PRO-TIPS for PRE-PRODUCTION: A checklist for successful video pre-production
If you are NEW to a marketing or training role and you need to make a professional video, then this blog post is for you. This is part two in a four part series designed to help you make your first video production.
Part 1 – What Should I Do First?
Write a creative brief, identify roles, and understand the phases of production
Part 2 – Pro-Tips for Pre-production
A checklist for successful video pre-production
Part 3 – Pro-Tips for Production
A checklist to help you on the day of your video shoot
Part 4 – Pro-Tips for Post-production
A checklist to ensure your edited video is on-message and looks great too
If you haven’t written a creative brief, assigned production roles, or if the phases of production are a mystery to you, please consider reviewing Part 1 of this series: What should I do first?
Part 2: Pro-Tips for Pre-production
The pre-production phase of creating a video includes the tasks and actions that happen before you create any content. Use the annotated checklist below to plan your first production.
Finalize your budget
If you are ready to finalize your budget, make sure your initial number still aligns with the detailed scope that you’ve planned thus far. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have enough for paid professional talent?
- Did you account for a professional video crew?
- Do you have enough for the number of days of shooting you’ll need?
- How much of your team members’ time will affect your budget?
- How much time do you need for the post-production (editing)?
If you are at this stage of the production process and you do not have a budget, then we suggest checking out “How much does a business video cost?”
Hold a kick-off meeting
The kick-off meeting is the launch of your project where the key players assemble on a phone call or in person to discuss logistics and the direction of the video. At minimum, try to assemble the members of your team who will execute any tasks throughout the production process. For example, if you have a team member who will help with scriptwriting, or conduct reviews of the script or the video drafts, then we suggest you try to get them to the initial meeting. If you have hired an outside vendor to play a production role, then they should also be present at the meeting.
Suggested Kick-off Meeting Agenda:
- Establish communication plan: method and frequency
- Review the approach to ensure nothing has changed
- Discuss project timeline – due dates, tasks, roles
- Consider script content (narrated, interview, live action)
- Determine voice talent needs (professional or in-house)
- Identify who will be involved in reviews and approvals
- Select video recording locations
- Determine style: graphics, music, visual look
Create a project timeline
During your kick-off meeting you’ll want to establish a number of dates that will define your project timeline. Start with your deadline and work backwards. During review cycles, allow time to accommodate people’s schedules. For example, if four people need to review a script before production, then one day may be too aggressive for everyone to have input on changes. A simple spreadsheet will work for this task. Here is a project timeline template that you can reference as you get started. Note, the timeline should indicate when you will record the video and when it will be edited (more on this in Part 3 and 4 of this series).
Write a script
No matter what kind of video you are making, you NEED a script. The script is your detailed map. You can save money if you write the script yourself, but we suggest you do three things first: learn the basics of screen direction, negotiate with your video vendor (if you are using one) to have a professional scriptwriter revise your draft at least once, establish a dedicated Subject Matter Expert (SME) to provide reviews, and most importantly get buy-in and approval from your SMEs and supervisor. Getting buy-in and approval on the final script before production will help you avoid costly re-shoots or additional voiceover recording sessions.
More about business video scriptwriting:
SO, I NEED A BUSINESS VIDEO SCRIPT. DO I HAVE TO WRITE IT?
CAN I SAVE MONEY IF I WRITE THE SCRIPT?
Create a shot list
Now that the script is “locked in,” approved and ready for production, the next step is to make a shot list. According to studio binder, “Creating a shot list is essentially like creating a shooting, game plan for the day.” The shot list is a tool used in television and cinema production that can get pretty complicated and technical, we use a simplified shot list template to take advantage of this pre-production tool without overwhelming our crew. Use the business video shot list template to write out what you need to capture, then rearrange the list to make your recording time efficient, (be mindful of anything that might need to be shot in sequence).
Gather already-made assets
A final script will reference logos, photos, or even a chart or graph. To prepare for production, you’ll want to gather all of these items for your video editor. Once all of these assets are in one place, share them with the editor.
Cast your actors
Depending on your script, you may need professional actors to appear on camera. A professional video production company can help with casting from independent or agency talent. However, if you are not using a vendor, or you’ve never worked with a vendor, to choose talent, then here’s what we suggest:
- Have an in-depth demographic discussion with your decision makers about who they want to appear on screen.
- Ask for auditions and/or demo reels. Watching the actor in action will help you decide if the person is right for you.
Set wardrobe with actors
In the business video production world, we are generally talking about the clothing that you wear on camera. Making good wardrobe choices will help elevate your production to a professional level. For a list of suggestions to share with your actors, check out “What should I wear on camera?”
Hire your crew
Book your camera crew for the days you are going to record. By setting the dates, times, and locations during the pre-production stage, you will prepare everyone to make the best use of production time.
Finalize equipment and gear
Review the script and the shot list and make a list of the professional audio and video equipment that you will need during production. Make sure you’ve accounted for lighting and how you will power all of your gear.
A location scout sometimes is overlooked in business video productions, but we recommend going to your locations in advance. Scout the location to make sure you will have access to electricity. Check the audio levels where you will be recording too. Plan around loud air handling systems, machines, or even outside traffic noise that may interfere with professional audio gathering. And, discuss how your production may be affected by other people at the location. We also suggest taking some photos to share with your camera crew so they can start to visualize camera angles and lighting options.
Round up all of the props needed
If it will be on camera, it should be on your list and it should be easy to access on the production day(s). For example, if you are making a product video then have multiple versions of the product on hand. Some go to items for every production include: spray cleaner, paper towels, tape, and canned air.
Create a call sheet
Similar to a shot list, the call sheet is an organizational document that is routinely used in television and cinema production. Think of the call sheet as an agenda for the day. It includes report times, location addresses, plans for meals, shot lists, prop lists, and all relevant contact information for everyone involved that day. Using a simplified call sheet template will aid you in planning each day of production.
Secure necessary permissions
As the person running the production, you are ultimately responsible if something goes wrong. So, make sure you are insured or that the party you’ve hired has insurance to cover their team during production. Obtain signed release forms from anyone who appears in the video. If you are recording during business hours, make sure that you’ve obtained permission to use the space you plan to use. Also, if you need access to a computer make sure that you have the proper network credentials.
At the conclusion of the pre-production phase, your team should have physical copies of:
- Final budget
- Script (approved)
- Shot list
- Call Sheet
Up next, Pro-Tips for production that includes a quick reference guide to help you on the day of a video shoot.
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