Be a video success: A guide to the video production process
by Nathaniel Cooper, on Feb 7, 2020 8:38:43 AM
While searching for a legendary witch in a Maryland forest, three wannabe filmmakers vanished on a weekend in 1999. The only evidence left behind were harrowing recordings found in a 16 mm movie camera and a Super-VHS camcorder.
Many will recognize this plot as “The Blair Witch Project.” Though it became a smash hit, it was largely the work of novices. Neither the two men who wrote and directed the movie nor the three lead actors ever worked on a feature-length movie before. Yet this improbable hit, which cost a mere $60,000 to make in 1999, conjured up almost $250 million at the box office.
Videos Beyond Movies
Of course, pursuing a megapot of gold isn’t the only goal for a videographer. Income opportunities can be found by shooting wedding videos, local TV commercials, or even short comedy vids for posting on the Web.
But achieving a healthy return-on-investment may not figure into your screening plan. Instead, your vision may be video production projects that will help people live happier, more positive lives. Consider TED Talks.
TED videos offer millions of people the opportunity to listen to free presentations on the Web daily. Each production aims to expand knowledge and improve our lives. These are shown on YouTube and feature thousands of experts. Each shares an informative lecture on everything from “My Stroke of Insight” to “Why Are We Happy? Why Aren’t We Happy?” to the late Steve Jobs talking about “Three Stories from My Life.”
The leading TED talker is Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker, and international advisor on education. His 18-minute talk on “Do schools kill creativity?” has drawn 63,737,810 viewers worldwide since 2006. The audience is still expanding, the message is still powerful, and it’s still free.
Waking to an Idea
Some inspirations come when you’re driving alone down a country road. Or when you’re gazing at birds in a tree. Or maybe you’ve just awakened and your mind is flooded by a wonderful dream.
Then, suppose this vivid dream becomes your deepest obsession. You may see this idea as a box office smash or a successful string of short comedies. What do these two very different formats have in common? They both have characters, dialogue, a storyline, and other elements that movies, cartoons, TV shows, and quickie videos posted on YouTube also share.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the entire video production process. If you’re a novice videographer who envisions a place among the Hollywood elite, this one is for you.
Video Production in 10 Steps
1. A Pre-Production Dream. You’re almost giddy as you think about the story that drifted into you mind’s eye. But this is not the moment to dash out to buy a new high-performance camera. Instead, think deeply about this grand idea.
What’s the who, what, when, where, and how of the project? Consider:
- Could your video daydream become a box office winner at theaters? Or would it be more suited to television broadcast or a streaming service? Is it possible this tale could be divided into chapters to run on YouTube?
- Is your potential moneymaker built around aerial videos recorded from the sky by drones? Didn’t you read somewhere that the Federal Aviation Administration and many states are enforcing new laws targeting drones? Do some digging.
- Or are you enthusiastic about organizing a nonprofit? What are the federal and state rules and documents needed to start a nonprofit? Can your video convince enough people to help a nonprofit?
2. Plenty of Research. Slow down. Have you written down your basic plan? If not, start by outlining the story. This only needs to be a page or two, which gives you a starting point. From this brief description, you can begin constructing your project.
- What would the average viewer call your story? A romance? A story of redemption? Rags to riches?
- What kind of video will it be? A short short? A 30-minute piece? A full-length drama? A video game?
- Will the audience you anticipate be large enough and tuned in enough to watch your video? Will they tell others about it?
3. Creating a Script. If your goal is making a full-length movie, study a few manuscripts that are in the same genre as your story. Google “movie scripts” and you’ll find scripts to read. Read two or three. Consider how scripts come together. See how stories unfold through what the main characters say or do. Every word the main actor or actress speaks should be necessary and everything they do should add to what the audience is discovering about the people and events on the screen. As you read scripts, note how many long speeches there are compared to brief words. Watch how characters move the storyline through actions, often without speaking a word.
If your project is a 3-minute story, the process is similar to making a movie but simplified. Search for several examples of short videos that grab your attention. Listen as dialogue pushes along the story and watch how movement shapes the plot..
You may be working on a documentary, creating a video yearbook for a high school, or making an instructional piece about surfing for novices. All these approaches can be one way or another to tell a nonfiction story.
What if writing isn’t your strength? Enlist a friend who would love to accept the challenges of script writing.
4. Boost Appeal. As the video plays in your head, get in touch with your inner critic. Ask yourself: Does every scene have the right emotion, message, and dialogue? Does everyone in a scene belong there? Is it funny enough, heart-grabbing enough, or frightening enough? Do scenes fit as they should?
A smart producer spends more time on the pre-production period than on the shooting schedule. Don’t plunge into camera work quickly. First make certain every scene is worked out, the script is written, locations are set, wardrobe is settled, and everyone involved knows exactly what they will be doing.
5. Keeping the Books. If you have a major project underway, you’ll need to create quite a collectiion of planning notebooks or tablets. Each needs to be clearly labeled for such topics as budget, locations, script, etc. If you’re working on a 3-minute project, you may be able to write out all your needs in one notebook.Whether you are planning a large or small project, you’ll need to approach the production with wisdom, flexibility, and attention to detail. This is always true of the budget, particularly if some investors are helping you cover the cost.
6. Make a Storyboard. Before your first shot, it’s best to putting on paper to show how every scene will look. This is a storyboard. Think of it as a simple map that will guide everyone and everything on the set. If you aren’t the best artist you know, get a friend to handle the job. Here is a simple 4/step approach to story boarding from MasterClass. Go to www.masterclass.com and search for “storyboard.”
- Think through a shot. What will the camera see? Envision the setting. Will a car or truck be in the shot? Will a garage be there? From which angle will you shoot? Other details? Once the scene is described, make a rough sketch of it.
- Revise scenes as needed. Before you start shooting, note any changes. Once the scene is nearing settled, you or the artist can sketch out generally how the scene will look.
- Add details to the board. If actors are moving around in a scene, mark directions using colored arrows. If there are props that belong on the set, mark where they will sit. Also note camera angle(s) and how shots(s) should be framed.
- Include some memorable dialogue. If there is voice over in this scene, it may be helpful to quote key sections of it.
7. Before Cameras Roll. There are always last-minute tasks and overlooked matters. Make a final to-do list, bring together all relative crew, and see the status of each item.
- Is the whole crew and each actor ready?
- Equipment ready?
- All locations secured?
- Costumes, hair, and makeup set?
- Licenses and permissions in place?
- Call sheet and shooting time set?
- What about a crisis?
8. Production and Directors. The director takes center stage on this day. The entire working team of assistant directors, camera operators, sound crew, and others are getting in their places, waiting for a shout from the director. Leading actors and actresses are now seen on the set. Then the director lets go, “Everyone in the crew should be at your place. Get to your places,” the directors bellows. After everyone else is set, the director says to the leading lady, “Madame, you’re at your mark. Thank you.” He or she studies the area, looking this way and that. Then announces, “Now, roll ‘em.”
The video camera captures a scene, then next. The script and/or storyboard is checked repeatedly to make certain every scene is properly done. A video screen may also be on set for playbacks. At the end of the day, the video is turned over to an editor and there is a celebration of a day well done.
9. Post-Production and Video Editors. How complicated it gets and how long it takes to edit a video depends on the length and budget of a movie. If it’s a low-budget film, the edits and construction of special effects will be done quite quickly. But a big budget movie may require elaborate special effects. The time to add the complex effects today can wind up taking longer than the standard camera work to finish the final video content.
If the project is a TV movie, it may make money but will rarely make enough for an elaborate editing job or an award-winning sound track. If you are producing short videos to put on YouTube, do your best editing as you work toward the cinema.
10. Expanding Your Audience If you’re in the first stages of mounting video on YouTube, always focus on building a larger audience for your next project. It doesn’t matter whether it will be a video about a vampire, a documentary on scuba diving, or a short comedy, give them more until the audience starts to fall off. Don’t quit. Just find another hot topic,
Many are choosing to launch websites that feature their video and focus on that topic. For instance, you could start a scuba diving website. Fill it up with what you know, then begin adding to it. Include an abundance of images and a visitor’s board where other divers can talk the sport. Also, keep in touch with visitors by sending regular emails about scuba vacation opportunities, new gear, records being set, use of submarines and underwater scooters, and more. As soon as you see the number of viewers watching your video beginning to slide off, ramp up for another video taking the diving topic even deeper.
More Video, More Strategy
So you’ve pulled together a video worth watching. Congrats. In the last six months, you’ve raked in enough customers to pay off the expenses for your inaugural comedy short. Now what? A second video seems the right step.
Steer your next project by applying what you learned, both good and bad, in your first video. Jot down a good list and a could-have-been-better list, think through both lists for ways to improve the follow-up story. That doesn’t mean the next video should be about the same characters, similar jokes, and the same setting. Freshen it up. Also give the second video more time, perhaps 5 minutes rather than 3 minutes.
Spend time searching YouTube for short comedies. How does your first compare to others? Try to bring improvement with every new project.
Should you get the opportunity to make a promotional video for a company, take it. Medium- and small-sized companies currently have appetites for telling their company story through video. Some videographers are shifting their business away from entertainment and moving into the hot niche of video marketing services. More and more companies want to tell their customers about the company’s strengths, history, competence, outlook, and products. An experienced videographer can help send the message.
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