As a Senior Producer at New Mac Video Agency, Elizabeth McPherson is witness to the increasing popularity of video as part of the communications mix. She shares with us the way her agency deals with the creative process and what she believes is key to a successful video.
Consumer appetite for video, combined with the democratisation of production methods, is leaving communication professionals with nowhere to hide. So what do you need to know if you’re about to get busy with video? You need to know about pre-production. Pre-production is a crucial element of video production, but all too often the sacrificial lamb of the budget squeeze.
While the shoot is typically considered the glamorous part of video production – lights and cameras, hair and makeup – without strong pre-production planning (and the requisite budget) the shoot is sabotaged from the get go. Winging it on the day may work in some aspects of life, but not when you’ve paid precious dollars to put a team of professionals and a bunch of expensive equipment in a space, and tasked them with bringing your creative vision to life.
Solid pre-production saves time and money, because every shot and every angle has been planned. These shots and angles, and everything else in-between, all tie back to the goal of your brief. Solid pre-production is what will ensure you end up with a piece of content that you can be proud of.
So, in the interests of a great end result, here’s some thoughts on the ideal pre-production process. While it may be a little overblown for your next Vine, GIF or Periscope, preparation and planning are still key.
1. The brief is in
The first thing to do is assemble the team (typically a Director, Producer and Director of Photography or DOP) and knock their heads together on the brief. You can kick off the creative strategy work as a collaborative session and follow up with a longer session as a crew. This part of the process is crucial to ensuring everyone shares the same creative vision. The output from this stage of the process is a preliminary director’s treatment, or solution design, that can the be presented back to the client for review and approval.
2. Treatment approved
With the treatment signed off, it’s time to hit the hard graft. This stage involves lots of research, talent casting and/or pre-interviews as well as a reconnaissance of potential filming locations. Finding the best talent via a thorough casting process, or taking the time to pre-interview on-screen talent, removes the element of surprise on shoot day. As far location-scouting is concerned, this is also about eliminating the potential for issues on the day, like a noisy air conditioner or an unexpected skylight.
Doing pre-production work like this allows you to get the best out of the talent, lighting them beautifully and getting their shots on carefully crafted schedule, rather than having to problem-solve on the fly.
3. Grunt work and groundwork
With all of this prep work done, you can now work on the final creative treatment and spend time nutting out a full production and shoot schedule. With this, you’ll know what’s being worked on once production starts, as well as when are where everything will happen. A clear schedule of key milestones during post-production will allow you to plan review meetings with key stakeholders in advance. It’s also a good idea to make sure to include a full lighting plan, equipment list, shot list, booked catering, and info on any necessary permits and location approvals. This groundwork will help you be deliberate and planned in everything to do with the shoot.
When projects have gone off the rails (and it does happen), or a piece of work is just not as good as it could have been, more often than not, it comes down to a breakdown or shortcut taken in pre-production. Typically, because the budget wasn’t there or there simply wasn’t time
So if you work with a video agency in the future and they recommend three days of pre-production planning to scope it out, remember: the success of your project is determined within that window. It’s not just about when the cameras come out. When you invest in pre-production, what results is not only a smooth-sailing shoot and editing process that delivers on the brief, on time, and on budget, but also a great outcome for all involved.
Elizabeth McPherson is a Senior Producer at New Mac Video Agency, a full-service video production and strategy agency, based in Collingwood, Melbourne.