Navigating The Video Production Process

by Steve Secor

Budget. Let’s just bring up that elephant in the room right off the top. The best creativity doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t within a project’s budget. Budget is not the first thing a creative wants to think about when starting a project, but if you don’t stick within your budget, you won’t be around very long!

As business owners (or freelancers), we must utilize our human resources efficiently. And that means every person involved needs to know the process, and follow it. There are a number of ways to approach the video production process, but in my experience, the way I am about to share with you has been a successful one.

Discovery

This is when you dig for information about the video. What is the goal, or purpose of the video? Who is the target audience? How will it be shown (i.e. web, social media, in an auditorium, TV commercial, etc.) The knowledge of what the video will be used for (sometimes more than one final use) helps to know what resolution to shoot and edit – also making a difference in size of files, time needed to process them, and space to store them.

This is also the time to get a good feel for the personality of the business or organization, as well what they might be thinking for the tone and feel for the video. Knowing this will help you also tell your client how much you estimate it will cost. Some shoots might require a lot of post-production editing. Others may require extra lighting, or more than one camera.

Ask if any assets you might need are (logos, fonts, etc.) available in the proper format (PNG, AI, etc.)? Will there be music? What are the licensing requirements? (Music licensing can cost a lot of money!) Will you need to purchase any stock footage to add to the video?

Pre-Production

Once you’ve figured out the discovery details, it’s time for a pre-production meeting to discuss the scope of the project. This is where the director/producer and any other team members will learn about the project, and you can start to formulate ideas. Stock video, music and camera formats can all be discussed in this step and coordinated later in Preparations.

Once you (and your team) has decided on a direction, now is the time to write a script and storyboard your video. The more of this you include before you even begin to film, the faster filming will go, because the director, videographer, audio engineers, actors and other team members will know what to expect. It takes a lot of work on the front end, but it saves time in perspective of the entire video process.

Site Visit

This can be an optional step in the process, depending on the complexity of the shoot. The majority of locations were not built with video production in mind (and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it). It is a good idea to know ahead of time what the location looks like, how the natural lighting is, and how it sounds. Knowing these things will help you know if you need to use any special lighting, audio or other equipment.

Knowing your location well also helps you decide what video equipment you will need: camera type, whether you need a slider, tripod, stabilizer or drones to make the production look its best.

Shoot Preparation

Prior to showing up on-site for a video shoot, communication with your client about the plan for the shoot day is essential. (Preparation, preparation, preparation.) Make sure scripts and storyboards are reviewed and approved. If you have an actor or actors, make sure they know the script, or at least the talking points. This will make the following parts of the process run much more smoothly. Last-minute changes are always going to happen, but preparation will minimize problems.

Shooting the Video

The meetings are over, the preparation is complete and now it’s time to get to work, and have some fun! If you have a team of people, at bare minimum you should have a director/producer and a videographer. It can be very difficult to film and direct at the same time! If your organization has an account manager, they should be there as well. Not having the client contact on location is an open invitation for miscommunication issues, which costs everyone time and money.

Post-Production

Asset management. In some projects, DAM (digital asset management) starts in the Discovery step with the client providing logos, fonts and other branding assets. Good communication and DAM is key to getting a smooth start to a rough draft. Knowing where the assets are stored (or where they will come from), along with the client’s branding guidelines, are must-haves.

During this time, you should have the creative director and/or project manager review the video multiple times so you ensure you’re on the right track.

Client Approval and Revisions

Once the initial version of the video is edited with music, graphics and all necessary images, it’s time for the client to review the work. Many times this version of the video has placeholder text or images, and hasn’t been color corrected. In my experience, clients have a hard time seeing past these things. So be sure to communicate that as well as you can so the client can understand what they are seeing and make the necessary approvals or changes.

Depending on the project, and how many rounds of revisions has been agreed upon, you will make multiple rounds of changes on your video.

Final Delivery

Once the video is produced, it’s time to export the video to its final format and give it to the client! And hopefully at the end of it all, you are happy with your work, the client is happy with their video, and you get paid!

In summary, the more prepared you are for a video right from the beginning, the more smoothly the process will go. The better you communicate in each step along the way (especially in the beginning), the happier the client will be, and the better the project will go. And if the project goes smoothly, hopefully you will have stayed within your time budget and money budget, and everyone is happy!