How to Make a Video Production Like J.J. Abrams

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You may not expect your next Orlando video production to draw millions at the box office, but there is no reason not to emulate the films that do! As a director, J.J. Abrams uses a variety of visual flourishes to add to the aesthetic and dynamism of his productions. Abrams served as a collaborator on several television series before finding what seems to be his niche at the moment: breathing new life into franchise films and reboots. Keep reading to see what you can learn from Abrams’ professional experience and visual gestures.


Filmmaking Expertise


J.J. Abrams is known for his big-budget productions, including Mission Impossible III (2006), two Star Trek reboot films (2009 and 2013), Super 8 (2011), and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 2015). Prior to these, Abrams wrote and produced films including Armageddon (1998) and Cloverfield (2008). Abrams particularly began gaining distinction thanks to his work on the television series Felicity, Alias, and Lost. He began his film career, however, as a writer and producer, and is still active as an author and screenwriter.


Thanks to all of his work behind the scenes, Abrams understands the process from all angles and can offer advice important for a shoot of any size. In a recent article on, for example, Abrams shed some light on the pre-production process for the upcoming Star Wars film and his belief that everything included must be essential to the characters. Keeping this in mind can help you ensure that your corporate video production is cohesive and effective.


Visual Styling


Many franchise films are visually distinctive. By taking over a franchise or heading up a reboot, Abrams has had to face the challenge of adding his own visual flourishes into existing worlds. Likewise, you may find it difficult to incorporate visual effects into a corporate video production without taking away from the professional side of the shoot. Thankfully, there are several visual tricks and ideas that can boost your video’s visual appeal. First, however, it worth noting a couple of special effects used by Abrams that may not translate as well on smaller screens.


First, Abrams is known for using lens flares, which are typically caused by scattered light or internal reflections. The flares can occur either as visible lines across the screen or as a haze across the entire image. If you are shooting outdoors, however, you could create an attractive transitional shot by panning across the sky and embracing the brief lens flare that occurs as you shoot directly into the sun.


Abrams also tends to add visual interest in the background of large shots. He may use sparks to manipulate the lighting in a dark scene, or include horizontal activity (X-axis) while zooming forward on a dolly shot (Z-axis). Doing so creates a strong sense of motion, dynamism, and engagement. However, ask for feedback from your production’s camera crew before requesting more complicated shots. In some cases, adding more background information can distract viewers from the production’s actors or subject matter. These visual tools may be more useful for generating and maintaining viewer engagement in longer productions.


Snap Zoom and Handheld Shots


Abrams’ body of work includes many action-based films and television shows, so it makes sense that his visual priority seems to be movement. One way that Abram increases the energy and momentum of shots is by utilizing snap zoom, where the camera focuses on a single object and zeros in on it quickly. The technique can be seen in a Star Wars teaser trailer (1:26) and, at rates of zoom, could serve many purposes in a corporate video production, including:

  • To quickly zoom in on an actor in a humorous way
  • To zoom in on a product in a melodramatic way
  • To focus on your company’s products as the clear winner as the competitors fade away


Another way Abrams adds motion is through the use of a handheld or shaky cam perspective. This technique is particularly useful for action shots, which make sense for productions including music videos, youth group film projects, and creative commercials looking for a cinematographic feel. Handheld shots are designed to make the audience feel as though they are part of the action, so this technique may not easily apply to other types of corporate productions. Still, the idea of motion can be used to create engaging, energetic, or seamless shots.


Canted Angles

Abrams specializes in unexpected angles and perspectives, which can be more subtly slipped into commercial Orlando video productions than other types of special effects. A canted shot sits at a slight angle, creating a modern-looking, visually engaging scene that is not too over-the-top. Talk to your camera crew about composition, because weighing the frame slightly more heavily to one side will help it look purposeful and artistic.


Are you interested in incorporating some of Abrams’ techniques into your next production? Our Orlando video production company, NG Production Films, has over fifteen years of creative filmmaking experience. We are passionate about every new film project and committed to ensuring your production is a success. For a free, non-obligation consultation, call us at 877-203-2895 or fill out our simple contact form for a prompt reply.