COVID-19: Creating video in 2020

Abigail Beardsley – Hug Media

From restriction to style: How COVID-19 has re-imagined video production

As with all trends, style within the creative industries changes over time, mutating and evolving with our society. Video is no exception to this. Since its inception, film has developed with advancements in technology, allowing us to produce spectacular visions to the screen. Yet, with the restrictions that followed COVID-19, our capabilities to create video this year became increasingly limited.  

During the initial months of isolation, video consumption was at an all-time high, creating it was a different story. Filmmakers have had to use innovative thinking, creativity and adaptation to ensure they reached their audiences. Now almost a year into life with COVID, we’re beginning to see new aesthetics emerge from the rubble. Once again, filmmakers have turned necessity into resourcefulness, and in turn, have shaped style.

Creating video in 2020: Recycling

Filming on location was a difficult – if not impossible – task during the first few months of isolation. With the need for engaging content, many companies opted to tell their stories through repurposed footage. While some used their archives, the stock footage industry boomed, with Shutterstock searches rising 70 per cent in Australia.

While archival companies may provide the high-quality footage audiences know and love, many found this wasn’t enough. When focusing on the pandemic itself, relevance became an issue – there’s only so many empty streets, cities, hands and hugs people are willing to see. With this in mind, many businesses opted for user-generated content to create informative, expressive and time-sensitive videos, that also met tight budgets.  

While user-generated content has been on the rise for some time now, its popularity reached an all-time high amid COVID-19. As a stylistic choice, it’s been widely accepted, with industry leaders Uber, Colgate and Apple all jumping on the bandwagon. And it’s not just brands that have adopted this style. Video streaming platform iwonder announced their documentary, set to feature user-generated content from the midst of the pandemic.

Empty theatre during COVID-19

COVID-19 sounds like…

Sound has continued to evolve since its introduction to film in the 1920s. Now, it seems COVID has reverted us to the past. For larger corporations, employing voice artists to record messages was an easy option when creating video remotely. Those with smaller budgets, on the other hand, were left to their own devices (literally), using only the equipment available to them.

Before COVID, high-quality soundscapes had become an essential part of video. We’re now left wondering if audiences will be more forgiving of resourceful audio beds and crackly voiceovers. Perhaps, like the rise of the classic film camera in more recent times, uncomplicated sound will become a sought after style.

On the other end of the sound spectrum, filmmakers and artists have turned the constraints of the pandemic into creative opportunity. Freelance videographer Dayne Hudson collected audio of uninhabited Sydney to create his documentary Sounds of a City. While this piece will surely become a relic of the time, so too will Hudson’s atmos – a rare soundscape of a city that usually bustles.

For more on the basics of sound click here

Light in a challenging time

Before COVID hit, perfectly lit videos were the norm – bright advertisements flickered on the TV, and moody studio lighting set the scenes of our favourite films. With the strict regulations, studio access has become limited and lighting no longer left to the experts.

While other areas of production (e.g. sound and video footage) have been adapted to fit the equipment available, lighting has not been one of them. 

As filmmaker Martin Scorsese once said: “Light is also at the beginning of everything. Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light – which means the creation of forms.”

In essence, light is life.

Understanding the importance of light when creating video, many have invested in professional equipment. From three-head fluorescent lighting kits to ring lights, it seems everyone creating video in 2020 had a lighting glow up.

While the effects of COVID-19 have been difficult for everyone, it’s important to reflect on the strength that's reborn from crisis. We’ve been moved by the agility, creativity and resourcefulness of those within our industry. And, in turn, inspired as we too change the way we create video content this year and into the future.