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Five Tips for Better Pre-Production in Your Video Projects

Even after working professionally in video for more than 10 years, I'm still finding ways to improve my studio's approach to preproduction. Here are some practical tips that I've learned from past experiences that have made my crew better at the process.

Preproduction for a video might be one of the least desirable parts of a project. Many video professionals feel that there’s not a lot of creativity to this phase, and that it’s not much as fun as shooting and editing. However, preproduction doesn’t have to be lame.

Not only is it the largest contributor to ensuring a successful shoot, but I guarantee that properly planning for a video will make everything better in production and postproduction. Even after working professionally in video for more than 10 years, I’m still finding ways to improve my studio’s approach to preproduction. Here are some practical tips that I’ve learned from past experiences that have made my crew better at the process.

1. Talk Before the Shoot

It all starts with an idea. You and the client have agreed to work on a video project. With pricing, deadlines, and contracts out of the way, it’s time to put together a video concept.

While a client may have an idea or a desired call to action for a video, it is our job as video producers to help bring this to life. I can’t speak for everyone, but most of us probably didn’t get into this field just to push the Record button. Adding creativity to a client’s concept or project is what fuels us to deliver better work and more compelling videos.

Taking the time to have a full creative brief with the client and stakeholders is absolutely critical to making sure everyone is aligned with the video concept. Some of the questions we like to ask are as follows:

• How do you want people to feel after watching this video?
• Who is the target audience?
• Where is the video going to end up?

These simple yet important questions can shape the entire project and how things will come together during production and post.

Once you’ve got that information, there are some other things you should run by the client. For example, where would they like to go with the creative direction?

Keep in mind that a client’s vision may not match the production budget, so it’s also part of our job to set realistic expectations and bring the client back to planet Earth. Again, these are conversations you want to get out of the way before the cameras roll.

2. Conduct a Site Check

With the creative brief out of the way, the shooting location will probably have been selected. Conducting a site check of that location during the same time of day you plan on shooting is an absolute must. Looking at factors like lighting, power, and audio will help you better understand the gear and crew you will need for your shoot.

The location may also require a permit and insurance, which will need to be obtained ahead of time. Remember that local government and city offices work at their own pace, and these items can take time to process.

Snap some pictures of the location and make some notes about things like potential interview locations, B-roll, etc. (Figure 1, below). From a crew’s perspective, it’s nice to know these things ahead
of time. The day of a shoot can be hectic enough, and having some familiarity can make a big difference.

Figure 1. Snap some pictures of the location in advance, using crew in place of talent if necessary to assess potential interview locations.

There are times where you can’t physically conduct a site check. In these cases, I like to use Google Maps to get a general idea of what we’ll be working with (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. If you can’t do a site check in advance, use Google Maps to learn what you can about your shooting location.

You can also use Google or other map software to see if things like airports, hospitals, or no-fly zones are near your shoot, since they may prevent you from using a drone or other gear.

3. Plan for Postproduction

If you’re not shooting for live delivery, start thinking about postproduction before you even shoot your first frame of video. Editing is where the video starts to come to life, but that life needs a heartbeat to get started.

It’s always helpful to know what inspires a client or brand. Ask them if any companies or people move them. You can also ask them about genres of music, color palettes, art, lighting choices, etc. While this may be overkill for some clients, it never hurts to ask.

Most people, especially business owners, have a story and are very passionate about their companies. If it makes sense, ask them to share their vision boards or Pinterest pages to give you a better understanding of their personality (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Pinterest pages can give you an idea of your clients’ aesthetic leanings and stylistic preferences.

A majority of larger companies have style and branding guides that will list fonts, composition, lighting, logo usage, and other important details that you will need for a video. Review this material ahead of time to ensure that it aligns with the creative choices you will be making during post.

Doing so will speed up the post process and will allow you to start editing right after your shoot.