Successful video projects rarely just happen; in fact, they involve a great deal of planning. And planning is everything! It is the heart and soul of your project and it is a big task. Knowing where to begin with your video project can seem quite overwhelming at first, but a proper pre-production plan can save you a lot of time and unnecessary overspending. Obviously, every video and every production is different and there certainly isn’t a golden recipe to a successful campaign but not planning ahead could be the beginning of many disasters along your production journey.
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So, whether you are looking for guidelines on your first video production, or interested in expanding your skill set, these tips will help you understand the essence of pre-production and give you an insight into how we plan for a video here at Distilled.
Let's take a look at our video planning process using 'The Christmas Collider' – the latest video we have made for Digital Science – as an example.
The script is the heart of any video production. Every single decision you make in the preparation of your video will be based on that document. So, you need to have a complete script, divided into scenes with as much detail as possible; list the location of each scene and the number of people who are going to be involved. (Nope, an outline or a really long document describing your story isn’t good enough.)
Without a complete script, you can’t: hire a crew or the equipment you will need, design the look of your video, decide on the location, or set up a budget, and you definitely can’t make a schedule.
Sometimes creating a storyboard might seem like a big task in the process of your production. However, storyboards can be very useful when dealing with complex filming with multiple scenes that are hard to visualize.
Storyboards are a visual representation of how your video will unfold, shot by shot. They don’t need to be incredibly detailed, they only need to give enough visual information of what is happening in each scene and what the general framing will look like. Storyboards are a visual aid that make it really easy to communicate your idea and explain your video to others. Also, they provide a great way to get feedback on your storyline and ideas.
The location sets the tone of your film. Definitely carry out a location scout before deciding on your final film location. It’s important to see the place for yourself and make sure it suits both the aesthetical, as well as the physical, needs of your story. Visit the location at the same time of day that you will be filming. This will let you evaluate the noise around your chosen area and the available natural light. Also, you need to make sure there is enough power availability for all your equipment and to determine a drop off area.
Filming on location can be cheaper than filming in a studio. However, you need to choose your filming location based on what serves your story best. Once you have chosen your preferred location, start sorting out the legalities as soon as possible, making sure that you have all the necessary permits and licenses before your filming day.
4. Set and Props
When working on a creative script, the set is very important in setting the mood and atmosphere of each scene and the whole video in general. Making a good and convincing set can bring life to your story and help the audience engage deeper with your film.
The story behind The Christmas Collider was based entirely around this elaborate machine, so we needed to build one! According to our script, the Digital Science employees needed to build the collider, on location, from scratch. However, when we first tried building the collider on set, we quickly realised that it wasn’t the best idea. Building the final thing wasn't an easy job and certainly not a fast one either. So, we decided to bring along a pre-made collider with us on set, and then re-bought all of the materials to fake its build.
Choose your crew wisely! Before you start hiring, make sure you have seen at least a few video examples similar to what you want to achieve. Generally, a two-person crew can shoot twice as much footage as a single shooter. This is because of the complexity of video – your crew needs to focus on composition, the lighting, audio and continuity all at once.
We have been working with the amazing people of Park District team. I cannot recommend those guys enough. They have been a huge asset to our video production and we wouldn’t have the same videos without them.
6. Shoot List
Shoot lists or shooting schedules are simple lists that make sure you are covering every angle you need to tell your story. Normally, they are broken down into locations so you can then plan your filming schedule based on the priority of your shots.
Often, shoot lists are quick notes that help you and your crew remember everything you need to film for each scene. They are an excellent communication tool between the director and the camera crew and a great way to make sure your filming day goes smoothly.
If you are filming an interview, a product video or, like this example, a company video, you will most likely be dealing with non-actors: people who are not familiar with being in front of the camera. In this case, simply try to start a conversation with them while setting up your scene, try to identify their strengths and weaknesses and determine the best way to showcase their qualities on camera. Let them test their lines beforehand, and give them as many takes as they need to feel comfortable with their part.
When dealing with a group of people, you will need to create time slots for each person involved. This does not mean you have to start filming when they are available, you just need to make sure your schedule works around their availability.
That's a wrap, folks!
Preparing for a video production is not one man's job – it requires a whole team of people working together. Talk about your shoot with the other members of your production team, discuss what is going to look visually good and what your client wants to achieve through this video. And most importantly, have fun!
What are your top tips for a successful production shoot? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.