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The Remote Video Production Survival Guide


Despite these seemingly never-ending “unprecedented times,” the show must go on. With a global pandemic forcing people apart, the ways we work together continue to evolve. Today, businesses around the world have adapted to Zoom meetings and Google hangouts, but webcam chats aren’t going to satisfy the video content needs of your marketing, sales, and customer success teams. Because being in the same physical space isn’t always an option, how can video creators pivot from shooting with crews on sets to producing content remotely?

Remote video production can be a challenge for everyone involved in the process, but after almost a year of lockdown, we’ve seen it can be done. Heck, we’re doing it ourselves. From budget to timeline to resources, most businesses are operating under similar constraints. But there’s still a high (perhaps higher than ever) demand for video content while creators are forced to produce remotely. After all, people are largely at home, free to consume video content at will and with the time to do so.

With the right tools, some serious creativity, and an extra dose of strategy, it is possible to create effective video for business in a WFH world.

The Strategy Phase

In order to produce video content for business remotely, you have to be efficient; thinking ahead about how to maximize time and resources is crucial. We always insist on starting with strategy, but for remote video production, it’s non-negotiable.

As you start to put together your remote video production strategy, ask yourself a few additional questions:

  • Is animation a viable option vs. shooting live-action?
  • Can I use existing, previously shot footage in a new way?
  • Do we have the resources to obtain high-quality stock footage?
  • What resources do I have in-house to help me produce? What resources require outsourcing?
  • How much time do we have?
  • If we must shoot live-action, how many people we can safely have on set? Will that be enough to achieve what we’re hoping to achieve?
  • If shooting live-action, can we maximize the shoot to capture footage for multiple projects?
  • Generally, how can I get the most out of this project?

Whether you decide to jump into animated video for the first time, hire a streamlined crew to shoot live-action, or lean on DIY selfie-style case studies, remote video production provides parameters that force us to get more creative. And that’s what makes it exciting.

The Pre-Production Phase

After you have your remote video production strategy in place, you may find it helpful to lean on a few tools in the pre-production phase. Your ability to collaborate will be the sink-or-swim of your remote game plan.

If you’re working on a script, meeting together to brainstorm and talk it through isn’t going to happen. Instead, get used to sharing your screen and hosting a call at the same time. Keep notes and outlines organized, and if writing a script, work out of the same shared document (we often use Google Docs with the Screenplay Formatter plugin).

But to organize the entire production, we recommend Studio Binder. This software helps with pre-production details like script formatting, developing character bios, listing props, and can even schedule shoot days through specific lines and scenes. It’s one of many great tools to utilize if your team needs everything in one place.

The Production Phase

There are a couple of different ways to approach the production phase during COVID. You can have a shoot with COVID safe protocols in place, or you can take the truly remote approach. If you’re leaning towards the latter, don’t panic; with the right planning and tools, a fully remote production can be just as high-quality on a much tighter budget.

Take advantage of technology to get the most out of your remote production. If someone doesn’t absolutely need to be on set, don’t bring them on set; basic lighting, audio, and a camera or two can be handled by a single director of photography if need be. Set up a private live stream using a laptop and a high-quality external webcam to allow the rest of the crew (and if applicable, your client) the opportunity to provide feedback in real-time.

Consider the details that will elevate a simple production into a video that looks more curated. Carefully choose backdrops, creating depth to enhance detail. Even if shooting in a selfie-style, be sure that the subject is styled appropriately and use creative editing techniques to jazz up the piece. In today’s world, the use of a webcam or an iPhone is not abnormal — even in Vogue; if such a style is still addressing your goals and speaking to your audience, go for it.

The Post-Production Phase

If you’re working remotely, you can’t spend hours on end looking over your editors’ shoulders and bossing them around. To collaborate during post-production, we like to use frame.io. This software lets you add written or drawn notes on any frame. It might not be as efficient as walking four desks down to berate your editor for what was a weak first pass at color correction, but it more than gets the job done. Alternatively, for shorter projects or to address a handful of specific notes, livestream your editing process and collaborate in real-time. This also enables you to mock your editor for wearing the same shirt three days in a row. (Side question: why are we so cruel to our editors?).

After post-production, the distribution, promotion, and analysis phases are essentially the same as they would be with any other project. Finally, something that’s — you know — precedented.

Last But Not Least

We’ll leave you with a more comprehensive index of tools we’ve found success using for some of our remote video productions. And no, none of these companies are sponsoring us (…at least, not yet).