Video Pre-Production: It’s All in the Details

Video Creative Director
Published 2/10/17
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This blog post is a collaborative effort of the Miles Video Team of Emilie DeLong, Brianne Zulauf, Angela Massruha, Dustin Williams and Candyce Beatty

Recently, during a rogue “cold snap” here on the Gulf Coast, we were talking about our favorite cold weather indulgences. Among some common fan favorites (hot chocolate! cozy sweaters!), one of us mentioned a recent adventure making Beouf Bourguignon; a rich French stew and proverbial marathon of cooking with umpteen ingredients and preparation styles that would consume the better part of a Sunday afternoon. It occurred to us, while neatly slicing the mushrooms, that video pre-production is a heck of a lot like cooking. Stay with us here.

Much in the same way that the details of preparing the meal are essential to the end product, preparing for a shoot operates much in the same fashion. The finesse taken to extract the desired flavors out of your ingredients is the same attention to detail that’s required in planning: burning the pearl onions will ruin your stew, just like forgetting to obtain a permit may ruin your shoot! Ok, enough cooking metaphors, here’s the video team’s recipe for perfectly planning a video shoot.

Planning Your Meal – Never Overlook the Importance of Time

Julia Child once famously said in preparing Beouf Bourguignon, “don’t crowd the mushrooms!” One could say she may have also been talking about video pre-production as well. Give yourself enough room (time) to plan your shoot. Ninety percent of the problems experienced on set could be avoided with better planning, and better planning requires time. As you’ll see in the points made below, there are weeks, if not months, of work that go into planning a shoot. 

Choosing Your ingredients – Initial Planning & Content Development

Similar to how a chef would create a meal around tastes or available ingredients (to serve with crusty baguette or egg noodles?), initial planning is all about figuring out what we’re creating and how we’re going to do it. 

  • The Creative Director works with the client and internal team to establish the style, direction and end goals of the video — which includes creating a distribution strategy.
  • A videographer and editor are selected and brought in to discuss ideas.
  • Shoot locations are established, researched and scouted (when possible).
  • Headshots and reels are reviewed; talent is selected. 
  • Branding and graphic treatments are planned.
  • Music is reviewed and selected.
  • The team plans the on-location shoot, observing any potential challenges or additional considerations to ensure a smooth day on set.

Prepping Your Ingredients – The Details

You don’t throw a whole, unpeeled carrot into your stew, and you don’t show up on set without planning the details of what you’re shooting. After the initial ideas are developed, we dive into the details. The details are what will make or break your shoot. We peel and dice the carrot! 

  • Content creation is not just for videos with scripts. Whether the video is music-only, voiced over or has on-camera speaking, the Creative Director and production team will research and develop a content strategy that drives any script or talking points creation. The strategy will also help the videographer develop a shot list to plan the visual approach. 
  • The shot list influences the amount of time needed at each location, time of day a location will be shot, equipment, any special permissions and much more. For instance, to tell the story in an engaging way, we may want to capture the sunset from a beachside restaurant. That’s a fantastic idea! This translates into: A) making sure we have the right equipment/lighting that will work within the location; B) making sure the location is planned for end of day, with enough time remaining before sundown to properly capture the shot (while taking into consideration the restaurant’s busy time and working around any of their requests); and C) having a backup plan in case of bad weather! 
  • Any props or specific set design needs are addressed at this time and planned for accordingly.
  • Wardrobe options are collected and approved by the client. 
  • The videographer may also suggest additional equipment that may needed, such as a light kit to properly light a location.

Sautee, Boil, Simmer - Scheduling & Logistics

You can see it now: well into the action of cooking, pots n’ pans everywhere! The shear mental gymnastics involved in this part of production is not for the faint of heart. 

  • The Production Supervisor/Manager builds a physical schedule to plan what will be captured during each day of filming and collects all of the information that will keep the team organized while on set — from travel itineraries to addresses and contact information for all of the locations to be filmed.
  • Travel, accommodations and vehicles are booked. For shoots with travel in-between shoot days (such as a road trip video), this can be an incredibly complicated part of planning. Think about any vacation you’ve planned; now plan it for five people, all leaving out of different airports, for eight shoot days that include four different hotels. Head spinning yet? 
  • Locations are plotted on a map to determine driving distances. Locations are individually contacted to obtain permission, confirm timing and establish key contacts. Any permits and insurance riders are requested and obtained. 

Dinner is served! – The Main Event: Time to Shoot! 

So, a shoot isn’t quite as relaxing as enjoying a bowl of luxuriously rich Beouf Bourguignon, but since we’ve done all of this planning and preparation, we’re probably going to have a pretty enjoyable shoot experience. 

But, just as sometimes things in the kitchen don’t always go exactly as planned, even the most perfectly planned shoots can still have a number of different challenges that pop-up: weather, flat tires, lost luggage and equipment failure are just a few of the “surprises” that can happen on set. But, if we’re well-prepared ahead of time, and minimize the number of variables or questions to be answered on set, being on location is, well, pretty awesome. 

Seriously, it’s delicious, we can’t lie. Who’s hungry?