Combine UGC With High-End Footage for the Human Touch

Feed the Demand for Authenticity


It’s in high demand in every aspect of life. From dating and food to vacations and life experiences, people around the world are seeking out the “raw, real, and relatable.” The marketing, advertising, and film production industries are no exception to this.

In particular, consumers in general, have been straying away from more polished, glossy, and highly-scripted ads and promotional films in favor of the User Generated Content (UGC) that feels much more genuine, even if it’s not Hollywood-quality. You just have to look to the success of YouTubers who get millions of views more than brands with an army of content filmers for evidence of that. And these amateur filmers are only getting stronger, as viewers clamor for content that comes from the heart, not the pages of a script. 

So, what’s the big attraction of UGC?

Aside from authenticity? Well, don’t overlook the fact that UGC is vastly less expensive than the flashy, costly, and meticulously crafted footage that we’re so used to seeing on TVs, smartphones, laptops, and tablets. You don’t need a massive production crew and a video village to capture a bunch of different people ordering fast food. All they need is an iPhone, and a little direction. 

However, when you combine that phone with a tool like Cinebody, the power of UGC becomes exponentially bigger. And it provides you with the ideal way to add that much-needed “human connection” to any production project that requires it, with almost no setup required. 

It starts by separating your production into traditional shots captured by a film crew, and the shots that can be filmed by users, influencers, and brand ambassadors. Once that’s done, you can create a call to arms on social media, get your chosen filmers to download the app, and the software does the rest. You control the shot list, can give your community direction in real-time, and watch as the self-captured, authentic, and truly magnetic footage comes rolling in. No travel costs. No equipment rentals. No location scouting. Just genuine footage that will really bring your project to life. 

Of course, all of this naturally leads to a huge question that often rears its head...

Does this mean UGC is replacing high-end footage?

That’s a tough one to answer. Is it becoming more popular? Without a doubt. There has been a massive rise in User Generated Content over the past 5-10 years, and this in turn has led to a decrease in demand for high-end footage in some areas. Indeed, the 2020 pandemic only compounded that issue, with professional film production crews being sidelined while people with just a phone and an idea could upload content and keep the crowds happy. 

However, is UGC killing high-end footage? Absolutely not! (And yeah, we’re shouting that one). This is not the death of one type of footage, but the evolution of both to bring the strengths of both to new heights. One recent, and fantastic,  example is the commercial put out by Popeyes when they announced the glorious return of their sell-out Chicken Sandwich. By showing actual UGC footage from customers loving the product, they got genuine reactions across. But by bookending the spot with those incredible, professional vanity shots of the sandwich, you also got the consumer watering at the mouth. The best of both worlds. And that’s just one of many brands that embraced UGC content. Take the Buffalo Wild Wings spot “Sports Live On,” the very successful “Welcome Back” ad by McDonald’s, and the fantastically-funny (and well-produced) UGC spot for Fanta called “Idiots Are Amazing” that really tapped into the ingenuity and comedic sensibilities of their demographic. 


But that’s only just the beginning of the story. UGC mixed with high-end footage is not just being tapped for short-form TV spots. Brands, clubs, corporations, and even universities are looking at the power of mixing the two kinds of content, and are raving about the success it can bring.  

A student’s-eye view of Colorado Mesa University

Even before the pandemic struck, getting a good feel for a day in the life of a student at a chosen university was not an easy prospect. Sure, visits and tours can be arranged, but that never really gives you an authentic look inside the ins and outs of college life. And with CMU being in Grand Junction, arranging a good time to look around could require a full day of your time, or even an overnight stay. 

CMU wanted to give prospective students an honest look at life on campus, by creating high-quality inspirational vignettes of ket students. The budget was not an issue, they had enough for a film crew and all the bells and whistles that come with a traditional shoot, and brought in seasoned production company Lumenati to get that footage. But they knew that wouldn’t be enough; not for what they envisioned. 

“It was important to give anyone interested in attending CMU an authentic, and frankly candid, look at the life of a student,” said Brad Conner, Director at Lumenati. “We knew our film crew couldn’t truly capture that. People just aren’t themselves in front of us, or any production crew. So, we brought in Cinebody to help, and created a shot list that the students could film in their own time. The footage was phenomenal, and much better quality than we had expected from something shot on a phone.”

Take a look at the finished piece, part of a series called “Making Mavericks,” and you can see just how well the footage shot by the students blended with the content captured by the traditional film crew  This really is a case of 1 + 1 = 3. And what’s more, as it’s available online it can be viewed anytime, anywhere. No travel or tour dates need to be scheduled, and right now that’s a huge plus. You can see more episodes of the “Making Mavericks” series here. 


Manna Tree Private Equity Firm strikes a different chord

Blending UGC and high-end footage can also be utilized by corporations large and small. Manna Tree is a private equity firm based in Vail, Colorado. They’re committed to improving human health through nutrition, investing in, and actively partnering with, growth-stage companies including: Vital Farms, Verde Farms, MycoTechnology, Nutriati, Gotham Greens, and Evolve BioSystems.

In short, they’re not your typical “we only obey the mighty dollar” private equity firm. They’re a dedicated team built around shared values and strong culture, and showcasing them in an accessible and authentic way wasn’t just on-brand; it was essential in differentiating them from the competition. 

Just like CMU, Manna Tree had the necessary funds needed to create a slick production with a full-scale crew. And they also knew that traditional filming alone would not be enough to showcase a firm comprised of people whose goals are not merely growth-stage investing but also to invest in ways that make nutritious food a staple of the American diet. Enter FocusedBrands, the agency Manna Tree had chosen to tell their story. 


“The people at  Manna Tree are more than just finance people,” said Rachael Shane, Cofounder and CMO of Focused Brands. “They’re a dedicated group of mothers, fathers, aunts, missionaries, and regular people who want to make positive contributions to the finance industry. And we wanted to show that in the most authentic way possible.”


So, FocusedBrands devised a plan to use a traditional film production crew to capture picturesque A-roll interviews and soundbites. Concurrently, they leaned almost 100% on Cinebody for that essential, and genuine, employee B-roll. This is the footage that captures the humanity, connection, emotions, and genuine reactions of the down-to-earth people working at Manna Tree. 

The combination of high-end footage and UGC content was used to create a series of beautiful vignettes showing just what employees' personal lives are like, and how they pursue their sustainability mission outside of work.



Both the CMU and Manna Tree case studies are just a few examples of how UGC, when combined thoughtfully with high-end footage, can create a piece of content that showcases not just the professionalism of your brand, but the humanity behind it. 

And right now, both professionalism and humanity are being craved around the world. If you haven’t considered a project that puts both in the spotlight, maybe now’s the time to consider it.