The most important part of the video production workflow is what happens before the camera starts rolling. Pre-production, or the planning and logistics phase of a video project, is where most of the magic happens before it gets recorded. And while poor pre-production may not break your video, it will break your budget if you don’t do your due diligence.
Even if a video production team has on-staff creatives, they may not understand your vision or premise. Similar to when you go to a hairdressing salon with a picture to help explain what you want, pre-production is where you put that image together.
Fortunately, plenty of marketers and production managers have already gone through the steps and learned from their mistakes. That’s why we decided to put together a list of video pre-production tips that will help save you a lot of time, money, and hassle.
Once you have an idea for a great video project, you need to:
Whether you want better insights from Google AdWords or a more targeted video, defining your audience is the first step in the pre-production process.
This doesn’t just mean postulating that “Customer A may want to see X content.”
Defining an audience is a complex process that includes building buyer personas. After all, your audience is more than just one customer. Narrowing down your video viewer to a specific buyer persona rather than a generic audience will help you create a much more targeted and effective video in the long run.
Always writing with one specific person in minds allows you to tell a true and relatable story. Too often marketing campaigns are built wanting to include everyone but result in interesting no one. Craft your video message to your buyer persona: what they find entertaining or funny, and how the product or service relates to them.
While the importance of knowing your audience and defining a target market has never been understated, clearly knowing your message is just as important. In other words, don’t try to cram everything into a single animated explainer video.
Your business is made up of many moving parts, and you need different videos for different purposes. Don’t try to explain what you do, sell your service, and bring up a case study all in the same video. A tailored video with a specific message and a specific goal will be much more effective in the long run.
Once you’ve defined your audience and your message, you need to define your budget. Without a guiding budget at the beginning of pre-production, it’s impossible to manage expectations. You’re going to end up over-promising but under-delivering.
The pros of working with a good production company is that they value their work. It’s placed in their portfolio and used as an online marketing ad. Giving them a budget permits them to discover how to produce the highest quality with what they have available.
Knowing your budget ahead of time also frees you up to narrow down what you can and cannot do for any given project, and eliminates a lot of second-guessing.
While a lot of big ideas come from the C-suite, not all executives know how to write scripts. The script is a part of pre-production that is most commonly understated. Too often teams write the script and execute without critiquing, critiquing and critiquing some more.
Your script may have gone through several drafts by the time post-production rolls around, but having it will determine in large part the course of your production and post-production schedules. Taking the time to get professional input at this stage of pre-production is an extremely worthwhile investment.
Traditional TV infomercials and calls-to-action have nearly been replaced by a smarter, subtler brand of business video, but that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for friendly reminders. Sometimes, too much subtlety can actually detract from conversions, as in the case of Wren Studio’s viral video of strangers kissing, which could have led to even greater sales.
In order to fully leverage average attention spans and get the most out of your completion rates, brief greetings and sign-offs should be included in the script.
Going off number five above, know that most viewers will click away from your video after the first eight seconds if their attention wavers. Why? Because the average attention span is just 8.5 seconds (which is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish, by the way).
Fortunately for video producers and scriptwriters everywhere, this isn’t a bad thing. The first eight seconds of video are just enough to include a brief greeting that states who the speaker is, what brand he or she is representing, and what they’re going to talk about. Anyone who wouldn’t have been interested to begin with will drop off after the greeting, but interested viewers will stay engaged.
Many writers refer to the term “mid-res” which is abbreviated for “in medias res,”which means “into the middle of things.” Starting a story in the middle of things kicks the viewer into a whirlwind of excitement that will keep them on long enough to hear your why in the video.
The why is the reason that they will benefit from your product or service. It’s the problem that your company can resolve for them. Many times people don’t realize that there is a problem in their lives until a successful marketing campaign comes along and educates them. Whether that value comes in the form of higher ROI for B2B companies or in another form is no matter.
While conversion and completion metrics shouldn’t be the end-all when it comes to determining the length of your video (hint: your message should make that determination), the final time will affect your overall completion rate. As you might expect, there’s a direct correlation between video length and viewer drop-off in the first few minutes that begins to taper off after quite quickly.
According to Wistia, you’ve got up to two minutes to hold your viewer’s attention, “meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer’s attention as much as a 30-second video. This is surprising and actionable information for video marketers. If you’re making short videos, you don’t need to stress about the difference of a few seconds. Just keep it under 2 minutes.”
The last step and guideline for effective scriptwriting is to be transparent and authentic. Nielsen reports that 83% of consumers trust their peers over companiesand their advertisements. And while companies can never be peers, they can be experts in their field who offer something of value in a non-salesy way.
Video marketing is a very effective type of content marketing, and the ultimate goal of content marketing should be thought leadership. In other words, you want your viewers will see you as an expert and place trust in your brand.
GoAnimate has a pretty good explainer post that covers the basics of storyboardsand why video marketers should always make them before shooting the video. Fortunately, we don’t need to take GoAnimate’s word alone, because any producer would tell you the same thing.
Just as a script is indispensable, a storyboard is invaluable as an efficient way to visualize the shoot before it happens and to make adjustments as necessary based on insights gleaned from the storyboarding process.
Basically, the storyboard takes the script and verifies its possibility by taking the images in your head and putting them on paper. Where does the light come from? What does the location need to have for the production to work? Is there a location in mind? What tools will each shot require in order for them to look and feel the way the script intended?
If you’re not great at drawing, you can always use a service like StoryboardThat.
There are a variety of functions, lenses, tripods and sliders that may or may not be available for the shoot. The tools will also affect your budget, so knowing if you need that crane shot and the cost for the rental are crucial to pre-production.
Just as a storyboard is the scene-by-scene breakdown of a video, a shot list is the shot-by-shot breakdown of each scene. Shot lists include more specifics, like camera placement and lighting direction. Figuring out a storyboard and then a shot list in advance with your producer and videographer will save you tons of time during production.
Also called a shooting schedule, this is the document you need to have in order to make any kind of judgment call on whether your video project is going according to plan and to manage the time expectations of stakeholders. It’s important to always keep track of the following:
• People needed
• Contact info
• Date and time
A production schedule is a one-stop shop for all your production questions and concerns, and should be updated regularly.
The next few steps will all go over how to create a practical production schedule and other things to consider.
Generously. As a rule of thumb (and particularly when stakeholders are involved), it’s always best to under-promise but over-deliver. One of the best ways you can do that is by not giving yourself a razor-thin window of completion, especially if you aren’t very familiar with video production workflows. Underestimating production time is just as bad as overestimating resource capacity.
There are so many moving parts to video projects, even short ones, with live actors. If this is your first time working on a video, or if you still feel you aren’t very experienced, give yourself more time to work with. So many unforeseen scheduling, shooting and post-production conflicts could occur outside your control.
There are few decisions you can make with more resounding impact on the production schedule than whether you want to do your shoot at a studio or on location. While it may not seem like a huge deal at a glance, it certainly is for your budget.
Studios will already have everything in place for you to work with and all you’ll need to do is show up and bring your actors. Shooting on location, on the other hand, involves travel and equipment transportation costs.
Even if you do decide to shoot in a studio, you should still visit it beforehand. One of the best ways to arrive at an accurate production schedule is by determining which locations will be problematic and scheduling them into your day based on availability.
Visiting locations ahead of time also gives you the chance to preview each “scene” and update your shot list with actual pictures. But if visiting ahead of time is not possible, then do your best to get in touch with someone who can provide those pictures for you.
Knowing exactly what equipment you’ll need for each and every shot in your shot list should be something that you have set in stone long before the first camera starts rolling. But while understanding the basics of a script, storyboard, shot list and even production schedule are easy, knowing why a Canon 5D wide angle lens steady camera is the best choice for a specific 3-second shot is not so intuitive.
Ideally, equipment needs will be managed directly by a production manager. For smaller projects, the videographer should be the one making the call.
16. Inventory Equipment You Already Have
Once you’ve worked with your producer to list the equipment you’ll need for all your shots, take a moment to double check what you already have in-house (because your producer certainly won’t know).
Larger companies with multiple departments could literally have viable equipment anywhere and everywhere. Maybe there’s a certain type of microphone that HR uses to make their recruiting videos, or a high-tech camera lying somewhere in the product department. Checking could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in rentals.
Often, the narrator in large-scale business videos will be someone from the C-suite. But sometimes (and let’s face it), no one in the C-suite can act. That’s when hiring professional actors can come in handy.
But if you want to try and shave a bit more off your budget and identify a long-term talking head for your videos (especially if you want to start a company vlog), keep in mind that there could already be someone in HR, Sales or Marketing who’s just waiting to shine.
Each company has its fair share of interesting characters, and one of them might just fit the camera perfectly. Having someone within the company appearing in these videos gives them more ownership. Where an actor or paid hire might study the script and play well, nothing compares to someone who lives and breathes the message every single day.
Regardless of whether you decide to go with professional actors, one of the last spreadsheets you’ll need to prepare is the call sheet. This all-important companion sheet to the production schedule includes the contact information of every member of the film production crew as well as the actors.
A good call sheet is will answer all the basic “who, what, where, when, and why” questions at a glance, and is practically invaluable when it comes to calming nerves and managing expectations.The call sheet will be used more often than you think: from a daily checklist to role call to the emergency contact list when you are missing a key player in the shoot.
Once you have your script, storyboard, shot list, production schedule and call sheet lined up, it’s time to put your talent on set. As any actor will tell you, the importance of line-readings and rehearsals cannot be understated because it’s a good idea to get your talent familiar with locations, dress, directions, etc., before they show up for the actual shoot.
It’s also wise to get your actors to come in ahead of time just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Pre-production is the best time to recast if necessary.
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