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4 Tips For Video Pre-Production Success



People often dismiss words that begin with “pre.” Sports fans rarely tune in to preseason games. Almost everyone has ignored a safety precaution or two in their life. Due to his early high school track times, no one expected Steve Prefontaine to set so many long-distance running records.

But those who dismiss video pre-production do so at their own pre-peril, as this process ultimately shapes your production’s cost, efficiency, and scope. To make sure you’re using your video pre-production time effectively, make sure to follow these four tips:

1. Craft Your Creative Treatment

At this point, you’ve already accomplished the first phase of video production: your video strategy (and if you haven’t, stop reading ahead of the class and go listen to our podcast about choosing the right strategic concept for your needs). Your strategic concept serves as a map that helps you make the right creative decisions.

A creative treatment is somewhat similar in that it will guide the decisions made during video pre-production. It also helps tell people new to the project what the video will look like and what the audience should think or feel after watching it.

That means the treatment needs to include basic aspects of the video like its length and format. It should also contain your artistic vision, and a concrete way to communicate that vision is with an inspiration board that lists other projects, commercials, and B2B videos that contain elements you’d like to incorporate into your own shoot.

If you work with a video agency, they may partner with you to either create their own treatment or provide detailed feedback on the one you’ve created. Production companies, on the other hand, will expect you to have crafted a creative treatment and written a script before they take over.

2. Hire the Right Crew

For most video shoots, you’ll need to start the pre-production phase by filling at least four roles:

  • A producer 
  • A director 
  • On-screen talent 
  • A screenwriter 

It can be tempting to fill these roles with people from your company. However, you should always aim to hire professionals with experience, as screenwriting and acting can differ greatly from copywriting or being the office cut-up.

After hiring the main crew, you’ll start to consider roles typically listed further down in the credits:

  • A director of photography to determine the right camera, lens, and lighting to use. 
  • A gaffer to move lighting rigs and ensure the scene is lit the way the DP wants. 
  • A camera operator to, well, operate the camera. 
  • An audio supervisor to record any sounds, such as the on-screen talents’ spoken lines, in high quality. 
  • A digital image technician to handle the physical media storing the recorded video and audio. 
  • A hair, makeup, and wardrobe supervisor to dress on-screen talent appropriately and help them look their best in the specific lighting conditions of the shoot. 
  • A script supervisor to provide feedback as to whether the words spoken match the script and whether wardrobe, makeup, and set decorations look the same on repeated takes.

Of course, not all video shoots need every one of these roles filled. The simpler the shoot, the fewer roles you may need.

If the budget is tight, there are also ways to combine these roles. For instance, you can hire one person to write and direct or have your gaffer and camera operator partner together to serve as DP.

3. Scout Your Location

Once the script is written, you’ll have a better idea of whether the shoot will be in a studio or on-location. You’ll then need to find, secure, and scout where you’ll be shooting to make sure it’s perfect for your needs.

If you plan on shooting on-location on Tuesday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you should scout the location the previous Tuesday at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. You want to see whether the location is available, how the sun will light the area, and, if you’re outside, whether weekly flight plans mean you’ll have to do with airplanes overhead.

Don’t take anything for granted. Even a place you’ve been a thousand times, like your office’s conference room, may end up having unexpectedly bad acoustics or impossible shadows that you’ve never noticed before.

Another component of location scouting is your budget. You may think you can save money by filming at the private residence of a friend or neighbor, but they may ask for (and rightfully deserve) compensation so they can hire professional cleaners or have someone watch their kids during the shoot.

4. Prepare a Professional Experience

Even if you have an impeccable script, hired the right people, and scouted your shooting locations, you can still end up creating an unprofessional experience by forgoing the little things. So, as you move through pre-production, make sure to consider these final touches:

  • A script read-through or full rehearsal creates space for talent, crew, and producers to provide feedback and fine-tune the script.  
  • During shooting, people will get hungry and thirsty. You don’t need a gourmet spread, but you do need to make sure the crew and on-screen talent have plenty of food and drink that meet any dietary restrictions.  
  • Most crewmembers and on-screen talent will expect a detailed call sheet. The call sheet includes a schedule for the day (including when to arrive and when they should expect to leave), set or location addresses (including where to park), the closest hospital, the weather forecast, and how to dress. While there’s no need to go all David Foster Wallace on this thing, it should include any information that ensures cast and crew arrive prepared.

More On the Video Pre-Production Phase 

The best way to control costs during the production phase of your video shoot is through an effective pre-production process. Without it, you run the risk of a disastrous production that costs you time and money.

For a deeper dive into the video pre-production process, make sure to listen to The Video Reformation Podcast, Ep. 9: The Pre-Production Phase.