Believe it or not, the stage where you film your video production is the shortest. Pre-production, or the preparation phase, takes longer. It’s here that you do all the planning, scripting, storyboarding, and casting.
Don’t skimp: Errors here can cascade throughout the project and make the whole thing take longer.
Pre-production can be a difficult phase to manage, but we’ve got your back. Keep reading for a step-by-step checklist that helps you navigate pre-production and start your video project on the right foot.
- Why You Need a Video Producer
- Map Out a Video Timeline
- Write a Video Creative Brief
- Determine Your Video’s Budget
- Draft Your Video Script
- Visualize Your Video With A Storyboard
- Sourcing Video Talent
- Extra Tips for Video Producers
Why You Need a Video Producer
Before you can start working through the steps of pre-production, you need someone to take charge of it all. That’s why it’s important to nominate a video producer project, whether that’s you or someone else. Make sure this person is responsible because a good video producer is essential to a good video. They’re on the hook for everything from telling others what part to play to scouting for and reserving locations.
The Video Producer’s Checklist
- Video Timeline: Start with your launch day, pad a few days, and then work back.
- Video Creative Brief: Fill in a template with the video’s purpose, audience, tone, budget, and materials.
- Video Budget: What can you afford for this video? If it’s for lead generation, you can get to a pretty accurate number by determining the return on investment (ROI) you’d like to get—in terms of leads or pipeline—and working back.
- Video Script: Write out everything that’ll happen in the video in chronological order, as well as what people will say when.
- Video Storyboard: Draw out the script frame by frame. (No art skills needed.)
- Video Talent: Recruit actors and extras from within the company—or, if you’re envisioning a larger-scale production, spring for pro actors to help add extra polish.
Map Out a Video Timeline
Putting together a great video can be time-consuming, so having a timeline to make sure you’re on track is crucial.
Start with the day you want to release the video, and work backwards. Give yourself some extra padding as well, just in case, there are any last-minute changes. For instance, if you want your final cut ready to be published on the 31st, plan to have the final version done on the 25th.
Also, remember there are some factors that are out of your control that you may need to take into account. Talent being busy, equipment breaking, or locations not being available can set you back, so counteract this by giving yourself some wiggle room when you’re planning!
Write a Video Creative Brief
Write yourself a video creative brief that will form the foundation of your video. You want to make sure you know the purpose and tone of the video and what audience you’re going for.
You’ll also want to include what materials you already have on hand and what you might still need, and draft a rough execution plan.
Finally, you’ll want to determine how this fits into your sales and marketing funnel since that will help you figure out what information needs to be included.
To get going on a video creative brief, try getting a group together and have a brainstorming session in front of a whiteboard. Get all your ideas out, and then hone it down to create a nice, tight creative brief that will give you your marching orders throughout the entire production process.[Download Vidyard’s creative brief]
Determine Your Video’s Budget
Unfortunately, you always have to deal with money. Ask yourself (and maybe a supervisor) what you can afford for this video and what funds you can allot. It’s all about your return on investment (ROI)—even if it’s intangible. If it is, you might need to make an educated guess and work from there.
But if you already have some past videos under your belt (as well as a video platform that gives you insight into video ROI), you can take a look at analytics for those videos to see how much you will have to invest in your video to hit your goals. And remember, a great video doesn’t have to break the bank.
Draft Your Video Script
Write everything that’ll happen in the video down in chronological order—not only dialogue but any specific directions as well.
Your first draft can be a little messy or even just a bullet-point outline. It’s all about getting the ideas on paper. Make sure to keep your creative brief nearby so you don’t forget the core driving factors of the video. Once you get approval to move forward with the video, you can refine and tighten up the script.
When it comes to dialogue, you want to do your best to make it sound natural. Anything too dry or too corporate will make people want to click away. Marketers can have a tendency to get a little too jargony. Gut check your script with an impartial source or writer to ensure your dialogue sounds natural. Even if you don’t have access to an external writer, having someone else read over your work and provide feedback will help you craft a much more effective script.
Another tip: More locations, more problems. Try to keep locations to a minimum. Booking locations takes time, and may not always be necessary. Plus, moving people is expensive, and lugging around all your equipment probably won’t be worth it if you can just get away with filming in your office. You just have to get a little creative to make a single location look fresh for multiple scenes.
Visualize Your Video With A Storyboard
A storyboard helps you plan out exactly what shots you need for your video.
Take a look through your completed script and make a bullet-point list of every shot you need to shoot. It’s also helpful to draw out a rough image of each shot as well. Make sure to double-check so you don’t get into editing and only to find out that you need to do reshoots.
If it’s your first time making a storyboard, it may be a little tricky. Experienced pros know what will work with the camera and what won’t, so they know what shots they want to go for. If you’re ever in doubt, start with a wide shot to establish location, and then set up some closer shots after your viewer gets oriented.
Remember, you don’t have to capture every shot yourself, either. B-roll is a great way to add some variety to your video, and it can be purchased from a stock photo or video site.
Sourcing Video Talent
Now that you have everything set, you just need your cast.
One of the great things about filming in-house is that you have access to just about anyone from your company. You might already have some people in mind to be your stars, but don’t forget that you might need some extras to fill up the scene as well. Keep in mind that your colleagues aren’t free actors—the time they spend filming is time they’re spending not doing their jobs.
If you’re doing a larger-scale production, definitely consider hiring professional actors. It’ll add extra production value, helping you create the video you envision and making things easier for you in the long run.
What’s the best approach to get the people in front of the camera to do what you need? In this episode of the Video Island Podcast, the team shares their tips and tricks for directing talent for film and video.
Extra Tips for Video Producers
- Make a checklist. Laying out all the people and gear you need during the shoot will ensure you don’t end up wasting time because you forgot something. And remember to charge all the batteries and bring some extras in case of emergencies.
- Collaborate with others during the entire process. Other people’s ideas can help make your video even better, or they might just help you fill in a gap you completely missed. For example, an actor might have a better way to word a line, or maybe someone wants to change a shot on the fly. Be open to change and value other people’s input, and you might end up with a better final product!
- Schedule your shooting days well in advance. Not giving people enough notice may result in shooting being delayed because actors or locations might be unavailable.
- Rehearse. Practicing beforehand will make filming go way smoother.
- Leave time for reshoots. We mentioned this earlier, but things can always go wrong, especially when you’re working with a ton of other people. Give yourself more time than you think you need, so if there’s a disaster, you have time to fix it. A good rule of thumb: overestimate the time you need for travel, shooting, and editing by 20% so you don’t need to scramble.
There’s a lot of responsibilities put on video producers—no pressure! Try not to get too overwhelmed. Just stay organized and manage your time well, and you’re sure to have a successful production process that results in a finished video you can be proud of. Once you have all that covered, it’s time to move on to the production stage.