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How to Produce Beautiful Commercial Exteriors in Wintertime

A Case Study On Shooting Winter for Summer in 10 Degree Weather 

We're all filmmakers, directors & producers, and there's nothing we love more than natural beauty in our shots. Especially in the Midwest, when the flowers are at their peak colors, the trees are full and throw long shadows making sun-dappled streets, and the blue skies and warm air make shooting exteriors an absolute pleasure. But what do you do when your advertising agency clients call with beautiful exterior boards, but with no budget to shoot in a warmer climate, and the calendar rudely screams "December?"

At Explore Media, we say "of course!" and our directors huddle with the art and camera departments to "Make Things Happen!" Why the quotes you may ask? Well we're just being clever because one of our favorite ad agency clients, OKRP, called us with just this same scenario for their client Home Chef. The commercial project? "Making Things Happen!" Ironic? We prefer to call it mystic, baby.

Without further ado, here is a video which deconstructs the process we took to shoot winter for summer on a 10 degree day in wonderful Chicago in December!


How to film beautiful commercial exteriors in the wintertime

1. Creatively select film composition 

This started with the storyboards on our project, and really came into clarity through our location scout, where we chose the exterior locations for our scenes that meant to read "summer." As you saw in the video above, we shot enough of the entranceway to show the idea, but not enough to see the leaf-less trees, snow mounds on the ground, and icicles hanging from the roof. Using the art of creative composition, we were able to effectively start the process of de-winterizing our scenes.

2. Use art department effectively 

The art department on this project went above and beyond to reduce the look of winter, and also add in summer touches. From fresh flowers in pots, to using leaf blowers to get snow out of trees, to heating the front door step to de-ice the location, having a kick-ass art department was the second step in making sure our commercial production was successful.

3. Keep talent warm

For this Home Chef television ad, we can sell warmth in the environment all we want, but if our talent looks cold on camera, the idea won't sell. We used a combination of warm vehicles in the driveway and extra-large goose-feather coats between takes to make sure our talent could do one take effectively, then go back and get warm, then do another take. The process didn't take too much longer, and the results made this production feel like the middle of summer.

4. Rent the right equipment

Snow doesn't leave trees without blowers, ice doesn't melt without heaters, and talent doesn't keep warm without trailers.
The budget doesn't have to be astronomic to be able to rent the right equipment to make the creative happen.  

5. Clean anything else up in post

The dreaded words every post-production editor and producer hates to hear is, "Don't worry, we'll just fix that in post!" And now you know why those two positions aren't on the production set during filming! In all seriousness, there are always a few extraneous items that even the best art departments and camera composition will miss, and in the case of switching out seasons on a shoot, using some masking and compositing in post to fix the picture and make it unquestionably believable to the viewer is what we love doing in post-production.  And despite what the post-production team says, every editor loves a challenge!


In summary, changing out winter for summer on a 10 degree day in December was no picnic, but thanks to the steps we took above, to the talented crew and producers who worked on this project, we indeed were able to give OKRP and their client, Home Chef, a commercial advertising campaign that looked like it could've been a picnic in the summer.

Watch the final "Making Things Happen" Commercial for Home Chef below!

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