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 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 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.

Arts Case study Video

Launching the BBC Philharmonic’s 2019-20 season

I’ve had the pleasure of working with the BBC Philharmonic for a while, producing video content for their website and social media. This particular edit was for a more offline purpose, though: the launch of their 2019-20 season. They wanted to impress the opinion formers in attendance, not just with the orchestra’s playing but with its commitment to reaching new audiences in diverse and innovative ways.

To make the edit work, we needed a range of different media from the previous couple of years, which was a Herculean task for the BBC Phil team to gather together and then for me to comb through for shots that would work. And because the material was all shot by different people on different cameras, it was important that I got the colour grade right so that the video felt coherent.

Selecting the music for BBC Philharmonic video content is always tricky. It needs to be from the classical repertoire otherwise it feels off-brand. But because orchestral music is inherently a long-form medium, it’s difficult to find pieces that work for short digital video. The Philharmonic team left it up to me decide, and I ended up going with Beethoven – primarily the finale of his 9th symphony. Not only is Beethoven heavily featured in the orchestra’s 2019-20 season, his music also has the kind of energy and drama that I wanted the film to have. There are some crafty edits in there to make the timings work, but hopefully they’re not noticeable to the casual viewer.

Arts Case study Video

Why the BBC Philharmonic wants concert-goers to use their phones

The new Notes web app by the BBC Philharmonic seems like such a simple idea, and yet it’s completely revolutionary. During the concert, audience members can access a web page where they’ll get live programme notes beamed straight to their device, triggered at the relevant moment.

Ellie and I road-tested the tool a few months ago, before I shot this promo video, and we were absolutely blown away. I’m a cellist, and love hearing live orchestral music, but I’m the first to admit that I really struggle at times to concentrate on long-form pieces of music. I’ve even been known to fall asleep, and sometimes even snore. This didn’t happen once while using Notes, though. It gave me little digestible insights throughout each piece so that I stayed focused and fully engaged with what was happening musically.

You’d think it would be distracting, but counter-intuitively it’s less distracting (to me, anyway) than people flicking through paper programmes. Most phone screens dim automatically in low light, and the simple design involves nothing but white text on a black background. As an added bonus, the text is fairly large so it’s much easier to read in the dark than tiny printed type. And to be doubly sure there are no complaints, there are dedicated areas in the concert hall for using the Notes web app, out of sight from the rest of the audience.

The promo video was more challenging to shoot than it should have been, as we didn’t realise I wouldn’t be able to move around during the concert! There’s nothing like harsh restrictions to get the creative juices flowing, though, and I set to work finding some interesting angles from which I could capture people using their phones.

Arts Case study Video

BBC Contains Strong Language

Event videography is always great fun, especially when the event is one you’d want to go to anyway. That is absolutely the case with the BBC’s Contains Strong Language, a poetry and spoken word festival that takes over Hull each year in September. I got to film a wide range of events featuring everyone from Manchester’s future stars Young Identity to the award-winning Joseph Coelho to big hitters like Jessica Hynes and Mark Heap. My shots were used by Kirstie Henderson from Brave Day Films in the highlights reel below. Enjoy!

Arts Charity Video

Music for veterans

This was a lovely project to work on with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. They took a small ensemble to Broughton House, a nursing home in Salford for military veterans, and put on a concert for them. They had also invited the residents to an upcoming concert marking 100 years since the Armistice, but not everyone was well enough to make it.

The band played classical hits, jazzy numbers and war-time favourites, and the audience loved it. My job was to capture highlights and edit them for the orchestra’s Facebook page.

This is also the first outing of a new suite of video templates I built for the orchestra, whose digital and marketing teams create a lot of digital video content themselves. The goal was to create simple animated text graphics that would be easy to use in Premiere Pro, so I used Adobe’s new Motion Graphics Templates tool. The tool is still a work in progress, but it’s a great way of making templated graphics that users can simply drag and drop into their timeline. Let us know if branded graphics like these are something your online platforms could benefit from.

Arts Video

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Mark Simpson playing clarinet with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

We’re really excited to be partnering with the BBC Phil over their coming season, creating several pieces of video content for their social media accounts. To begin with, they asked us to come along to one of their Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. They needed an interview to be uploaded to Facebook as soon as possible on the day of their concert, to help promote the radio broadcast. We turned this around in a couple of hours.

You can watch the video on the BBC Philharmonic’s Facebook page.

Arts Other creative projects Video

Reykjavík to Hull: A tale of two cities

Reykjavík to Hull: A tale of two cities

I’m really proud of this film, which I wrote, directed, shot and edited. Iceland has a huge number of cultural links with Hull, which are being celebrated during its City of Culture year. I headed up to Reykjavík with a small but perfectly formed team (Kofi Smiles and Martha Mangan) to explore these connections.

This VT was one of several I’ve been making for a series of half-hour features called Britain’s City of Culture, produced by the local Look North team for BBC News Channel. This episode, as well as being shown on the News Channel several times, went out on BBC One in Yorkshire and BBC World News.