Every resort and hotel needs a hero video, it’s an investment in your property’s visual identity for years to come. The whole process can be intimidating, especially the technical aspects. It’s a new language to most people and understanding what is the industry standard can be a never-ending labyrinth of confusion.
This article aims to give you some clarity and hopefully some extra knowledge going into your next shoot. A good production house will guide you through the process, but it can’t hurt to understand things from the other side.
A little background on me, I’m the owner of Mott Visuals. We specialize in hotel/resort videos and photography covering all of Asia and beyond.
Our Hospitality Clients
You may already know some of these things so skip ahead if you don’t need my advice, don’t worry I won’t be offended.
Finding The Right Production Team(Research)
This is the most important element of this article so please read it carefully and then choose Mott Visuals(kidding of course). Go beyond Google, SEO can’t truly be trusted as there are many deceptive ways to get yourself bumped to the top and the top listing isn’t always the best at video production, they are just the best at SEO. Research by looking at videos that inspire you and don’t be shy to reach out to other hotels/resorts to see who shot their work. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, just dig a little deeper on sites like Vimeo and YouTube and you can probably find the video team’s version directly with a clever keyword search.
Regarding their portfolio, look closely not just at the reels from the production houses, but also look at several examples of their work so you know how they work in different conditions and so you know their work is consistent. Some videos were shot by the team but not produced or even scripted by that team. If you like a video in their portfolio ask if they scripted, edited, and shot it. Some businesses will put examples of their work on their website but the whole creative direction was done by the client or by an AD agency so unless an AD agency is involved(more on that later) make sure you know what kind of service you are getting from the production house.
Check references and make sure their work is publicly shown on their website, not just in a private gallery or private Dropbox link. You might not think this happens but it does, some people take the “fake it until you make it” motto a bit far and they actually show other team’s work as their own, so be careful.
Don't wait for the last minute to start planning your shoot. Casting, wardrobe prep, permits, scripting all take time so plan ahead. Sure, we've done rushed shoots on a moments notice but it's not ideal. If you aren't using models a few weeks ahead of time is fine but if you want to use models give yourself about 4-5 weeks.
Do you need an AD agency or content agency or should you just work directly with the production house?
AD agencies look away, you won't like what I'm about to say. Many content agencies are great at content strategies but they aren’t always the best teams for producing a video and they typically subcontract that out or use an in-house team. Everyone wants to be a one stop shop for their clients but they aren’t always a one stop shop that is skilled at many things. You must ask yourself is that in-house team going to always give you a consistent product or do they use different freelancers on every shoot and how much do they know about video production.
AD agencies can be the same, they just middle man the whole thing and charge a premium for it and some just find the production team at the lowest costs and highest margins for them. You want the majority of your money going into producing the best quality video with the most talented team, not into mark-ups and waste, or into teams that don't specialize in video.
On the flip side, if you go directly to a director or freelance cinematographer, do they know how to handle full production and can they produce a creative brief? Do you as the client want to handle production and if so do you know the full extent of what goes into that? Casting, prop styling, wardrobe, location permits (if you leave the property to shoot), drone permits, drone operator, contracts for the models, liability, make-up, model management, transportation, insurance, and the list goes on and on and it's a load to handle.
Some video teams are great at shooting, but they can they handle full production. You need to make sure if you are cutting out the AD agency that the team you are working with understands how to handle full production, many can’t.
How do you know who can handle it and who can’t? You must ask right away, are they a full production house or not. Did they do full production on the videos you saw on their website? If you are dealing with the producer from the beginning that’s a good sign. If they don’t have a producer, that’s a red flag.
I’m not saying AD agencies and content agencies don’t have their place, but if you can find a team that can handle full-production and understands your industry well you will save cost and avoid any miscommunication because you will be dealing directly with the team that will be producing your video from start to finish.
Agencies will hate me after this one but I’m speaking the truth and speaking from personal experience. I’ve been on shoots where the agencies have been very helpful and contributed quite a bit to the creative direction but I’ve been on other shoots where they actually hindered the overall quality of the shoot, so you just have to do your homework on the production house and make a judgment call.
To be fair content agencies can be very helpful and do offer a service many production houses don't, distrubution and strategy. If you are hiring one you should put them in touch with the production team ahead of the shoot. In a perfect world they strategize together before the shoot because the more the prodcution team knows about the final output and how the content is going to be used the better they can serve your marketing needs.
Style of Cinematography and Frame Rate
Again, look at the work on their website and see what you like and then inquire about the details. For us, we do a mix, some videos we use slow motion only and some we don't, it really depends on our brief and the style of the brand. Have the discussion with the director ahead of time and understand the difference between shooting something fully in slow motion or not.
For the style of cinematography see if you want your video to constantly be in motion shot on a steadicam or do you want it shot mostly from a tripod. If your reference video is from their portfolio then just ask them what they used and if it’s another video shot by a different team just show the team that video and they will be able to tell you.
Here is an example of a video shot 100% with a steadicam system at 21:9 aspect ration(also 100% produced by Mott Visuals.
Know What You Want
The most helpful thing you can do for the creative team and the director is to be clear about what you want. If you chose a specific team, you did so for a reason, so let them know what videos in their portfolio you like and why. If you don't like something in their portfolio it's also important to let them know that.
Communication is key to a successful video so if you are the decision maker on the final video do you best to be on location of the shoot. If you can't be there, make sure you have someone from your staff there that knows what you want and knows your brand well to answer any questions as they arise and generally to oversee the shoot.
Many of our clients expect models to be cheap and easy to sort out but that simply isn't the case. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Often with our clients when we send the quote for the models, they come back and say they will handle it themselves (which is totally fine). Once they shop around and do their research they typically come back and want us to handle it because of how complex it can be.
Professional models, professional being the key word here, need to be cast, wardrobe fitted and arrange, logistics organized, and contracts sorted out with usage right. This is a lot of work and a lot of liability on a shoot. Often, we cast for full families so the children need to be accompanied by a guardian and transportation and arrangements all must be handled.
As for usage with models you must understand why they need to charge more for more usage. If you are a model based in SE Asia and your picture is going to be on the billboard for a big-name hotel then it makes it difficult for them to work for competitors of that hotel for the years to come.
I advise against using "good looking" friends as tempting as it might be. Acting and experience modeling is essential to a successful shoot. A director will help with this but honestly during a shoot isn't the time to be teaching people how to act and model. Bad models can ruin a video if they don't know how to act. It's an investment sure, but trust me it's worth it.
Why can’t I move dates around last minute and why is there a penalty for cancelling or rescheduling? Think of it like someone booking your Penthouse Suite and they also made a lot of custom orders like a private plane to a remote island, specific exotic food requests, etc. You already paid deposits for these things, you turned down other guests for that room and blocked it off for the entire room and then they cancel. Of course, you deserve compensation. For the models typically they’ve been fitted, wardrobe has been purchased, tickets were paid for, and most likely they turned down other work for your timing.
Things happen and sometimes it’s out of your control and a good production team will do their best to accommodate but you must understand their side of things too so plan carefully and only postpone or cancel if it’s unavoidable.
What aspect ratio do you want your video shot in? 4:3 is boxy, 16:9 is wider and suits YouTube but we prefer 21:9 because it gives it that cinematic look. 21:9 still works on YouTube, it just has a black bar on the top and bottom.
It’s extremely important to make this decision before you do the shoot as the once the director knows what aspect ratio you want he/she will frame the video accordingly. You can of course crop in post-production but you will be reducing quality and most likely the overall mood of the style of cinematography will be effected.
If you foresee your video being used as a TVC not just on the web let the production house know ahead of time so they can insure they use the right quality equipment. For example, people are excited about 4k and 5K but if your video is just for your website it’s overkill. Best to let the team know where you intend the video to land and they can sort out the rest for you.
Video is a lot different than photography. It has a has a lot of variables to consider such as the timing and type of the music, the narrative, transitions, etc. All these things must flow together harmoniously for it to work as a cohesive story. Moving or replacing one element, effects the whole video. Because of the complexity of arranging all these moving parts it’s important to have one point of contact for feedback. Having too many people chime in from various departments can drastically effect the final product especially if the feedback isn’t thought through with the video as a whole in mind. This isn’t to say various people should have input but it’s all should filter through one person and then to the editor. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had people from different departments weighing such as the director of water sports wanting more kayaking, the destination team wants more locations, F&B wants more, well you get the point. This can make for a srambled video, so have one point of contact and yes field their concners but consider the video as a whole.
Videoshop Isn’t A Thing
Removing things from a scene is possible but it isn’t easy, it’s not the same as photography. Think about a video being shot at 30 frames(pictures) per second so removing an object from a 5 second scene would require changing 150 frames.
Everyone does things differently and there are always exceptions but I hope these point helped clear some things up. Also, a good production house will be helpful and guide you through the process so don't stress out if some of this was confusing.
Thank you for reading such a long article and I hope you found it helpful. I wish you the best of luck on your next video shoot. Please share this with your colleagues and if you have any questions please ask them in the comments section and I will do my best to reply promptly.
Justin is an American award winning documentary, editorial, and commercial photographer and director based in Asia for over a decade.
He has shot over 100 assignments for The New York Times and a collection of his work "The Changing Face Of Vietnam" was featured on the BBC. His commercial photography and film clients include some of the largest international corporations in the world such as NIKE, Microsoft, BOSCH, IHG, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotels to name a few.
He founded Mott Visuals in 2009 bringing his editorial and storytelling background to the commercial photography and video production market.