Your Pre-Production Checklist and Why It’s Important
“Be prepared.” It’s more than just a Boy Scout motto. It’s also a helpful reminder to have multiple items outlined in detail well in advance of any video production shoot. One of the primary ways to plan ahead is to complete a pre-production checklist. This checklist serves as a guide for the film shoot and is a crucial aspect of the overall production process.
Ultimately, having a clear vision and intent will help guide the specifics of your pre-production checklist. In addition to basic preparation, another benefit of creating a pre-production checklist is that it will help you hone in on exactly what you want to create and it will save you time during your video shoot. It will also provide a realistic framework for achieving your video production goals, as well as serve as a valuable tool for the video production company to communicate with their production crew. If you opt to work with a video production company (Tailor Made Media would be a wise choice) to produce your video content, we can assist with any or all of the following pre-production steps.
Get Clear on your Video Production Vision
Underscoring any pre-production checklist should be your overall vision. It’s helpful to consult other projects, not for the purpose of imitation, but for inspiration. What do you like about these other videos? What’s the overall vibe? There may be a particular style of shooting you want to emulate or an overall mood being captured. You may also want to include animation, voiceover, or some green screen effect. Do you want it to look more like a documentary or a commercial? Understanding all of the film tools at your disposal gives you options. Each piece of the video production should feed your overall goal, so keep that in mind as you complete your pre-production checklist.
Branding and Design
Your overall vision should always reflect the branding of your product, organization, or company. The details of your brand will likely include your logo, text/font, color-scheme, and overall tone. These unique aspects of your brand will help make stylistic decisions for the video production, including the use of titles, headers, footers, logo, or what type of music to include. There may also be a motto for your company that you’ll want to share on screen.
Understanding the details of your brand also allows for consistency throughout the film production. Keeping brand in mind while completing your pre-production checklist will produce a level of consistency between all of the moving parts of the overall project. Without awareness of branding and subsequent design, the project may present as out of sync, with each scene feeling detached from all others. Including all of the elements of your branding will result in a much more complete final product that strengthens the message you’re trying to deliver. Your pre-production checklist is now shaping up, nicely!
Budget for Video Production
Let’s just rip the bandaid off on this one. You need to have a realistic sense of your budget. Part of developing a realistic sense of budget is not only calculating what your company can swing financially, but also understanding the video production process itself and all it entails. If you want to hire a lone videographer to shoot something on an i-phone for fifty bucks, go for it. However, the quality will certainly suffer and you will not get a decent return on your investment. That’s what a high-quality video is: an investment.
There are other logistics to consider when determining your budget. For one, each time the crew needs to change locations, they need to break down equipment, transport it, and set it up again. This means more time, which means more money. Keep this in mind. You also want to account for editing time and other post-production work. Finally, as you complete the pre-production checklist, you should reference your budget and adjust accordingly.
Every video production demands some sort of script that dictates what’s being shot in the frame. Otherwise, you’ll be shooting blind. In addition to what’s seen, a script can include voiceover, spots for music, and set pieces. You don’t want to show up to set and realize you’ve forgotten the thing that the actor was supposed to be holding during the scene.
You will also want to create a shot-list that details the exact sequence of shots. These shots will inform what equipment you’ll need, including lenses, cameras, drones, as well as set pieces. You can then create a shooting schedule based on these decisions. As you can see, much of the pre-production checklist is interconnected- as one item changes, others are likely to be affected. Being aware of this can save you a lot of hassle.
Storyboards help to visually tell your story. If you’re just conducting interviews and shooting B-roll, you probably don’t need them. However, if you’re aiming for a fictional narrative with multiple characters interacting within multiple settings, storyboards can be extremely useful. Storyboards can take some of the guesswork out on production days, as they serve to provide a visual blueprint for shots. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to accurately depict the flow of the story. Working these ideas out in advance will take the guesswork out on production day.
To get started right away, you can download our simple storyboard templates HERE.
Good Shooting Locations
Identifying the locations of your video production shoot is also a key element of your pre-production checklist. As stated earlier, the number of locations can impact the budget, so settings should be chosen carefully. Once you have the locations selected, you can plan what to shoot at each location.
Choose locations that will reflect what your video is all about. Don’t select any more locations than you need to. Consolidating interview subjects to the same location will save some time and be more budget-friendly. You can also be creative in one location by altering shots, lights, and angles. This provides some variety to the shoot without having to pack up and move all the equipment. Another location consideration is ambient noise from the environment. You may want to shoot an interview at a popular outdoor park, but this will mean contending with noise, so keep sound in mind as well when choosing locations.
Depending on the type of video you’re shooting, you may need to consider the subjects being presented and whether or not you’ll need to hire any actors. If you’re a private school, you may select particular students and staff who can best represent your mission. If you’re a non-profit organization, you may want to show testimonials of clients you have served.
If you need to hire actors, search locally. You can also put an ad on Craigslist or share your acting role on social media and hope for a word-of-mouth contact. Regardless of who you want to include in the video production, you should be prepared to compensate people for their time in some way. This means trying to use as few subjects as possible to tell your story. It also requires noting any budgetary changes related to paying the talent.
Remember, you can’t have actors without clothes. Well, at least for the videos that we shoot. Anyways, wardrobe is important because it is a form of communication. When we shoot videos for The Shipley School, we try to have students wearing their Shipley sweatshirts and other gear. It would be a wasted opportunity, otherwise, especially when the videos often relate to their pride in the school. Consider what type of wardrobe will help bolster the story you want to tell. Other considerations might include: particular color schemes, matching the setting, conflict with green screen, and whether or not a particular outfit will be distracting.
Crew and Specialists
The bigger the shoot, the more necessary various roles will be. If you’ve ever seen the full credits of a blockbuster, you know that there is no shortage of behind-the-scenes positions. Some of these positions may include: producer, director, writer, director of photography, audio recordist, assistant camera operator, production assistant, hair and makeup, gaffer…the list could go on and on. These are crew members whose talent can certainly elevate the video production to another level. Once you know what you’re going for, you should be able to work with the video production team and determine which roles will be necessary to fill. If you’re on a shoestring budget, take care of the big roles first and then just cross your fingers.
You may be wondering, “How long does the pre-production process take?” Well, that really depends on the scope and details of the project. Whatever you end up deciding on, before attempting to shoot a video for your business, school, or organization, you should complete a pre-production checklist. Professional video production is an involved process, so a pre-production checklist will help to clearly define and illustrate the parameters of the video production shoot. Whether it’s determining your budget, writing a script, drawing storyboards, choosing locations, selecting talent, wardrobe, or the crew, each piece of the video production process is important.
We at Tailor Made Media can certainly help you put these items together, but we like our clients to understand the production process every step of the way, regardless. Understanding and completing a pre-production checklist means a smoother flow on set, quicker decisions, and less time spent. If only there was a video production merit badge for being this prepared.