Generation-Z content creators have reinforced the notion that working with limited resources isn't actually a limitation at all. Scrappy, makeshift content has surged in both visibility and popularity. It's brought to light that you don't need much to create engaging content – just your imagination and, well, good lighting.MOON Ultralight, a portable device that offers corrective lighting with customizable brightness and tone, is an intuitive new product that helps off-the-cuff content appear more polished.After being named one of TIME Magazine's best 20 gadgets of 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January, MOON is poised to become an essential companion for content creators moving forward. And with everyone confined to their homes for the foreseeable future, having an optimization tool to work in partnership with your creativity is critical when creating content at home.We talked with Edward Madongorere, Co-Founder and CEO of MOON Ultra, about some of his best practices when creating content from home, how his brand approaches marketing deliverables, and why products are always secondary to a good story.
How do you approach content creation and marketing deliverables when you're confined to your home?
For me, content creation has always started at home. Home is the main studio hub. I think you can get creative around different spaces in your house that you wouldn't think would make good places for content creation. A lot of times what I'll do is just spend time playing around with different surfaces and different environments. I've shot stuff in my closet and even in the bathtub! Sometimes you're just looking for a particular surface to create a specific texture or light to bounce off of something.In this time – when you're at home – my best advice would be to find different surfaces, different textures, seek out places with really unique shadows, and create interesting ways to bounce light off of objects. I think there's creativity in finding different household items and seeing them through a different perspective.
What are some of the materials and props you'd recommend when creating content from home?
It depends on the subject you're trying to attack. For example, sometimes, I feel like creating food content. I'm not a chef by any means, but my wife can throw down! So she'll make something epic, and I'll plate it nicely and set the table like we're at a restaurant – so no one knows that it was shot in the house and not a restaurant. It's just about being creative.Sometimes I'll watch a Youtube video and try to recreate it. For surfaces, oftentimes, I'll use white foam core board paper that we just have lying around the house for the kid's school projects. I'll use those to bounce light off of a reflection from the window for a product that I'm shooting on the table. We're so lucky to be in this era. Where we have access to Youtube, Google, and all these resources we can look to for constant inspiration. I'll spend some time watching a few Youtube videos from some of the creators I like to follow, and I'll try to re-create that magic. And you don't need much. You need your iPhone, and you need a good source of light. Luckily for us, we have our product so I can use that to place and stage where I need it. But you can even use household items, turn on a light or move some things around. I think this is a time where people can get truly creative and make compelling content.
MOON Ultralight is really intuitive and a great lighting source that optimizes brightness and tone. What would you recommend aside from your product to correct light and tone when working from home?
So, from a photographer or a cinematography standpoint, the first thing you always want to do is think about your composition and your story. What story are you trying to tell? Before you even get into "how do I light this thing," it's about how am I trying to make the person watching this feel? The beauty of light is that it can be shaped in such a way that it makes people feel a certain way.I always go back to movies. When you think about certain movies, and they're doing interrogation scenes, they always hold that single light above the subject. It's kind of swaying left to right, which creates this uneasiness in the room. It establishes palpable anxiety and tension that drives the scene. So, once you figure out your story, then you can take something like MOON and place it in different surroundings.Let's say you were shooting a video of yourself. You have your MOON, and you're in a room that's kind of dimly lit, but you want to create a tone and a mood that's somewhat dark but also has a bit of character. Take your MOON Ultralight and move it to the left of your face while the phone is in your right hand. Then, all of a sudden, you get these really dark shadows on the right side of your face while the left side of your face is nicely lit - you've created that drama, instantly.The beauty of having our light is that it's intuitive. You can shape it to help tell your story. You can place it anywhere, move it around anywhere, and you can play around with it. As you move the light around, you're going to find that aha moment, and that's where the story begins.
You have great admiration and knowledge of film. Do you think that most people miss the magic in everyday content consumption? In watching television or seeing the way a particular film is shot? Is that the inspiration that content creators are looking for and just don't realize that they're looking at it?
In some cases, yes. But I think what ends up happening [now that we're all at home] is we're exposed to so much more content that things begin to shift. For instance, traditionally, you see late-night talk show programs shoot in high definition and with the best lighting. Now you have people like Trevor Noah at home trying to figure out how to light themselves when Youtube creators have been doing this forever and make it look so easy. We're in a stage where everyone is trying to learn a new tactical approach to content creation.For me, I'd always watch a movie once as a fan. The second time I'm watching to see how they shot it and the reason behind that method. Then, by the third time I watch it, I'm trying to figure out how I can recreate that same type of shot with an iPhone, with the MOON Ultralight, or even with my son's doll, by trying to put it in the shot to recreate it (haha). I don't think most people necessarily think in those terms, but I think now we have the freedom and time to try and keep our minds away from everyday nuisance and be more creative.Most people think you need high-end cameras to do this kind of work. You don't. You just need the device in your hand and really good light. The rest is storytelling.
Given the limits of social distancing, what type of content is MOON Ultralight focusing on right now? Have you pivoted your approach at all?
Our approach has shifted a little bit because the beauty of MOON is that it's not only a device you can use at your home; you can use it outside of your home. Customers love to use it at restaurants, event spaces, and bars/nightclubs. That's not happening at the moment, but people still want to be able to enjoy themselves and create something that people can view.Our team is phenomenal. We're all creators and creatives, so being at home allows us to create different content and then share it and challenge ourselves. We can gauge if any of those strategies might work for any type of messaging we're trying to send out now or even later. It's allowed us to sharpen our skills a bit by going back to the basics - just using what we have at our disposal to create. So we're definitely affected by it [social distancing], but we're trying to look at it from a different perspective and see what we can do within our confined spaces.
What are some of your shooting content from home best practices?
Plan - Come up with a plan. It doesn't have to be complicated. You don't have to storyboard it or write a full-blown script - just come up with a plan. I want to shoot this thing, and I want to share it in this way. That will lead you in the right direction.Don't Stress About Equipment - I think sometimes people get lost in the idea of "oh I can't shoot anything because I don't have a DSLR camera or I don't have the right microphone or I don't have the right light stand." You can get creative. Use what you have at your disposal and just create!Share Your Content - Even if you think it's not ready or it's not good enough, share it anyway. The more content you share, the more you're creating, the more useful feedback you'll get from people who are looking at. And you can learn from what you've created. You'll also see that people won't judge you for how it's created if the story is compelling.Sharpen Your Skills - There are a lot of great Youtube creators, tons of libraries for how to use Final Cut, how to use Adobe Suite, and how to use free editing tools for your content and videos. Download some of those apps, watch some video tutorials, and find people who are creating great content so you can watch and absorb. Then try it out yourself.
Speaking of more makeshift content – considering most of us are removed from fancy tools and high-end equipment – do you think that on the other side of social distancing, a more humanistic content approach will carry greater value?
I think we've always had that. There's polished content like Netflix and HBO, and then there's TikTok! People spend hours and hours and hours on TikTok watching videos that aren't produced at all. It's just creative people making content that's funny and catchy.So, I think you've going to have both sets of content, but what's going to change is that the big producers are going to re-evaluate. They'll realize we don't necessarily need this big production to tell a story. I think it's going to filter down and make the playing field a lot more even for everyone, where now you don't have to feel the pressure of saying I have to spend X amount of dollars on lighting.I used to work on film productions and we'd spend thousands and thousands of dollars on professional lights. And now, I'm creating great, engaging content just by having a MOON Ultralight on my phone and holding my phone, walking and talking. And people have loved that more than the productions I've worked on where we spend hundreds of thousands on lighting. So you'll get that more humanistic approach to content, but I don't think you'll lose the other side of it either.
It feels like the most significant resource isn't always the actual tool. But your imagination and how you use the tools at your disposal to exercise that muscle.
100%. That's absolutely correct. And I'll even add to that: whatever emotion you're trying to get someone to feel, that's actually no different than having a conversation or showing someone an old photograph. Every photo has something to say. Once you figure out how you want them to feel after being presented with that piece of content, be it empathy, laughter, or you want them to cry; once you figure out the end goal of that content, and the emotion you're trying to portray, the rest is just reverse engineering. So, for me to portray that emotion, the person can't be fully lit; they have to be in the dark so you can bring them to the light.People will always feel that emotion as long as you go back to that place of imagination to tell the story. The tools are just there to help. The beauty of MOON Ultralight is that we made it based on emotion. My wife and I created it because we wanted to share better stories with our son. So it started as storytelling. Now we're seeing other people use the tool to do just that: share their own stories.If you can get to a place of imagination and be creative, the rest you can learn. Just start with the idea, imagine it, and everything becomes possible.