‘What Does My Video Production Journey Look Like?’
This one is often asked, and always covered with every new client, so it’s very good to get it down on ‘paper’ and make some kind of sense of what a client can expect when they commission a video to be produced.
For most people, unless you happen to have done it before, the process and journey to expect when producing a video is great unknown. Indeed it maybe so uncertain and ill defined that it’s a little off-putting. Somewhere along the way someone with a camera pops up, we might need to talk a little and keep quiet at other times, make sure our office is nice clean, and somehow a video pops out the other end. Somehow. But what is your part to play in this? And what milestones do we have to reach and pass together?
Well, there are 3 main stages:
• Pre Production
• Post Production
Before we delve a little deeper into each, there are a couple of things that need to happen…
After you first make contact with us, we develop an understanding of your business, your market, and what you want to achieve with the film.
It’s most likely that you’re coming to us with an idea of what you want to produce. Maybe it’s a promo, it could use voice-over, or you might want to shoot some testimonials. It’s our job not to simply take it as read, but to advise what we think will work best. Not to re-write, but to augment. If something may not work practically, then we need to work that idea through. The last thing we want is to deliver is a product with which you are not satisfied, and saying ‘yes we can do that’ at an early stage is simply short sighted. Because as soon as you see the final film you’ll realise you can’t do whatever it was.
But first we listen and pay good attention to what you say. We want to understand what you want, and what you need. The kind of questions we ask will look a little like this:
• What is the general purpose of creating the film? Is it for sales or education / training, for example?
• Where will it be shown? Is it for the website, a trade fair, or for social media?
• Who will see it? Customers, employees, general pubic and prospective customers?
Then, either we come up with an idea for you from scratch; or we consider your plan, look for any hurdles, and think of how we best achieve it.
Quotations & Pitches
Each project is different, and each priced slightly differently. Here are some of the factors for which we need to account:
• Where will we film it? Interior or exterior makes a difference. For example, if exterior we will have to factor in changeable weather or cold temperatures. Geographically we’ll plan if we need to stay overnight to achieve the shoots.
• Who do you intend to be in it? Can we use employees, or do we need to hire in models?
• What equipment is needed – How many cameras? Which lights? What extra grip (e.g. jib, slider, overhead camera arm) is required?
• How many crew are needed on the shoot?
• How many days do we shoot for?
• Do we need the drone?
• Do we need the studio?
• How many films will be produced? And how long will they be? The longer the total duration, the longer the edit. Time in the edit is generally more than the time it takes to shoot. So the editing aspect usually ends up being at least as expensive as the shoot.
• Do we need to script it? Do we need to storyboard it? For every job at the very least we will create a shot list and shooting schedule.
• If we need to quote for Voice Over we’ll give you some guide prices, but the actual price will depend on which artist you eventually select.
• How much music will we use? Maybe we can source some of it for free.
• To what extent do we need to design graphics or to use animation?
You can see there’s lots to think about…
So we come up with our ideas, and we lay down our prices. We appreciate it’s important that these prices stay fixed for your budget, and if anything might have to change we’ll be upfront at an early point with options and reasons, and see if we can cut elsewhere to remain where we started.
If there’s a pitch, either in person or as a tender, then that’s now.
And then you decide whether you want to work with us! If our previous work is a good fit, and whether our ideas are going to best bring your project to life.
If we are lucky enough to get to work with you, then we can go ahead and plan what and how to shoot everything.
We can envisage this stage as all the work that goes into a project before we press record.
We already know a great deal about you and your project. If necessary, we will now be in a position to put together a script for it, which for us takes the form of a document breaking down what is said set against what we see into each scene, we tell our ideal story on paper. Either it’s a text document detailing this, or we go a stage further using sample images to convey the shots sequences and scenes we want to achieve – or in other words a ‘storyboard’.
If it’s a voice-over lead piece, that voice-over is written out here on the script. If! Not everything needs voice-over, see this piece which explains your options. It should be noted that voice-over has to be an evolving entity. We come up with our best first effort to convey your message, and it’ll most likely be about 90% there. It’s not ‘signed off’ yet, you can expect the first delivery of the film to have a temporary or ‘guide’ voice-over read by us – at which point you can see how it works in context and make any adjustments accordingly.
One of the very final stages is to employ the professional voice over artist, and in fact if there are further amendments after they’ve provided their read, they may still be happy to provide updated reads of certain small sections.
If it’s an interview lead piece, we’ll need to write the questions.
It may or may not require a script as such, if it’s a simple testimonial it really shouldn’t. A company promo will more likely be divided into sections which we’ll detail via a script in broad brushstrokes. But want it all delivered naturally, it’s up to us to create the right questions, the interviewer to get the right answers, and the editor to make it hum. We never want people to parrot lines off a prompter in an interview setting, or for it to sound rehearsed. The interviewee looses all semblance of believability and therefore trust, and the interview exercise becomes bland and a little pointless. It may as well be voice over, and in fact should.
You might have some questions up your sleeve, but we’ll probably create more to reflect what you’ve told us about your products, services and USP, and essentially to reverse engineer any script.
At this point we’ll be fully aware of what needs to be shot, and in a position to make a shot list. And so we just need to figure out where and how to get it done. How long will it take, are there any speed humps?
Location Scouting / Recce
We should meet to discuss further details, and ideally we can also recce the shoot site. We want to see if we’ll have the room we require, what kind of lighting we’ll need, and if we’re using the drone there are all sorts of extra points to consider.
We may meet any interviewees, which will alleviate some of their nerves for the actual shoot day.
We want to check parking and access.. How far do we need to carry kit, where we can store it?
We’ll then come up with a document detailing what we shoot and when, this being a shooting schedule to go together with the shot list. We’d normally aim to do it all over one day, which can be fairly long.
Be aware ***shooting makes everything take twice as long!!!***
But this document will be our bible for the shoot. It must hold everything we need to edit the film together, and give a few options.
We get the cameras out, point them at the right stuff at the right time, and mine the gold for our edit.
We’ll have provided you the shooting schedule, and so you’ll be aware of what we will be doing and when. Trying to do and when we dream of doing it. Not only does everything take longer than expected, but there are significant setup times involved. For example, it might take 45 minutes just to bring in the gear, and interview lighting and cameras might take at an hour and a half to set up. But this is worst case stuff.
For example, if we scheduled a start time filming of 10am, we could well want to arrive at site around 8am to ensure adequate setup time.
Production is the briefest stage, the most intense, but also is the most fun. But if we have planned properly, we should end up with a relatively stress-free, enjoyable day.
How many people can you expect on the shoot? Our shoots range from 1 to 3 persons. It might just be one camera operator for the simpler days, often you’ll find myself together with another a camera operator whom I produce, and for the large stuff – longer days or greater areas to cover – we’ll need an assistant also. I will in 99% of cases ensure I am personally on site, and probably shooting in some capacity.
Cameras & Monitors
The number of cameras is generally either one or two. We normally shoot in 4k, and have decent sized client monitors on each camera so you the client can see what we’re filming. After a take, it’s always a good idea to review our footage with a critical eye to seeing if we need another. Maybe we missed something, or we think of a better angle or move, or you might have some input.
A key point though is not to rush through any of it, and only to progress when we’re 100% confident we have the right content at a good standard. It’s a false economy to save a few minutes on the day, versus having to come back for a reshoot.
Another key point is lighting. Light everything you can! Luckily, we’ve been blessed with the invention of high colour-accuracy LEDs, so doing so is no longer going to boil anyone with high wattage tungsten lamps. But it’s not just the interviews, choosing the right time of day, or the right boost with an LED panel or directional light can make all the difference to a shot inside, and even outside.
What not to Wear
That’s a good one, and easily verges into geeking out. It’s always been said to avoid very tight stripes or herringbone, to avoid ‘moire’, which is a kind of shimmering rainbow haze across the offending jacket or shirt. Shooting 4k mimeses this to an extent, but for our sake and for safety it’s certainly best to avoid tight, repeating patterns.
Logos. Are logos an issue? In short, you do have the right to use them. In TV logo’s are generally blurred out as a reflex action. The BBC cannot show any bias, and otherwise it’s either because they simply do not want to give a product free airtime, the free advertising might easily be in contradiction to a program sponsor / paying advertiser, or if it shows the company in a bad light. But they (and we) are actually free to use the logos. However, your company may not feel the brand in question represents it very well, and may prefer company branding instead.
So what looks good? If everyone is in shades of grey it can start to look quite stark, so a little colour is always helpful. Without going fully 80’s Top of The Pops.
It’s Always Easier Downhill
Finally, the pack-down at the end of the day is shorter than the setup. And that might take only about 30-45 minutes.
‘Fix it in post’, they have been known to say. Luckily I come from a career of fixing it in TV post, and with SuperReel I edit or oversee the edit of everything we do.
Inevitably there’s always going to be something to ‘fix in post’, even if it’s just a little stabilisation of a shot, or sweetening of audio, but that aside this is where your story and message really come together in the right hands. With good content from the shoot, an experienced editor can create something quite powerful. There are a thousand ways to tell a story, and no not all of them are right. You have to find something to hook people at the beginning, then delve deeper, unpack that, continually building and riffing of the previous thought, to end poignantly and maybe wanting a little more. We are not after all making documentaries, a lot of what we do is a tease or a promo – so we need to inspire an effort to find out a little more about you as a company, or about your product.
Here’s our ethos in the edit:
We need to engage the viewer as long as possible. Viewer drop off rates are alarming high, and that’s why short is sweet for a promo film, see this previous post. It’s about stringing together the right sound-bites from the interviews to find a strong flow through the piece. No-one can get lost, no sound bite is superfluous, and none confusing or off message. It must make total sense as a whole.
We try and find the personality to what you do. Story comes first, but hand in glove with that must go personality. A human element, something relatable, memorable, and that sets you apart.
We try to build a human connection between you and your prospective client, to create a bond on ethos or outlook. If we find what genuinely inspires you, that will ring true with the right clients for you. You can’t please all the people all the time, and you (and we!) are not a prefect fit for everyone, but we can really inspire those that are on our wavelength.
Next, you can expect these different elements to be dealt with somewhat separately during post-production:
If your piece requires a voice-over, and if so we would always recommend a professional one, it is a false economy not to. It might only amount to 10% of the budget, but lifts it out of the second division, or the first division even. Or Championship.
Anyway, as mentioned before, the first delivery to you the client will have guide voice over, so you can make amendments which might only become apparent in context. We’ll then look to approve or sign off a version of the script for a professional voice-over.
At this point we’ll decide if you feel a male or female voice will suit the film. We will then supply you with examples from a few artists, from which you will pick a ‘winner’. If you have doubts, they are usually open to recoding a sample portion to help you judge.
We’ll then edit in the professional voice-over to replace the guide voice-over.
Sometimes a whole film is animated, sometimes we composite animation over certain shots. It might be a label, or a name caption, or an animated box. We are able to do some of the simpler stuff in-house, but if we use one of preferred animators then those sections of the films will be dealt with individually and separately. In some instances we need to provide the animator with a more detailed script specifically for these animated sequences.
We very much want to deliver your edit in a timely fashion, and it’s part of what makes us different. It is often the case in post production that the edit drags on for weeks with sections being done piecemeal in conjunction with other edits and commitments. But we will book out at least 3 days a week following the shoot dedicated to your edit with a buffer in the following week for over-runs (or revisions of we get there quickly). This is normally enough to achieve the first cut. What we say is that you can expect the first cut within two weeks of the final shoot day.
Here’s the general process we need to go through to get your final film:
For the fourth stage it’s over to you. We’ll get you a first cut of your film, work on it to make sure it fits your remit, and finally deliver you the master video file(s).
Stage 1: First Draft
We deliver you the client a first cut of your film for your review. It will have music on it, and graphics if they are simple. We will have done at the very least a first pass of colour correction and mixed the audio.
Either we will supply a Vimeo link to the cut to save clutter on your hard-drive, or a link to a file at a lower resolution than the final version.
You and your colleagues are now invited to review this cut, and we’ll collate the feedback from the various parties.
Stage 2: Second and Final Deliveries
We address the notes generated from the first cut, buy the music once it has been signed off, buy any stock / library footage that needs to be approved, and add any remaining graphics.
It’s usual that the first round of amendments will help us arrive at a product (a second cut) with which we are both happy. If you have additional comments, or some of the changes have not worked as we envisaged, then it’s open to a second round of client feedback and a third delivery.
The final delivery will be a master Quicktime or .mp4 file made at 20Mbps (as long as it is not too long a film), which is an optimal resolution for upload to your Vimeo or YouTube account. You can reference this post about whether to host yourself or on a platform such as Vimeo, but Vimeo etc is usual and easiest.
Social Media Versions
Once we’re signed off on the final edit, we usually need to make a few Social Media versions from that. They are often cut-down’s or excepts of the longer film, or might show certain shots in a longer expanded form, behind the scenes, time-lapses, or even out-takes. But for us, these come after and follow in the wake of the main film.
Social Media films need to adhere to a couple of extra format points:
• They need (‘burnt in’) subtitles for any voice-over or interview. More often than not people’s SM feeds are muted, and without subtitles any message and impact will evapotate.
• We’ll decide on what aspect ratios you will require, and we will adjust the shots to fit that format and re-export. This post covers aspect ratios for the different platforms, for example we are seeing vertical aspect ratios required more and more, i.e. at 9:16 or 4:5
• Again, the social media films will undergo two rounds if required of feedback.
There’s a lot to it! But what you see here is what you can expect when working with us. Now the same elements will be found in any production. Approaches may vary and certain things will differ, but this should be a good general guide as to how a video production process will work for you the client, from start to finish.
If you have any questions or feedback, or if there’s anything you feel I have missed or would be useful to know do let me know.
Or if you simply want a quote for video production, feel free to get in touch.