Prep in Your Step: Five Factors to Plan Ahead for in Video Production

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It’s 2560 B.C., just on the outer fringes of swingin’ Cairo, Egypt. A time where scarabs are the  bug, Anubis was causing a ruckus from the underworld, and good ole venerable Djedefra was ruling the proverbial roost as pharaoh (if you don’t know Djedefra, that’s fair...o).

Now, Djedefra and his main posse are thinking about building them some monuments, so they assemble for an office meeting, Ancient Egyptian-style (perhaps in an oasis of some kind?) However, Djedefra’s feeling a little hungry and wants to go eat some Ra-men noodles (you’re welcome), and decides the monuments don’t need any planning. “Just slap some Amun-y together and Set up whatever you want” -- that’s two Egyptian god puns in one sentence. So, instead of three pyramids and a Sphinx, zero coordination or preparedness is conducted, and we have a monuments of a Nile crocodile in a top hat, a Cairo version of the Hollywood sign, a version of the Washington Monument dedicated to papyrus, and an obese tabby cat instead of a Sphinx. This, my friends, is the price of not preparing for one’s task.

The hypothetical historical hysteria adequately represents the veritable video void that would result if we at Trove failed to prepare for one of our shoots. Thankfully, per the words of our esteemed and magnanimous leader Benjamin Wade, “planning ahead is eighty percent of the project, execution is twenty.” So, we’ve decided to center this week’s blog on preparedness in video production, and five factors that are absolutely necessary to prepare for in order to have a smooth, copacetic, all-around efficient shoot; equipment, space, personnel, script, and scheduling.

Don’t Be A Tool-- Have the Tools

So you have an interview scheduled to shoot. Speaking hypothetically, you’re interviewing a Publix employee about how Publix’s “Strawberry and Oats” is better than “Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries” (complete and utter blasphemy), and that’s all you know. You set up a stool, organize lights around it, set up your green screen, bam, you’re done. Preparation complete. However, this (clearly insane) Publix employee arrives, and you come to find out that you actually had quite a few requirements -- they actually wanted a white canvas background instead of the green screen, a nice comfy chair (they have back problems) and, oh yeah, you’re actually going to be interviewing several people simultaneously, so make that six comfy chairs. That’s it -- you’ve effectively Hindenburged your shoot (oh the humanity!). Now you’re scrambling to find chairs, a background, rearrange the lights to accommodate a group. And all of this could have been prevented with some further inquiry and specificity.

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Space Oddity

Now what if you’re production is taking place elsewhere? Location scouting is essential. I don’t think Allied Forces just went “Alright, guys, we’ve decided we’re going to go ahead and hit the beach at Normandy. We’re thinking tomorrow by the way, don’t forget your bathing suits!” The invasion took months of planning, with factors such as phases of the moon, time of day, and the changing tides. Obviously, D-Day and video production don’t have as the same level of importance in the scope of world events, but if you’re a video production company, having adequate reconnaissance of your space is of extreme importance. You don’t want to assume you’re heading to a shoot in somebody’s house and find out you’re shooting in a backyard, or think you’re shooting in a massive warehouse only to find out you’re shooting in the janitor’s closet. Knowing the ins and outs of the space you’re in, how it’s lit -- that’s a literal “lit”, not the figurative colloquial “this place is so lit, brah” -- and even knowledge of the surrounding area are all essential.

It Takes Every Kind of People

Having noted factors tips one and two, what good are knowing the tools and the space for a job if you don’t have the right/enough personnel to brandish said tools or occupy said space? In every action movie where you see “let’s get a team together!” formula, do they just pick some random dudes or the cheapest dudes? Did Leonardo DiCaprio just walk down the street in “Inception” and tell four or five random people “Hey, I’m invading Cillian Murphy’s dreams, you busy?” Were the big cheeses of Middle Earth down with Frodo journeying to Mount Doom just with his three hobbit buddies? No way, one does not simply walk into Mordor with three hobbits, you get a badass dwarf, elf, wizard, ranger and knight to accompany them (pardon me for nerding out). It’s important to take serious deliberation and planning as to who you’re hiring, their credentials and qualifications, as well as how many and what types of people you actually need. Do you need drone work? Maybe you have a great videographer, but he doesn’t have great drone experience. Time to do some networking. Are you going to be changing scenery a lot and constantly moving equipment? You may need an extra PA or Grip. No need to pull a “Magnificent Seven” and be outgunned and outmanned by your project.

Two Wrongs? Don’t, Make a Write

“Are you talkin’ to me?” “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” “I’m walkin’ here!” These are just a few lines that, like a bolt of blessed lightning, came to actors in the heat of filming and were improvised, proving to live in cinematic legend for eternity. Having said that, improvisation is not something regularly encouraged in video production; a script is your friend. Obviously, commercial video production varies significantly from narrative feature filmmaking, but a script to derive some sense of organization from is always a plus regardless. If you’re doing an interview, familiarize the client, as well as yourself, with the questions. Sure, in some cases you may not want to make the client aware of the questions to arrive at a more honest and organic response. In that case, still make sure you’re aware of the questions so you can arrive fully aware of what the end goals of those questions might be and of the production’s actual content. If you arrive at an interview and see the question “According to the theory of anatomically spherical lupine syndrome, what are your thoughts on the existence of the rotund canine phantasmagoria?” You very well may have no idea what the hell you have just said, and may want to do some research prior. Even if you’re just filming with no audio but have voiceover to be dubbed in later, you should still be aware of the content of the voiceover to know exactly what you need in your shot.


Don’t Push Me Cuz’ I’m Close to the Sched’

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Garbage lead singer, Shirley Manson, (not a knock on her talents, the band is literally called "Garbage." Having said that, terrible music) once said “I just want to live life a little freely and not adhere to any schedule -- just make music and have fun.” Well, Ms. Manson, people in the video production industry would say that you’ve gone quite mad with power. A schedule is -- or, rather, should be -- the backbone of any production; without it, the organism that is video production would be a gelatinous, formless blob, not dissimilar from William Howard Taft (poor guy got stuck in a bathtub once, that is impressive). Sure, it’s a start to know where and what you’re shooting as well as who you’re shooting with, but if you don’t take the time to figure out an actual approach, what good is any of that? I don’t think Vince Lombardi turned to his team and said “Alright boys, go score some points!” and left it at that. That’s what the playbook is for. And in video production, we have a playbook of our own -- the call sheet. The call sheet is basically the instruction manual for the shoot, which on top of listing personnel, the weather, and locations, also has a very specific, in-depth schedule breaking down every aspect of the shoot for the day. It’s excellent to have a regimen like this so you can get focused, get the shot you need, and move along to the next shot smoothly instead of getting bogged down in one particular spot or distracted by something shiny. If you have something tangible to keep you focused, there’s a good chance that focus is achieved.

So there you have it folks, five factors that you absolutely need to plan ahead for prior to video production. A shoot may seem too titanic a task to undertake, but if you make proper preparation with those five aspects, it’ll go as smoothly as Barry White’s voice. And if you’re reading this and are saying “I don’t believe it,” then I respond in the words of a sagely, small, green creature: “That is why you fail.”

 

Thanks again for reading this week guys! If you dug what you read, check out the rest of the blogs on our website. And if you’re looking for a production that obeys all these rules and minds its Ps and Qs to help you get a project off the ground, Trove is definitely for you!