Your Video Is Due In Two Days: Make It Happen

When trying to produce a short film in only 48 hours, or complete a video project with a tight deadline, you learn certain things about how to work more efficiently. When every shot has to count and there’s absolutely no time to waste, you have to know how to stay on task and how to keep everything focused.
We recently participated in the Sidewalk Scramble, a competition in which participants only have 48 hours to make a short film. Over the years, we’ve been involved in a few of these Scramble events, and we have also worked with clients who have very tight deadlines. In both scenarios, we have learned valuable lessons about how to produce a quality video project, even with certain time constraints.

  • ​When brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. For the Scramble, our team received a genre and a prop. After the initial meeting, the Scramble organizers turned us loose to begin work on the film. We began to brainstorm ideas for the story. When you are faced with a tight deadline for your video project, remember that in the beginning stages, no one’s idea should be censored. Give everyone an opportunity to be heard. Consider every idea that is put forward.
  • When shooting, keep your locations to a minimum. If you’re up against a tight deadline, the last thing you need to do is waste time driving from one location to another. Understanding our constraints in both production time (48 hours) and the running time​ of the final film (4 minutes), our Scramble team shot in only one location. It helped us move from scene to scene quickly, with minimal set up time.
  • When you start the day, assign someone to slate every shot and maintain a log. This is extremely valuable when you get into post-production. It will speed up the editing process tremendously. Rather than wasting time sorting through all the raw footage, re-watching each take, you can quickly consult the shot log and know immediately which shot you liked the best.​
  • When working with on-camera talent, shoot dialogue scenes first. In our experience, shooting scenes with dialogue takes the most amount of time. Those who will be on camera need time to memorize, rehearse and block. The timing needs to be nailed down. The video production company needs time to cover the scene from various angles. And there will always be multiple takes (actors will stumble over lines, forget lines, or deliver the lines in a manner that isn’t quite right).
  • When selecting camera angles, shoot establishing shots first. Once you have covered the scene with your establishing shots, then you can move in for pick-ups. It won’t do your film/video project any good if you have a ton of close-ups and pick-ups without any establishing shots to frame the context of the scene. You will quickly discover that you don’t have enough footage to tell the story adequately.
  • When b-roll is needed, delegate to a 2nd unit. In our Scramble film, we knew that we would need some POV shots of our main character. However, it would be a waste of time to have the actors and crew wait while the director ran off with a camera to shoot this footage. So, while the director continued to work with the actors on scenes that were most important, the b-roll was captured by utilizing a second cameraman with a second camera. This can save an enormous amount of time when working on a video project with a tight deadline. Imagine that you have to shoot interviews with administrators of a manufacturing facility, plus shoot b-roll of the factory floor. Now imagine that you have to shoot all of this in only half a day. You can assign the b-roll to one cinematographer, while the other captures all of the interviews.



You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your video, just because it needs to be done quickly. By attacking the problem realistically, shooting to your resources, and being smart about how you approach the job, you can come out on the other side with a video you can be proud to show. However, we can’t guarantee that you will get much sleep during the process, but the assigned project will be completed.

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