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How to Series: Pre-production Part 2

Pre-Production Part 2
If you have read the first post in this series, you will have an audience, an approach, a video format (how the video will be distributed), a story and budget in mind for your video. Pre-production Part 2 will detail a few methods and bits of advice on how to plan for the actual shoot. If you are hiring a producer and crew they will be asking for what is listed below, so let’s get started.

1. Gathering Assets.
Assets for video can be photographs, graphics such as logos and typography, specific locations, and finding the right people to interview. With your approach in mind its time for a few phone calls and some research.
  • Photographs: Look back at old brochures, advertising layouts and annual review documents. If you have a media or art department, check with them first. If you receive hard copy of photographs be sure to scan at minimum resolution of  300dpi and output as a .tiff file for best resolution and to use in your editing software or to forward onto your editor.
  • Graphics or logos: Who does the packaging for your product? Who designs your brochures or website? This is where you will find logos and typography you will need.  Asking for graphics for video is a lot simpler than for other mediums. Just be sure to ask for:
    • The highest resolution or dpi (dots per inch) Video maxes out at 72 dpi but you want more dpi to make the image bigger on screen without it blurring or breaking up.
    • Ask for the largest size possible. Keep in mind HD video is 1980 pixels x 1080 pixels, so if the image is 33 pixels x 25 pixels it will be a dot on the screen. If it’s 300 dpi and the image size is 500 x 500 pixels you will have room to wiggle but that’s still a pretty small image.
    • If you don’t have any graphic software like illustrator or Photoshop ask for either .tiff or .jpg files.  If you do have graphic software, ask for vector formats for all logos and typography. If you have never heard of a ‘vector file’ stay with a .tiff and .jpg. since these are formats most non-linear editing programs will import.
  • Phone interviews: Call people who you might interview. Ask the questions you would ask in the video. Did their answers bring up other ideas?  Do they help you tell your story? Pre-interviews are a great method for making sure you have the right people to tell your story or if the story and approach are going to work. (If you are hiring a writer, ask if he or she would want to participate)
  • Confirmed list of interviewees, dates available and how to contact: You will want to have this list ready before the shoot. You can schedule interview times, inform them what to wear for the shoot, where the location of the shoot is and a general of idea of how long the shoot will take. If this is an employee, it is best to disrupt their day as little as possible.
  • Existing Video: Do you have access to older videos that have been produced?  Not only could you include segments in the video but you could also get a sense of how your company communicated in the past, which, if working with a professional writer and designer might be helpful to review.
  • Existing Audio: Although rare, there may exist an interview of founding member or designer used for a radio program, news show or podcast.
  • Locations: Where can you shoot the interviews? Do you need to shoot the manufacturing process? Do you need permissions? What are the logistics, how would a crew park, load out a truck, find power or set up for the shoot.
  • Customer testimonials: Whether in letter form or as a voice message, a customer testimonial could also be part of your video depending on your approach.
2. Storyboarding: Storyboarding helps you visualize the look and flow of the video. It need not show camera movement or every detail of every moment of screen time, but should suggest the flow. Place photographs or graphics on the visual side. List possible interviews and locations also. Use edits from phone interviews as possible dialogue and start thinking about the beginning and the end.  Is the story driving a certain visual style? Did a statement in the phone interview need visualizing or capturing on video? Storyboarding not only helps you plan for your shoot, but also helps you communicate your idea to others who need to approve the video, or help you create it.
3. Location scouting for interviews: This is the most ignored part of the pre-production process yet it can cause the most disruption on the day of the shoot. I can’t tell you how many videos I have had to wrestle with trying to eliminate bird tweeting or ringing phones. Although the location may look spectacular it may be the noisiest place on the planet. And unless you want to clear everyone out for a few hours, its important to both look and listen to locations that you choose.

When asking for a location for interviews, ask for:

  • Very little furniture, but a large space for at least 2 to 3 people, camera and tripod and a few lights.
  • Quiet. No ringing phones, no elevators or loading docks nearby.
  • Windows are welcome, just don’t have that window face a busy street or be near the landscaper mowing the lawn (yep, it happened to me.).

For bigger productions that may use lighting and audio equipment, teleprompting or will be bringing in scenic pieces, be sure to ask for:

  • Separate power from office computers or everyday working space. If you are plugging in lighting, prompters, monitors and cameras, make sure you have enough power.
  • How far is the loading dock from the actual interview space. Can I bring equipment through the office?
  • Where can the crew break for lunch?  (Sounds trivial but to keep the production on schedule and to conform with union rules, having a lunch set up will save time).
 4. The shoot schedule:
 The shoot schedule is necessary to inform all parties (interviewees, client, location contacts and crew) of when and where shooting will be taking place. It also helps plan your shooting day and checking if realistically you can get all the shooting done in the time budgeted. Some general areas, when you will arrive, time unloading equipment, time setting up 1st location (lighting, etc) makeup for first interviewee, schedule interviewees at current location and also lunch break and end of day.  I’ve included a general Sample Shoot Schedule  so that you get a general idea of what to schedule.
5. Paperwork…always paperwork:
 During the shoot you will want someone taking notes and logging what is being shot. Usually it is reporting a current timecode and tape/card number,  followed by a description of the shot. I like to take notes of what people are saying, who is saying it, and when shooting B-roll or scripted parts, rate the shot takes. This will prove very helpful in post production. Here is a sample log template
You should have signed releases for everyone who shows up on camera. This is the best way to insure that you and your company can use someone’s likeness in the video. Even if the interviewee is an employee it is best to get a release. He may not be an employee forever. Check you legal department for a release form or start here for a sample.
With a storyboard or script in hand, locations scouted, interviews scheduled you are now ready for shooting your production. Keep checking in as I will continue with the post production process in a future article. Have a great shoot!

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