Video production can be deceptively complex. It’s very easy to watch a cool video and get excited about making one like it. The trouble is that it’s not always so easy to know what really went into making it (the discussions, the planning, the scripting, etc). If you want to get a video produced, having a clear understanding of the steps involved (and why they are there) can save you time, money, headaches and yield a far superior product.
In this post…
I’ll outline Digital Accomplice’s production process – which is really ‘The Production Process’ that everyone I know who is involved in professionally creating video content would want to follow. There’s a reason for this: if you start skipping steps because of time, money or effort, the end product suffers and you run into things like budget overruns, unhappy clients, lackluster or unsuccessful videos and the wasted time and effort.
While every project is different, I’ll outline a more complex project that involves all the usual components of a final video: a script, camera footage, music, graphics and text.
The video production process is divided into 3 phases:
- Pre-production: planning, scripting, budgeting, scheduling
- Production: Video shoot, graphics design, gathering assets (which can happen any time)
- Post-production: Editing, sound mixing, color correction, approvals, revisions, output.
These phases can shift around a bit per project, for example, you might be in post production and need to go back to phase 1 and re-write the script or maybe plan additional shoots. In order to better understand what goes into a production, let’s go through the key elements:
I truly believe that pre-production is the most important phase, it’s where the outcome is really decided unless you just aren’t able to execute for some reason. To get a better understanding of what happens in the critical pre-production phase and why, here’s a list of the key steps and purpose.
Planning: The goal here is to establish goals, funny as that sounds. What is this video supposed to achieve? The more simple and singular, the more likely you are to have a good outcome. It’s when there are several purposes that things become convoluted.
Scripting: While some videos will be unscripted, I believe that the heavy lifting of the shape of the piece needs to be decided here. What exactly do we want them to say? How long? What emotion should they convey? How does it all tie together? Without a solid plan on paper, you have no compass when the camera finally rolls.
Story-boarding: If you take the time to plan out what the audience should see for each shot, you can plan time/cost-effectively so that you get everything you need. This step also helps reveal any holes in your script – places where it’s not clear how to visually represent what’s being said in the audio.
Revisions: It’s wise to build in at least two rounds of revisions into your scripting process. It can take time to develop a script but the pay-off is well worth it. These decisions are the one’s that make all the difference in the final product and where it’s fate is decided.
Budgeting: For some reason, many clients seem to want to know how much a video will cost before anything about what is in it has been decided. This of course is impossible to answer in any but the most general of terms. The best way to work is to hire a producer and/or writer to develop the core concept, then and only then can you determine what it will take to get there.
Scheduling: Just as budgets are determined by concept, so is the schedule. Most projects will require a wide array of people and equipment, which all needs to be scheduled. While you might not have the luxury, the best results are achieved when you start the production process well in advance. I think a very rough guide is a 3+ months for short form, 6 months for long form. If you aren’t able to plan ahead, you should be prepared that your production may be more expensive or lower quality.
Because every production is so unique, it’s not really possible to outline too many specifics in this post. Your video may contain video footage, graphics or just one. Maybe it’s all photos or text, you get the idea. “Video” can mean a lot of things but here are the basic elements and some key takeaways for reach.
Camera Footage: There’s a ton of cameras out there and they all have strengths and weaknesses. If you plan ahead you can be sure to get the right type of camera(s) that suit your production needs.
Hard Drives and Media Cards: Tape is dead. Most high end production is done on digital media cards and the data needs to live somewhere after shooting. Plan to have at least two hard drives for your media, in case one fails. After production, I recommend that the client gets one, leave one with your producer for any last minute or future change needs- you might not have time to ship it!
Motion Graphics: Graphics are cool. They also open a lot of doors, some good some maybe not. Quality motion graphics require both talent and experience as well as typically time & money to create. It’s great that you can make anything with graphics, but be sure to build in time for approvals, revisions and unexpected complexities since cool graphics can be somewhat experimental in nature to be original.
Photos: Animating photos scan be a great way to make video, if you have high quality ones and lots of em! I use the rule of thumb of 3-4 seconds per photo in a montage, but you may need more if you want to cull the best stuff. If you plan to do any zooming in, make sure the resolution is large enough to do so.
Music: Nothing makes or breaks a video like music. There are lots of royalty free music sites available to buy instrumental tracks for around $30. You can also get much more impact by custom scoring the piece, but that costs a good bit more too. Don’t use music from your favorite artists unless you don’t plan to put it on the web.
Text: Try and gather and text information like the spelling and titles of people’s names when you are on production, it will save a lot of hassle later!
Post production is where it all come together and is probably the most invisible stage. It’s not easy to tell what went into the editing process or how much audio leveling, mixing, enhancing that goes into a piece. here’s my take on the key parts:
Editing: Most productions take a bit more editing that may be apparent. There is typically a lot of footage that doesn’t get used and sorting through that and picking the best stuff takes time. Allow enough time for revisions and approvals in this stage, I find that most clients need at least two rounds of revisions and these should be planned for from the start.
Sound Mixing: Only once the picture has been locked and the client is happy with the edit should the audio mixing be done. You don’t want to waste time cleaning up things that will be cut.
Color Correction: This step can make a huge difference in how good a video looks so depending on the project, I like to allow a good, healthy chunk of time for this at the end.
Approvals: The client usually should first see a ‘rough cut’ or sometimes even a not-so rough cut and then have at least two rounds to make changes. These should be built into the budget. If the changes keep coming, the client should be prepared to be allocating additional budget towards that.
Delivery: The delivery format and method is something that needs to be articulated at the very beginning of the project as it almost certainly will have profound implications on the entire process. If you are unsure or unclear, you should involve your production team to help find out, it’s a very big deal and can kill a project if it’s wrong.
The Big Take-away
If there’s one key take away I think it’s this: “Plan way ahead because you don’t know what you don’t know about this production yet!” While many of these aspects may not apply, I believe these core principles will provide the perspective of what types of issues may be in play on your projects.
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I hope this overview helps you plan ahead to have successful, efficient and cost effective productions!
Good luck and please let us know if you have any questions, we’re always happy to provide a free consultation.
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