In this blog post I describe this video project for which I was hired. I wasn’t the producer for this project, I was actually the hired talent as model and voice over artist.
We have several friends who are videographers and producers of direct marketing video. When I mentioned my interest in doing voice overs to one friend, he gave my information to Bud Hayman who was working on an upcoming video project.
In spring of this year Bud, owner of Bud Hayman Images, reached out to ask if I’d have interest in doing voice over work for a video project he was producing for Michael McLean national sales manager at Santa’s Best – a company that produces LED light strings and pre-lit Christmas trees. And since I’d be there already, would I also be interested in being the model for the video shoot. I immediately said yes because the project sounded like fun. Here is an overview of the day of shooting.
The total project was production of four videos: one video that would be displayed in a video kiosk (like the one you see above) in the holiday lighting area at The Home Depot, and three other demonstration videos Santa’s Best would use internally at kiosks in their headquarters. In the Home Depot video my voice narrates while you see my hand operating the remote control for the LED light strands. In the demo videos I am either assembling a Christmas tree or looking like I’m enjoying the view of the Christmas tree, and my voice explains how easy the tree is assembled.
I learned that most holiday commercials are shot in the spring. This means it’s up to the producer to find a location and make it look like the winter holidays even though it may be the hottest day of the year. Through networking, Bud knew a friend who offered up her beautiful colonial home as the backdrop for this project. While my report time to start shooting video was 3pm, Bud (Director of Photography) and 2 production assistants / set stylists were there hours earlier to prepare and set up.
The preparations included setting up Santa’s Best Christmas trees in the front window and family room of the home, as well as setting out other Christmas decorations (like most of us are doing now!) for the mantle and fireplace and foyer. Also, the LED light strings were strung across the front door and shrubs along the front of the house.
Video shoot – part 1 – Tree Assembly
Once I arrived and changed into my sweater and jeans (SO hot in May!), it was time to start shooting video. The first portion of video to shoot was assembly of the Christmas tree which took place in the foyer of the home. Bud has planned out where I would stand and walk. We practiced how to layout the sections of the tree so that it would look natural and I could still assemble the tree efficiently. (That was the the point of the video – demonstrating how easy the pre-lit tree went up). Part of my “modeling” included looking at the assembled tree and smiling. I found it so hard to smile, and make it look natural, without overdoing it. If I were to guess, I would say I assembled and disassembled the tree about 20 times until we had it figured out. Of course on the video placing the middle section of the tree into the bottom section looks so smooth, but it took practice. This portion of the shoot took two and a half hours.
Voice over recording
While rest of the team prepared the family room for more video shooting, it was time for me to record the voice over. Rich Davis was the audio engineer (and ultimately the video editor as well), and set up a vocal “booth” in the playroom. Rich fashioned the vocal booth out of lighting rigs and heavy blankets in the shape of a triangle. In these photos you see two sides of the triangle, then the third side of the triangle was put up behind me. The purpose of the heavy blankets was to deaden any extraneous sounds so that the recording would be clear. He then set up a microphone and ran cables into a digital audio recorder. While he was setting up, I practiced a few vocal exercises to warm up my voice and reviewed the scripts again. Four videos. Four scripts.
I did a few practice runs of the scripts so that Rich could make sure that he had proper levels on the recording. We then invited the client Mike McLean to sit in and listen while the audio was recorded. It was really helpful having him there to give me direction on pronunciation and word emphasis. After 30 minutes, we declared the voice over recordings done, and Rich recorded a bit of “room noise” in case he needed it during editing. (For instance, if some of the voice over needed to have some pauses in between phrases, the room noise recording would allow the pauses to sound natural versus using the “dead noise” of silence.)
Our next step was to take a dinner break and wait for sunset because the next portion of shooting would take place in the family room. This took a while because well, May and daylight savings time, but it gave the stylists enough time to prep the room for the shoot.
Video shoot – part 2 – Beauty shots
Once it was dark enough outside, Bud took some “beauty shots” of the tree and lights in the family room. He used a small rig on which his camera sat on wheels so that he could record smooth moving video the tree. He shot both a closeup view and a view over my shoulder while I was sitting in a chair. My job was simple – sit in a chair pretending to read a book and then look up at my beautiful Christmas tree.
We then moved to shooting video outside, so that we could capture the LED light strands.
Video shoot – part 3 – Outside lights
The last section of video to shoot was showing the Santa’s Best LED light strings on the front door and on the shrubs along the front of the house. The stylists had done an amazing job stringing all the lights. Other than the fact there was no snow on ground, it looked like a very festive house! For this part of the video, my hand was shown controlling the colors and functions of the lights. This took a bit of time because I kept moving my hand and we wanted to be able to show all the lighting combinations.
At 11pm, it was a wrap. The lights were taken down, the equipment was packed up, the trees were removed, and the owner’s furniture was returned to its original placement. Over the course of a few days, the videos were edited and sent along to Michael McLean at Santa’s Best for approval. While you can see the video created for The Home Depot yourself, Michael gave me permission to share all the videos on my blog.
Please go out and buy Santa’s Best products!
Assembling a Santa’s Best Pre-Lit LED Christmas tree:
Santa’s Best Pre-Lit LED Tree:
Demonstration of Santa’s Best Ultimate LED Smart Tech Lighting:
Commercial about Santa’s Best Ultimate LED Light Show used at The Home Depot: