10 Tips on how to shoot a great commercial!

1. Understand what you’re advertising

Find out what your product offers and make sure that you’re clear about it. Otherwise you’ll end up creating confusion and disappointment for the audience.
So, make a list of all the features, functions, price including unforeseen hidden costs, product design and the target audience. Then move towards what are the most impactful features of the product and focus on them.

2. Write a script

Personally when I shot the “Other products vs Our product” series of advertisements for a hybrid smartwatch(Muse) created by Conzumex Industries, I had the freedom to write and direct the shoot.
Keeping the theme in mind I wrote 7 scripts. Each was supposed to be 15 second long video. And since this was my first time directing and writing, I made sure to include some flexibility so we could convey the message with ease.
Discuss your scripts with your client and make sure he agrees to the message and the way it’s delivered!

3. Find the right people

The crew for the shoot is incredibly important. Make sure to hire professionals if you can afford them. Of course they are going to be costlier than your friend with a DSLR, but they are worth it!
Fortunately, Conzumex worked with a professional cameraman and an editor for their previous videos. So SPY(Editor) and Sujith(Cameraman) who are ex-students of IIT Madras helped us a lot.
I’d also like to mention our social media guy, Abhinesh, for helping with the logistics!
The right team can enhance even the simplest of ideas.

4. Location, Props, Costumes

While writing scripts, make sure to be precise about where the shoot is going to be. Also, make sure that the location is feasible and appropriate i.e you would be able to reach there with the crew, actors and equipments and shoot there, then bring everything back in time.
Props are not just objects that are used in the video. They add a character to the scene. Be creative in finding the right props for the scene which are unique.
Again, the costumes would define how eye catching and pleasing the commercial is for the audience. Costumes do add depth to the story and characterisation of the script but the quality is in your hands!

5. Equipments

This has to be done correctly! Make sure that this is one of the priorities in terms of budget. Once you’ve locked your location find the right equipments that you can bring there and would be appropriate for the shoot. These equipments can be lights, camera+lens+filters, tripod, green screen, reflectors, microphone, software, and many more. 
Now you need to balance your budget with quality. Although some would say gear doesn’t matter. But that’s not a total truth. Make sure that you’re getting exactly the quality you want for the price that you can afford. This can be tricky!
Create an excel sheet of all the requirements so that you don’t miss out anything

6. Actors

This personally for me was the hardest part while shooting the recent Muse Smartwatch commercial. Since we are going to sell our product to the whole world, we wanted our actors to be as relatable as possible. For this we had to find people of different physical appearances, cultures, races and nationalities. Also, it was imperative that they perform their parts as naturally as possible.
This was a challenge for us where Abhinesh helped a lot. Thanks to him from bringing the actors from the IIT Madras campus, where a lot of international students stay for their semester exchange. They participated enthusiastically.
Another point to be noted is that, if you have actors who have never performed before, let them be very natural! This may take things off script, as they would improvise, but as long as the general idea is communicated, all is well.

Thanks to all the actors who participated.

7. Shooting

Make sure that once everything is set up you’re taking the shots as per your final edit. That means if you’re shooting with a green screen like we did, be clear about the backgrounds and effects that you’ll be adding later. Of course, the script has to be followed, but keeping constraints like time, budget and skills in mind makes sure that there is enough flexibility without compromising on the quality.
We had our editor, SPY(Srikar Prasad), with us at the location of the shoot to discuss impromptu changes so that we can deliver the message with the quality that we intended to. This made sure that everyone was on the same page and hence the whole shoot went smoothly. If this is not possible for you, make sure the communication is clear and solid with your crew. Otherwise, the footage might not be usable at all.

8. Time

Rather than looking at this as an obstacle, take it up as a challenge.
Time can make or break your whole project so be careful while planning it. 
For us, we had 7 short videos planned. They were supposed to be 15 sec long and had a variety of scenes and actors and props. Our deadline for this to be done was just one day.
Since the final shoot was supposed to be done within a day, we needed to make sure nothing went wrong on that day. For this, we brought the equipment and set them up appropriately at the required location a day prior to the shoot. Then we did some test shots and rehearsals(without the actual actors) to finalize the lighting setup. This made us realize our mistakes and wrong assumptions which we overcame on the final day.
Finally, we successfully shot all 7 videos that we needed to!

9. Post-production

Here as a writer/director for these videos I completely trust my editor SPY(Srikar Prasad) for all the editing and VFX and color-grading and everything else.
I’m writing this blog while he is working on the footage we shot. Hence, I haven’t seen the final footage yet. But I’m quite optimistic about it.

10. Have fun!

Filmmaking as a trade is not entirely artistic. It lies somewhere between art and science(not sure if they are opposites, but you know what I mean).
It’s filled with a lot of stress, management, planning, and boring logistics. But make sure that these things don’t bring you down. You might as well use all the non-artistic chores to make sure that the final product is highly artistic.
It’s easy to dream about filmmaking and criticizing movies that you watch. But as soon as you start a project you’ll find hundreds if not millions of obstacles which you’d need to overcome.
While you’re dealing with all that, make sure that you don’t lose out on how much fun this process can be. Instead, fall in love with the tough and stressful parts and then you’ll see the magic unfolding on screen!

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