If you’ve been following our blogs here on Multiverse Media Group’s website, you will know by now that we’ve written a nearly infinite amount of tips regarding how to produce projects, getting your feet wet in video production and more, all with a successful outcome in mind.
We have made concerted efforts to educate readers about issues of budget and schedule, and now as we enter a new month, we’d like to tackle providing some tips that will make your productions go more smoothly, finish on time and not become a disaster during the post-production phase. Though we’ve framed the discussion around video production in general, the same tips can apply to commercials, corporate presentations, videos for the web and even music videos.
1. Make a Plan
You have a great idea and you’re ready to shoot…but are you really? Pre-production is dreaded by many in the video production industry for a number of reasons; some consider it tedious, non-creative work while others simply can’t find the time to deal with it. However, upon closer look, you may find that pre-production can not only save you time and money, it can also enhance the creative process. It’s all about having a plan.
Pre-production is your opportunity to plan out your entire project. Though many productions’ focus can differ greatly – from capturing a live event to the telling of a fairy tale – the way in which to best prepare for a production doesn’t differ all that much. You always want to start thinking about a plan by asking yourself the same three questions:
- What story or message do I want to tell the audience?
- What style and techniques do I want to use to tell the story?
- How will the audience view the production?
You may have noticed that we used the word “story” a few times above – that’s because it’s a lot less expensive to work out the “story” or message of your production on paper than it is once you’re in front of the lens.
Boasting a powerful idea of what you want your finished piece to look like before you shoot will help you relate that vibe to everyone involved in the process; it will assist them with staying focused on your goal, using several ways to accomplish this including outlines, treatments and scripts.
2. A Controlled Environment is a Wonderful Thing: Shoot in a Professional Video Production Studio When Applicable
Why is shooting in a “controlled environment” preferable? Let’s say, for example, a client wants an outdoors shot of their corporate office building. It’s imperative, for a successful production, that all background actors are there to make the shot active and real…there should be businessmen and women, as well as regular patrons, walking by, and there should also be a hired actor or two to use the client’s products as he/she walks into the building. In fact, nice cars can also pass the building in the shot; these are just a few of the many details that are coordinated to maintain that control.
It’s important to work in a controlled environment where factors and elements aren’t based on luck – in other words, taking our example above, you don’t have to worry about no people outside the building walking by, nor do you have to hope that a nice car drives by for your shot. Everything should be planned and placed, and while this costs a little more, it definitely secures a successful shot.
3. Capture On-Set Audio Properly
Getting better production audio is easier than you think. In the worlds of low-budget and independent filmmaking, audio is the bane of every production maestro and his/her team of assistants. It’s often the one element most filmmakers have the least amount of experience with, but with also the least amount of time to deal with properly. If you are looking for the best possible audio on your set, you must first understand that it’s as important as getting a good image.
Always get the microphones as close as humanly possible to the mouth of the speaker, work on the problem areas for the space you’re in, always “boom away” from windows and other sources of noise pollution when possible, unplug any unnecessary devices that could cause audio background issues such as refrigerators, develop a strategy for operating the boom mic and whenever recording anything without a mixer record the levels as high as possible without clipping. Also important to note is that ADR should only be used when necessary, and not for the whole production.
4. Pay Attention to Scene Details for Continuity
Viewers expect continuity – if they note a radical change in a sequence that is supposed to be depicting the same action, they can become confused and distracted. If a character, for example, has been out in a rainstorm but walks into a house completely dry in the very next scene, you have a serious continuity issue. The cuts in editing are meant to keep the story flowing and the action seeming continuous.
The best way to assure continuity as a video editor or producer is to pay attention to the details: Sometimes an error will be spotted on the screen as compared to during shooting because it’s easy to overlook these differences when someone is concentrating on the action, as well as other things that occur during production. We can tell you it’s not one of the most glamorous or creative parts of the editing process, but attention to continuity is still crucial in delivering the best product to an audience.
5. Keep a Detailed Shot Log with Comments
Keep a shot log while shooting on location, as it will prove to be an invaluable resource since you can always forget the shot locations, problems, noted bumps/wobbles, bad takes, reminders and more. Be diligent about this, because having a shot log will make your importing process – and the entire post-production fiasco – much smoother.
6. Plan Shoot Time to Include Plenty of B-Roll and Cutaways
In our experience, having plenty of B-roll – the extra footage captured to enrich the story you’re telling and provide greater flexibility when editing – makes a video more powerful. Instead of featuring only “talking heads” on video, you will want to have other images you can cut away to that add dimension to your tale. B-roll can include additional video footage, still photographs, animation or other graphic elements.
Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding B-roll both during your shoot and when planning post-production duties:
Evenly divide filming between recording interviews and capturing B-roll, depending on the type of video you are creating, of course.
Start by identifying the must-have footage and inserting that into your filming schedule, because the times for capturing B-roll are often fixed (a certain activity only occurs at a certain time).
Fill in the rest of the schedule with interviews and nice-to-have B-roll elements; if you have limited time and discover that you need to sacrifice either a must-have piece of B-roll or a nice-to-have interview, we often recommend sacrificing the interview. Why? Well, the value of B-roll cannot be underestimated – not only because it can strengthen the impact of your current video project but because it can also serve as primary footage for additional video assets created down the line.
7. Ensure to Leave Extra Time Before and After Each Take
Let’s say you have a shooting project that takes you to a seaside restaurant where you’re supposed to interview someone inside. It would actually be a good idea to shoot some of the beach just outside the restaurant because during the editing process you might – just might – need a couple seconds of fill or a visual for a voice-over intro…or, who knows what else.
Seasoned video production professionals always protect themselves by way of color, cutaways, cover shots and more – all this extra footage is specifically recorded to eradicate errors or fulfill editing requirements that are, in the moment, not readily apparent.
This is precisely why video professionals make sure to get more footage than they need – take, for example, the interview in the restaurant scenario we mentioned: What was a 10-minute interview could turn out to be a 10-second spot on the evening news. The rest of the footage may be protection taped to give a producer the widest possible latitude in assembling the interview.
8. Shoot Long…but Edit Short
Vladimir Nabokov once said, “You must kill your darlings…” But what he actually meant was you must often delete the passages you’re most proud of from your work. Likewise, in the subject of video editor and video production tips at hand, if your production feels twice as long as its running time, you may, unfortunately, just need to file it under “a bad video.”
On the other hand, if it runs 15 minutes and could very well do its thing in 12, review it for meaningful material that you just couldn’t bear to part with: That jaw-dropping sunset, that dramatic run all the way down the ski slope, that moving shot that took all day to record.
We’re going to be utterly truthful with you here: Nobody – and we mean nobody – is as interested in your production as you are…even if you consider it your best work. It’s an unfortunate reality that plagues every person involved in the creative arts, whether they be writers, painters, sculptors, chefs or videographers/filmmakers.
We all want everyone to love and be awe-struck by what we produce every single time without question…but it just doesn’t happen. So whatever you consider to be your masterpiece, even in the video realm, if something doesn’t move things along, just consider the possibility that it simply doesn’t belong there…and don’t beat yourself up for it.
Like producer Philip Henslowe once said about his adorned Shakespeare in Love, every production is inevitably afflicted with disasters it cannot possibly survive…yet somehow, someway, everything works out in the end. And it’s true: In the world of video, just as in life, some things don’t change in 400 years.
Do you have any questions or video disaster tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.