Pre-production is the first of the three parts you need to consider when producing any type of professional video.
During this stage, you're organizing everything so that the production phase goes smoothly. Pre-production starts out with identifying the goals and objectives of your video. Your target audience needs to be identified and scrutinized. This is of key importance, as everything from here on out should be done with your specific audience in mind. Are they conservative business people, wild and crazy creative types, or soccer moms? The tone, the pace, the actors, style, language, music, length, and other aspects of the production must be geared to the temperament, attitudes and interests of your intended audience.
You also need to consider how much you are willing to spend on this program. If it's important and you plan to use this production to generate money for yourself or your company, you should expect to spend some money to do it right. Look at it as an investment. For your first production, you may want to use a professional company to produce your video, if it's really important to get it right.
After you've decided on the purpose and goals for your video, identified your target audience, and considered your budget, the next phase of pre-production involves preparing an outline of the points you want to make. If you're promoting your business, your outline may consist of identifying your mission, background, products or services you provide, how you can help solve your audience's problems or meet their needs, testimonials from satisfied clients, costs, distinctions between you and your competition, and any other factors that will convince your target audience to patronize your company.
After you prepare your outline, it's time to go to script. The script is a detailed document that identifies what will be seen and what will be heard and in what order they'll appear. Draw a real or imaginary line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side of the page, identify the visuals that will be seen, and on the other side, identify the audio that will be heard for each shot. The more specific, the better.
Here's an example of what your script should look like:
Shot# Audio Visual
1 Music (name the song) Title (Name it).
2 Music continues Dissolve to wide tracking shot of group of people in a business meeting. Stop on John.
3 John says, "I can't take these boring meetings any more! Wide shot of John jumping up, throwing papers in the air. Others at table are in shock
And so on… The script should be as detailed as possible. It should include direction about the shot, whether it's wide, medium, or a close up. Specify whether it's a static shot or if dollies, pans, pull outs or other camera moves are involved. The point is that this is the time that decisions need to be made – certainly not on the set when you're shooting your video. If you wait until you're in production, people will get impatient and the time will slip away while you're trying to brainstorm ideas and get agreement on them.
The pre-production stage is also when you hire your actors and crew. Do you want professional actors? Union or non-union? Are you going to have auditions? If so, who will conduct them? Do they know how to conduct one?
Have you identified the production crew? Have you seen examples of their work? Have they worked together before? Have they produced the type of production you want before?
Think about how you will feed everyone on the set as well. Who will get the food? Time is money and people work much better and happier if they're fed in a timely fashion.
Will you need a make-up artist? What will people wear? Stripes, herring boned patterns and vivid colors are no-nos, as camera doesn't like any of this and it will cause moray patterns and other problems on the screen. What's better earth tones or subdued colors with simple or no patterns.
What will the set look like? Are there multiple locations? Have you figured out the backgrounds for each and every shot? Have you decided who is in each shot? Do you need props or furniture? Who will bring them? Make sure that you visit every site where you plan to shoot to make sure that there aren't any surprises.
I remember shooting a video at a beautiful location, where I was guaranteed that no one would be around to get in the way of our shooting. I dutifully conducted my site survey and everything looked and sounded fine. Unfortunately, we didn't hear the airplanes flying overhead when we did our site survey. And we didn't hear the train that came by every hour. Nor did we hear or see the flock of geese when we were scouting the location. But all of these distracting nuisances were present during our shoot. Fortunately, I had a contingency plan and we had indoor locations identified in advance. Having a plan B is not a bad idea. If you want to be really safe, shoot your production in a studio, so you can be assured of complete control over the location.
Lighting is another consideration. Is the location well lit? Or do you have to supply lighting? If you have windows in the background and the sun is shining in behind the subject that you are shooting, the external lighting will play havoc with your shot. If you encounter this type of shooting situation, you should use gels on the windows to adjust for the color temperature of the light.
What about audio? Audio quality is generally assumed or forgotten about until it goes bad. And when it's bad, it will be the main focus of everyone's attention. So you need to make sure people are miced properly. Redundant audio is a good thing to have. For instance, everyone that needs to be heard needs a lavaliere microphone or at least have a shotgun mic aimed at them. So to play it safe, you could have a lavolier mic on the person, capturing the audio on one channel and have a shotgun mic mounted on the camera capturing redundant audio on a separate channel. This way, if something goes wrong and a lavaliere mic cuts out, you can replace the audio with second channel of audio and the shot will be saved. Matching the audio can be difficult, so test your mics before you shoot your video to make sure they have a similar sound or can be 'tweaked' during editing.
The final matter we'll discuss is the shooting script. The regular script that everyone is familiar with identifies the sequential or chronological order of your production. However, a shooting script groups the shots according to location. For instance, shots 5, 14, 35, and 95 may take place in the cafeteria. It would take forever and be cost prohibitive to shoot your video in a different location as it sequentially appears in the script. Therefore, all of the cafeteria shots need to be shot at the same time, unless there's a good reason not to. Grouping your shots will save time, money and patience.
Don't forget that even though these various shots are in the same location, if they require actors to have different clothes on because they occur later in the video or it's supposed to be another day for instance, you need to prepare for that too.
These are the major considerations for your pre-production activities. So once everyone has been contacted, told when and where to appear, and everything else has been planned, you're ready to enter the production phase. So read on to Video Production – Production – Part 2