Of the three video production stages, pre-production takes the longest, and it’s where you should invest most of your time. The decisions you make here will cascade throughout the project and determine how long it takes, how much editing is needed, and whether you end up having to call the band back together—grumbling—for a reshoot.
In the end, an ounce of pre-production effort will save you a pound of pain.
7 things to determine during video pre-production
1. A video producer
Someone needs to own the video project. Dub them video producer. That person’s job is to complete all the pre-production materials such as put together the creative brief, secure the talent and actors, scout the location (if need be), and schedule everything—right down to lunch for the crew, if it’s going to be a full day shoot.
Tips for video project managers:
- Rehearse: Get everyone together for a practice to save time in production.
- Leave time for reshoots: Overestimate the time needed for travel, shooting, and editing by 20% so you aren’t rushed.
- Make a list: Write a checklist for the people and gear you’ll need on the day of the shoot. Note which items use batteries or need to be charged ahead of time.
- Schedule shoots well in advance: If you’re using employees as actors, give them ample heads up so their schedules don’t cause delays.
- Let it be collaborative: As much as you try to plan for everything, leave creative wiggle room for others to have ideas. Actors may find a better way to say a line, or you may find a shot looks better with the actors standing rather than seated.
2. A timeline
Start with the date when you’d like to have things completed, then work back. For example, when planning Vidyard’s Groundhog Day video, we knew our hard-stop was Wednesday January 30 because we’d need to launch it the following morning so it’d go out ahead of Groundhog Day (Saturday, February 2). Our producer set the due date of Tuesday, January 29, so we had some padding.
3. A creative brief
Fill in a brief template with the video’s purpose, tone, audience, existing materials, rough plan for execution, and where it fits into your buyer journey.
This could take the form of a whiteboard brainstorm, but make sure it’s written down.
4. A budget
What can you afford for this video? If it’s for branding, you may have to ballpark a figure. If it’s for lead-generation, and you have a video platform, you can look at past videos to figure out exactly how much you have to invest to earn, say, a 5x ROI.
Write out everything that’ll happen in the video in chronological order. The first draft can be messy—just a bullet-point outline. Once the video is approved, rewrite and tighten the script.
While you don’t have to be a novelist to write a great script, having a writer’s input helps, especially with dialogue. “We marketers tend to get a little too jargony,” says Hannah Cameron, Content Marketing Manager at Vidyard. “I like to involve an outside writer to check that the dialogue sounds natural.”
As you write, keep the number of locations to a minimum. Moving people around is expensive. If you can get away with filming in your office, use your office.
6. Talent roster
Who’s involved? The great thing about filming in-house is that you can draw upon anyone in your company. But just because their schedule is free that day doesn’t mean they’re free actors: Every hour of filming is time spent not doing their job.
For bigger productions, consider hiring professional actors.
Read through the script and write a bulleted list of every shot you’ll need. Then, double-check it. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re missing a crucial shot weeks later, when it’s already being edited.
Try writing out the storyboard yourself and you’ll see why it’s helpful to have someone on the team who’s done it before. Even though we all watched plenty of movies, it takes intentional practice to know what works on camera and what doesn’t.
When in doubt, start with wide-angle shots. “Wide-angle shots establish the location,” says Mat King, Video Production Manager at Vidyard. “Once viewers know where they are, move to medium-range shots and closeups.”
You won’t have to capture all your shots on your own. You can fill in some spaces with B-roll or supplementary footage that can be purchased on stock photo sites.