10th May 2018

Regardless of how experienced you may be in professional video, there are always a few tips to be gleaned from the experts. One of the areas of your video project that you may least be looking forward to is perhaps one of the least creative of all steps, according to some – Pre-production.

The planning stages are arguably the most important, and thorough pre-production can often be the only way of ensuring a successful outcome. Pre-production doesn’t have to be non-creative. Other industry professionals relish the planning stages and find this is the area where the creative juices begin to flow. Giving video pre-production the attention it deserves can lead to a smoother ride during production and post-production elements.

Here’s five top tips that can be applied to your video pre-production, regardless of size.

1.    Take time to shape the brief – work closely with the client and the team

When you work with a client, and once the formalities have been signed and sealed, it can be hugely beneficial to spend some time together discussing and forming the concept. Only when you can truly understand the client’s vision or goal, can you begin to bring your creativity to the table to enliven their ideas.

Interpretation is critical, and you will need to know how to shape the video project to bring the correct version to fruition.

Some video production companies will ask some key basic questions to get things going, such as:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • Where will the video be broadcast?
  • What is the purpose of the production?

The answers to these basic, initial questions will give you real insights into the expectations of the client and a feel for the tone of the project. You cannot have too much of this type of information.

With a budget in place, it is also important to ascertain the expectations of the client, and determine whether it is achievable. By discussing these subjects at the very start of the planning process, there is a clear picture of requirement vs necessity vs creativity on all levels.

2.    Visit and survey the production location – investigate permissions

Once the location has been agreed, it is always wise to pay a visit to familiarise yourself with the area and carry out a survey to determine several factors, such as:

  • Access
  • Power provision
  • Acoustics
  • Lighting quality

Perform a basic risk assessment to enable you to plan ahead for eventualities. Look at the state of the area and identify potential hazards. There may be rough ground, for example, with an area that needs to be cleared before filming can begin. Assessing these potential delays during the pre-production process can save time and money on filming day.

Picture the team and what they will be doing in the area. Take sample photos of the location, highlighting areas that stand out as ideal for a certain scene, a camera position or a sound operator.

Some areas may require permission to film, and this is often the case. If local authority permission is needed, it is wise to remember that this type of red tape can sometimes take weeks to wade through. A detailed brief of the production project may also be required.

Additional insurance may also be needed for some types of locations, particularly within public spaces, so a chat with the authorities and the insurance agent would be a good idea at this stage too.

Spending some time at the location site can be a vital part of pre-production. If possible, plan to visit during the same time of day that you plan to shoot, and take note of things that could potentially cause noise nuisance that could affect filming, such as:

  • A nearby airport or flight path
  • A train or bus station
  • A hospital emergency department
  • A fire or ambulance station
  • A school or nursery
  • An animal shelter
  • A church with a chiming bell

Although often these things can’t be helped, knowing in advance can help with the schedule, as time allowances can be made both for filming and for post-production if necessary.

Hot tip: some production teams use Google Maps to survey the location if they can’t visit.

3.    Plan through to post-production – get inspired

Video pre-production planning should also include serious thought about post-production in terms of editing and polishing the final piece. This is when you get inspired by the client and determine the finer details of the finished result – before you shoot a single frame.

This includes aspects like:

  • Accompanying music – Should there be any? What should it be?
  • Lighting and mood preferences – What feel is the client after? What moves them?
  • Camera angles and shot preferences – Is there a particular requirement?

Most seem like obvious points, but unless properly discussed and planned, production misinterpretation issues can lead to costly mistakes and in the worst cases, re-shoots. Spend some time really getting to know your client to give you the best chance of delivering a production that runs efficiently, within budget and meets the brief.

On-brand productions will often include company-specific or branded material. Following the styling guidelines and branding will be an important aspect to consider during post-production.

(Of course, planning for live events will be significantly different, but for the purpose of this section of the article, we will not talk about live video).

Hot tip: some production teams encourage clients to create mood boards.

4.    Plan the shoot – include route planning, facilities and schedule

The final stages of planning are the ones that allow for eventualities during the day of filming. This can include planning ahead for:

  • Route checking – road closures can delay arrival and set-up at locations
    • Local authority websites and social media accounts can be an excellent resource.
  • Location of toilet facilities – a basic necessity.
  • Filming schedule planning – including breaks and detailed breakdown
    • When the entire team knows where they need to be and when, production runs more efficiently.

Using the risk assessment you prepared during the site visit, it will be easier to determine the equipment, power, lighting and facilities requirements in addition to work needed in advance to ensure the location is ready and fit for purpose on filming day.

If everything has been thought of in advance, then there leaves little room for complete failure, and if the whole team are on the same page, reactivity to extenuating circumstances can be far more effective. However, there is an element that is notoriously difficult to take into account…

5.    Plan for lighting and weather

This is a tough one to plan for, but must be considered when filming outdoors. It is not always possible, either with a time or budget constraint, to reschedule filming if the weather is less than ideal.

Whenever possible, keep filming days flexible, and try to plan for shooting during seasons that offer the best light for the production project. If this is not possible, then make allowances for the weather where you can, such as a standby temporary rain cover or alternate indoor location.

During the pre-production stages it will be crucial to determine how the light works within your location area in advance of filming. It can be a useful exercise to find out how the sun will move during filming.

Some production teams utilise online programs, mapping sites and apps to determine the course of the sun, but spending some time on location beforehand can give you a good idea of when the light will be at its best for your project.

Planning during pre-production can pave the way for smooth production and post-production, and should never be overlooked or underestimated. Making projects as visible as possible to the entire team can be a key factor, and can help to result in a successful video project.

The Streaming Company work closely with clients to determine core requirements and the client vision. To find out more, please contact us today.

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