7 Simple Steps To Video Pre-Production

Rick Frier - Founder & Creative Director
Rick Frier - Founder & Creative Director

Rick is the Creative Director & Founder at Fresh Cut. A Film-Maker & entrepreneur who loves geeking out over new techniques, new tech & new trends. His Creative Direction traits include stylised production design, heaps of pastel colours and a tickle of lens flare.

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The Ultimate how to guide: plan and produce awesome videos in seven simple steps.

Week 1 – Master the Video Pre-Production Process

Here are my top tips to help you produce videos that pack some serious punch & make your brand stand out from the crowd! Whether you’re producing your video yourself or bringing in a professional crew there are seven key elements that you need to get right. In my opinion Pre-Production is the most important part of the video production process. Get this wrong and you’ll have inadequate footage and struggle to craft a quality edit. Get this right and you’ll have all of the elements to craft a really engaging film that works wonders for your brand online!

Step 1) Create a Killer Concept

Viral Video Marketing Campaign

A killer concept will ensure you stand out from the crowd and if you hit the nail on the head, it could even go viral. Photo Credit ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ for Old Spice by Wieden & Kennedy.

Video production is a seriously effective online marketing tool: the figures on engagement compared to text and pictures are staggering! Big brands are well aware of this and subsequently social media channels, email marketing and websites are becoming overcrowded with video content.

The key to any effective video, that really stands out from the crowd and gets noticed, hinges on the quality of the idea. High production values add to the final product but ultimately without a strong idea your videos likely to go unnoticed. Like any good marketing strategy you need to consider your audience, the key messages and what you want your audience to do next.

Where is your final video going to be shown? What is working well for other brands and businesses in terms of  concepts, and duration? We regularly review some of the most successful video marketing campaigns, – check them out, they might give you some inspiration!

Think outside of the box, a CEO sitting in a chair talking about your brand isn’t going to capture many people’s imagination on social media. Think about how you can deliver your message in a unique and engaging way. We pride ourselves on telling stories visually in the most creative ways imaginable using a combination of colour, live action, illustration and animation. It’s important that you don’t just replicate your competitors – do something completely different!

Step 2) Write your script

Photo Credit Brian Stetson (Image Link)

Get yourself comfortable. Writing a script shouldn’t be something you do at the end of a busy day, it requires thought, focus and peace and quiet. Photo Credit Brian Stetson 

The second step for us and a key element for any effective video is a well written script. It needs to include relevant information that the viewer will find valuable. As people’s lives get busier, their attention spans get shorter, so it’s vital that this is delivered in a short and snappy format. Forget about sales messages. Find a subject that your audience is interested in: something of value, educate them and entertain them! Consider who would be the best person to present this information – whether it’s a presenter talking on screen to the camera, an off-camera interview or text of screen. Write a full script or bullet point key messages to ensure you capture everything you’ll need on the day of filming. From a young age we’ve all engaged with stories. Tell people’s personal stories and illustrate key messages in unique and interesting ways and you’re on to a winner!

Step 3) Find the Right Location

Video Pre Production Tips

Remember that background noise can be an issue on set! Photo Credit Jonathan Kos-Read

If you plan to film out on location you’ll need to get permission from the local council, landlord or landowner. Also consider where your crew and talent is going to wait or warm up between shots, where they’re going to charge batteries and keep the kit secure.

If you’re filming internally beware of background noise. This can be a major issue if constant doors are opening and closing, phones are ringing and people are talking. If this is your only option is best to make sure everyone is aware well in advance of the shoot. If in doubt do a recce, run a test and solve any issues prior to the filming date to help things run smoothly on the big day. Remember to always sign a location agreement so that you have permission in writing to feature the location in your film.

If you consider all the potential mishaps and interruptions you’ll have shooting out on location often you’ll get  much more effective results using a studio. Of course this depends on your concept but you’ll effectively make the day run much smoother for your talent and crew, especially if you have a lot of material to get through. Less interruptions, more flexibility and more privacy are all great benefits in video production. It will help get through the shots faster & make the experience more relaxing for the people appearing on camera, especially if they’re not professional actors.

From experience I find that you can get twice as much done in a day in a studio than you can out on location so really you’re saving money in the long run if you have multiple videos to get through in a day.

Step 4) The Three S’s

Video Pre-Production Top tips

Storyboards are an essential ingredient to help ensure that you consider the key shots you’ll require on location. If you can’t draw – find someone who can! Photo Credit: Fresh Cut ‘Zaap Restaurant Video Project’ 

Storyboards, Shotlists, and Schedules. These are often time consuming elements to the Pre-Production process but they’re worth every second, and will help make your shoot run smoothly. We tend to start with the storyboards. We visualise and discuss the shots as a team, trying to think of the most creative ways imaginable to bring the script to life and help capture the audience’s imagination. We follow this up with the shotlist and our primary goal here is to arrange the shots into an order that will keep setups to a minimum. Every time we have to move the location of the camera, (this might be five meters or five miles) requires a new set-up. When the setup is moved the crew have to reset all the lighting, audio kit and cameras. It’s best practice to film your project in a logical way that will keep setups to a minimum.

Once you know what you are shooting and in which order you’re doing it in, you can easily draw up your shooting schedule which outlines key team members arrival times, set-up times, shooting times, breaks and wrap times. Depending on the size of your shoot you may also require a Call Sheet to ensure that it’s clear to crew and cast members when and where you require them to be at certain times.

Step 5) Casting the talent

Video Pre Production Tips

It’s important that you pick people to appear in your film that your target audience can relate to. Phot Credit: Fresh Cut ‘Presenter Reel’ 

Whether you’re concept requires presenters, voice over artists, actors or spokespeople from your brand there are a few things worth considering.

Pick a presenter that your target audience can relate to, often a recognisable face is a nice to have but not an essential. There are plenty of casting websites out there if you’d like to do it yourself and save a few quid.

Otherwise agencies are worth their weight in gold, they’ll help you find the right person, who’s tried and tested and you can set the budget so it doesn’t have to be a large cost. If you plan to use spokespeople from your brand or the public you should consider how confident they’ll be on camera. The easiest way to figure this out is a simple test shoot.

If it’s vital to use a particular person on camera  and they’re not very confident you could try an off-camera interview. It oftens helps to talk to someone rather than the daunting task of delivering lines directly to camera. Autocues work well if there’s a script that needs to be followed. Best thing is they don’t cost a fortune, we only charge £100 a day for an Autocue system.

Remember to always get any people that feature in your film to sign a release form so that you have it in writing that they grant you permission for them to feature in your film.

Step 6) Choose the right kit

Video Production company

Having the right kit and knowing how to use it increase your production values phenomenally! Photo Credit Fresh Cut crew out on location with the Freefly Movi and Sony FS7.

There are so many camera options out there these days but it really comes down to two things: your requirements and your budget. HD is expected these days, even for web and if you don’t meet these standards with your picture and audio quality it reflects badly on your brand. If you’re just shooting simple interviews at 25 frames per second then DSLRs are still acceptable and cheaply available but if you go down this route, to capture crisp audio I’d highly recommend an external audio recorder and directional microphone.

However if you’re looking for something a little more professional with XLR audio inputs, variable frame rates, plenty of dynamic range and serious colour-grading flexibility then you’d be better off using something like the Sony FS7. These are our workhorses, awesome cameras which give incredible, sharp and detailed results helping us capture the imagination of our viewers with stunning cinematic visuals, however you really understand your kit and master your art before considering a professional camera. If you have any budget: crew is they key thing to spend it on.

Step 7) Prepare for the worst

Photo Credit Tobias Lindman

When you’re out filming on location, in the middle of nowhere, in England… you might need a plan B?! Photo Credit Tobias Lindman.

Video Production is always an organic and constantly evolving process and you need to prepared for the worse case scenario and be ready to think on your feet. I’ve been on well over a thousand shoots over the last fifteen years and I’ve certainly encountered my fair share of problems out on location.

These range from torrential rain in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales ten miles from the closest shelter, right through to major technical issues thousands of miles from home in the middle of a South African nature reserve. Technology fails, especially when you get the latest kit the day it’s released.

I recommend always taking as much backup kit as the budget will allow. Personally, I always like to have a backup camera in my bag. Take waterproofs for yourself and the kit, have contingency plans if things over run or if your talent turns up late. I’d recommend transferring, backing up and reviewing your footage on location to ensure you have everything you need before you call it a wrap.

I hope this blog post helps flag up some valuable points to consider during the Pre-Production stage of your Video Production. I’ll follow up with seven tips for Production and then again with seven more for Post-Production so keep your eyes peeled in the upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, you might like to check out  – 7 Tips For Creating A Kick Ass Marketing Strategy

Please get in touch if you have any further questions in regards to video production. Myself and my team will be more than happy to help with expertise, ideas and advice. You can call our London office on 02074128925 or our Leeds office on 01133451202.

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