Preventing Pre-Production Headaches (Part 1)

The best way to prevent production headaches is to be well prepared – to have a really strong idea of exactly what’s going to happen – before you take the first camera or lighting rig out of the case.

Simply put, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants filmmaking does not work with any degree of success. And while pre-production duties may not be the most glamorous aspect of creating a video, they are among the most important.

We start with a solid script that addresses our target audience with the message we wish to convey. You don’t have to be one of the characters from Mad Men, but you do want to make it engaging while still getting the message across. If this isn’t your forte, ask for help.

The video script should be in a two column format. The first column describes the action on the screen. Are the actors or spokespersons doing anything? Even if they’re doing nothing but standing there, write it down. Are there graphics – textual or otherwise – appearing on the screen? Write it down. The right hand column will show the audio that’s occurring (vocals, music and SFX) concurrent with the action that is taking place in the left column. It’s also important to break up the script into “shots,” so that each time the camera angle, focal length or action on the screen changes, the script will be divided by horizontal lines to designate each individual shot. You can certainly use tables in a word processing program for this, but I find that Final Draft and other scripting software programs are much more useful for formatting.

The next task, with script in hand, is to develop a shot list. You’ve already got the first part of this – the action in your script, so the work is halfway done! In a separate document, though, you’ll want to copy the action, then add notes regarding what camera angles, lenses and lighting schemes you’re going to use for each shot. Finally, after familiarizing yourself with all of the shooting locations and determine your filming strategy, in yet another document that we call the “shot sequence” list, you’ll want to re-organize the shots in a way that makes the best logistical sense. For example, if shot one features spokesperson 1, and shots two and three are focused on spokesperson two and say, a product shot, then shot four goes back to spokesperson 1, you definitely want shots one and four to be filmed consecutively. Always shoot sensibly, rather than follow the chronological flow of the script.

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Bad Video

Given all the stats that support the success of using video as a marketing or training tool, many people believe that just having a video, any video, is enough to get in the game and keep up with the Joneses. That logic, my friend, is a mistake. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to put it out there again: You are better off having no video, than having a bad video.

Whether it’s your logo, your staff, your storefront – or your video – everything associated with your business represents you. What people see is what they take away, and if they see shoddy workmanship in any area, well, that’s the impression they’re left with. When a potential client sees a poor production, they’re going to wonder why you would take better care of them than you take care of yourself. When an employee views a half-hearted training video, they’re going to ask themselves why they should care more about your company than you do. Simply put, a bad video will tarnish your image and reputation.

You are better off having no video, than having a bad video.

There are any number of elements that can ruin a production. The first, and most common, is that people rush through the process. They don’t plan, they don’t set up properly, they don’t prepare. There’s a little more involved than pointing the camera and pressing the red button. Poor lighting is probably the next best way to wreck a promising video. There’s also awkward on-camera talent, poor scripting and content decisions, and a general lack of technical expertise. These all lead to a lack of credibility.

Now I’m not saying you can’t do it yourself. To that end, over the course of the next few months, I’m going to focus on teaching you a few simple tips to avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve mentioned above. Until next time.

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Different Videos for Different Vehicles

Dr. Manzor showed her dedication to her patients by commissioning Lightshine Productions to create a series of five videos to be displayed in her waiting room. They provide valuable health information, and the subject mater and delivery format (waiting room DVD) are completely appropriate for the length of the videos

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Visually Communicating: The Message

The content, tone, and style of any video communication will also be determined by what, exactly, it is that you want to convey in the first place. What is the purpose of the communication. When you’ve got that figured out, and you know the results you’re looking for, you can then best determine how to relay the information. Are you demonstrating or persuading? Or maybe it’s a little of both. Regardless, what you have to say is going to have a lot to do with how you choose to say it. For instance, while production value is always going to play a key role in keeping audience attention, you aren’t necessarily going to need dramatic slider shots or a celebrity spokesperson in an industrial training video.

Lightshine Productions works with everyone from medical professionals to municipalities, and everyone has something different to say, so there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all template when it comes to effective delivery. In this training video for Slater Tools, the end user was going to be an experienced machinist who was going to want to learn what they needed to know, and get back to work. We kept it simple while keeping the production value high to reflect the professionalism of the company.

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Communicating With Purpose

The success of any business is largely determined by the way we communicate with others. Don’t you find yourself responding more positively to someone who understands you? Isn’t it easier to sit through a meeting without fidgeting or glancing at the clock when the subject is one that interests you, and the chairperson has a bit of flair?

There are any number of factors that come into play when it comes to successful communication. We need to take into consideration the audience, the message itself, and the vehicle we use to communicate. And as people are always going to be the most important element of any business endeavor, we think that who we’re communicating with should be the first thing we look at.

The Audience

Let’s face it, you’re not going to talk to your teenager (not that any parent has really figured out how to do that) the same way you talk to your colleagues. The same holds true in business communication, whether you’re marketing, training, or anything in between. Being aware of our audience is essential to effectively conveying a message. All of us have different perceptions and different expectations, so putting yourself in the position of your audience is a critical first step. “What do they need to know, and how do they expect to learn it?” Equally important, we need to ask ourselves, “What do they already know about what I have to say?” Just as you wouldn’t want to confuse a client with overly technical jargon, you shouldn’t you be willing to waste a vendors time over-explaining a concept in which he or she is well-versed. The content, tone and style of your video should always reflect the needs of your audience.

We’ll be delving into other areas of effective communication in the coming weeks, but this is the first of many things that we take into consideration when crafting any visual communication project. The time and creative effort that go into the pre-production process ultimately pays dividends when it comes to delivering a quality product. To learn more about Lightshine Productions, click the video image below. And if we can help with your visual communication needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Care House

When Executive Director Carol Furlong asked me to create a short presentation for a fundraising event, I was honored to be given the opportunity. They’re doing wonderful things there (sad, but wonderful and incredibly necessary things) and they deserve all the support we can give them.

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The family made our annual trip to Frankenmuth yesterday, and in spite of the drizzle, it was a good day. I took along a DSLR intending to shoot some stills, but then I saw these ladies at River Place and that changed the game plan. (Not a big fan of hand-held DSLR, though, and would have loved to have had a monopod along!)

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Fall Prey was a great band to work with. Not only are they extremely talented, but they brought a ton of energy to this project and made it a pleasure to produce and direct. “Disco” is a driving rock song with a positive message, encouraging people to focus on the important things in life and to watch out for the pitfalls that can sidetrack us. Break down…

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Verbal Judo

I had the opportunity to produce a bully awareness project this past month, and I want to thank all those who invested their time, effort and emotion. Great job, guys!

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A Bachelors Degree in Whup-A**?

Look out Detroit 1-8-7, you’ve got nothin’ on the Wayne State PD!

I spent some time last week rolling film for a Wayne State University PSA proposal, and I can say with confidence that the area around WSU has got to be one of the safest in the city of Detroit. WSU PD is a tight-knit department and its members conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism. These guys (and girls) are highly trained, organized and prepared, and there’s no doubt that the service and protection of the community is foremost in their minds. From top to bottom, this operation is state of the art, and it was way cool to get a glimpse inside. Here’s a look:

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