Case study Charity

Animated anonymity

We recently delivered this vision video for Interserve, a Christian charity that serves communities in Asia and the Arab World. Alongside a major rebrand, the organisation approached us to produce an explainer video that demonstrates what they’re about. They wanted to focus on the people they work with, which is where ‘Sarah’ came in.

The challenge from Interserve

Sarah (not her real name) has been supported by Interserve, and with their help she has made it through some extremely tough times. Sensitivities around the place where she lives means that her identity needed to remain secret. The challenge, then, was to tell this one woman’s story in a compelling way, without compromising her security. We couldn’t use her voice or image. We couldn’t even hint at her ethnicity. And yet we needed to make the film personal and engaging.

Generally we shy away from animation. It’s not where our expertise lies, and it’s prohibitively expensive for many clients. In this case, though, we felt like animation could be the perfect solution. We searched high and low for an artist who could sketch natural-looking images in Photoshop. It turned out that artist was hiding in our existing network – the brilliant and multi-talented Charlie Barber. Back when Jamie and I worked at Blue Peter, Charlie was there too as an Assistant Content Producer. We sent him a list of ‘scenes’ for the Interserve film, and a series of reference images to explain the kind of style we were aiming for.

To achieve this striking visual effect, Charlie recorded his screen while drawing in Photoshop, then sped it up.

How we did it

Charlie sketched the images in Photoshop while recording his screen, resulting in a dynamic image without the sky-high costs associated with traditional animation. After the animated opening, further context is provided through a filmed interview with Dan Challis, Interserve’s Initiatives Co-ordinator.

A common occurrence for Studio 91 is clients coming to us with a budget and a list of requirements, but uncertainty over how to accomplish what they need. If that sounds like you, don’t panic. We LOVE a creative challenge, and will bend over backwards to find the solution that perfectly fits your needs. Drop us a line and let’s get started.

Case study Video

Kids react to Eurovision

Once upon a time, back in May 2020, I was meant to travel to Eurovision to film social content with the EBU’s digital team. Of course, that wasn’t to be, and 2020 became the first year in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest that the Contest didn’t go ahead.

Thankfully, I still had the chance to get involved in the 2021 edition of the Contest. Sure, I only got to travel as far as Media City in Salford, but it was a lot of fun all the same. The BBC’s Eurovision social media team commissioned me to produce a video of children reacting to classic moments from Eurovision’s recent history. It was part of a wider campaign to pique young adults’ interest in the Contest, and boost its already plentiful viewing figures.

Along with a small crew, we interviewed about 20 children in a day, asking them questions and capturing their reactions to everything from Finnish rockers Lordi to a dancing gorilla. I turned around the edit in a couple of days, in time for the big build-up to the Eurovisional final. It made a big impact on social media, garnering over 200,000 views on Facebook as well as a tonne of engagement. Here it is – enjoy!

Case study Educational

Mental health resources for schools

Recently we’ve been working with The Lily Jo Project to produce some brilliant in-depth video content for schools. The aim is to create resources that appeal to children and young people, and that don’t shy away from tricky mental health topics.

Ben was a pleasure to work with, his calm nature put me at ease and his turnaround times were quick and exactly what we had set out in the brief. I was blown away by the quality of the shots, and I would recommend Ben and team to anyone needing media services.

Lily-Jo, founder of The Lily Jo Project
The ‘Be The Change’ series focused on racism, empathy and how we can make a difference.

Lily Jo is a singer-songwriter and mental health professional. She started The Lily Jo Project because she’s passionate about talking to kids about mental health. Her unique skill is bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the table, and delivering it in a clear, non-patronising way.

Each month, The Lily Jo Project puts out a new series of mental health resources based around a different topic. So far we’ve filmed and edited over 2 hours of content for them. These have been on the subjects of racism and creative expression, and how they relate to our mental health.

For each series of mental health resources, there are alternate versions for different age groups. This clip is aimed at Key Stage 1 children, whereas the clip from Be The Change is for Key Stages 3 and 4.

Before the COVID pandemic, Lily Jo and her team focused on face-to-face teaching in schools. In 2020, they pivoted to a video-first approach, and it’s led to them expanding internationally. They now deliver mental health resources to schools as far away as Canada. We’re really proud to have been part of this journey, and to be working on something that will genuinely improve young people’s lives.

From mental health to classical music to parenting, we’ve got a lot of experience producing all sorts of educational content. If you’d like to work with us on something like this, drop us a line any time.

Case study Charity Impact Video

Thanking Bury’s heroes

Bury Council have been really interesting to work with, because we’ve been producing video content for them throughout the pandemic. Think back to April 2020. The early days of the first national lockdown. That’s when my path first crossed with Nicola Appleby from Bury Council’s comms team. She mentioned that she had come across my guest blog for Mike Pye + co about how to film yourself using a phone. She had adapted it to send to councillors. Suddenly these people had a need to film themselves that had never really been part of their jobs before.

By the end of the month, we were editing films for Bury’s social media. The content used footage shot by various staff and volunteers, thanking “#TeamBury” for all the amazing work they were doing.

We’ve produced several films for Bury Council since then, using a mix of user-generated content and professional footage. The latest piece of work involved two videos. The aim was to thank volunteers and carers, and mark a year since the pandemic was declared. I spent three days travelling around Bury with Nicola, gathering footage, and Will spent the weekend editing the footage.

As many of our contributors pointed out, there are many of people in the borough who are carers but don’t even think of themselves in that way; they simply get on and do it.

The result is two pieces of content we’re extremely proud of, featuring some truly inspirational people. People like Tina, who is risking her own health to run a food bank, the lovely smiley volunteers at Trust House in Whitefield, and retired nurse Elaine who goes above and beyond to care for her husband.

We love producing video content that tells real stories, with clients who want to make the world better. This project in particular is one that will stay with us for years to come. It marks a period in history when times were hard but when staggering numbers of people stepped up to look out for those around them.

Case study Charity Video

Video memorial service for St Ann’s Hospice

We’re really proud of our work with St Ann’s Hospice, one of our longest-standing Stockport video production clients. It was an honour to produce their annual Light up a Life service. Every December they help people remember and celebrate their loved ones in a really beautiful way.

Normally there would be multiple live events in different parts of Greater Manchester. Given the pandemic, the charity decided early on that a pre-recorded video format would be the best alternative. It meant the service could be available to anyone who wanted to access it, but would hopefully feel as special and important as it would in any other year.

We first got involved with St Ann’s Hospice in 2019 – sometimes filming and editing, sometimes repurposing existing footage. The Light up a Life service was a mix of both approaches. It combined pre-recorded video messages with professional footage shot in the Haven, a multi-faith chapel at the Heald Green hospice. The pre-recorded messages came from various public and religious figures, including Andy Burnham and David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester. There were songs from amateur choirs, and carols sung by a chorister in Manchester Cathedral. In the beautifully decorated Haven, I filmed video messages from the chaplain and hospice staff. As always, I grabbed plenty of ‘b-roll’ shots to help me piece the whole thing together.

“You’ve captured the feel so well”

I’m really pleased with the resulting video, which you can see below. Here’s a lovely bit of feedback I received from the St Ann’s team after they watched my edit:

Thank you SO much for bringing our service to life. Everyone who has watched it has absolutely loved it – there’s been quite a few tears! You’ve captured the feel of our Light up a Life service and the hospice so well, it feels really Christmassy and warm but also poignant and a special time of remembrance, whilst still being hopefully and looking ahead. 

Everyone has asked me to pass on their thanks to you, and Pete, Jo and Rachel especially for making the filming so smooth and making them all feel a lot less daunted than they thought.

Head to this page to watch the service or join in with the appeal:

Case study Charity Video

Remote editing: the new normal

Throughout my career, I’ve always done a combination of filming my own content and editing what other people have filmed. Right now, the latter is pretty much all I’m doing. The big challenge for me hasn’t been the editing itself, it’s been the lack of creative and technical control that comes with it.

When I worked for the BBC, producing digital video content for brands like Blue Peter, there were often times when I would be sent a video that a presenter had filmed on their phone, or given a piece of GoPro footage from the cutting room floor. My job was to assess whether it was worth using, and if so polish it up with a slick edit, some tasty graphics and a bit of music.

In the world of non-profits and businesses, there are always times when remote editing is the most suitable option. For one thing, it’s generally a great way to save on filming costs if a client already has existing footage, or has had professional photos taken that can be reworked into a video. It might be that a charity wants to promote an annual event, and has mobile footage that was shot by their staff or supporters.

That was the case for St Ann’s Hospice, a hugely important Stockport-based charity and one we’re very proud to produce video content for. Their Manchester Midnight Walk is a massive annual event, attracting thousands of walkers and raising millions for the charity. They approached me early in 2020 to create a suite of six videos for them, each aimed at a different type of supporter. They didn’t have any professionally shot footage of previous events, but they had plenty of material that people had filmed on phones, as well as professional still images. I’m a bit of a control freak, so part of me is always a bit terrified when I have to edit someone else’s footage, rather than shoot it myself or with my team. But still, there’s a lot of fun to be had finding ways of taking whatever I’m given and creating something that feels genuinely polished and professional.

The secret sauce in this particular case is my bespoke motion graphics, based on the event branding created by the charity’s design team. These give all the video content a cohesive style, even though each individual video feels distinct. As well as the one above featuring Mr Motivator, there was a video focusing on the fitness benefits, one focusing on the difference the funds raised would make, and so on. The stills, footage, copy and music were slightly different on each piece of content, to make sure it would resonate with the intended audience.

As the pandemic loomed, the event ended up being postponed til June, so I reversioned the video content with the new date. Within a few short weeks, though, it became clear that the event could not go ahead. Instead, the ‘Manchester Virtual Walk’ was born, with participants walking their own 5K route in their own time during the month of June. I went back to the existing edit and created this, the (hopefully!) final version of the video.

If you’re interested in our remote editing services, please drop us a line. For some tips and tricks for filming yourself with a phone, read this guest blog about self-shooting that I wrote for Mike Pye + Co. And of course, if you’re able to, please do join in with the Manchester Virtual Walk and support the fantastic, essential work of St Ann’s Hospice.

Case study Educational Video

Our video content is helping to raise Tiny Happy People

For the past six months or so, we’ve been partnering with production company Three Arrows Media to deliver nearly 50 pieces of video content for the BBC’s Tiny Happy People campaign. It’s been one of Studio 91’s biggest projects to date, and one that will hopefully have a far-reaching legacy.

Tiny Happy People wants to help address problems with language and communication that many UK children have when they start primary school. Using video alongside articles, quizzes and other digital content, the plan is to inspire and encourage parents to chat to their kids more and kick-start their language development.

The BBC Tiny Happy People website
The Tiny Happy People website has loads of great activity ideas – well worth a visit if you have children under 5.

So we’ve been all over the North West, filming parents and children modelling the sorts of activities and behaviours that experts want to see more of. That’s included a lot of nursery rhymes and made-up songs, as well as other content like activity ideas to occupy children at home. The films are designed to be friendly, informal and non-patronising, similar in tone to the work we’ve produced for BBC Bitesize’s Starting Primary School campaign.

Naturally, directing children is never straightforward, especially when you’re dealing with all ages from newborns to 5-year-olds. We quickly found that the youngest and oldest children in that bracket are the easiest to work with, whereas 2- to 3-year olds never quite want to do what you’re asking of them. So this project required a great deal of patience at the filming stage, and some very careful editing to make sure we were showing the best practice. As well as going through the usual layers of sign-off at the BBC, all the content was scrutinised by a panel of early years education experts.

BBC Tiny Happy People is a huge project, and a major priority for BBC Education, so you can expect to hear a lot more about it in the coming months and years – especially if you’re a parent of young children!

Case study Educational Video

Inclusive video content for BBC Ten Pieces

If you haven’t heard of BBC Ten Pieces, you’re missing out. Here’s how we worked with them on some fantastic video content to make sure all children are included in the great work they do.

Ten Pieces is a fantastic annual campaign from BBC Teach. It’s all about introducing children to orchestral music, and using it as a springboard to teach other academic and creative subjects. Video content is always a huge part of the offering, as well as written resources. In 2019, they were given funding to reversion some of the existing content for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The brilliant Ade Adepitan presented two of the five films. We filmed him on green screen, adding animated assets from Ten Pieces in post production.

They commissioned Studio 91 Media to produce five films, which would reversion their existing video content to be more inclusive for children with special educational needs and disabilities. The films combine existing material with new footage of musicians, presenters and BSL interpreters. The result is a suite of resources that is tailored to children with different types of additional needs.

We’ve worked on lots of projects for different teams within BBC Learning, but this was definitely one of our favourites to work on. The team gave us a clear brief right from the start, but they were totally open to new creative ideas.

This film features a BSL interpreter and a hugely talented young BSL performer called Layla Fitzgerald-Woolfe. As the orchestra plays Earth by Hans Zimmer, Layla provides a poetic interpretation using British Sign Language.
Case study Charity Video Video content tips

Why phones are sometimes better than professional cameras

St Ann’s Hospice, one of Manchester’s biggest and best-loved charities, approached me recently with a problem. They had lots of footage shot on phones of their supporters at various fundraising events, but they were worried that the quality wasn’t good enough. There were wobbly shots, lots of background noise and varying degrees of picture quality. They wanted to know if I could stitch them together into one snappy video that would somehow look professional and on-brand.

Naturally, I was happy to help; editing clients’ footage is something I do on a regular basis. I love taking raw materials and crafting something polished. By hand-picking the best soundbites, creating bespoke branded graphics and adding some upbeat music, I was able to create a fun video that encourages people to get involved with the charity.

In fact, the phone videos weren’t just useable, they were better in some ways than professional footage would have been. There’s a level of authenticity from the self-shot style that we might not have got from a more traditional filming approach. It’s also a massively cost effective way of doing things compared with sending a videographer to several different events.

Case study Educational Video

These toilet training videos might be a game changer

BBC Bitesize has just launched a big ongoing project that I’ve been plugging away at since April. I’ve been working alongside Three Arrows Media, who were commissioned by BBC Learning to deliver 24 short videos to help parents prepare for their children starting primary school. This content, housed on a dedicated BBC website as well as on CBeebies social media, looks set to make a huge difference in our schools.

Why? Because research shows that children are less ready for school than ever when it comes to practical things like toileting and dressing themselves, as well as the social and emotional side. The BBC hopes that this suite of digital videos, as well as a child-facing game about the first day of school, will be a lifesaver for parents and teachers alike.

Head to BBC Bitesize to watch the videos I produced and see the other content on offer as part of the Starting Primary School project. There’s also a site aimed at young people about to start secondary school.

Claire Russell, text reads 'Gaining Independence'
Claire Russell AKA @play.hooray was one of our fantastic experts

I worked with Megan Nicholson, Three Arrows Media’s fantastic senior researcher, to cast eight experts and nine parents who could talk about a variety of subjects in an honest, informal and non-patronising way. We then worked with these contributors to create 24 scripts before driving the length and breadth of the UK to film them.

As I write this, I’m putting the finishing touches to the last batch of videos, and I really think they will be a gamechanger in our primary schools.

If you’re all about making the world better and want help creating video content to achieve that goal, I’d love to hear from you! Studio 91 Media‘s aim is to make social media less rubbish, one video at a time.