The Rise of Video as a Tool for Documenting Architecture: An Interview with Frazer|Pogue Collective

When did you introduce video into your portfolio?

We began looking for different ways to capture architecture on film in 2008. At that time, video hadn’t been developed as a tool for marketing architecture. It required a large crew and expensive equipment and was too costly for small firms. With the advent of using digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) to capture high definition (HD) video with architectural lenses, we saw an opening to create high-quality videos using a relatively inexpensive and unique format, which could help us better tell the story of an architectural project. 

Ultimately, as architectural photographers, our job is to get our clients more work by better communicating their visions and their projects’ stories through visuals. Is video an appropriate and advantageous tool for architects? We think that for some projects and markets, the answer is absolutely yes.

How can video be useful for architectural firms?

Our lives are flooded with images; simply producing a beautiful photo of a project is no longer the ticket to successful promotion. Think of how often we share videos on social media and on our phones. YouTube has more than 1 billion unique visitors each month, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched every month. Amazingly, architects haven’t exploited this medium of communication to its fullest extent.

In general, people like to see and hear the ideas and thoughts of others. Video is a great introduction because it allows the client to meet the firm — get an idea of who the people are and what they do. Not only does video allow for showing space and time in a dynamic way, it also allows the architect to speak about the client’s needs and how the firm was able to meet those needs and solve the problems of a given unique situation. This is where video outshines photography.

Video is a medium that can be posted on the web, used in presentations, and delivered as an introduction anywhere in the world. As architecture firms shift away from print-based media toward the web as their primary marketing tool, the role of video will increase.

Can you briefly describe your process for capturing a space with a video? Is it very different from preparing for still photography?

As with still photography, we are trying to show a space in its best light. That being said, video requires an immense amount of preparation and equipment, as we include voice and music in the mix. All of these components must work in concert and need to be captured in a manner that is fluid and clear. Having expertise with composition and light is critical to both still and video, but communicating the story in a film is extremely challenging.

Just as we do with still photography, we speak with our clients to gain an understanding of who they are and what excited them about the project prior to the assignment. From there, we discuss their vision for presenting the video and in what markets they wish to gain exposure. Who is the audience; where are they; and what do you want to say? Once this is clear, we begin collaborating on visuals and storytelling. If we are incorporating an interview into the film, we capture this conversation before we film the space. This allows us to adapt and tweak our visuals to align with the interview. Sometimes in this conversation we learn something new about the project or see something differently that affects how we capture the space visually.

Can you talk about the role light often plays in your videos?

We think it’s important to look at how architects and the design industry use light in a much different way than they did 20 years ago. Our clients use light as another material and tool in their design; therefore, it is of value to capture this as a character in the project’s story. It is always one of the most important characters in our film — we are always trying to discover new ways to capture light. “Light Through the Sycamore” (see gallery above), which we did for Los Angeles-based Kovac Architects, is a great example of a situation in which the client was struggling to show how light moved through the space — we solved this by capturing the project through video and incorporating time lapse.  

The video and photos in this article are expanded content for the July/August 2014 issue of Texas Architect.