A look behind the lens: A chat with videographer & studio founder Nicola Ng
We talk with Nicola Ng, Senior Videographer and Production Manager at Tatler Magazine Singapore, and Co-Founder of Simple Studios
One of the best parts of working in a collaborative and creative industry like ours is the opportunity to meet, befriend, and draw inspiration from fellow creatives across various disciplines, and this interview is the result of such a situation. I (Lucy) met Nicola Ng in the Japanese winter of early 2019 when she visited Japan from Singapore on a media tour sent by Tatler Magazine/ Tatler Asia Group Singapore to shoot a near-impossible video project: Capture the beauty, power, mysticism, luxury, and rich legacy of Kyoto, Japan’s most legendary city.
During the trip, I was impressed with how she could lug around all that gear and still have the time and energy to take shot after shot until she was confident she had it down. Once I saw the final product, I was impressed two-fold, she’s an absolute master of the editing suite and a color-grading artist.
Since then, we’ve kept in touch, me selfishly in part as a not-so-secret admirer of her work, planned trips to catch up, canceled trips (thanks covid), talked vaguely about Japan travel plans and a mutual love of the magic of the mountains. But now, with some looser borders comes the promise of more opportunities for collaboration, here’s hoping.
While working as a Senior Videographer and Production Manager at Tatler, she’s also co-founded (alongside Vagavisuals) and opened Simple Studios, a self-described “sanctuary for video content creators and the likes — from budding filmmakers to professionals.” We’re excited to see what they do with the space and are thiiiiiis close to looking up flights to Singapore to check it out!
For now, here’s our pre-Simple Studios-launch chat with Nicola about her work as a video editor, and we’ll probably hound her for a follow-up on what it’s like to open and run your own studio in the not too distant future.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you ended up working at lifestyle and luxury magazine Tatler Magazine?
I graduated with a diploma in New Media (Republic Polytechnic) and was a total fresh grad out of school when I landed my first job, as a videographer and video editor, with one of the publishing sectors in Mediacorp.
Fast forward to a year later, I quit and took a degree in Communications, graduated, and hit up a few short-term/freelance gigs before settling for a full-time job as a video editor with a local brand.
After two years in that role, I realized how uninspired I’ve become because it was a super comfortable but mundane desk job, so just as I was on the verge of quitting, an ex-colleague contacted me for Tatler; and the rest is, well, history!
Your job title is “Senior Videographer and Production Manager.” Can you explain, for the layperson, what you do?
Basically, I have to handle and manage the entire production; this includes pre-production, such as concept planning for the video, storyboarding, location scouting, the hiring of crew members, as well as the actual production (filming) and post-production (editing of the final video).
Is there a separation between your two roles as ‘Senior Videographer’ and ‘Production Manager,’ or are they inherently connected in your work?
They’re inherently connected, but that means I have a lot to handle. So it would be great to have a Production Manager on board to help with all the coordination and liaising before and during production, so that I can better focus on my role as a (video) Director and Director of Photography.
Is there one particular project you worked on that was a ‘career highlight?’ What was it?
I would say the video for The Tatler Travel Guide: 12 Things To Do In Kyoto & Osaka kind of shows what I am capable of doing — handling an overseas shoot solo, planning the shots on the go, and then piecing it together at the end while making sure it’s engaging for the viewers.
Singapore Stories 2021: Almost At The Final Line also highlights my ability to produce, film, and edit for a mini-reality series (which was a first for me, by the way!)
You’ve worked for a range of different publications/ magazines, STYLE: (STYLE:Men and STYLE:Living), Nylon, and now Tatler, which is quite unique for a video creator. Do these publications approach video content and written editorial content differently?
I think publishing companies now look toward creating more video content to elevate written content. Since humans are better at processing visual information, videos are much more engaging and memorable.
Videos have also proven to help drive more traffic, as they can easily fit into different social platforms, making them effective marketing tools. So while written content may be more elaborate in terms of facts and information, videos make it easier for the audience to interpret the information in a shorter amount of time and retain it for longer.
Traditionally, magazines relied on print, photography, and copy, but video has increasingly become a major part of publications’ content over the past 10–15 years. Why do you think it’s important for publications/ magazines to have a presence in the video realm?
We know that people are naturally drawn to moving images as opposed to static stuff or text-only content. In this digital world, videos are now the primary source of information and entertainment for people of all ages, so publications/magazines must stay on top of this trend.
We presume that there’d be a fair bit of advertorial video creation within the scope of your work. Those in the publishing world will be familiar with the term ‘advertorial,’ but folks outside of the publishing/ media industry might not know what it is. Can you explain the difference between “advertorial” and “editorial” content?
Simply put, advertorials, also known as commercial content, are paid for by a company to promote a particular brand, product, or service. Whereas editorial content isn’t commissioned, so they’re usually created to represent the editor’s opinions or reviews about a particular story or brand without any obligations.
Is the approach to creating these two types of content different? Or not so much? How come?
There are lesser (or even none, sometimes) rules when it comes to creating editorial content since we’re not subjected to the client’s approval. We have more creative control, but the budget’s tighter because it’ll have to come out of the company’s pocket.
What does the workflow process look like when it comes to creating editorial and advertorial content? (From scriptwriting, storyboarding, location scouting to delivery)
The workflow process is the same for me when creating any style of video content. In my company, the editor handling the project will be on the front end. They will discuss and develop the video idea based on the client’s requirement or brand concept (for most editorial content). They’ll also decide on the preferred personality, talent, and locations to feature. After which, I get pulled in to provide a few video references that are similar to their proposed idea and to what I have envisioned for the storyboard.
How many people do you typically have working on one shoot?
For an external production crew, I’ll usually only be able to hire a camera assistant, a gaffer/ lighting technician, and two grips/ camera support equipment technicians. Any more than that is a luxury.
Is there one aspect of your job that you find particularly rewarding? What is it?
The ability to bring to life a particular vision or idea that I have and to be acknowledged for my work by people inside/outside of the industry.
On the other hand, what do you think are the biggest challenges you face?
Having limited budget and resources to create what I have in mind and having to face the many restrictions our government has implemented in the media.
Although this pushes me to break out of the boundaries and makes me think, “how else can I shoot the video within budget?”
You’ve worked most, if not all, of your career in Singapore. What do you think are some of the challenges of working within Singapore’s creative/ media scene?
I’ve learned that it’s not easy getting yourself out there and getting yourself known. Typically, people are hired based on the strength of their track record and contacts. Newcomers or fresh graduates often have a hard time and would be on a really low wage for a long while before they get recognized or get contacted for more work. I’m sure it’s the same in some other countries. Everyone’s just vying for a spot in the industry, but there isn’t enough support.
Are there any video creators you’re particularly fond of/ draw inspiration from at the moment? Who are they?
Do you have a ‘dream project’? What is it? Or alternatively, do you have any plans or ambitions for what you want to do for 2022?
I hope I’ll get a chance to produce something out of my comfort zone and work on a few passion projects soon!
[NOTE: This interview was conducted before the opening of Simple Studios]
Editing: Emma Araki, Lucy Dayman