These days most businesses appreciate there is a role for video to explain their story and what they have to offer. Naturally they turn to their marketing department or agency to see what they think and what can be done.
While most marketers and agencies are bouncing with ideas, knowing how to turn them into a working reality when it comes to filming is a different matter. For some, the process of filmmaking is straightforward. Like any project it has a beginning, middle and an end.
However, if you haven’t made a film and you’ve somehow ended up in the role of Producer (EPiK Music Videos has a great blog about the role of the Producers, here!), before long you may be wondering why and how the costs are stacking up and wondering where it can all go wrong.
Which is where we can help. Over nine years we have assisted over 2,000 productions at our studios in Camberwell. So we took a step back and thought about the main questions we get asked with these type of enquiries. The result is this short checklist that sets out the main topics you should be thinking about when planning a studio based video shoot. They range from the creative to the technical and practical.
Studio v Location
Our focus is specifically about a studio-based shoot. Many of these questions will apply to a location shoot, but studios are what we know best.
The main reason for using a studio is to take advantage of a controlled environment: for example, bad weather won’t stop you in a studio. The basics of a production, such as electricity, lights, changing rooms, catering, access, hours of opening and so on should all be a lot easier to understand and manage before you start.
The idea and how to bring it to life is the crux of the matter.
This is the point at which many of our agency clients come to us. They are creative’s with idea’s and know the outcome they want, but not necessarily how to get there.
Before you commit to a date for filming you will need to know how the idea will be filmed, who by and how you will get it edited.
Often there will be thoughts on ‘The How,’ for example; filming against green-screen or not, using slow-motion, filming cutaways, actors, presenters, interviews, a jib and so on. All of these present different challenges in how they are filmed and how they affect post-production and impact the budget.
Getting stuff done – The Producers Job
Someone has to own the production. This means making sure all the elements are being; identified, sourced, co-ordinated and managed. It sounds like an administrative job but it requires at least some knowledge of the filming process. The producer gets stuff done.
The filming process has three main stages:
- Pre-production – planning, organising and logistics. Everything before filming and the main concern of this article.
- Production – the shoot. As hard or easy as you plan it to be
- Post-Production – the edit. This can include VFX, animation, sound edit and colour grade
You have to think about all aspects of the production and make sure you take all points of view into account. Because the decisions you make at the start impact every step of the way.
One of the common reasons for wanting to produce your own video is to save on the overall cost. Nonetheless it is always worth considering an experienced Producer, someone who can see the wood for the trees, who can understand the technical side and implications for the creative and the cost.
From a creative point of view the two most important roles responsible for turning ideas into film will be the Director and the DoP (Director of Photography). Of course there are other important roles – the Art Director for example or the Stylist in a fashion shoot but these two roles of Director and DoP are the building blocks to a good production.
We don’t mean to say you must have a director and you must have a DoP, but someone does have to cover these roles even if you decide you can direct and use a good camera operator (which is risky but can sometimes work well).
Some of our clients want to direct the video themselves but success depends on what is being filmed, for example, planning a product shot is different to working with presenters for a piece to camera.
Working with presenters is different to working with actors because their approach and skill set are different – there is a vocabulary in direction that can be under-estimated. The same applies to communicating with crews on more technical shoots in order to achieve a specific outcome.
Director of Photography
For any director the most important person is the DoP (Director of Photography), the person who will use the camera and lights to create and film the outcome you are after.
The studio, camera choice, lights, specialist filming equipment and crew requirements will be defined by the DoP in conjunction with the director. This is where the costs can start to mounting.
If you don’t have a director lined up then ask for examples of their work or showreels. It’s the only way to see whether someone has the same sensibility that you seek for your video.
Other roles will depend on what you are filming but may include some of the following
Additional camera crew, Lighting technician (aka Gaffer), Hair & Make up, production assistant, first AD (assistant director), first AC (camera assistant) and don’t forget the runner.
One of the first questions to be decided is what camera will you choose?
Is the video content you are filming being shown only on the Internet such as a company website, a YouTube channel or Facebook etc. Will it be on TV or even a big cinema sized screen as an advert or showing at a large conference, maybe as backing visuals for a band’s world tour.
This matters because cameras cost a lot. An expensive camera might be a wasted cost if the video will only ever be shown on the company website. In this case you may be able to use a mid-range camera or even a DSLR.
In a nutshell, the more expensive the camera you choose, the more people you will need to operate it. There are few shortcuts.
The Grammar of the Edit.
Editing is a specialised role that lots of people claim to be able to do. The difference between them and professionals is completeness of skill-set, standards and time. We don’t propose to describe the characteristics of a good editor – other than to say – check their showreel and establish exactly what they did on it.
Planning the day
Once you know your idea, your key team members and how you expect to achieve what you are after; you can plan for your shoot.
We are used to hosting shoots put together at the last minute – sometimes within a couple of days. It happens a lot more than you may realise. Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it will work just as well for you the same way. Planning works.
That is another article for another day!