How to nail video pre-production
Lights. Camera. Actio- Oh wait, let’s go back a few steps. We forgot about video pre-production. Booooooo. Yes, video pre-production is incredibly boring, consists mostly of emailing spreadsheets, and doesn’t get too much attention. But, in reality, it’s incredibly important. Before you film a single interview, you should have spent at least a few weeks in planning, and hopefully more. When it comes to corporate video, there are usually many stakeholders, and it takes a long time to get everyone on the same page! Here are seven oft-forgotten elements of video pre-production that will make your shoot run smoothly.
Lock in the crew
This would normally go without saying, but we mention it first because it’s one of the first things you do. Good cinematographers and sound operators are hard to find, and book up quickly. So the moment you have an inkling of a date, get your film crew to keep it free for you. Otherwise you’ll be left with no lights, no camera, and no action.
Go to the shoot location as soon as possible. Ideally you want a tour from someone who knows the place well, understands the scheduling, and has some sway over day-to-day operations. This is a great person to have in your corner on the actual shoot day, as they can help book rooms, procure extras, and get you the best locations. On your tour, your primary purpose is to find, and decide, which spots will be the best to shoot interviews and B-roll. This information will inform the rest of the pre-production and help you to create storyboards, run sheets, and shot lists.
So you’ve got your script in the bag, but don’t forget about the visuals. Storyboards can be incredibly helpful to have on a shoot because it’s a reference point you can draw from when things get hectic. A visually stunning storyboard also makes your production look more professional. This give you authority, encouraging people to listen when you direct them to put a Post-it note on the wall for the 16th time, because that’s the shot you need!
This is the list of all the interview and B-roll shots you need to tell the story. Feel free to get granular with this one, and include specifics such as, ‘Sophie mentoring a younger employee’ etc.
A shot list can be even more helpful than a storyboard on shoot day because it is more flexible and comprehensive. Print it off as an excel sheet with columns that you can tick off to track your progress. Extra points if you make a priority shot list, highlighting the shots you absolutely need, making it easier to make the tough choices on shoot day.
This is the schedule for the shoot day, and it involves a lot of moving parts. Each interviewee is only available for a limited time, the best meeting rooms aren’t free all day, and that perfect location for B-roll is only open after 4pm! Making a run sheet is all about re-making a run sheet. You go back and forth with the client, constantly rejigging things until you have a timeline of what will be shot, when it will be shot, and who will shoot it. Don’t forget to include time for set-ups, lunch, and when things inevitably go wrong. Stay flexible on shoot day, the run sheet is there to help you, not trap you. Don’t be scared to alter it on the day.
You already have the script, but the last thing you want is your interviewees monotonously reading it off a makeshift iPad teleprompter. Instead, plan out specific questions that will elicit the responses you want. Take time with this, as phrasing is everything.
You’re almost ready for the shoot. All the stakeholders are up to date and ready to roll. The crew know when they’re arriving and what equipment to bring, and you’ve created some beautiful production documents. Now you just need to print everything and put it all on a clipboard so you’re ready for that director’s seat. Don’t forget to make extra copies for all of the other stakeholders and producers.