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Using Animals in Video

The old showbiz saying goes never work with kids or animals. Working with animals in a corporate video can be a challenge. No, I’m not talking about difficult clients. I’m talking about the cats and dogs and hamsters you may end up featuring in a production. If your client wants to use an animal, or even give them a starring role, there are some things to consider when it comes to shoot day.

Have a Plan of Attack

Let’s say a client has a business or shop mascot they want to include in their video. Let’s also assume this isn’t a professional animal actor, but somebody’s pet. If the furry companion is doing more than just sitting still, shoot all your wide cover shots first. Save the close-ups and reactions for later, after the important footage is out of the way. Shooting from a variety of angles ensures you end up with more than just images of their backsides. Get the camera down on their level for the animal’s perspective. And clean the lens often—dogs especially like to sneak in a lick during tight shots.

using animals in video
An animal wrangler will guide the animal on set

If you need to have an animal do more than a cameo, hire a professional. Trust us, things will go much more smoothly. Keep in mind that each beast comes with a handler. Although this adds to set busyness, the handler knows the animal and will guide their actions.

The Talent

Work with the strengths of your animal. Find out what they do well and reliably and see if you can make it work. Be flexible and adjust to the animal’s talents and don’t ask them to do something they can’t do. Incidentally, does anyone else remember David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks?

Reward good behavior. When your animal performer does what you ask of them, use positive reinforcement. A scratch behind the ear or praise is always nice, but treats work even better. Just ask the pros.

Animals can’t tell you when they’re tired or have had enough. Not with their words, anyway. Watch for signs of fatigue and don’t push past limits. If a dog lies down in the shade and refuses to get up, it’s time to take a break.

Be Patient

Working with an animal will take two to three times longer than working with a human. Expect that added time and factor it into your shooting schedule. Try your best to stay calm and be patient.

using animals in video
Get your star’s attention for a better performance

One way to make sure you have and hold the attention of your star animal is by being the most exciting or interesting thing in the room. Beter yet, be the only exciting or interesting thing in the room. Animals are easily distracted by action, food and unfamiliar settings. Try to keep distractions to a minimum and focus the attention of your performer.

Keep the Camera Rolling!

Often, an animal will decide when to perform and you don’t want to miss the ONE TIME they finally do their trick. So keep the camera rolling! Also remember the tip above about being patient.

If you’re ready to try taming the beast for a memorable video, give us a call. Key West Video has shot with animals before and we’re always up for a challenge.

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