You’re set. You’ve hired a video production company to come into your place of business to shoot footage that will eventually be used in an online marketing piece. Everything is good to go. You and the Director have hammered out all the details. You have the talent scheduled. You have the script prepared and memorized. The shot list is ready. All that’s left is to shoot the video.
But have you really thought of everything? Could there be something that you overlooked?
If you work in a location with constant activity (i.e. a retail store, restaurant, salon, etc.), there are two main items on your pre-production checklist that need to be handled before the video production company arrives to set up.
Audio – If you plan to record live audio while on set, background noise will be a major concern. You need to take proper steps to ensure that you can capture good, clean audio. Ideally, you will want to shoot the video on a day when your business is not open to the public. This will eliminate sounds like customer chatter, footsteps, doors opening/closing, etc. If you are forced to shoot during a normal business day, try to select non-peak hours in which to shoot. This way, customer traffic should be at a minimum. To help reduce the amount of background noise, try hanging sound blankets around your talent. You can also post a public notice to all customers that filming is in progress and that all chatter should be kept to a whisper. Also look for places within your location that may not have quite as much foot traffic.
Release Forms – It’s important to lock down the area directly behind your talent, so that no one wanders into the background of your shot. If that isn’t possible, bear in mind that any customer that wanders into frame will need to give you his/her consent to be in the video. You will need to have release forms ready, in case this happens. If your business has a lot of foot traffic, it may not be feasible to stop every single customer and have each one sign a release form. In that case, you will need to place a public notice at the entrances to your business and around the camera crew which indicates that you are in the process of shooting a video. It will also need to clearly state to your customers that by walking throughout the store, their likeness may be captured on video.
Details are so important when it comes to producing a video for your business. Things that you normally take for granted (i.e. door chimes, customer traffic, electric appliances, chatter) can become distractions when trying to shoot. Talk with your video producer/director about your location and any potential logistical/legal problems you may face. Budget in the time for a tech scout with your video production team. The best way to handle these issues is to take care of them before they become bigger problems.
In my years as a video director, I have worked with clients who want to be on set to monitor and supervise the shoot. I have also worked with clients who prefer not to be on location. They take a more hands-off approach. I certainly appreciate the level of trust I earn with my clients, because that trust gives them a good measure of comfort. They can feel confident when they turn the video production over to me. However, there are definite benefits to having the client on set throughout the production process.
Familiarity – If the client has been the only person to interact with the on-camera talent up to the point of production, having the client on set will give the talent a familiar person with whom he/she has already made a connection. And when the talent sees someone familiar, this will make him/her more comfortable. And when the talent is comfortable, he/she will be more natural on camera. This is especially true when working with non-professional talent.
Plan B – Let’s be honest. Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned during a video shoot, and the director needs to be prepared. When the on-camera interview just isn’t going well, or when certain set-ups are cut from the shot list due to last-minute changes to the location, it’s good to have the client on location. The client can stay up to speed on everything that’s happening and offer up suggestions to the director as to what needs to happen next. After all, the video director is working for the client. The two parties can put their heads together to come up with a viable Plan B when the shoot starts to fall short of pre-production expectations.
Instant Feedback – When the director yells “cut,” he/she can immediately check with the client to ensure that everything being captured meets with the client’s approval. If the individual being interviewed needs to answer in a slightly different way to clarify the context of the subject, then the client can say so. If there’s another question or two that the director didn’t think about, the client can step in and ask it. If there’s a tiny detail that shouldn’t be in the script, the client can omit it before the on-camera spokesperson continues. The video production company may take the lead in developing a concept for the project, but it’s the client that has a more in-depth knowledge of the company, the brand, the product/service, and all the little things that can make a big difference.
Video directors never need to shy away from the thought of having the client on set. The two parties compliment each other and work in tandem toward one common goal.
I understand that with almost every video production, the client and producer must strike a balance between scheduling enough time for adequate coverage while staying within budget. Although consolidating certain aspects of the production (i.e. the number of locations, the number of people appearing on camera, etc.) can help improve efficiency, taking it to an extreme can compromise the final video.
The video production companies that I know of (including ours) offer half-day (usually up to five hours) and full-day (up to 10 hours) rates. The production budget can be reduced by blocking off one half-day rather than one full day to shoot everything on the shot list, but dong so isn’t always the most prudent approach. The shot list may look rather short when reading it on paper, but in actuality can take much longer to complete.
Often when shooting corporate videos, it will become necessary to feature certain company representatives in the video. They may have a prepared script that they plan to deliver directly into camera. On paper, this looks simple: off-load the gear, set up, light, rehearse, and shoot. Let’s say you have four to six different people who must read from a prepared script, then shoot b-roll. It can be tempting to schedule a single, half-day for this shoot, but it’s important to consider a few things:
Down Time - Since the on-camera talent is not professional, but rather, actual employees of the company, there may be times when they can’t make it to the location on time. Other things might pop up at the last minute that they are forced to deal with. This means you might be set up, ready to shoot, but have to wait until the company rep is available.
Multiple Takes - Even professional actors need a few takes to get the delivery just right. This is especially true with non-professional talent. As mentioned in item #1, company employees have important day-to-day duties. It can be difficult for them to take the time to memorize the script. Don’t assume that they will have everything down before walking in front of the camera. They might need a few extra takes, and even some extra breaks if something comes up that they must tend to.
Revisions – Sometimes the words of a script may not sound as eloquent as you thought they would when the talent starts reading it aloud. Or, certain facts and/or claims within the script may be inaccurate. In either situation, rewrites will probably be necessary, and that means additional time tacked on to your shooting day.
That single, half-day can quickly be used up, leaving you precious little time to capture everything else on the shot list. And once you start rushing through production, the overall quality of the footage will suffer. It would be wise to carefully consider the above points and go ahead and budget for a full-day, even when you think you can squeeze everything into a half-day. Better to prepare for the full day rather than be faced with costly re-shoots, or a video that doesn’t live up to your standards.
Next week two new commercials for CommuteSmart will begin airing throughout central Alabama. Both spots are part of the “I’m Ready” campaign. The goal is to help viewers understand that making only small changes to the way they commute can help them save and earn money, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality. We were hired by CommuteSmart to produce both spots. The one below focuses on air quality issues.
Here are a few production stills from one of our recent commercial shoots. The client is PoshBirmingham.com, a soon-to-be-launched website highlighting some of the best retailers and restaurants in the Birmingham area. We produced :30, :15, and :05 spots that will start airing mid June.