Video Production Guide

Diving head first in to a video production project can be a daunting task to those who haven’t done it before, but it isn’t as scary as it seems and it can be extremely good fun. Our job, as well as producing the video, is to help you get started, to help you understand the importance of video marketing and ensure the final video or videos are as good as possible. In this video production guide we break down the entire video production process, so you can make sure you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Not all video productions are the same so the aim of this guide is to give you an idea of everything you may need to consider. A simple quarterly results video with one or two interviews is going to require considerably less work compared to a narrative piece that requires actors, scenarios and a fully formed script.

So let’s jump in…

Research and Development

Video production 3 top tips

Before you consider the production of the video it’s imperative that you have a clear understanding of what the project needs to achieve. Try asking yourself the following questions –

What is the video is selling or advertising?

Firstly it is very important to understand exactly what you want the video to sell or do. The best videos have one goal. If you try to do too much it can confuse the audience. For example, a promotional product video is focussed on what the product does and why you want it NOT how it works!

Who is your audience?

Your audience will very much depend on what sort of video you are producing. If you are producing a promotional video your audience will be a lot broader compared to an internal training video. Consider the following –

  • Researching your audience is very important. A millennial will be interested in something very different to someone further into their career.
  • Are they industry insiders or people with no knowledge of your industry?
  • Is your audience technically minded?

What is your video content strategy?

Once you have a clear idea of what the needs to say and who it needs to speak to you can move on to the video marketing strategy. This section covers the ‘how’. How will you tell your audience about your product, service or information.

  • Do you need one video or a series?
    • A promotional video is likely to be one video but if you are producing training videos for your customers your strategy might require a series of videos.
  • Where are they going to be played?
    • Is the internet your best outlet? It most likely will be if you are producing some sort of promotional video.
    • Could it be an intranet? If the video is for internal purposes it might be circulated around a businesses intranet which may carry its own limitations.
    • You may want to run a national TV advertising campaign.
    • DVD and Blu-ray are still a viable option if you want to give your audience something tangible or if the video content has a resale value.
    • On the subject of resale value, there are websites where you can rent your videos to people for a fee. Vimeo is one of the latest and best platforms to offer this.
  • Will you need to distribute the video to multiple countries?
    • If so you will need to consider foreign voiceovers and/or subtitles.
    • You may need to align your message with the many different cultures around the world, which would require several different scripts.
  • Do you need different versions of the same video?
    • This would be the case if you need multiple languages.
    • You might want a very short teaser version for your social media channels and the longer version for your website.
    • If the video is to be played at trade shows and in sales pitches you may want a longer more in-depth version as your audience will already have an interest in your offering.

Have a look at this blog for the most common mistakes people make – Six Classic Video Marketing Mistakes (That We See All The Time)

The Brief

Once you have a good idea of the what, who and how, you can move on to writing about what you want. The video production brief is a detailed document which informs the video production companies you will approach later on about what it is you want them to produce. The more detailed the document the better but if you are struggling to put it together a video production company can step in to help. Make sure you include the following –

  • What type of video you want to produce – include as much information as you can from your research.
  • The object of this video marketing campaign – this will be mainly made up of the information you put together during your research.
  • An overview of your business and its culture.
  • A draft script (this can be very rough at this stage). This helps the video production company work out what production techniques will be required.
  • Include your brand guidelines This is important because all the graphics in the video should be aligned with your wider brand identity.
  • Any information about the filming you can provide at this stage.
    • This could be as simple as your offices and the town you’re based in. It’s always best for a video production company to have a recce as we need certain criteria to be met but due to budgets, this isn’t always possible. If you know you want the video in a studio or in the local park put it in this document with a much information about the location as possible.
  • Examples – your video should be an original production but it can be helpful for a production company to see who your competitors are and what you think is a good or poorly executed video.
  • Include a deadline if there is one and make sure there is enough time to complete the project so it doesn’t end in a rush.

Start the search for a video production company

Once you have your brief together that includes all your research, it’s time to search for the production company that is going to produce your video(s). This section can be daunting as it requires you to take a leap of faith to put your trust in an external supplier and to work out why the different quotes cover such a broad price bracket. I can’t speak for our competitors but it’s important for us at Echo Video to build a good working relationship will all of our clients early on in this process as creative ideas flow better when the atmosphere is relaxed. Here are some tips for when you take the plunge –

  • Approach several companies so you have a good range of prices and creative ideas. You should get a feel for each company quite quickly.
  • Put together a short list and meet them. Personality and working processes are extremely important for a production to run smoothly.
  • Trust them, we are professionals. We want the best for you, so if someone suggests something different to what you have proposed, listen to them and find out why. Going for their idea could be the best decision you make!
  • Don’t worry if they haven’t produced the exact same video for someone else. A lot of the skills used in video production can bridge many types of videos. If you choose someone who has produced your video for another company you may end up with something that isn’t original and won’t stand out in the crowded online video space.
  • Ask them to provide testimonials about other projects. Hopefully, these should be clear to see on their website and in Google.

Pre-production

Once you have a video production company in place it’s time to let them do some of the work! The pre-production stage is where the production company organises everything that is required for the production of the video and works with you to nail down the idea. The more detailed this section is the smoother and quicker the production should run. Here are the elements that make-up pre-production –

Scripting the video

Once all the initial planning is in place the creative aspects of the project can start. The first port of call is to work on finalising the script as this will be the bones to what comes next. The script should be clear and concise and all of your research will very helpful during this stage. Here are a few pointers –

  • The production company should work with you on the script. Writing a script for screen is a specialism and very minor tweaks can make a huge difference. You and your chosen production company should be able to work together harmoniously for this.
  • The script can and will most likely evolve throughout the entire process. If you are producing a video with actors the script could change when you’re on-set because something might work better when in context. Alternatively, if you are having an animation produced with a voiceover the production company may choose to record a dummy voiceover until the animation is almost complete as this could save money if the script needs to change.
  • If you are producing a TV ad you will need to consider what legals will be required and the finished script will need to be signed off by Clearcast.
  • Read the script aloud and time how long it takes. Reading it aloud will be a different length compared to reading it in your head.
  • You must always have your end audience in mind whilst writing the script as that will direct the type of language required. If the script is too technical it may isolate your viewers or if it isn’t in-depth enough it may bore your audience.
  • If you are filming a series of interviews with people who aren’t trained actors it can be better to not script the video at all. Just produce some interview questions and let the interviewees answer the questions naturally. In this situation scripts can cause a lot of problems if the interviewees can’t remember the script word for word as they feel they are failing and start getting stressed and uncomfortable.

Initial Planning

  • Production schedule
    • Is there a deadline for delivery? If so working through the schedule backwards is a good way to ensure the final delivery won’t be late.
    • Include some down time so if something falls behind the delivery won’t be late.
    • Include regular catch-ups, even if they are just quick phone calls once a week. This will ensure the project runs smoothly.
  • Outline responsibilities
    • It important early on to work out who is responsible for what. There can be a lot of specialist skills involved so it’s important that the right people are in the right roles. The production company will guide you through this and tell you how you can help.
  • Share around contact details for each team member
    • This is a follow on from the previous point as everyone needs to be kept up to speed with the latest developments.
  • Locations
    • search for and confirm what locations are required. If recces are required they should be carried out now.

Storyboarding

Once the working script has been written we can then move on to working out how to best visualise the information in the script. This is usually done using storyboards. A storyboard is a series of images that illustrate each scene of a video or animation. On set the camera angles and composition will match the storyboards or they will be the building blocks for an animation.

Let’s take live action first –

  • The storyboards could be photos taken when on the recce. This is the most cost-effective option and will suffice for the majority of corporate videos.
  • They could be hand or digitally drawn. This option would usually be used if the video was story based as you would be unlikely to take all the actors and props to a recce.

And now for animation –

  • Animated videos will require detailed storyboards as they will become the building blocks for the animation and set the look and style for the animation.

For further reading check out this blog about storyboards.

Organise the shoot

The final step before filming can begin is to organise all the crew, equipment and assets required for the shoot. There is quite a bit to write up so here are the key parts –

  • Call times
    • Call times tell each of the crew and talent where to be, when to be there and when they will be finished as well as their role for the day.
  • Locations
    • Everyone needs to have the address or addresses for the shoot and it’s always a good idea to include a map so it’s nice and clear. If people need to park their car, include local car park details or local public transport information.
  • Equipment
    • The production company will list all the equipment that is required on each day of the shoot. The list will usually be broken down in the camera department, lighting department, grip department, and sound department.
  • Brief the talent
    • Ensure the talent have all the relevant details for their role. This could include the script, interview questions, what they need to wear or what they shouldn’t wear.

Production

The shoot

So the day of the shoot has finally arrived. Hopefully, if all the planning has gone well everyone will have a very good idea of what to expect. It’s pretty much all up to the production company now and all you will need to do is meet and greet any talent that may be involved and listen in on conversations with the director in case there are any specific details you might be able to help with.

As all productions are different the size of the crew can vary a lot. The core team you can expect to be on most shoots includes a producer, director, camera op/cinematographer and a sound recordist. If the production is a large one you could also expect to see an art department, a gaffer who is responsible for the lighting, a grip department who are responsible for rigging equipment that is used to move the camera during a shot and a makeup department. The required crew would have been outlined in the pre-production stage and quoted for, so when it comes to the shoot the crew shouldn’t be a surprise to you.

A typical filming day will be something like this –

  • Setup – All the gear, personnel and talent will arrive and set themselves up.
    • The film crew – they will get all the camera, sound and lighting equipment ready.
    • The art department – they will dress the set and ensure it matches the storyboards.
    • The director and producer – whilst everything is being set up the director and producer will meet with you and the talent to brief everyone on the day’s activities.
    • Once the equipment is in place the talent will be called in so that the lighting can be tweaked for each individual and the sound levels will be checked.
    • There is usually more kit involved than the client thinks so don’t be surprised to find the location rearranged slightly to accommodate all of the gear.
  • Filming – This is where all the shots are gathered. The amount that is shot each day very much depends on the complexity of the shots and the type of location.
    • We always try to keep the filming as relaxed as possible and we ensure we have enough time to make sure we capture the best content possible. If we are filming an interview with someone who is not that comfortable with it, there is nothing worse than having to rush through it as the interviewee will get stressed and tighten up. To also help with this it’s a good idea to include regular breaks and to have a good supply of refreshments.
    • If the filming is of an interview or an acted sequence we will ensure there is time for multiple takes as this relieves pressure and allows us to make sure the shots are as good as they can be.
    • On the majority of shoots we have a 7” or larger monitor with us, this makes video playback easier if the client would like to see what has been captured throughout the day.
  • Pack-down – once the filming has finished for the day and the location won’t be needed again we will then pack down all the equipment and put the location back to how we found it. If we will be filming in the same location the following day we would ideally leave the equipment setup so there is less to do when everyone returns.

The Edit

The edit is where the majority of the work happens and it’s a very important part of the process to get right. Good editing should be invisible to the viewer because a video should flow smoothly and seamlessly from one section to the next. The edit is where we take all the video footage and start cutting it up so it tells the story that the video needs to tell. We then combine the video footage with, graphics and titles, possibly motion graphics, music and a voice-over if the project calls for one. Here are the general stages you can expect a production company to follow:

  • Asset ingest and project backup – this is where we load all the footage into our edit software and then we ensure we have at least two copies of the footage.
  • Initial run through – once the footage is in our edit software we run through it all to make sure it is correct and remove any clips that we definitely don’t need.
  • Rough cut – this is where the edit begins. We begin by piecing together the clips we want to use in the correct order so we have a rough story and structure. We don’t spend time on the edit points and there aren’t any titles or music at this stage.
  • Client feedback – once we have a rough cut we send it off to the client to hear their thoughts. It’s important to do this in the early stages as it will save time later on in the process.
  • Second edit – Once we have the client feedback we incorporate the changes and tidy up the edit points, add music and a mock voice-over if we don’t have the final version. This edit is a lot more polished and will have the intended flow. Once we are happy with this edit we send it back to the client for final comments.
  • Colour correction and grading – If no further changes are required and the edit is ‘locked’ we move onto the colour correction and grading stage. Here we ensure all the individual clips match one another and we then grade the video. This is where we give the video it’s ‘look’.
  • If you are having a TV advert produced the finished edit will need to be checked by Clearcast.
  • Final delivery – Here we export the video into the correct file type for the videos intended delivery platform.

Here at Echo we have a spacious office where we can easily accommodate client edit sessions, so you could be involved from the start or just come down for the final stages and delivery.

Record the voice-over

Once the video has some structure it’s time to record the voice-over. We supply a handful of examples along with our opinion on each to the client and once one has been selected we will send the script to them and get a recording date confirmed. In some instances, we can ask the artist to record a portion of the script so we and you the client can get a better idea of who will fit the video best. If the video we are producing is an animation we will look to get the voice-over recorded in the early stages of production because it will have a strong bearing on the pace of the animations we create.

There is a huge range of artists to choose from so you can be sure to find the perfect match. You’ve got the obvious choices such as male, female. English, American, foreign language and then the not so obvious like local dialects, accents, and acting voices if you require a bit of drama or comedy.

Find a suitable music track and mix the audio

Once the video sequences have been put together and locked off it’s time to turn our attention to the audio, whether it’s interviews, a presenter or incidental sound. If you are cutting from one thing to another there will be obvious cuts in the audio, the idea when mixing the audio is to make sure the viewer can’t tell when the cuts happen. This is done by matching sound levels, fading in and out at the appropriate times and trying to remove background noise if it is obvious and overpowering. We will discuss music in more detail below but during this stage we will also increase or the decrease the level of the music so it doesn’t interfere with any spoken sections.

The music that is used in a video will be chosen at some point during the production stage. If the video is to be edited to a track we will need to choose it before any editing takes place but if it just needs to be a nice background track it can be chosen towards the end of the edit. There are various types of music to choose from which I have outlined below

  • Royalty free – royalty free music is generally the cheapest option that doesn’t require you to credit the composer. It is usually loop based and doesn’t have the scope that the more expensive options have. This type of music is getting better and better and the tracks are becoming more interesting so it can be a great cost-effective way to add music to your video. Royalty free music gives you a license for the track for the lifetime of the video for the intended outlet. The cost mainly depends on where the video will be used, the most popular options are web-based or non-commercially distributed and non-web based and commercially distributed.
  • Production music – Production music is the next level up from royalty free music. The quality of the track is improved and isn’t generally loop based so it sounds more like a music track you’d hear from a songwriter/composer. The cost is greater too but if the music is a key ingredient to the video the extra outlay could be worth it.
  • Composed music – This option is the most flexible but not the most expensive. If music is a key part of the video this is the best option because the music will be specifically composed for your video. Films are the best example of this because the music needs to portray a certain emotion or action. Licensing varies from one composer to the next but generally, you would pay for a certain amount of time and for one project. Buy-outs are available but the cost is usually extremely high.
  • Royalty music – Royalty music can be the most expensive option but it brings an instance gravitas to your video. If there is a popular song you like then it may be possible to use that song for a fee. You don’t know the fee until you apply to the record label and it will come with very specific terms and conditions. In over 10 years of professional video creation, we have only had one project that has used royalty music and the license cost almost 3 times the cost of the production!

Add any graphical elements and animations/motion graphics

During the edit process graphics and titles will need to be added to your video and it’s very important that they match your brand. With this in mind during the pre-production process, your brand guidelines and brand assets should have been sent to the production company.

The most important graphics are the intro and outro cards. The intro graphic gives the audience an idea of what the video is about and it’s your first opportunity to get your logo in front of the audience, this helps for scene setting as well as brand awareness.

It might also require some text/graphics throughout the video to highlight key points, or if it’s a training video, written instructions may be required.

Video Delivery

The final stage of any video production is the delivery of the video in whatever format or media type is required by the client. There are a few ways a video can be delivered which we’ll look at briefly.

  • A file for the internet – this would likely be an mp4 file which has been compressed using the H264 codec as it is heavily compressed but retains a great image and sound quality. Compression is a tricky beast as it’s a toss-up between file size which affects how quickly a video loads and how good the video looks. For example, if your audience will be mainly watching the video on their mobile phone you could go for high compression and a small file size to ensure the video loads quickly and runs smoothly.
  • DVD/Blu-ray – this isn’t as popular as it once was because the internet is so much easier and has a much larger, instant audience but there is still a call for it. This would require DVD/Blu-ray authoring. The production company would export the final video in the correct format and then burn the video to whichever disc is required and menus would be produced if needed as well so you can navigate through the disc. A series of training videos, for example, may require this service so they can be played to large groups of people and contain multiple videos.
  • Broadcast – If your video is intended for broadcast then the final video needs to be exported with some very specific attributes and in the right format but you wouldn’t need to worry about this as the video production company would take care of this stage.

Despite the amount of work a video may require, it is great fun and a very creative process. We have worked with some lovely clients on some great projects and we’re constantly looking for the next project to get our teeth into. So, I hope this guide has been useful and you now feel confident to tackle your next, or perhaps your first video production. We are always happy to discuss projects and offer advice so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

If you are thinking about having a video produced and would like to hear how we could help please contact Will and Andy on 01273 911345 or see our contact page.