Posts Tagged ‘production tips’

Shooting Schedule – Keep or Throw?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Based on my last post, I received another question regarding clients and client relations. My last post discussed those who like to include a little too much information into their videos. This particular question focuses on clients who can’t stick with the shooting schedule. Here’s the question:

My client is very knowledgeable about his business, but won’t follow a cut sheet to save their lives! We’ve been there to give directions and they are great about that. However, any general advice on how to shoot this smoothly (even w/o the cut sheets) so the post production isn’t a hair puller?

Let me first say that video shoots rarely stay on schedule. Once you get on location, things can get shuffled around and your day can run late. So, don’t panic if you’re at the end of the first day and you haven’t accomplished all that you hoped. I have written some articles on this blog that discuss shooting schedules. Hopefully you can find some valuable info in my archives that will help you schedule your video shoots.

Second, when you’re talking to your client about the shooting schedule, try approaching the subject from a financial angle. Staying true to the shot list will help everything run more efficiently, which will save your client money. I always tell clients that spending the time in pre-production to create and maintain a solid shooting schedule is vital to staying on budget.

Third, realize that many times you will simply have to “go with the flow.” As I said earlier, things fluctuate. Often, the activity on location will dictate how and what you shoot, not the other way around. For example, while working on a video project for a manufacturing company, I simply had to shoot the action as it happened. I couldn’t tell the foreman, “Hey, we need to shoot ‘X’ at station 2 right now,” because the manufacturing process has its own schedule. Sometimes there was no activity at station 2. I simply had to stay flexible and go where the action was. It did mean I had to jump around quite a bit, but that’s part of the documentary process. Sometimes it can’t be contained in a nice, neat shot list.

If you find that you are shooting your project in this style, remember to do one of two things (doing both would be even better):

  1. Maintain a running log of what’s been shot
  2. Slate everything (simply write down on a piece of paper what the camera is looking at, hold it up in front of the camera, and film it for a few seconds, just for reference).

Having a reference marker in your footage will help tremendously in post-production. That way, your editor can easily match up your shot with what’s mentioned in the script. Let’s say your video is for a drilling company and the script reads, “With our new, state-of-the-art Hole-Maker 9000, we can…” Well, if your editor has hours of footage showing different types of machinery, how is he/she supposed to know which piece of footage is the Hole-Maker 9000?

Yes, staying on schedule will make everyone happier and it will keep production costs down, but remaining open to new possibilities means that you may find a great storyline when you least expect it.

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Preparing For a Video Shoot

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I’ve heard it said that video production is 75% furniture moving. There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Shooting on location can be a very intrusive process. There’s a lot of people, a lot of gear, and a lot of commotion. A lot of re-adjusting takes place while on location to make room for the camera, the lights, the crew, etc. Many times I will arrive on location to shoot a corporate video and my client can’t believe the amount of gear my crew and I have brought with us. If your company has hired a video production company to come out and profile your business, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare.

In previous articles I have gone over important tips for mapping out your entire production project and scheduling individual shooting days. In this article, I would like to give some advice on how to prepare your office before the production company arrives.


If you work for a large corporation, more than likely you will have to reserve areas of your office in advance. Talk to your office manager. Make sure he/she has the video shoot written on the calendar. Find out which rooms in the building are available and which are not. There have been moments when my crew and I spent valuable time just walking around with my contact trying to find available rooms in which to shoot.


Make sure other employees in the office know about the shoot well in advance. Let them know what’s expected of them. Let them know which areas of the office the production company will be using. Make sure that everyone comes to work that particular day dressed appropriately. There have been days when my crew and I have arrived on location, only to discover that no one else other than my contact knew we were coming.

Think Aesthetically

When conducting employee interviews or client testimonials, a video production company will seek out those places in your office that look the best. Usually, a producer and/or director will scout your offices before the shoot, but budget constraints can sometimes prevent a tech scout. So that means it’s up to you to have areas in your office prepared before the production company arrives. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Look for areas in your office that have character and color. Conference rooms are usually bland and therefore not a great option for conducting on-camera interviews.
  2. If you have to use a room without much color, can you bring items in from other areas in your office to dress up the set? Artwork, plants, pictures, books? Look for anything that can support the look and the subject matter of your video.
  3. Remove any unwanted posters, etc. from the room. Look out for anything in the background that advertises someone else’s brand.

Think Spatially

As mentioned previously, video production can be intrusive. The crew will need furniture and other items moved in order to make room for equipment. Find those areas in your office that provide the most space in which to work. Find out what furniture can and cannot be moved. Also, make note of the most convenient elevators, service ramps, loading docks, etc. to help the crew maintain efficiency as they move in and out of the office.

The most important part of the video production process happens well before the camera starts rolling. A well executed pre-production ensures a more enjoyable and efficient production experience for all involved.

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Going Green

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

shoot_greenscreen2Many of our video projects are shot on location, but every so often we have an opportunity to so some green screen work for a client. Shooting a subject against a green screen will allow the video editor to remove the green background and replace it with another of his or her choosing. Green screens are used every day on the evening news when the weatherman delivers the forecast.

Working with a green screen can be tricky, because if not done correctly, you will have nightmares in post production as you try to key out the screen and insert your own background. My recommendation is to shoot some practice footage first before you start work with your client.  Here are a few things I’ve learned from my experiences:

  1. The green screen should have no wrinkles or folds. Any imperfections across the surface of the green screen will result in shadows and hard lines that will be difficult to key out in post.
  2. The green screen should be evenly lit. There should be no shadows and no fall off. The light should be soft and diffused. A light meter will help ensure accuracy.
  3. Create distance between the subject and the green screen. Any light reflecting off the green screen and onto the subject should be eliminated. If not, your subject’s edges will have a green glow when the screen is keyed out. Move your subject as far away from the screen as possible. Then use flags to block any reflected light coming from the screen.
  4. Shoot on a format with the highest-rated color space possible. MiniDV has a color space of 4:1:1. You can use it for green screen work, but it isn’t the best option. Just be aware that there will be some challenges in keying with MiniDV footage. The edges on your subject won’t be perfectly clean. However, if your video is intended only for the web, MiniDV will work for you. Consider this video we produced. It was shot on MiniDV and the client was satisfied with the green screen work. Formats like DVCPro and DVCProHD have a color space of 4:2:2, making them better for keying.

Learning the proper video production techniques takes practice. There’s always something new to learn and the more time you spend shooting and editing, the better your craft will be.

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