Producers, photographers and clients often ask themselves the same basic question when planning a production: Can’t we also produce some photos or film content? This guide explains what to look for in a combined film-photo production.
In times of filming cameras with 8k video or film cameras with 12k sensor resolution the question of combined production of video and photo arises more and more often. After all, the marketing, advertising and communications departments of the clients are usually under cost and time pressure. Reason enough to take a closer look at the most important aspects of combining photo and film production.
Brand Films GmbH is an internationally networked professional film production company in Munich. Led by owner Andreas Brand, the company has been producing commercials, corporate films, image films, product films, animations, interviews, event films, explainer videos, web animations, branded content, TV spots, cinema spots, social media clips and trade fair films since 2015.
As a creative agency, Brand Films also successfully implements combined film and photo productions time and again. “Regardless of the medium, our focus is always on making the invisible tangible and the explicable understandable,” explains managing director and producer Andreas Brand.
If you have booked the location and the model anyway, why not produce for several media and use the recognition effect on top of that? What is a legitimate question from a marketing perspective, however, must be carefully evaluated and questioned individually from a production perspective. Because the answer to the question of the experienced media designer, whether a combined production is realizable and recommendable, is mostly: in principle yes, but …
Advantages of combining a photo shoot and a film shoot
The advantages have already been indicated:
- Anyone who commissions a photo shoot or film production wants the maximum output. Budget, which is invested in locations, studios, models, art department etc., has to be provided only once in case of a combination of film shooting and photo shoot.
- If then a photographer or cameraman (DoP) can operate the cameras required for professional filming and photography in personal union, even better.
- It is true that image designers are also paid for this additional work and the exploitation of the expanded content created as a result. A savings effect can nevertheless often be achieved in contrast to booking two separate image designers.
It is often the case that the majority of the time is spent in on-location preparation, i.e. set-up, lighting, make-up, dressing, etc. Once the model or the actor is in front of the camera, it usually goes quite quickly.
That’s why we also talk about the advantage of time savings for client and agency in comparison to two separate productions. The same is even more true when you have well-known and famous personalities in front of the camera. When working with stars and celebrities, the time frame for the film and photo productions required to fulfill advertising contracts is usually very sporting.
Exploitation and legal aspects
As a producer or client, you must be aware that all creative services also involve additional exploitation rights due to the additional use in the second medium, which must be transferred separately and also remunerated. This mainly concerns the director, the photographer/DoP but also models, actors or designers of a production.
Example of combined film and photo production: AWM Plastikvermeidung 2020 | © Brand Films
Unfortunately, when it comes to the transfer of rights, there is still a widespread notion that a client acquires unrestricted exploitation rights when he commissions and pays for the production of a media product.
- The applicable law in this country – unlike in the USA, for example – does not permit the assignment of all rights wholesale.
- In the case of additional exploitation or media, it is essential that this is taken into account, mapped and purchased by the client in the calculation.
Despite this, there are still ignorant video production companies and industry newcomers who offer usage rights for film and photo rights for a flat fee as a so-called buy-out.
Whoever as a customer accepts such an offer without careful examination takes a risk that should not be underestimated, especially in the area of copyrights. This is because the law simply prohibits a transfer – for example of the personal rights woven into the European concept of copyright.
Of course, every image designer and filmmaker is free to give away his work, and – as self-exploitation – to agree to the free transfer of all permissible rights to the client. This, however, prevents a fair, sustainably developing production landscape in Germany.
What is required for a successful film-photo production?
1Requirements for the overall organisation
Anyone thinking about a combined film-photo production should definitely discuss this with all creative and producing decision-makers in the run-up to the production. Time estimates, space planning, production setups, etc. are greatly influenced by combined, interlocking productions.
If you decide just before the production date that a combined film-photo production could make sense, you will have to coordinate and decide a lot in a very short time. This increases the risk of errors creeping into the processing and influencing the result. In addition, then possibly not everything is realizable, since bspw. the photo studio does not offer enough space for film equipment and crew.
2Differences between the medium film and photo
People often forget that film and photography are two different media, because we are used to thinking in terms of motifs. The same motif can be depicted in both media, but the way we tell a story in each case is fundamentally different.
The film shows an action, a process or a situation in motion. Moving images tell about time sequentially, whereas the photograph always captures it in a single frame. It is therefore essential to be aware of the different possibilities of each medium in order to make the best use of its strengths and weaknesses for storytelling.
Photos are mute. Film sequences, conversely, do not only work with visual information. They complement image content with the sound layer. Where sound design and music are an essential part of the image effect, the photo concept and video concept should take this into account.
3Freeze motion vs. motion blur
The difference between a “frozen” moment (photo) and the image of a development on the time axis (film) automatically leads to the next difference. This one concerns the exposure time.
In the photographic field, a short exposure time is used to achieve a sharp image with fast movements. Conversely, longer exposure times can be used to convey a certain movement of the photographed object, for example in driving shots or pictures of flowing water. With video and film, the situation is different.
Example of combined film and photo production: Cinema spot City Hall Galleries | © Brand Films
Film is usually shot with a shutter of 180 degrees, which is a relative specification in terms of frame rate. A shutter setting of 180 degrees at a frame rate of 25 frames per second corresponds to an exposure time of 1/50 second. This exposure time serves our viewing habits in terms of cinematic, fluid images.
Anyone who takes photographs knows that at this exposure time, a moving object will generally appear out of focus in each frame, depending on the speed. The term for this is motion blur. So what is important for film and fluid movement can prove counterproductive for the photo.
Of course, the shutter is also reduced or increased in film as a stylistic device to create something of a dream look or action look. Knowing the basic relationship of shutter in film vs. exposure time in a photograph is important when the question arises whether frames can be extracted from film material after the fact.
4Different ways of working
Photographers and directors / cameramen follow different workflows in essential points during the realization and implementation of their assignment. It is important to pay special attention to this when combining a film shoot with a photo shoot.
Posing vs. Acting
With regard to models and actors, there are often different ways of working depending on the project. Whereas photo models usually just move quickly from one pose to the next and stay there until the picture is taken, in scenic film it is customary to define starting and ending points for actions. Not all models/performers are comfortable in both worlds.
So it should also be clarified in advance whether photo and turning experience is available.
In addition, a mode should be chosen that is a good workflow for all involved. Those who believe that they can simply shoot with the film camera while the photographer goes about his work will probably be disappointed, because the shots are then only suitable for a behind-the-scenes video at best. One possible solution is to first generate a block of photos and then, while these are being viewed again at leisure or the photo department is moving to the next set and preparing, shoot the film scenes.
Series vs. Continuity
When taking photographs, it is often the case that you produce a series within a motif. Here you try different things to get the best result. With film, it’s basically the same, but with the crucial difference that with scenic film you have to fix a certain sequence at some point in order to film it from different angles.
This difference can sometimes lead to conflict between the photo and film departments … one wants to try things out, the other doesn’t want to change certain things to make the scene work as a whole. This then also affects other aspects such as the set design or the lighting.
Continuous light vs. flash
Another big difference in the way of working regularly concerns the lighting.
Photographers are usually used to working with a lot more light via flashes than the filmmaker is used to working with continuous light. This is due to the fact that a flash on conventional sockets can release a large amount of light power via capacitors, which normally requires heavy current and very large lamps for continuous light, which is needed for filming.
Often the photographer then simply over-flashes the continuous light of the filmmaker, as this is much stronger. So when realizing and achieving a certain look, one should be aware that these differences and limitations exist. A certain photographic lighting setup can be much more elaborate with film if you want a 1 to 1 look. If sound recordings are part of the production, you should keep in mind that noises from cameras and flashes can also be disturbing when taking pictures.
5Areas of application
The question of format is also very interesting. While photo productions are often realized for portrait format, landscape format is decisive for film (with the exception of special social media formats). A set that works in portrait format can therefore lead to the filmmaker having to move much closer to an object when framing in landscape format – and thus possibly lose important picture components at the top and bottom.
The resolution of the final result is also an important aspect. If you shoot medium format 100 megapixel a car interior, you see every speck of dust. For a film camera, this may be negligible. This then possibly also concerns the make-up or the food styling.
Another important aspect are special effects to be realized. This applies both during production and in post-production. Often, individual image layers are produced separately and then merged in post-production. The only problem is that completely different rules apply to photos and film.
What is relatively little effort in retouching a photo, for example, can be very costly for a film sequence. Certain photographic results can only be solved with long exposures or multiple exposures. Producing the same visual result on film then often requires a technical detour.
7My pro tips
The first piece of advice that cannot be taken seriously enough: early planning and involvement of all decision-makers and constant exchange about production conditions and possible solutions. The fact is that it takes a lot more coordination for the person holding all the strings together to ensure a successful production when combining film and photography.
Expertise in both media and production methods, as well as post-production skills, are critical to success in communications. When there is a photographer and a filmmaker, not just a single responsible image designer for both mediums on set, a very close and cooperative working relationship is absolutely essential for success.
My top tip? Don’t be afraid to prioritize. What is more important? The photos or the film? This question helps in very many decisions for production. If you can’t prioritize, it’s better to ask yourself whether it’s better to schedule two separate production blocks: one for photo and one for film.
Another piece of advice from personal experience for all filmmakers who are thinking about a combined offer of film and photos: it is best to first try out a combined film-photo production on a small project. Learn with your team what works and what doesn’t.
8Digression: Why not use video frames as photos?
Before talking about how a film shoot can be combined with a photo shoot, many clients, as well as agencies with no experience in visual communication, first ask why it is not possible to simply “export” a single frame from the digital video as a photo! With a recording quality of up to 8K and 25 playable frames in the editing computer (every second of video consists, simply explained, of 25 frames), there should be an image that is suitable as a photo, please!
The technical answer is: yes, the editing computer can do that, professional image editing programs can theoretically do that. At the push of a button. But the other side of this only at first sight seemingly good idea was mentioned above under points 2, 3, 4 and 5: Film tells sequentially. A single frame from a sequence can’t change that. Just as little as the associated motion blur (shutter) and the different principles of staging.
So even if you click through thousands of frames of a video in post-production, you stand a good chance of not finding a usable, satisfying frame. And if it does, it is only one thing: a lucky shot. For professional communication with moving images for marketing, PR, image or product sales, however, you should not rely on the principle of chance. But on impact and predictability.
Further examples of combined film / photo productions
Source of the links listed below: Brand Films GmbH, Munich.
Filmpuls asked Andreas Brand on his own initiative to be the guest author for this article on recommended procedures when combining a film shoot and photo production. No payment or other payment of monetary value was made for the publication of the article.
This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.