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How to Succeed at your First Video Production

Are you thinking about producing a video for your business, but don't know where to start your video production?


It can be daunting, but read on for tips on where to begin, how to hire and professional secrets so your first video production is a raging success!

A couple in a bed with a cinema camera on the bed pointing toward them.  The woman half sits up and smiles away from the camera.
On set for a commercial

Pre-Production Part 1


So basically, to cut to the chase, the success of your video production lies heavily in the efforts and decisions put forth before you even come close to turning on that cinema camera, DSLR or iPhone camera.


An improperly planned video can end up in disaster, and even worse, wasted money. There are so many moving parts to producing a video of high value that should one element be off you could have yourself a dud, a stinker... a flop.


Intimidated yet?


Well please don't fear, just because huge budget movies full of professionals with years of experience continually churn out garbage, doesn't mean you have to. They're human too and make mistakes - especially in the beginning. Most flops you see end up that way, because of the script.


Which brings me back to you... you're video is only as good as your script.


I'll repeat, 'your video is only as good as your script' and I'll expand that to include... your idea or concept. Lay a strong foundation... and you know the rest.


So there's all sorts of good stuff you can do to increase your odds of success in the beginning stages of your video production:

  • R&D - Research, research, research: Know your audience, know your competition, know what's trending, know your genre, know what you like, know why you like it, then start to develop ideas and concepts from the research

  • Concept Creation: Brainstorm, watch things, read things and be inspired. Write down all your ideas (no matter how bad) and then write some more. Blend ideas, move beginnings to the end and ends to the beginning, edit and cut, then edit more... then add something new - no matter how wild.

  • Don't judge: The hardest part is not judging at this point - you need to turn off the inner censor, the demon on your shoulder, and let ideas pour out. It gets easier with practice.

  • Don't limit your time: Give it a while - a week, two weeks or even a month. As much time as you can so that ideas have time to percolate. Let them come to life in their own time.

  • Get feedback: At every stage have some trusted colleagues and friends who you can continually send ideas and scripts to that will not just pay lip service to you, but will give you good and critical feedback. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. They aren't helping you, your business or your video's success by stroking your ego.

  • Re-write... and then re-write some more: A lot of professional writers will tell you 'the writing is in the re-writing'. Please understand - a lot of material gets re-written several times before making into production.

After all that, you should have a solid foundation to move onto the next stages of video production.

A woman with black hair sits in a kitchen with her back to the camera on set for a video shoot.  A camera points toward her and she is surrounded by lighting.
On set for a commercial for Gocery.

Pre-Production Part II


Okay so now you have a script - Congratulations! - but you need to know how much it's going to cost, right?


Here comes a small (or maybe large) dilemma... your script may not reflect your budget.


Uh oh. You've just written a video spanning the globe with multiple characters doing extreme sports with celebrities... and it's going to cost $750K... uuuuh oops.


Back to the drawing board? Well, yes and no. It really depends how far off you are from your budget.


Maybe you have the budget and it's all good. Maybe you're close to it and only need to drop a celebrity or two OR maybe you're so far off that you do have to go back to the drawing board - or writing board - and start from scratch, which sucks.


The good news is that if you have a budget range from the start, you can WRITE TO YOUR BUDGET. Meaning you can add and remove things in the writing process to keep you script in line with your budget.


You can even do this with your wildly out of touch script and figure out how to keep the essence of your concept while reducing the budget. This can take many forms from less actors and locations, to less crew and wardrobe. Maybe, somehow, you can shoot in two days instead of three.


One of the most interesting things about video and film production is creating high quality content that's engaging, has a great story and looks great, while keeping to a certain budget. Just pulling that off is creative in itself!


Okay, so now you have a script in line with your budget... but wait, what makes up the budget? What goes into it?


Some of the things you need to keep in mind when planning your shoot:

  • Production and liability Insurance - covering your butt

  • Catering - feeding the people

  • Wardrobe - what's on the talents' bodies

  • Crew - how many bodies

  • Cast - who's body's on camera?

  • Director - who's telling the bodies what to do

  • Cinematographer - lighting the bodies

  • Camera operator - a crew body

  • Gaffer, grips, production assistants, continuity, ADs, etc. - bods, bods and more bods

  • Locations - where to put the bods

  • Equipment - Camera, tripods, dolly, lighting, grip gear - the inanimate bods

  • Scheduling, storyboards, shot lists, call sheets...

  • Post-production - Editing, animation, graphics, sound design - moving bodies on screens...

Here's a link with some more detail from Pixel Valley Studio.


Are you bored yet? It's a lot to take in and if you've checked out - I understand. Take a breath and come back when you're ready because now we're heading to...


A woman lies on the sidewalk outside with leaves all around.  She is surrounded by a few people and a cinema camera is pointing towars her.
On set outside for a commercial for Get Ready Global.

Production


The next beast on the list of to-dos before completing your video production is actually filming the thing, which for me is the best part (Mmm... I love writing too, it's a toss up!)


This can take many forms in size and structure, but it's quite easily assessed by your script and final vision. There's a lot of stuff on that list up there, but you definitely don't need all of it for every production.


You may only need a half day shoot with a smart phone camera in your office to get your message across - a lot of people do that - but we're here for a real honkin' video production blog - so let's stay with that.


Scheduling properly is going to be your best friend on production day. If you schedule wrong it could all go up in smoke - especially if you have a lot of moving parts.


I'll be honest with you - it took me a while to get this right, you always think you'll be able to do things faster than you actually can. So many obstacles and challenges can pop up while you're filming that you can suddenly find yourself behind by two hours and not sure how you'll make up the time. It can feel like you're walking through a bog.


My best advice here is to estimate how long you think you need for each scene/set-up and then double it. Also, run it by anyone else you're working with to get their opinion on things. For instance, if you estimate a half hour to light a scene, then you double it, make sure to show it to whomever is the cinematographer and make sure they can do it in that time.


It always takes longer because there are so many things to do and consider. Let's say you have a crew call for 7am. You've called two actors, hair and make-up, the director and cinematographer, the gaffer and grips, production designer, audio tech and a couple of PAs. You want to start rolling at 8am... do you think this is possible? It's a whole hour!


Then you find out H&M need a half hour each to ready the actors, the lighting will take 45 minutes, the production designer needs to move furniture and they haven't unloaded the truck or set up the camera. The actors alone will take up the time and you still need to rehearse and block the scene.


Okay so now you're up and rolling at 9am - you're an hour behind - and just as you yell 'action' the beep beep beep of a truck is heard. Oh boy, you didn't scout the location properly and now notice a 42 story building is being built just out the back.


Now you're yelling 'action' in between the beep beeps so the dialogue is clean. Slowing you down even more, ruining takes... and killing your time.


Then you have the obstacles you have no chance of catching - true story:


We had a location booked, did our due diligence to make sure it would work out, and set up to film on the day. We were part way through, nearing lunch, when we heard it - crazy loud compressor sound. Three doors down was a guy power washing the side of his house. Nooo!


We went over to him and asked if he could do it another day. Ends up he was hired for the day and had to finish up ASAP. He wasn't willing to bend, so we had to give him $100 to take a long lunch (anyone will bend eventually!) and so we re-ordered the sequence of shots as best we could, and got all dialogue shots as quickly as possible. We made it work, but it was less than ideal.


So building buffers into your day, to cover for weird things that slow you down - we spent a half hour dealing with this guy - could save your butt.


Also to note - having the 'contingency/incidentals' line item in your budget is a must have for all those unpredictable events that will happen. Rest assured, they will happen.


As for the rest of production - it's another blog post or five to cover it all - it's a good idea to hire professionals to help you out and get the job done properly. Treat everyone fairly, trust they know their jobs and make sure things are moving along. Crews can be chatty, so if it's your show and you want it to get done, you have to keep them moving. And feed them! A full crew is a happy crew.


And back to scheduling for a moment - try to stagger talent arrival and departures so that they aren't sitting around needlessly. Structure your day to bulk shoot locations and scenes and you don't have to keep setting up and taking down in the same spots. Shoot one area and move on.


It's definitely a balancing act and a brain exercise to schedule all the moving parts in the most efficient way, but a little time, and eventually, practice you'll be scheduling-savant.


The last thing I'll say about production is have fun, be creative and don't be afraid to be inspired. That can be the magic of video production - the ideas that are sparked in the moment. And if it's possible, leave a little time at the end of scenes and set-ups for the talent to play and explore - you never know what gold you'll get!


And once the footage is 'in the can'...

An editor sits at his desk surrounded by computers.
Editing a commercial.

Post-Production (Video Editing)


You could arguable call this 'movie magic part 2'.


The art of editing is important because it's taking all these pieces of video and stringing them together in a way that's supposed to engage and enthrall the viewer. It's taking different art forms and interweaving them so smoothly not one element stands out on it's own, but they all work seamlessly together to create something bigger than each piece individually.


That may sound a bit dramatic for a marketing video, but that's what you have to strive for. You have to pick the right angle and the right music with the right sound effect and do it all for the right amount of time.


Pacing is one of the most important parts of editing a masterpiece. If the pacing is off then something doesn't 'feel' right. Pacing can create the emotion you want, it can be the build to a climax... it can make you laugh and cry, but if it's off - you can miss the mark and it falls flat.


A good idea is to have the editor involved from the pre-production stage. Letting them have some say in the early part of the process will set you up for success, because their input could define how you film. How to pace the scenes so they work in post production is one thing, but there may be visual effects that the production team needs guidance on from the editor or framing to leave room for text.


It could be as simple as showing them the storyboards and shot list or you can have them on set everyday giving their input. I would just recommend some communication.


Again, there are so many elements to post-production I can't get them into this one blog post, but I'll refer to some other important ones:

  • Choosing the right take: this can be a very nuanced decision and difficult to make, so keep revisiting other takes in the overall piece to make sure it all blends nicely between the actors' performances - does it feel authentic and real?

  • Color correction/timing/grading: this is important for the flavor and feel of the video and should be discussed before hand with the director, cinematographer and production designer. Picking a color palette that is put in place from the beginning can have an amazing effect on the final product and then enhanced in this process creating mood and style.

  • Audio: nothing is worse than bad audio, we all know that, but even if you capture good audio on the day, it needs to be refined and mixed to be its best. Sound effects alone can bring a video to the next level, but music and the right blend with voices is essential.

  • Surprise: find ways to surprise the audience, keep them guessing 'what's next?' so that they stay engaged and emotionally invested in the video journey you're creating all the way to the end - for the payoff.

Conclusion


So creating a professional video, as you can understand now, is no easy feat. It takes a lot of planning, people, creativity, resources and knowledge to pull it off successfully.


Hiring the right people and having a 'ready for anything' attitude go a long way in getting your video production done on time and on budget.


So all I can say now is good luck! And should you ever need help with your first video production, don't hesitate to contact us here at One Inch Punch Productions Inc.

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