If you happen to be just getting started with a video production and don’t really know where to start, MVMG is here to help. One of the most important things you’ll learn is just how vital planning a shoot is – and how most of the time it can make or break a video. We can tell you from vast experience that quite a lot goes into planning a video production, and the key to success is organization.
Sit back, carve a little time out of your schedule and get immersed in this beginner’s guide to pre-production planning… we’re going to give you some tips to get started– and then finish off with a basic checklist to bring everything together.
Ready to begin?
Ask yourself this question: “Do I want to better understand how to work with a video team and create the best video content possible for my brand?” If your answer is even remotely gravitating toward “yes,” you have come to the right blog.
Pre-production is often considered the most time-consuming element, or stage, of video marketing for “brand storytellers”. But with an effective plan for video content marketing tactics in place, this whole situation becomes more approachable from many different perspectives; indeed, the phrase “Let’s really think this through before we start” will take on a whole new meaning for you.
First of all, we can tell you that far too many video production projects begin in the middle of the process – even if there’s a “cool idea,” bad idea, misguided idea or, worst of all, no concept at all. Companies that don’t take the time to properly plan out their video productions ultimately, on average, fail.
What do we mean by this… and how can this be? By “fail,” we mean that they don’t seem to achieve any measurable business objective; simply having a website “up and running” isn’t what’s known as a “meaningful business objective.”
With a myriad of video types available that can promote your product or business out there, as well as an equally varied number of factors and costs involved in the production of a video, we have decided to create this guide to provide you with a tool for planning a video production… as well as to give you an appreciation of the many tasks and elements associated with the creation of a corporate video.
Some Preliminary Notes
• The success of your video project will be largely determined by the time and effort you put into properly planning your production.
• If you don’t start off with a great idea and a solid shooting plan in place, no amount of production or post-production expertise is going to save your project.
• The challenge associated with the pre-production phase – even though it’s considered the most important stage of video production – is that it’s the hardest to cost-justify; you see, it’s relatively easy to value crews, equipment and editing time…but how much is an idea really, really worth? (A lot, as we will explain.)
Pre-Production Planning Tips
If your goal is to see your video product shine like a proverbial gem under a jeweler’s loupe, consider the following critical tasks that go into the pre-production phase:
1. Define Your Business Objective
We touched on this a bit earlier, but it’s important enough to warrant its own primary tip on this list: Ask yourself what it is that you want your video to accomplish… is it to raise awareness? Drive traffic to a landing page? Motivate customers to buy your product?
Influence key movers and shakers in your business’ industry? Showcase your company as an environmentally conscious one? Clearly separate you from your competition? Getting the feeling that this list can go on and on to infinity?
Here’s what we’re driving at: Each business objective should share a matching outcome that you can measure – if you cannot clearly articulate your business objective, you are, we hate to tell you, wasting your precious time and money.
Merely having a video up on your website is just not enough today, nor is just trying to “keep up with your competitors;” these are NOT business objectives. You see, focusing on OUTCOMES is a provision yielded by determining a business objective… lack of a clear focus remains the principle reason why businesses video productions fail.
Ask yourself this question: “What do I want to happen once people finish watching my video?”
2. Define Your Audience
First, let’s explore the way we define the term “marketing” – we see it as the process of communicating the value of a product or service to a specific audience or demographic. Taking Google and the Catholic Church out of this equation for a moment, there is generally a very narrowly-defined audience that can benefit from products or services such as you’re offering.
The key is knowing who your prospects and customers are (identification) and then how to differentiate your message for that specific audience. Sure, on paper it sounds like quite the task… but it’s really all about research. The more narrow the focus, the greater chance of success because you can deliver a message that you know your audience is connected to.
Begin asking yourself: “What is the demographic and psycho-graphic makeup of my target audience? What are the biases, preferences and needs of this audience? What does this demographic care about…and does my product or service respond to these concerns?”
3. Develop Your Message
What are the topics, themes or ideas you’re trying to communicate? That’s what we mean by “message;” ideally, there exists only one primary message that should be in place, but if you find your business boasts a broader purpose with regard to the video production you require, you may want to include two or three key messages. Of course, the more messages you encompass, the less likely your audience is to understand and remember all of them – so keep this in mind.
Ask yourself these questions: “What are the elements I need to convey to my audience that will resonate with them…and what do I expect them to understand AND recall after they have watched my video? What specific problem am I trying to solve and how do I communicate the solution to that problem?”
4. Consider Your Budget
This factor, perhaps more than any other, inspires the “chicken and egg” scenario stories… after all, how can you determine a budget before you come up with an idea? Or, to put it conversely, why would someone even bother considering ideas outside of the context of a budgetary constraint?
The bottom line is that you may have to complete some research if you don’t have any prior experience with video production… but you must think about a budget for your video project. Indeed, we have found that there’s little point to discussing video with anyone if there’s no communication about a budget.
Locate a video similar to what you are considering making and ask potential video production companies, “What would a video like this cost to make?”
5. Plan Distribution
Also important to grasp is how you plan on distributing your video before you create it – the where, how and why about your production with regard to people watching it. An audience in broadcast is dynamically different from an audience on a professional business portal, and even more radically different from someone viewing your production on a mobile device.
We’re going to be honest with you…there isn’t a great deal of value in creating a video if you don’t plan on getting people to view it. Further, we covered this earlier in the blog, but we’ll repeat it for effect: Simply putting the video up on your website may not be enough to move the dial in your direction for business; if the video company you’re dealing with doesn’t take into consideration the where, how and why of your production, we suggest getting a second opinion.
Answer this question: How are you going to get people to watch your video?
A Checklist to Get You Started
Often, and especially when talking about broadcast commercials, video production projects start off as concepts in search of a purpose. So that’s what we’ll kick off this pre-production/pre-production planning checklist with.
• Make Sure You Know What “The Big Idea” Is
The vast majority of video production concepts are defined and driven by both practical and creative imperatives – in other words, the “concept” or “idea” you’re working on can be as simple as “Let’s move the CEO out from behind his masterful desk and show him engaging with customers…” or as complex or sweeping as your imagination (and budget) allow. Irrespective, this is where the VALUE of your production is really created.
Ask yourself: “What is the idea for this video?”
• Always Have a “Treatment” and a Storyboard
Okay, so if your concept or idea is the “big picture,” your “treatment” can be considered the summary of how you realized that idea. When it comes to larger projects, the treatment manifests as a one-page summary of an idea which details the style of the video and the devices used to communicate your key message.
Following this, you need what’s called a “storyboard” – a way to flesh out the video in detail, typically scene-by-scene. It’s a Hollywood-inspired tactic that top-notch filmmakers continue to use today, and it is implemented to outline various sections of video. The storyboard, in your case, takes your concept or idea and considers voiceovers for support, animation, actors music for tone or pacing, locations and more.
• Consider Length of Video
Barring specific time constraints for applications such as a TV ready commercial, we often recommend that shorter is better, but shorter is also more difficult. Shorter videos are sometimes deemed riskier because you have to definitely eliminate elements and narrow down a message to very few key ideas. Still, as online attention spans continue to shrink, video productions should definitely be shorter as a duration target for optimal engagement.
Answer this question: How long do you need to get the point of your video across?
• The Approval Factor
Who exactly has to be involved in the approval process for your video? What is their specific involvement… and do they have any biases or input that should be communicated beforehand?
These questions become more important in larger organizations and projects, but regardless of business size, if you don’t circulate storyboard ideas and schedules to the people involved in approving the project, you’ll be up “out of luck creek” sans paddle when you’re told you have left something out. These people may even be in a position to tell you that the material was not represented in the way they would have liked; just give the storyboard and other elements their due diligence.
Answer this question: Who needs to approve your video and where do they get inserted into the process?
• Pre-Production Meetings
While the scope and size of your project will ultimately determine how many meetings and how many representatives of the company will be involved in the video production process, conducting multiple pre-production meetings is one of the most important elements on this checklist. Why? This process has proven invaluable in uncovering stories and reference that no one else would have known about or would have even considered.
Ask yourself this question: “Whose input and/or perspective would really be of great value in the planning process?”
If you take into consideration all of the above recommendations and take the time to properly plan, you will be rewarded with a much higher likelihood of success when creating your next video production.
Got anything to add? Let me know in the comments.