Video Shoots: 5 Steps You Should Not Skip

How to Plan a Video Shoot

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
— Benjamin Franklin

Whether you're making a Hollywood feature film or a YouTube marketing video, there are always three phases to its creation:

  • Pre-production
  • Production
  • Post-production

Way back in film school, I lost count the number of times my instructions said, "a successful pre-production doesn't guarantee a successful film, but a bad pre-production guarantees its failure."

Often through trial and error, I came to discover how right they were. It didn't matter whether I was making a 52-minute documentary or a 30-second ad for YouTube, every time I was involved with a production where we tried to "figure it out" while shooting, it turned out to be a total disaster. The project would require a lot more time (which in turn would mean a lot more money) when we didn't take the time to plan it out beforehand.

Below are five steps you should not skip when making your next marketing video.

Step 1: Write a Script

It doesn't matter whether we're talking about a two-hour drama or a two-minute vlog; you need a script. A script doesn't have to mean your traditional format with lines of dialogue and scene description. It can be nothing more than just bullet points outlining your story or the points you want to make. The key is to sit down and plan your video out before you do anything else. After, you can then ensure your script does the following:

Are you telling a story? AKA, are you showing a solution to a problem? Does your hook pull someone in? This is your best opportunity to ensure your video will accomplish its purpose.

But what about reality TV? Aren't they just winging it? I hate to break it to you, but there's truly little reality to reality TV. All those shows are scripted out before they turn on the camera.

Step 2: Break Down the Script

Once your script is locked for your marketing video, you then can go back through your script to determine and lock:

  • Locations
  • Props
  • Video & audio equipment
  • Talent if needed

After, you can determine your budget if you need to beg/borrow/steal/rent/buy any equipment. If you're going to need to hire a crew, now would be the time to make those arrangements. If it's all in-house, now is when you would assign roles.

Step 3: Make the Storyboard & Shot List

Based on your script, start to map out your scenes or bullet points visually. What visuals or footage will you need? If it's a talking-head video, what b-roll coverage will you use? You might find it helpful to create a detailed storyboard. Picture in your head what each shot will look like and sketch it out. Stick figures will do. If you can't draw a straight line, you can always use software like Studiobinder or Boords, using stock imagery for inspiration or even those lovely stick figures you created.

After, create your shot list. Write out each shot you'll need in detail, even if you know you're going to cover it with stock footage. You may not think these steps are necessary, but each step can keep you on track when you're juggling ten different things during the day of the shoot. And you can significantly improve the production quality by planning it out ahead of time.

Step 4: Create a Schedule

Locations are set and reserved if necessary. Roles have been assigned, or talent and crew have been hired. You have a shot list. Now, you're able to plan your schedule and see how much time you'll need for your shoot as well as editing afterward.

Step 5: Rehearse

Don't even think about pressing the record button on your marketing video or ad till you've rehearsed. I guarantee every worthwhile production you've ever seen went through one or more rehearsals. Even "live" shows have multiple rehearsals beforehand. Beyond show biz, when I was in the Marines, we'd rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse before performing an operation.

Rehearse your monologue in front of the mirror. Do a walk-through with the entire team before the shoot. Prepare as much as possible before it's go-time.

I'm not going to lie, following these five steps does take time: often more time than the shoot itself. But these steps will save you headaches and money in the long run.

If you have any questions regarding the production process, feel free to contact us.

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