Posts Tagged ‘shot list’

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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The Importance of Coverage

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Editors are happy when they have plenty of footage to work with in post-production. Shooting multiple angles of a particular scene is called coverage, and whether you are producing your own film, or shooting a long-format marketing video, getting good coverage has many benefits:

  1. Flexibility - Ample amounts of raw footage gives your editor many options for structuring the story.
  2. Variety - Staring at the same shot for too long can bore some viewers. You want your video or film project to engage and entertain and the right amount of coverage will offer fresh perspectives to your audience.
  3. Control – In your narrative film project, your main character picks up the newspaper and stares in horror at the headline. The information in the article is a vital part of your plot. So, did you remember to get a cutaway shot of the headline? Shooting the right amount of coverage gives you control over the story. It allows you to direct your audience’s attention to what you want them to see or to understand.

Here are some things to keep in mind about shooting coverage:

  1. Scout – Go to the location where you will be filming. Look around. Start blocking the scene. Figure out where you would like to place your camera. How many set-ups will you need? Once you have done your initial scout, make some time closer to the shooting date when you can conduct a tech scout. This is when you and your production team do a final walk-through of the location to discuss each set-up.
  2. Utilize Set-Ups – Consider how you can combine multiple coverage shots with one camera set up. For example, if the camera has been set up for a wide dolly shot, can you keep the camera where it is and shoot a lock-down close up as well? How about a pick-up shot of that file folder in your actor’s hand? Can you raise the camera up more on the tripod and get a high-angle establishing shot? Combining coverage shots into one set up will save a lot of time.
  3. Start Wide & Work In – It’s always a good idea to get the establishing shots first. Then you can push in and reset the camera for your close-ups and cutaways. That way, if your day runs too long and you lose the location, you will at least have establishing shots in the can. Imagine losing the location and all you have are extreme close-ups and cutaways. The viewer will be disoriented and won’t know the location, the characters in the scene, the time of day, etc.

Taking the time to prepare by scouting and creating a detailed shot list will ensure that you get the coverage you need for each scene. That will make you editor very happy. And it will give you a much better product.

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Keeping Production Costs Low & Production Value High

Friday, April 10th, 2009

There’s a fine balance that has to be made between delivering a high-end product and maintaining a budget that your client finds reasonable.

Let’s say you’re getting started in your video production business and you need to keep your production costs low to attract new clients. However, you also want to create content with high production values to give the appearance that your client spent more than they actually did. You always want to go for the “wow” factor. So, how can you create videos with great production value while working with a modest budget?

  1. Learn everything you can about proper cinematography techniques. One of the easiest ways to make more aesthetically-pleasing videos is to know the basic concepts of cinematography. Video production is a craft. Don’t think that you can pick up a camera and then point and shoot. You have to learn about composition, framing, camera movements, lighting. You have to learn all you can about the camera itself and its functions. Don’t take this first lesson for granted. This is a necessary pre-production task that won’t cost you anything but time, but it’s the foundation for better looking productions.
  2. Capture good audio. Nothing spoils a video faster than bad audio. Make careful considerations regarding your locations. Scout them first. Listen for anything in the vicinity that could cause a problem for your audio track. If you can, hire an experienced audio mixer/boom man for your shoot. Even if the crew consists of just you and the sound guy. Trust me, it will be worth it.
  3. Keep the crew to a minimum. Your production budget can really spin out of control once you start adding on grips, audio technicians, editors, etc. When you’re starting out, you will need to function as producer/writer/director/DP/editor in order to keep your costs down. However, you have to concede the fact that while you’re on location you won’t be able to do everything yourself. Start off by hiring one assistant to help you with gear. A fair rate for this individual is anywhere from $200-$350 per day, depending on his/her experience.* (a day rate is based on a 10-hour day. You can pay your assistant a half-day rate if you are on location no more than 5 hours.)
  4. Develop a shot list. This is a no-cost pre-production task that will save you time while on location. Each shoot needs to run as efficiently as possible. Time is money. So, always write out a shot list before arriving on location.
  5. Rehearse before shooting. The less tape you use, the less money you spend. The less footage you put on your P2 card (or other solid-state media), the less space you take up on your hard drive, meaning less money. So, always rehearse with your talent before shooting. Go over the action and the camera moves. Make sure everyone is clear on what’s to happen when the camera rolls.
  6. Take advantage of DIY techniques. High-end productions utilize dollies and cranes to create smooth camera movements. Those movements look very professional on screen and ramp up the production value of any video. But that equipment costs money – a lot of money. But have no fear. There are a number of wonderful do-it-yourself resources on the web for creating the same professional look at minimal cost. Just look at our previous post about creating a dolly move without the use of a dolly. Also look at tutorials from sources like Triune Films and read DIY stuff from FilmmakerIQ. Here’s a quick tutorial on creating your own camera car mount.
  7. Invest in stock footage. This will be a rather pricy upfront cost, but the resource will quickly pay for itself. Let’s face it – Shooting at the beaches of Mexico would be too expensive. Grabbing that aerial shot over the Colorado Rockies is probably out of reach. But, if you had a library of stock footage, you could quickly plug in that aerial shot when the subject matter calls for it and by doing so you can instantly increase the production value of your video. A good resource for stock footage is over at Digital Juice.

There are a number of ways to keep your costs down while giving your client a video that “wow’s” them. All it takes is a little imagination and resourcefulness. And as your business gains momentum, you can start investing in bigger crews, better cameras, and additional gear.

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