How can Brian Eno and Coldplay help take your videos from good to great?
5 May 2020
by Nico Jones
If you’ve ever tried creating anything but the most basic video content, you’ll know that it can be a frustrating, lonely kind of endeavour.
Constantly second-guessing yourself. Wondering whether you’re making the the right choices, or putting across the right impression. You’re so close to the subject matter you can’t make an objective decision, and neither can your boss; they’re asking for stuff you’re not sure how to do, everything seems to be taking forever and OH GOD I GIVE UP.
A gruelling day battling the editing software has yielded scant results, you feel like you haven’t spent a single minute doing the thing you’re paid to do well: your actual job.
In this scenario, you’re basically (please bear with me on this!) like a musician trying to self-produce your own record, with a record company looking over your shoulder. You know who you need? Someone to take the heat off, and let you be you. You need a record producer.
‘Wait, what? I thought we were talking about video!’ We are – here’s what this has to do with you…
In the music industry, a good producer rocks up to the recording studio, takes the bare bones of brilliance that a band provide, adds their own hard-earned insight, then shapes a record into something ten times better than it would have been without them.
In terms of illustrating this: as promised, let’s take Brian Eno. Heard of that popular beat combo Coldplay? They’re kind of a big deal. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, but I love that Viva La Vida album.
Before that, Coldplay were a bit like water; inoffensive, heck maybe even pleasant if you’re thirsty enough, but given the choice I’d prefer Vimto. So what changed?
Producer Brian Eno brought the colour.
The first track begins with a swell of texture that sets the tone for the entire record – there’s playful instrumentation, joyous experimentation, and a sense of freedom that just wasn’t there before. That’s not all down to Brilliant Brian of course, but he wasn’t cheap, and that’s what he was there for – to take things to the next level. Ever since that record, colour is Coldplay’s thing. Their brand, even. Look at their live shows and every subsequent record, even the clothes they wear. It’s borderline ridiculous, but man it works.
Another example- how about that Brimful of Asha track by Cornershop? TUNE. Aboslute pop banger. But the version you know is a Norman Cook remix. The tempo and the key have been ratcheted up, the drums are pumping, and it’s exploding with life. The original? A perfectly acceptable mid-tempo plod-along, but seriously…pass me the Vimto.
If you think I’m producer-worshipping a little too hard here, take heart, because without the band, the producer has nothing to work with. To wind it back to some kind of relevance: all the snazzy video production companies in the world can’t make anything worth a fig without you.
Sadly, an issue with lots of corporate videos today is that they become the creation of the creative agency, and the essence of the client is lost along the way. So here’s the most important role the producer has to play: A good producer shapes, they don’t create.
Fine, so how do I choose the producer that’s going to take my vids from good to great?
Now we know the benefits a good outside influence can have – here’s how you can get all of the good results with none of the hassle.
Choose someone who demonstrates serious expertise in their field, and has dived deeply into the subject. They should have a strong, easy-to-explain philosophy that sets them apart, fits in with your values, and syncs with the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve.
- Fear is good
Be open to getting nudged out of your comfort zone, even if only slightly – that’s where the really interesting stuff is. Beware the agency that’s scared of you, because they’ll give you exactly what you want, and you’ll be self-producing your own bland content all over again, but paying through the nose for the pleasure.
- Be brilliant
Make sure the building blocks that form the foundation of the work are as authentic as they can be; that’s your end of the deal. Just be excellent at what you do, and be for real.
- Do they care?
While it’s essential that a producer has objective distance from the source material, they have to care about a project to get truly great results. Anyone can claim to be passionate on a website, but have a conversation with them, and you’ll soon find out who really gives a hoot, and who secretly hates corporate video and wishes they were Edgar Wright.
- Shapers, not creators
Your content should feel uniquely you. While the producers fingerprints will inevitably be visible, you shouldn’t feel like an identikit copy of whatever project they last worked on.
Ultimately, the producer should take the weight of both the big picture and the finnicky details. Let someone like Captain steer the course, shape the vibes and direct the content – you just focus on bringing the important part of the equation: the spark.
Because that’s the thing – while this article is a tribute to the role of a producer, the real power will always lie with you, because all the creative agencies in the world be serving up thin gruel indeed without that vibrant special sauce that makes you unique.
It’s the partnership that takes things from good to great.
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