If you’re new to video production, it can be challenging to know where to start. Regardless of size, creating a video requires a great deal of planning, thought, and moving parts to make it work. Understanding the process enhances the ability to handle video production’s logistical demands and results in the most efficient and high-quality product when the process completes.
Professionals divide video production into three phases: Preproduction, Production, and Post-production. Each of the phases has its processes and challenges. Taking the process step by step will make each successive step more of a pleasure.
Preproduction is everything that happens before shooting the film. It includes a great deal of thinking and planning. In many cases, preproduction is a significantly longer process than production and potentially less exciting. However, the preproduction process’s effectiveness correlates to the success and enjoyment of the shooting days.
Concept and Objectives
The first step in any creative endeavor is conceptualization. This stage is the opportunity to get a handle on the big picture for the project. What is the project going to be? What’s the intention? What goals exist for video? What action do you want your audience to take as a result of watching this video? This step will inform every subsequent step.
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While this is primarily a marketing tool, understanding the audience may also dictate the video’s creative and content direction. Different strategies appeal to different audiences, and the producer should take their preferences into account. Elements of audience research include demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, income, location), discovering their common problems (some of which you can hopefully help to solve), and what types of stories or information they connect with. There are many methods of conducting audience research, including surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Find out as much as you can about your audience to best target your video!
Creating a core message is related to objectives. During the objective phase, you answered the question about what action you want the audience to take. Based on that objective, answer the question, “What single piece of information do you need to get across to achieve that goal?”
As with any project, money comes into the equation eventually. This stage in the process could happen at various points along the timeline but should occur before hiring or purchasing happens. Create a line-by-line budget for the piece, including critical elements like location costs, equipment costs, wages for members of the production team, wages for talent, rentals, food (if you’re providing food for the cast and crew), transportation, and any other element that will go into the production. A clear budget allows you to know what amount you’re able to spend on each category and keep you within your overall budget number.
Assembling the Production Team
Assembling the production team is another element of the process that may occur at several points along the timeline. It also depends if you plan to have a production team at all. You may arrange to execute the entire thing yourself, in which case you’re in for a lot of work. If you plan to bring on a full-service production company, you’ll want to get them involved as soon as your budget is clear. Hiring can be a lengthy process, so be sure to leave enough time in the schedule for this step.
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Establishing a video strategy provides information about the how of production. How will you create the content? Will you use a video production company or make everything on your own? How will you reach and distribute to your target audience? How will you achieve your production and marketing goals within budget and on time?
A production brief is a reference document that includes all of the planning process elements thus far. It details video objectives, target audience, core message, budget, deadlines, and stakeholders’ information. It is used as a reference point throughout the process to keep the production on track.
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The script is the blueprint for the video. It provides not only dialogue but details about characters, location, props, and effects needs. It should be clean, simple, engaging, and direct. This step is often best left to a professional writer.
The storyboard step creates the opportunity to build a shot-for-shot reference for the direction of the film. The storyboard artist renders each scene according to the script and input from the director to create a visual representation that includes lighting, color, framing, transitions, and more. The team will reference the storyboard throughout the shooting.
Before you can start shooting, you’ll need a place to do it. Location scouting can be as simple as choosing your back yard because it’s free or as complicated as traveling to a remote locale to include its unique scenic elements. Regardless, scouting is a necessary step before production can commence.
If your video will require the services of actors or voiceover artists, it’s important to set aside time before production to book the talent. This can involve working with agents or directly with actors to audition them for roles. This process can take quite a bit of time, depending on how much talent you want to see before making your selection and completing the hiring process.
Planning and Scheduling
While you should have been planning and scheduling all along, this step specifically refers to scheduling the shoot. When this step is complete, you’ll want an hour by hour schedule for each day of the shoot that includes set up time, shoot time, actor calls, time for hair and makeup, meal breaks, and anything else that will go into the shoot day.
After weeks, months, or years of planning and organization, you’ve finally reached the shoot! This is the stage in the process where the raw content material is gathered for use in the final video. If preproduction was completed well and smoothly, the shoot itself should run smoothly as well.
It’s important to leave time in the schedule for setup. Depending on the complexity of your operation, this could take a few minutes or several hours. It’s not uncommon for setup on larger productions to take longer than the filming itself. Setup includes the cameras, lighting and sound equipment, practical effects, and any scenic work or set-dressing that may be necessary.
Shooting is the part of video production that everyone thinks of when they think of the production process. Working with a director and the talent, footage, and sound recordings will be gathered with the equipment you’ve assembled. This process should include both shootings from the script and b-roll. B-roll can include details of the environment, video of the setup, people getting ready, and more. It’s anything that may be useful in supporting the production later.
After the shooting is complete, a whole new phase of work begins. This is the stage when the video moves from raw footage to a finished, shippable project. It’s an exciting process to make the transformation happen.
During the editing process, a professional editor uses software to work through the gathered footage and piece together a final piece according to the storyboard. This process may occur in one or several phases, depending on feedback from the stakeholders. If you’ve hired a production company, it’s important to define the parameters (time, budget, etc.) for the editing process so that you don’t rack up a lot of extra charges on revisions.
Graphics, Animation, and Effects
Some videos will require additional material to be added. This is the stage when graphics, effects, and animation might be inserted into the edited video.
Music, Sound Effects, Voiceover and Scoring
While not every video requires a complicated score, music, voiceover, and sound effects can add texture and enliven the final video. It’s during post-production that music and sound effects are paired with the visuals in order to produce the best possible final product.
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Why is it Important to Understand the Process?
Understanding the video production process is important no matter how you’re involved in the project. If you’re a client hiring on a production company to create the video, understanding the process will allow you to work more effectively with the production company, keep the project on schedule and on budget, and work with the production company to create the best possible final project. If you’re a member of a team working on a video, understanding the process will help to define your place in the overall operation, along with expectations for your work.
Video production is a complex process and it’s possible to dive much deeper than this overview. There are numerous books and articles on the subject. However, if you’re not a professional video producer, a rudimentary understanding will help you work with professionals more effectively.
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