7 Steps To Video Production Success

Jon Foxley-Evans
Jon Foxley-Evans

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Even the most professional and experienced video production crews face problems on set. To be completely honest, a huge part of the role is problem solving, whether it’s lighting up a dark and dingy location, recording sound somewhere that’s noisy, or coaxing answers out of a nervous interviewee. Along with cool heads, every crew needs a bag full of kit that can get them out of the stickiest of situations.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/herval/

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/herval/

We’ve put together this guide to help you prepare for video production shoots and ensure you haven’t missed any of the vital steps that will make your shoot a roaring success.

1. Preparation is everything

So you’ve followed our 7 Simple Steps to Pre-Production and you have written a great concept, planned out your shots and found a great location. But remember, production can bring with it unforeseen circumstances and you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail”

Once you are out on set, a missing piece of kit could make or break the day. The most important part of preparation is ensuring all kit is sufficient and ready to go on the day of shooting. Kit prep should be done in the days running up to the shoot and should include tests of all the equipment to make sure it is working.

Ensure that:

  • All technical equipment is working (cameras, gimbals, lighting)
  • Batteries are charged
  • Cards are formatted
  • The camera settings are correct
  • The entire kit list is thoroughly checked
  • All equipment needed to capture each shot on the storyboard is present

Your equipment list might consist of obvious items, like a selection of lenses, right through to tiny pieces of kit that make all the difference on the day, such as sun hoods for the monitors, ND & UV filters, clamps and lens cloths.

Having all the tools you need will help you tackle unforeseen circumstances and rectify them quickly. Being able to improvise on set can make a huge difference to how a shoot goes.

Be sure to pack a comprehensive kit including grip, lighting gels and of course – every camera departments favourite – plenty of gaffer tape!

2. Camera settings

While the technical details of how you are going to achieve each shot from the storyboard should be planned during pre-production, things can change depending on the circumstances on set.

Adjusting your camera settings when capturing your content can help speed up post-production and make life for your editor much easier. Before you shoot, speak to the post-production department and editor to find out what format will best achieve the desired results in the shortest possible timescale.

Ensuring your footage is consistent from one location to the next – and also from one shot to the next – is vital. To achieve this consistency, it is important to take into consideration a few factors:

White balance

This should always be done manually and not using the auto function, which can produce inconsistent results – especially if you are moving through multiple spaces during the shoot. When arriving at each location, the white balance should be set accordingly for each shot so that the whites in the image come through as white. This image below shows how different light is measured to help you achieve the perfect white balance.

 

whitebalance

Exposure

Always make sure you are exposing your shots properly. This is one of the most important factors when shooting. If you are not exposing correctly, your images will not be as clean and clear as they could be. A good rule of thumb is to bring the exposure up until just before you start losing detail in your highlights. This gives you the greatest range of colour and detail in your image while keeping a clean look. However, the technique for gaining the perfect exposure varies from camera to camera.

Frame Rates (FPS)

The number of frames per second is something that can be changed during the shoot and can help to optimise the content you are capturing for certain uses. For some content, you will want to shoot at 25 FPS. This is the standard format in the UK and is the right choice for interviews and anything with sync audio. However, to create more dynamic content you choose a higher frame rate, depending on the camera you are using.

We shoot a lot on the Sony FS7 and you can push this as far 180 FPS, allowing us to capture fast paced sequences and play them back at just over seven times slower than reality.

This builds versatility into your footage and gives the editor freedom to choose how the footage is used in post-production.

Colour profile 

Shooting in a format that allows heavy colour correction in post-production can yield great cinematic visuals. However, this will increase the time required for post-productio and if the turnaround timescale for the project is short it may be worthwhile to shoot in a format that needs less time in post-production.

3. Choosing your depth of field

Depth of field determines what is in focus in your shot.

Let’s keep this as simple as possible! The depth of field setting dictates what will be in focus in your shot. It is altered by adjusting the camera’s aperture, also known as F-Stop and T-Stop.

There are two types of depth of field: narrow and wide.

With narrow depth of field, your shot has only one area that is in sharp focus and the rest of the picture is out of focus and not clear.

With wide depth of field, your image is in focus and sharp everywhere.

depthoffield

Photo credit: dealsoncameras on Pinterest

4. Lighting your shots

Lighting is essential and the decisions you make when lighting a shot can change how it looks completely. Few things will ruin your piece more than bad lighting, but different styles of lighting will work particularly well in different scenarios.

Most of our work is done in a documentary style, interviewing people on location. For this type of work we find that one of the best ways to approach the lighting is to look at how the location is naturally lit and, rather than fight with the sun as it pours through a window, we build up on this natural light and use it to our advantage.

For example, lighting an interview on location at a busy restaurant can be hard work as there are usually different temperatures of light throughout the space. The blue daylight from the windows mixes with the tungsten electric lighting, giving your footage an inconsistent tone. It is best to decide on the colour temperature of the light you want to work with and then turn off or block out the colour temperature that you don’t want. We always use LED panels that can be changed to either daylight or tungsten temperature to provide maximum flexibility on set.

Blackwrap will also be your best friend when you want to block out unwanted light.

The more control you can gain over the light the better. Controlling or cancelling out as much unwanted light as possible and using your own lights will help to create an evenly exposed, consistent light. This will maximise your time, allowing you to film without worrying about daylight fluctuations, which we all know can be unpredictable at the best of times.

The placement of your light is also extremely important: too much contrast or too little and your image may have connotations that you did not intend. Placing a light too far off to one side will introduce large amounts of contrast and a moody atmosphere to the shot, while placing the light face-on to the subject will create a washed out shot and put the subject in an uncomfortable position.

5. Making your subject feel at ease

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Conducting a successful interview is all about the quality of the sound bites you get from your interviewee. You have to ensure your subject is comfortable and relaxed to ensure a natural and confident delivery. Be sure to tell them what you’re looking for and share information about the project, but remember that your highest priority is to connect with them and to make them feel comfortable.

Be sure to explain why you are capturing this information so they have a clear understanding of where you’re coming from. This will help them to deliver clear answers to your questions.

6. Delegate

Divide up the workload and don’t try to do it all yourself! Having dedicated members of the team focused on single tasks always makes for a smooth shoot. For example, you might have:

  • A director or interviewer who can focus on getting the best out of the talent and ensure all of the planned shots are captured.
  • A camera operator who can focus on getting the lighting right to produce the best possible shots.
  • A sound recordist who can focus on capturing clean and crisp audio without the distraction of other tasks.

This approach helps keep all crew members focussed and motivated, and can eliminate errors that can occur when people have too many responsibilities.

Depending on budget, having as many crew members as possible will help keep your shoot day on track. Assistants and runners are a great aid on shoots, and they can take care of some of the less important tasks so that higher paid staff can focus on delivering the best possible results.

7. Don’t burn out!

It may sound unimportant but a clear head on set makes for a much better finished product. Take breaks, discuss, reflect, and ensure that all the talent and crew are happy, well fed and watered. The production process can be tough at times, battling the various obstacles that stand between your team and the perfect take. Keeping morale high during this time will help your crew and talent perform at their best.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy it. Keep the mood positive, work as a team, and support each other, and shoots can be a whole heap of fun!

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