Preproduction: So you don't have to fix it in post.
You’ve got an idea for a video, so now you just grab your camera and start filming, right? Not so fast! While it can be tempting to jump right in while you’re feeling inspired, you’ll get a far better product if you build a solid plan first. This planning piece of video production is called preproduction and it includes all of the choices you make prior to loading the production truck with gear.
Preproduction is the strategic oversight of all the moving parts of a production, so it requires role awareness among the team to make sure everything is accounted for. The producer, creative director, and client all have specific responsibilities during this phase. With all parties working together, you can ensure details and important story elements won’t be overlooked, saving you time and resources.
We break down preproduction into two simultaneous phases: creative strategy and logistics.
The creative strategy is a unique visual identity and voice created for your project. It ensures that your video accomplishes its established goals and reaches your curated audience. The creative strategy informs what will be needed in production and postproduction.
The first step of any project is defining the objectives, target audience, budget, and timeline. This information creates the foundation for your creative strategy and helps our video production team outline the scope of the project. With these variables defined, we can establish the boundaries of what’s possible. This is an essential piece of planning to situate the project for creative success.
Building out the visuals
Adding to the foundation, we look at our client’s brand for established visual or communication guidelines. We then develop a creative treatment that paints the picture for the look and feel of the final video.
We understand that if our clients do not have experience in video production, it can be difficult for them to visualize the different aspects we explain during this preproduction process. With tools such as mood boards, storyboards, and proof-of-concept videos, we help our clients see into our mind’s eye so everyone can move forward feeling confident about the project.
Important strategic pieces
During creative strategy development, we discuss how the final video will be distributed. This influences creative direction because certain creative approaches are better aligned with specific platforms.
This is also the time when we begin to write a script or outline, as the video requires. Considering who will be delivering the message, where the video will be shared, and the target audience, we carefully craft the video content to maximize impact. This is also the time to decide what you want the audience to do after watching your video—this is your call to action. For example, this could encourage the viewer to sign up now, join, support, donate, visit, and so on.
Productions have a lot of moving parts—therefore, well-managed logistics can make or break a project. We consider all the people, places, and things that are needed in production and create a detailed plan to ensure everyone is on the same page and to avoid any last-minute surprises.
Schedule and shot sheet
Working backward from the deadline, we articulate the project milestones for our clients to help manage expectations. These milestones may vary from project to project, but they typically include preproduction meetings, filming dates, review and revision periods, and the final delivery of files.
From there, we break down the script or outline and create a shot sheet. This shot sheet is our checklist of the footage we want to capture on location. Think of it like a shopping list: no one wants to get home and realize they’ve forgotten the main ingredient for tonight’s dinner.
While the shot sheet is being developed, we also need to establish filming locations during preproduction. These details are considered throughout creative strategy discussions, as logistics can impact creative storytelling. If we are not able to visit someone in their home, it is harder to give viewers a glimpse into their environment. A warm and touching story should not be told in a sterile conference room. Scouting is essential to ensure several factors: Does the space support the story in tone? Is there ample room to set up and still achieve enough depth of field? Is there a noise source we cannot control, like an elevator or bathroom? All of these questions are essential during the scouting process.
When we said no surprises, we truly meant no surprises. Every detail needs to be accounted for, including food. It can be easy to overlook, especially when you’re trying to build out the most efficient shoot day, but one thing we know after many lunches on the road is that a fed team is a happy team. So in our planning, we also discuss lunch logistics including restaurants, timing, delivery or pickup, and backup plans if needed.
Finally, we develop a call sheet and distribute it to everyone involved. This includes the schedule for the day, addresses and phone numbers for the involved people, wardrobe notes, and links to anything important (like the lunch menu!).
Preproduction is a lot of work. But in an ideal situation, you’d spend more time in preproduction than any other phase of the project and, we assure you, the time is well spent. Once you’re out in the field, you simply do not have the time to acquire any forgotten people, props, or locations. And once you begin editing, the only way to acquire more footage is to schedule an additional shoot day—all mistakes that will cost you immensely. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” Our client’s success is always our main goal, so we put a great emphasis on preproduction in all of our projects.