Every brand holds an inherent drama. Unlock it and you have your USP. Share it and you have the start of a good story.
Whilst the truths behind every engaging narrative are the same today as they've always been, digital has blown content creation wide open. Nowhere is this being felt more than video.
The average person now watches one hour of on-demand, digital-first video content a day. This insatiable appetite can no longer be satisfied by traditional broadcasters alone. YouTubers, influencers, startups, Twitchers and, of course, brands have all gotten in on the act. Ads no longer need to look like ads or be fixed to 30 second slots. In fact, it helps if they don't.
All this competition comes with its challenges for brands. As digital video gains popularity, so do viewer expectations. Branded content is judged on the same quality, speed and relevance merits as everything else. What was once an easy win for marketing departments is getting harder to master. Attention spans are short and spoilt for choice. The fast-paced, always-on, live-streamed, binge-watching world of online content calls for a new approach to its creation: on-demand, affordable video production. However, the traditional studio model which typically services brands (via their agencies) just isn't set up that way.
Historically, video production studios have straddled a great divide between the homespun amateur kits and a super-professional model. At one end of the spectrum is inexpensive content; authentic, with real charm, but in need of higher production values for a bigger audience. At the other end sits the black box studio. As the name suggests, the black box is just that – a bare shell, stripped of any equipment, connectivity or luxuries. Productions must be built from the ground up. The individual components gathered from scratch. Everything from cameras, camera operators, directors, lights, light operators, the set, its props, wardrobe, make-up, hair, and so on, is an added extra. Even the smallest of branded content productions can take weeks to plan and days to shoot this way. In most cases, this is completely unnecessary. The frivolous excess of old habits.
These black boxes are often found in the middle of industrial estates. Nothing but walls and buttons. It's no wonder clients find the old black box intimidating environments
So, what's the alternative?
With just about every other industry has been disrupted, now it's the turn of studio production.
The shift began with corporates building their own studios. An empty basement would be transformed into a world of content possibilities. Investments would promise to wash their face in only 20-30 productions. Procurement would count the savings on each video made. Yet many sat idle after the initial burst of enthusiasm. Equipment soon became out of date. Technical talent still needed to be shipped in. Undeterred and in search of another revenue stream, agencies followed suit, building their own studios from which to serve their clients. Same problem.
Thankfully, there is another way. Liberating frustrated storytellers from the hassle of organising their own production, a new breed of studio has come along, with everything you need to tell your story included in your booking. Lighting, cameras, sets, crew, filming, editing – the lot. Simply turn up with an idea and have your content in front of audiences in no time. Magic.
Google's YouTube Space first introduced the concept to the world. Open for creators with 10,000 subscribers or more, the spaces in London and LA grant top talent access to multiple studios, fully-kitted-out sets, a tech cage with all the latest camera and audio gear, green rooms and make-up areas, a gallery and edit suite, and even a store in which to sell your merchandise to adoring fans. It's one big playground for YouTube stars. A coming of age of the medium. Undeniably a great setup but out of the reach of brands. Until now.
All-inclusive studios such as TOG Studios in Marylebone, central London, present a commercial alternative to YouTube Spaces that are open to everyone, without restriction. No more waiting lists, copyright clearances, qualifying subscriber counts or ban on brands.
A joint venture between The Office Group and content agency Green Rock, everything you need to make your video a reality is under one roof, for a single price. The entire ecosystem – from creative support through to filming and distribution - in one, speeding the whole process up. Because of their location – in beautiful co-working spaces – the production process is wrapped up in premium touches. Watch your creation unfold as it happens in a 30-seater cinema. Be fed by a healthy cafe and restaurant facilities. Borrow props and commandeer extra rooms. Jump on to the balcony for a live broadcast. Or take some time out in the apartment next door. With 76,000 sq. ft to play with it's the polar opposite to the stuffy black box.
With its flexible set-up, this new breed of studios can be quickly reconfigured for branded roundtables, investor updates, product launches, internal briefings, ads, demos, TV shows, and so on. You get to pass on the production headaches to somebody else and receive total transparency on pricing.
Whilst the trend is a new one, all-inclusive production is likely to catch on. BT Sport Studios has recently announced it is opening itself up to third-party clients with a flexible solution. Others will follow.
It's about time the black box was given a run for its money.
Stuart Goulden is the Founder & Lead Consultant of Like No Other. He is currently working with Green Rock and The Office Group to launch TOG Studios. For further information on TOG Studios, visit their website.