I have been in the data storage business for almost 2 decades now and have talked a lot about business continuity over the years. Typically, it is about how to keep your business running when technology fails you as a result of human error, power loss, or natural disaster. As a result of the COVD-19 pandemic, business continuity has taken on a new meaning – how do you keep your business running when you are separated from your technology and fellow co-workers. And, rather than just talking to customers about it, it’s a conversation I am having with my teams – and one where we don’t have ready-made solutions.

Yours truly, final production

As the pandemic spread and shut down business and social interactions, we were in the middle of preparing a product launch. We had a plethora of things to think about. Do you still do a launch? Would it still be in good taste? And if do you do it, how do you still tell a compelling story given the new limitations? The usual studio video shoot is out – can you get something of reasonable quality done by people at their own home?  Do you ship people complex equipment, or do you leverage what’s on hand? How do you make it look cohesive?

Why do a product launch at all? One of my favorite crisis-related quotes is from Admiral Jim Stockdale – “You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are.” And one way to have unwavering faith means that you need to proceed as best as you can on the assumption that the world will go on. And on the facts front, storage happens to be an essential business – storage solutions power heath care IT, support transportation systems, underly financial systems, and a host of other essential services that we rely on.

"In front" of the scenes
Home Green Screens

So, once the decision has been made to continue, how do you actually pull it off? While it is not one of my rules, it is a very sound best practice to keep things as simple as possible, especially when so many other variables are unknown. So, we went with iPhones and a few simple gadgets purchased from Amazon for less than $300 per home setup – way less than renting a studio and hiring a crew!

I am sure we have all seen advice on using lighting correctly, but key to making it look cohesive was using green screens and lighting them correctly! You need to light the screens separately from your face so that any shadows you cast from front facing lights are blown out. Thanks to some (repeated guidance) for our excellent video team positioning these lights behind the speaker and before the green screen eliminate the shadows and made the composting of a common background easy!

Green screen layout

We recorded everything in 4K at 30fps.  I had issues recording at 60 fps – the video would randomly record in slow motion. It was also interesting that the auto-focus worked better on the rear-facing camera. This required the use of some trial and error to make sure I was correctly standing in the frame. I ended marking my standing spots on the floor so I could come back to them in between takes. The Bluetooth shutter remote that came with the ring light was invaluable here to start and stop between takes. Just check periodically to make sure an errant click hasn’t accidentally started or stopped the recording.

When I have done studio shoots, someone inevitably covers my forehead with anti-shine.  I tried two Amazon-recommended products to reduce shine and “create great selfies” but they ended up both being pretty white and cakey. I just ended up going au naturale. I also had to tamp down my curls as they were causing problems with the compositing.

The process was a bit frustrating at times and I had to be willing to set different expectations for myself then I would for a studio shoot. With the help of some amazing editing, it turned out fantastic. Click here for the amazing full launch video (registration required). And stay tuned – I already have ideas for how to do some other interesting, shot at home video.

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