Get pre-production right As we slowly pull back on a wide shot of the summer and use a cross dissolve to fade into the fall, film schools are once again being filled with students talking about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Guardians of the Galaxy, and why people still go see Michael Bay movies.

Though it’s been a while since I had my first day of class at Columbia College Chicago, many of the lessons I learned have been crucial to producing videos in the age of digital marketing.

If I could only pass on one of these lesson to in-house video marketers, filmmakers, and everybody in between, it would be that an ounce of pre-production will prevent a pound of pain during shooting and editing.

So, what can you do in pre-production to avoid a post-production freak out? Here are a few tips!

Create a Shot List and Storyboard

First, plan your shots well before you get to the set. Trust me, there are very few things worse than finding out that you are missing a shot two weeks after production ended.

Whether you want to make a storyboard or shot list, make sure you have a clear plan for getting the shots you need. Ensure you go through your script and make notes about what shots you will need for each and every scene.

You can click on the image to the right here to see the script for a scene from a short film I directed called “Right” to give you an idea of how I planned the shots.

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 11.31.41 AM

This was scene 4 and I knew that I wanted to make sure that I got a wide shot of the two actors for the sake of coverage and to establish the location. Then we got close-ups of both actors. Finally, since the script specifically calls attention to the character’s ring, we had to get an insert shot of her hand.

So, my shot list ended up looking something like this:

Scene 4

  • 4A Medium/Wide Shot
  • 4B Close-up of James
  • 4C Close-up of Alison
  • 4D Close-up of the ring
  • 4E Close-up of the hand on the bar

Basically, you will want to shoot your scene or short sketch a few times to make sure you get all that you need for editing and outline exactly which shots you’ll need. You want to be able to cut between shots, especially if you do multiple takes.

A good rule of thumb is to start with wide, move into medium, then finish with close-up shots. If somebody answers the phone, picks something up, or has any other action, it never hurts to get an insert shot as it gives you another option for the edit.

You can learn more about shot types and why you’d want to choose certain ones at certain times here.


Make time to rehearse scenes with your talent before you shoot. This will give them time to go over the script, voice their concerns, and offer suggestions. It will also save you time during production. Remember that video is a collaborative process, so you want to be sure to allow creative input. A video shoot can soak up a lot of your time if your on-screen talent has not had a chance to prepare, so make sure to book some time with them in advance.

Schedule Your Shoot

Schedule your film shootWell before you start rolling on your production, be sure that you have it all scheduled, including your location (whether it’s in your office or someone else’s). Know how long it will take you to set up the location, how long you need the actors there, and when you will be done for the day. It’s also helpful to create a list of the equipment you need with you (and always bring an extra camera battery or charger just in case).

You will find that more people are willing to help with your video shoot if you communicate the time investment and respect it.

Additionally, you’ll want to over-estimate how much time it will take to shoot your footage. This way you will have set a clear expectation of how long it will take, and if you come in under the scheduled time, you’re golden. You might imagine your short will take an hour to film and half an hour to set up, but as you get going with the different shots, and ensuring you have enough footage to edit properly with, the time tends to add up. Just be conscious to overestimate.

From my first 16mm student film, to the first time I shot on a 5D, to producing videos for B2B marketing, I have always benefited from making time for pre-production and always suffered when I neglected it. No matter the size of your budget, the scale of your production, or the purpose of your B2B video marketing project, you can’t go wrong by dedicating time and effort to pre-production.

Jake VanKersen