Royal College of Art

Case Study

The Royal College of Art (The RCA) is an internationally renowned art and design university. In 2020 it was named the world’s leading art and design university for the fifth consecutive year.

Alumni from the 20th and 21st centuries include the sculptor Henry Moore, painters Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, artists Jake and Dinos Chapman and Tracey Emin, fashion designer Ossie Clark, film directors Tony and Ridley Scott, architect Thomas Heatherwick, the musician Ian Dury and the actor Alan Rickman.

All of the college’s academic staff are practitioners in art, design or related disciplines.
The RCA commissioned NextShoot to make a series of short profile films about tutors working in different academic disciplines under the title 'Meet the RCA'. The aim was to introduce audiences to the tutors that make the RCA and its student experience exceptional.

A part of the brief was to explore the background, inspiration and motivations behind each tutor’s own artistic or professional practice as well as their approach to tutoring, so as to give the viewers - potential graduates from the UK and overseas - a feel for the whole person.
Meet the RCA Meet the RCA
Meet the RCA Meet the RCA
The Digital Content team within the Communications & Marketing group at the RCA briefed NextShoot with a clear vision for the tutor profile series, including useful video benchmarks. The videos would comprise of set-piece interviews, sequences related to their work, influences on their practice and examples of their output.

The RCA drew up a short-list of tutors working in different academic disciplines and made introductions so that we could conduct research phone calls and arrange face-to-face meetings. As ever, the opportunity to sit with the subject of a film in person really helped the director not only to understand better the nature of their practice and teaching, but to get a feel for their personality and gain some insight into how best to capture this on camera.

Once the final list of tutors was agreed we organised filming days and drew up interview questions, shot lists and schedules. It was soon clear that the best way to approach the filming was to try to combine half days of filming with different tutors. Few had time in their busy schedules for a whole day away from teaching responsibilities. As would be expected, clearing permission ahead of filming to feature students in the films took some time also.

Once the interview questions, shot list and schedule were signed off by the Digital Content producer we moved into production.
The goal with the filming was to keep the crew to a minimum while maintaining high quality production values.

With a crew of a Producer/ Director and a DoP we were able to manage the equipment (cameras, sound, lights and grip) and steer the editorial content in the interviews, supported by the RCA.

The tutor profiles were shot on our in-house cameras, a pair of Sony FS7 MkIIs, with a mixture of our own lenses and hired in cine lenses. We made good use of our Dana Dolly set up - a metre of track on a pair of lowboy stands with wheels - and also a Ronin with a Sony AS7 MkII.

The interviews were shot with two cameras against interesting backdrops. With all the broll material the aim was to keep the camera on the move, either on the Dana Dolly or following the subject on the gimbal. Films in which the subject expresses abstract and at times complex ideas naturally lend themselves to observational shots and so much was shot at 50 fps for smoothness and to create a sense of thoughtfulness through slo-mo.

As ever, we strived to get a variety of set-ups at different locations to bring a visual variety to the content, both on and off the RCA campuses in London.
Meet the RCA Meet the RCA
Meet the RCA Meet the RCA
Each video started with the tutor offering a general but meaningful comment about their work before introducing themselves. The structure of the video thereafter was very much left to the editor and director to assemble as they felt worked best, shaping an hour’s interview material into 3-4 minutes in the final edit.

A successful video is always a dance between the spoken word and visual imagery and so, besides the specially shot b-roll, a good part of the post-production process involved gathering and marshalling relevant archive, video and stills materials related to the work and practice of each tutor.

Tai Shani’s film was supported by multi-media examples of her own work (including video of her joint Turner Prize 2019 winning work ‘DC: Semiramis’), while the story of Neil Parkinson, the RCA Archives & Collections Manager, offered an opportunity to delve deep into the rich imagery of the RCA’s (exceptionally well organised and protected) collections, archives and Colour Reference Library.

We also wanted each video to reflect the character of the speaker and their work. With Johnny Golding, Professor of Philosophy and Fine Art, we allowed more free reign to the visuals with split screen, reversed shots and whimsical imagery that reflect her playful approach to her work and teaching.

The final outputs are five films that capture their subjects in different ways, but with a consistency that binds them together as a unified series. It’s a collection of films that puts the tutors front and centre in explaining why the RCA remains the world's most influential postgraduate institution of art and design.
Guide to Arts Video Production
Arts Video Production

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