“Where were you when COVID_19 happened?” For most of us, the answer is “at home.”
But around the world, innovations are happening, and businesses are being changed forever. With our storytellers in the safety of their homes, we were left wondering: “Who is going to capture those stories and document our heroes as they discover their ‘new normal’?
What is happening today is a disruption that will change the course of history and reorient the way that we see the world and the way we live our lives. When we explain to future generations what life was like “before,” how can we ever justify the gravity of what has taken place over the past few months?
On March 20th, we got the most incredible call. A doctor and his team were looking for a professional video production company to create an instructional video that revolves around creating a COVID_19 rapid detection kit.
Our team was faced with a choice. Refuse new work until this pandemic is over… or adapt. We chose to adapt. So first, we followed the rules; and second, we innovated.
Aphelion Media, has always been an outlet to capture and tell stories in a really captivating way. While some might see this pandemic as a drawback, for me and the way that I lead my team, it was really an opportunity. I wasn’t prepared to compromise on quality, but I was ready to pivot my business so that I could continue to deliver content in one of the most significant moments of my lifetime.
Our client needed the process captured in extreme detail; every micro-shift in colour could cause significant complications for the lab tech’s that are being trained on creating the rapid virus detection kits. We shot the project in the highest bitrate in 4K with RAW colour. This gave us the confidence in our colour profile being on point.
On production day, the team used the support of Zoom to collaborate with four doctors across North America. This was achieved by mounting an iPhone to our camera rig to offer a front-row view to our clients. This helped to ensure that we (non-science geeks) captured exactly what the hospital staff and lab techs needed from this complicated process. The project was a huge success, and we delivered an unprecedented 118min file to our clients via Dropbox.
Monday came to pass, and what seemed like the entire world had shut down. Many businesses closed their doors, many employees went home, and every student in Canada started playing Animal Crossing on their Nintendo Switch.
Inspired, we started to brainstorm as a team on how we could continue to provide our service (safely) and continue to create videos that make profound impacts for our clients and their businesses.
"A planet is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."
Our efforts were recognized by Joseph Heraldo, President of Baker Tilly Live Windsor. Joseph’s passion for innovative leadership earned us the trust we needed to create a series of videos to advertise an incredible new Virtual Leadership Program, and his brand-new podcast titled “Inspired Connections.”
The big question for our team was, how do we document safely with an invisible enemy lurking? This was an opportunity for us to push the boundaries of the film industry, despite the realism and panic that grips us every day. With Joe’s green light, we started pre-production.
It started with a test. The hypothesis that our team could capture and create a detailed video with only one team member, a laptop, some essential equipment, and Zoom. The goal was to develop a repeatable system and process that would allow us to test the limits even further in a top-secret project.
We had a 2-hour strategy call, outlining and narrowing down essential equipment, safety procedures, training and a plan to get the gear.
A typical shoot day consists of a team and extra gear, this shoot included only the essential tools that we would need to meet our shot list and one team member. All necessary equipment was sanitized in advance and arranged for a contactless pickup from my team member Cameron. Our team has always been trained in such a fashion that every team member could take over for the other, and not skip a beat. Think of it like a rock band where every member can play any of the instruments.
While Cameron drove to the vacant location, the rest of us hopped on a Zoom call and waited for him to log on. When he arrived, he did a location scout (which is typically done well in advance.) Using his phone, he took pictures of every inch of the space for us to plan out the set locations. Once we agreed on our favourite spots, using Zoom, we supported him in getting the equipment set up and orientated. Cameron says, “With this being a totally new approach for me, I found the experience to be much more collaborative than I had anticipated. The technology really did manage to bridge the gap between me on set and my team, each operating from their own work-stations.”
On a typical day, everyone is responsible for a couple key pieces of equipment; for this test shoot, Cameron was in charge of the entire setup and operation. Our biggest challenge was making sure that we were patient. With four pairs of eyes overseeing one of our youngest team members, it was a big undertaking. Without proper communication and patience, it would be easy to discourage anyone in a high-stress situation like this one.
The virtual collaboration meant that all of our team members were still fully involved in the design and execution of the set. “I was unsure how much I would be able to contribute to a virtual production,” says Mason, our Production Assistant, “But through Zoom, I was able to offer a lot more to my team than I anticipated, when it came to lighting, decorating the set, and framing each shot.” Mason found that this virtual production still allowed him to gain valuable professional experience and new team-building skills.
While Zoom allowed us to give Cameron live, detailed feedback, as though we were standing right beside him; This type of approach didn’t happen without its own challenges. The equipment needed to be re-adjusted continuously to give me a clear visual of what he was doing and how the shot was being framed in order for me to direct the shoot effectively.
The Zoom White Board feature came in handy to give Cameron visual instructions for camera movements and angles, which we based on the location scout photos. Our Production Manager Jonny was especially pleased with how our team was able to communicate from 4 virtual locations with the help of Zoom. “Shooting virtually for the first time was not only a great challenge for our team, but it was an extraordinarily humbling experience to be able to continue to do the great work that we do.” - Jonny, Production Manager.
Overall, we are really proud of how we have evolved into our temporary “new normal.” As more and more organizations move online, there’s an even greater need for teams like ours to help tell the stories of these incredible heroes and businesses who are just trying to navigate the new and unfamiliar terrain of Covid19.
I’m so proud of the way that I could count on my team to help me bring this vision to life. It wasn’t easy, but they made the transition really seamless. Cameron took on a huge role in the Inspired Connections project and executed it perfectly! I’m also grateful for the professionalism of my team that worked alongside me via Zoom for their endless patience and wildly positive attitudes. Never in my career as a filmmaker would I have ever envisioned myself shooting content virtually, but I love how well we have represented creatives during this pandemic. Afterall, problem solving is one of the pillars of film production and I couldn’t have chosen a better crew to have my back.
Zoom was definitely an instrumental tool in our success but most importantly, we want to recognize the trust of our clients. Our new normal has taught the Aphelion Media team a lot about ourselves and the limits we can push to deliver for our clients.