Jon Mowat formed Hurricane Media in 2005, spotting an opportunity in the rapidly developing world of online video marketing. He had previously spent 11 years at the BBC, directing and producing documentary films that ranged from the military and antiques, to wildlife and drug addiction. He now works with local and international brands, connecting them with worldwide audiences.

“It’s easy to find good people when you’ve got such a huge talent pool on your doorstep; there’s a lot of creativity in Bristol and Bath”

 

The Hurricane team is based at the prestigious Bath Road Studios in Bristol, and with video content growing exponentially, we caught up with Jon to ask how and why businesses of all sizes should be embracing the medium of moving pictures.

TechSPARK: Firstly, Jon, what prompted you to leave the BBC and go it alone?

Jon Mowat: Broadcast television wasn’t exciting me and the world was slowly moving online. When YouTube started, I saw this whole new avenue where brands would need high-quality video and would be looking for creators. At the time, the BBC was asking for volunteers to take redundancy, so I took the leap and started my own thing.

I now employ 12 full-time staff and always have a couple of freelancers on the go. It’s easy to find good people when you’ve got such a huge talent pool on your doorstep; there’s a lot of creativity in Bristol and Bath, and many experienced creatives head here to escape the London rat race.

TS: What are the other benefits of being based in Silicon Gorge?

You’re close enough to London that you can get multinational clients, but you’re far enough away that you can get space to think and aren’t exhausted by the time you hit the office.

When you go to a meeting and say that you’re based in Bristol, people immediately know that it’s a creative place – very few cities outside the capital have that reputation. Clients know that we have lower overheads than London, but can be confident that we’ll deliver quality.

On the filming front, we’ve got fantastic studio space, such as The BottleYard, and over the bridge into Wales there’s the new Pinewood, so the infrastructure just keeps getting better.

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Team Hurricane: Jon (far left) and his Bristol-based crew

Key to the region’s success is a genuine sense of community within the creative industries; collaboration between companies – even those that might be considered competitors – is a regular feature of business life in the South West.

TS: What technological advances has Hurricane embraced over recent years, and how have they changed the way you work?

We use stereoscopic 3D and 4K (Super HD) to capture fantastic footage, which really mirrors tech advances in the consumer market. In terms of workflow, the most important change has been moving everything onto a single workstation; instead of having different hardware in different rooms across the company, we gain real efficiencies by keeping all the processes in one physical place.

“It’s easy to nerd-out about the kit, but the priority should always be the actual journey you take your audience on”

 

This has really been made possible by better computers and more flexible and interconnected software. Smoothly moving through the workflow from capturing to editing, then compositing and grading without moving work stations makes a real difference. Better connectivity also allows our clients to watch proofs online and give immediate feedback.

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Ready for action: Jon playing with his kit

We’ve done Oculus Rift projects in the past, which have been really popular and the technology is fantastic, but it’s slowly being taken over by mobile competitors, such as Samsung Gear; from the moment you start any VR (Virtual Reality) project to the time you finish, there’s bound to be a newer technology around the corner.

Essentially, cameras are getting smaller, lenses are getting sharper, and it’s really easy to nerd-out about the kit, but the priority should always be the actual journey that you take your audience on.

TS: Finally, what advice you would give to businesses looking to boost their online marketing efforts?

Video has become increasingly significant in the marketing mix, and brands need to use it in the right way. Social media was an alien concept when we started out, but this revolution has seen companies harness the power of social videos to connect with followers.

Brands should focus on the success and goals of each project, not just getting something online. There is way too much content in the world, and unless yours is really strong, it simply gets lost. An emotional connection with your audience is what you are looking to create, and that takes a clarity of focus in the planning stages.

Camera kit is now so cheap that it has become much more accessible, but the downside of this democratisation of content creation is that people who don’t actually know what they’re doing are out there producing some pretty bad stuff. It’s always best to invest in people who’ve got the right skills.

Specifically for the TechSPARK audience, if your product is very technical then you should consider an explainer video to, well, explain what it does. Likewise, if you’re an engineering firm, you could use a mix of real footage and animation to show the inner workings of your creations, like the example below:

 

Just to reiterate my final point: engaging with your audience on an emotional level is key, so storytelling should always take precedence over pretty pictures.

You can follow @HurricaneMedia on Twitter, connect with Jon on LinkedIn and download his content marketing whitepaper from the Hurricane Media website.

Chris Cahill