed how the engine is constructed one part at a time. We wanted to convey a “Wow” factor to show how much work is done to build an engine, which, in turn, helped Rolls-Royce build its perception as a high-tech company. Here you see the power of film creating an emotional connection – for an external and external audience. The film creates an undeniable reaction.
What makes film the right medium for these clients?
Film creates more engagement and is much more effective. An emotional message is twice as likely to be acted on than a rational message. Film has the power to make you feel emotionally connected. This means a lot more than making someone laugh or cry – but also creating a “Wow” factor sometimes, and making people feel emotions like pride in where they work. If you are creating a corporate film about a topic such as sustainability, film can create a sense of urgency to take action.
Where does the process of creating film start?
It all starts with the brief. We need to understand the audience we are talking to. What they currently think, feel, and do about a topic; and then we need to identify what we want the audience to think, feel, and do after they see your film. The exercise of making a film is great for distilling complicated messaging down to its essence.
Once we are done with the brief, we go into creative ideation. A group of us gets together and think about how we might tell a story. Here we draw upon filmic tools. Let’s say you are trying to recruit talent to a company. Well, you might do that in a number of ways such as an event, a film in which someone talks about their job, or a completely novel approach such as a narrative story.
We present different approaches to a client, and those approaches include both the “safe” and the “brave.” Presenting safe and brave options helps us understand how bold the client is willing to be. Once we’ve done that, then we go through the logistics and development of researching scripting, storyboarding, and shooting a film. It’s important that when you show up on a site and start filming, the client knows exactly what they are getting and how much they are paying. You always give the client the full picture and keep them involved before you complete the film. That way the client can make changes before you present them a finished film.
When you create a film, do you manage distribution, too?
Absolutely. I just got done with a meeting for a client where we are going to create two pieces of content a week. As part of the content creation, we ask questions such as who the audience is, what the appropriate asset is going to be, and then how you’re going to distribute that asset to reach that audience. Film is a really powerful way to amplify a message to your desired audience. But you need to know the audience and distribution approach to do it right. The distribution approach affects how you actually complete the film – say a square format for Instagram but a landscape for different screen.
What’s the most exciting part about creating content for a client?
I work with 50 clients a year. I have an opportunity to help them solve their challenges. It’s a fantastic honor to be in a meeting where we are dealing with questions such as, “We have this problem -- how might we solve it?”
It’s also exciting to present the final work to a client. This is an art, not a science. When you deliver the film and the client is happy with it and you are happy with it you, you experience a fantastic sense of achievement.
What trends do you see in corporate film-making?
Costs have fallen significantly because of the availability of digital technology. I have a powerful editing tool right on my Macintosh to do things that years ago would have been costly and time consuming. But digital has had a much bigger impact beyond reducing costs. With digital, you can edit film in different formats – instead of doing one 15-minute film for a client, you can create a series of shorter clips to tell your story, customized in format for different digital touchpoints such as your website or Instagram. The actual technology keeps improving. We can create really cutting-edge looking stuff in a way that you could not even do a year ago.
We are also moving away from a single linear narrative to object-based storytelling mode. What that means is that you can involve the audience in more creative ways such as an interactive portal rather than producing a traditional video with a beginning, middle, or end. This is an interesting shift.
What are the most interesting technologies you are using?
We are doing a lot of 3D animation using Cinema 4D, which makes it possible for us to model objects in a real-world environment. This has been around a few years, but it’s getting to a much more exciting level. In live action, we are starting to do things with virtual reality, augmented reality, with interactive techniques that support the conventional filmmaking aspect.
How do you think film will look 10 years from now?
Consider how TV is consumed right now through shows that put the audience in control to even greater than levels. Within 10 years, everything is going to be consumed digitally through digital platforms. Through digital, an audience will be able to tell you how long they have to watch you corporate video, and the film will edit itself in real time to produce content customized to the viewer’s time constraints.
I see personalization also occurring with content – meaning when you come to a site, the film content is personalized to your interests based on what the site knows about you. This is happening already. We’ve seen completion rates four times as high for video that greets user by name (“Hello Mark!”). But it’s going to get even more personal.
What does the Televisual ranking mean to you?
For my entire career, the Televisual list has informed places I have worked. I know clients look at this list because they tell me so. To be ranked so highly by Televisual is fantastic. This is a massive boost to appear with prestigious companies that are renowned as the best in the space. Our name is right there alongside them.Thank you, Mark, and congratulations!