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photo by Ari Burling

Every year, the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture, College of Design, puts on a week long event called “Catalyst.” This event brings new ideas and conversations to the table by inviting professionals in the field of architecture and design to give public lectures and conduct week-long courses with first and second year graduate architecture students. This year, Arbuckle’s own Ian Harris had the opportunity to speak while teaching a class in architectural filmmaking, where he outlined for students and local professionals how to use video to showcase their architectural work at any level - from student studio projects, to professional buildings. We thought it would be a good idea to share this presentation with you all, our blog audience of licensed professionals, marketing directors, design students and the like in how to adapt and embrace this newly accessible medium of video. Below, you’ll discover why and how you should use video. When you may want to consult a production company, and how to draft a creative RFP (Request for Proposal). Each section of text accompanies a short video segment from Ian’s presentation pertaining to the topic. At the bottom, you can watch the entire presentation.

Why Video? You may be wondering why you should use video if you’re an architect who does all their work on paper. Why capture it on film. There’s lots of reasons to document your work on video! Reasons why you should use video

  • Videos can help you sell your company’s work, designs, and showcase your office culture

  • They can even help to acquire new talent

  • They’re a “soft sell” - they can sit on the company website and be viewed 24/7, potentially by a talented young architect looking for a job or that CEO looking for someone to build their new headquarters...

  • Videos are fun and engaging! They show that your company has life

  • Engaging and entertaining a potential client is key, it could make a difference between them calling you up, or moving onto the next option.

  • Videos are super shareable thanks to social media

  • 3 times more likely to get inbound links than texts.

  • Metrics give you feedback so you can constantly adapt and change your social media strategy

  • Videos also contribute to your company’s google rankings through increased traffic, and upping your SEO rankings.

  • Embed your company’s tags in the video - make it searchable on multiple social media platforms. The more the merrier!

What Kind of Video Hopefully now you’re all fired up and ready to make a video. But first, you’ll need to think of what you’re trying to convey through the video, and therefore which kind of video will best suit your needs. We’ve found through our extensive experience with firms ranging from 4 people to global juggernauts that there are four traditional narrative structures:

  • Company wide profile - Gives people an introduction to your whole company, who you are, what you do, and what you can do for the person watching the video

  • Portfolio segment - Showcases an aspect of your company or work you want to highlight

  • Project showcase - Highlights that one really awesome thing you designed

  • Series - presents work you’re doing in an episodic format. Keep them wanting more!

In House vs. Production Company Before you run out and rent a bunch of potentially unnecessary equipment, or break the bank calling a production company, consider the points below. You may already have everything you need to make one in-house and start sharing. Consider what you’re capable of and get to work. In-house route:

  • Start right now - documenting the work you’re already doing.

  • Take pictures and videos of the company at work, archive your work and renderings,

  • Create content for future productions, capture your company’s process

  • DSLR cameras aren’t terribly expensive and they take great video

  • Keep it simple: pans, tilts, timelapses. Don’t bother with sound and use as much natural light as possible. stock music and simple editing software

  • Brand it and export!

Production Company route:

  • Large press worthy content, larger and more complex services available

  • More skills at their disposal, higher quality equipment, and a quicker turnaround for getting the video to you.

  • Consulting the professionals can help you tell your story better

  • You can focus your time on what you’re doing and let them showcase it

  • A solid investment for a big company with a recognizable brand/image


  • Can get tricky over who has the creative control and when

  • Divide and conquer - they can animate the renderings, and you can film your people

Creative Brief/RFP This segment is for you to help us, the video producer or production company, do our job. Just like with any other project you need to create the framework for a proposal for the work you want done. Making a video is an investment and you want to be sure you get everything you want in it and that everyone is on the same page and aware of all the goals. Make lists and consider what you want the video to convey.

A lot of the same info from “What Kind of Video” applies here - know what want and pick the structure that will share your story best. Pay attention to the narrative. You don’t want to make a project that is just a glorified slideshow. There should be some kind of story arc to it. Things to think about when writing an RFP (Request for Proposal)

  • Your company/brand value

  • Company culture

  • Is it just about clients?

  • Are you trying to attract top talent?

  • Who’s and what need to be in it?

  • List your goals and expectations

  • What are you selling?

  • What is going to differentiate you from the competition?

  • What is your unique value proposition?

  • What’s your budget - looking for a $3k shooter or $10k production company

Who you put on camera is as important as the story. There may be a disparity between who can tell your story best, and who you need (politics anyone) to put on camera for whatever reason. Involving a few people in the video can help you get around this. But don’t put too many people on camera because then the video could lose its directness and impact. Like Johnny Cash, you’ll have to walk the line on that one, but we are always here ready to play “bad cop” to help us all come away with the absolute best final video.

Ideally you want a person on camera who will speak passionately about the project. Similar to acting, real emotion and conviction will come through on film. Anything disingenuousness or just simply going through the motions will be detected instantly by the viewer. Make sure the content is geared towards the audience that’s going to be watching it.

Other things to think about when drafting a Creative Brief/RFP

  • Consider any assets and graphics that could be in the video and be ready to provide the highest quality versions

  • Make sure the renderings contribute well to the overall narrative. Don’t just use pictures as fillers.

  • What’s your timeline and what is driving it? Is there an opportunity to release the video around a big event or marketing push?

Why Does Arbuckle Care About Making Videos?

Since this talk was about architectural filmmaking, Ian finished up with a few personal points about what architects are missing out on by not telling the stories of their work and the built environment. The pervading notion that architecture is static without any kind of story to tell does a disservice to the passion and creativity behind the design of these buildings and the people/industry involved. It also further dissociates the public at large from the process of design and those that are responsible for making the world we all inhabit. The architectural community should be the ones tell the stories behind what they design, and why people should value the built environment. No one else is currently telling these stories but someone will and we think it should be the designers and not some reality show. So hopefully the presentation inspired the up and coming architects at University of Minnesota to hop on the video bandwagon as they head into the profession to further instigate this change. Hopefully he was/is able to inspire the next generation of architects to capture their process and tell their stories to world.

If you’d like to watch the presentation in its entirety, you can watch it here.

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