Hunter Douglas Studios creates cinematic corporate videos

By Neil Matsumoto | 4 min

According to a recent study by staffing agency Mondo, video is the top priority for company marketing professionals for 2019 and 2020. Hunter Douglas is a multinational Dutch company with over 20,000 employees whose principal business is producing window blinds and coverings. Hunter Douglas Studios is a small division that provides an internal resource to their Corporate Marketing department, as well as serving as a conduit for executives to speak to employees as well as provide training videos. The small three-person team – Paco Higham, Colin Hartin, and Scott Griess – use two VariCam LTs and an EVA1 to give their projects a cinematic look, providing more production value than your average run-of-the-mill “talking head” video.

The videos vary in length – anywhere from six second social media spots to upwards of 30 minutes for complicated installation training videos. “The length is dictated by the complexity of the content, so we’re always trying to maximize our impact in the shortest amount of time possible out of respect for our viewers’ time,” reveals editor Paco Higham. “A majority of our videos are internal facing for our Customer Support reps, dealers and installers. We also create videos for our National Sales Meeting.”

The Hunter Douglas Studios team (From L to R: Paco Higham, Scott Griess, Colin Hartin)

The team will shoot either on a 40’ cyc, custom sets built by their shop team, or on location. “Our shoots vary from cut-and-dried training videos to more artistic, high-concept shoots,” says Higham. “We try to add a lot of creativity to everything we do with the end goal of making our videos more interesting, as well as fun to watch.”

When researching cameras, Hunter Douglas Studios focused on what cameras would give them the best image quality and the longest lifespan. The team originally looked at VariCams, the Sony F55 and the RED Scarlet. According to Higham, the VariCam LT ticked all the boxes. “We could shoot it on sticks or handheld,” he says. “There was also Dual Native ISOs for more flexibility and easy file formats that worked with our existing systems. The kicker for me was V-Log and VariCam color science. It looked beautiful and was very flexible.”

According to Paco Higham, their VariCam LT A-cam has a PL mount, which they employ a set of Schneider Xenon Primes.

When they needed a smaller camera for travel shooting, the EVA1 was their go-to option since they knew they could easily color match their VariCam LTs and the compact size gave them more flexibility for different shooting scenarios, including shooting on a [DJI] Ronin gimbal. They also were able to use their existing library of EF mount lenses without the need to buy adapters. Their main lens is a Canon 70-200 for close-ups of product installation or shooting stand-ups. They typically shoot with a 16-35mm or 24-70mm on the Ronin.

“The EF lenses are mostly mounted on our B-cam, as our A-cam has the PL mount and a set of Schneider Xenon Primes,” explains Higham. “Having the interchangeable mount on the VariCams is awesome and really allows for more flexibility in how we shoot. We’re usually shooting at an f/4 in the studio and an f/3 for out in the field. We don’t need any additional filtration on our lenses as the in-camera polarization filters are so good.”

DP Colin Hartin and Paco Higham (in mask) set up a shot.

With the VariCam LTs, Higham and team capture 4K DCI V-Log files at 23.98-fps to P2 cards and also record 2K ProRes 422 HQ files on an Odyssey 7Q+ recorder for backups. For their V-Log files, they use the V-709 LUT on monitors to give clients and executives a good ballpark of what the final output will look like. “We also use the SD card proxy recording on longer shoots because of the ease of transfer to our server, as well as the consistent naming convention that makes onlining a breeze,” explains Higham.

For low light shots on the VariCam LT, they will sometimes utilize Native 5000 ISO. “We love not having to run a denoiser on footage and it makes our lives a lot easier in post,” reveals Higham. “We had a particular low light, high contrast ballerina shoot where we shot 5000 ISO, 2K at 240-fps. Even shooting in these difficult conditions, the footage came out looking spectacular and exceeded our expectations.”

For a ballerina sequence, the Hunter Douglas Studios team set their VariCam LT at 5000 ISO, capturing 2K, 240-fps files.

According to Higham, because of V-Log, they have much more latitude giving them more flexibility to push things in post. “We get to experiment with color more and really push the limits of what is possible without having to worry about the footage being crushed or clipped,” says Higham. “I can’t remember the last time we shot in REC 709. Our bread and butter is training videos but having the ability and the tools to produce really high-end, polished videos that wow our internal clients is awesome.”

To view the Hunter Douglas Studios demo reel, visit https://youtu.be/MebtTDM9jAk.

For more information on Panasonic Cinema cameras visit here.