Flashframe Digital is a Toronto-based video communications agency, specializing in brand stories for companies like LG, Tim Hortons and Microsoft Canada. Partner Mike Welker talks to us about bringing something new to corporate video and why great storytelling makes all the difference.
I used to be a sound editor for movies and TV
My partner Lee De Lang and I both worked in audio post-production as sound editors developing soundtracks for TV shows and feature films. Lee’s specialty was sound FX and I was a dialogue and ADR editor. In the early 2000s, the film industry in Toronto went through a slow period, which prompted our migration into PR and marketing video production. Lee started Flashframe Digital in 2006 and what was originally just the two of us doing the odd project, slowly grew into a small business of a dozen people.
When we started, corporate videos were all the same
There were a lot of video production companies that had been around for 10/15 years and they all seemed to do things in the same way. We came in with a different kind of mindset and eye, based on our background in film and TV. That was exciting for our clients because we were doing something special when compared to our competition.
There was a bit of a learning curve
Lee had been to film school and had a good grasp on camera settings and composition techniques, whereas I didn’t know much about the visual side of the business. But once I learned the different settings on a camera and understood things like exposure and shutter speed, I was able to get my head around it. We had the opportunity to learn a lot about visual post-production from working closely with those teams in our previous roles. Ultimately editing is editing, whether it’s sound or picture. The end goal is the same – piece together a good story.
The story has to be the differentiator
There used to be much more emphasis on the technical merits of video, which required expensive equipment. Today’s technology has enabled creators to shoot beautiful footage on DSLR cameras and even mobile devices. The result is a glut of good-looking content, so the story needs to shine through. It’s the difference between making something great versus something that gets lost with all the rest of the videos out there.
We do a lot of strategic thinking
About 40% of our business comes via PR, marketing and advertising agencies, but the remainder is direct to corporate. This is the kind of relationship we like because it allows us to get more involved. With some clients we develop an annual content strategy, which involves long-term planning based on their goals for the year. Our Halloween videos for Tim Hortons’ Instagram channel are a perfect example of the benefits of a direct, long-term relationship with a client.
The more we plan, the better the video
We usually send clients a pre-shoot questionnaire, asking about the video’s key goals, the story they want to tell, how they would describe the tone of the video and the number one takeaway for the viewer. We’ll brainstorm two or three high level concepts and have a meeting or a conference call to talk about them. This is where you learn a lot about a company’s goals and what’s important to their brand. By understanding a brand, you can recommend what kind of content is going to work for them and their audience.
Hightail has been working well for us
During the editing phase, we primarily rely on MP4 video files and use Hightail to send versions to our clients. They’ll review, provide feedback and fine tune from there. It can take anywhere between two and ten revisions to get to the final version. What we really like about Hightail is that clients can download files without having to take the extra step of creating an account. It’s important to us that we make things as easy as possible for our customers, so it’s great that Hightail helps with that.
There’s a great creative scene in Toronto
Television and film production has been big business in Toronto for a long time. The city offers some of the best equipment, facilities and crew that the industry has to offer, plus the province of Ontario provides tax credits for producing here. Toronto also has an amazing live music scene with countless festivals throughout the spring and summer, like NXNE that just wrapped up recently.