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.