A video production has to be well-planned and strategic if it’s to be successful. Most video productions involve a lot of different components and moving parts, with both physical assets and human assets that have to be carefully managed. As both a creative and technical pursuit, it’s absolutely critical that everything be accounted for well before the cameras start rolling — and even far after. Here are the five most important phases of video production and how they should be managed for optimal success.
Ideation / Strategy / Development
Settle on a type of video – There are many types of video production: explained videos, commercials, infomercials, company stories, and more. The type of video is going to define the format that you’re shooting and the resources that are required.
Identify a core audience – Your production’s most important aspect is arguably going to be its core or target audience. Your audience demographic impact the structure and tone of your production.
Brainstorm ideas for the production – Every production is both art and science, so it’s important to get creative and try to find new unique ways of displaying your vision.
Determine the best strategy for reaching your audience – Not only do you need a mission for your production, but you need to clearly outline how your production is going to reach out to these individuals.
Find a budget and goal for the production – Every production needs a reasonable budget as long as some metric by which it will measure its success. Success can frequently be measured by metrics such as traffic, increased sales, and engagement.
Pre-production planning is a less abstract and more specific form of planning than the ideation, strategy, and development phase. Here is where story boarding will be done to outline each individual scene — including script writing.
Pre-production planning should include every asset that the production needs from top to bottom. This includes equipment rentals, talent, and quotes for all of the items that are going to have to be either rented or purchased. The more detailed the planning is, the less likely the shoot is to go over budget or to not meet deadlines.
Before production starts, all of the necessary licenses and permissions should be acquired for any shooting locations. If shooting is happening in public places, it may be necessary to notify the state — this is especially true if shooting may interfere with traffic or the use of public spaces.
Production is the most intense and time-sensitive phase of any video project. A well-managed production needs to function like a well-oiled machine, as every additional day of production is going to incur substantial costs. That being said, there are always issues that can occur during production, such as weather-related issues. Contingency plans may be necessary to ensure that production can still continue.
During pre-production the shooting schedule will have been planned in the most efficient way. This shooting schedule will be followed to the best of the crew’s ability. At each shoot, the production crew will set up equipment, complete the shoot, and then tear it down — and any on set issues, such as equipment malfunctions, will have to be handled on-the-fly. Because of the time pressure, everyone on set will have a specific job and will be responsible for the completion of that job on schedule.
Multiple takes will be shot with any live actors, scenery, or products as necessary. Sound will be isolated on set, but additional sound effects and audio will be added later on. A continuity expert may also be called upon to make sure that the scenes remain consistent between takes and overall.
How long production lasts and how complex it is will be based on the type of video being produced. A simple explainer video may be shot in the span of an afternoon, whereas a complete television commercial may need multiple takes over the course of a week. A more involved video may take several weeks to complete, especially if multiple locations and sets are desired.
Post-production is when the shots are actually assembled. In fact, it’s when the production will start to take shape. During post-production, the video and audio will be cleaned up. Any errors that have been made will be corrected, and the scenes that are shot will be placed into their final sequence. Multiple post-production versions of the video may be cut together before the final video is completed.
High quality video and audio makes the process of post-production much easier. Though there’s a lot that can be done in post-production, even talented and experienced individuals cannot improve the quality of the content. Video can be processed to make it brighter or to shift its color, but it cannot be made clearer, sharper, or higher in resolution. This is what makes it important to work with the right equipment and staff from the start.
During post-production, effects may be added such as visual effects, CGI, and narrative audio. If audio such as voice lines weren’t clear in the original shoot, actors may need to return to re-record their lines. This is very common. Other effects such as text, titles, and captions will also be added during this time, and ultimately a final version will be compiled for distribution.
Marketing / Distribution
Once the video has been successfully produced, it has to be marketed and distributed. Marketing and distribution depends on the target audience for the production. Younger audiences tend to look towards social media and other online venues; older audiences may instead look towards more traditional media, such as local television stations. Either way, online platforms are generally the most accessible and cost-effective. Here are the major types of distribution:
Television – TV distribution is the most expensive type of distribution, but it also has the broadest audience. It’s extremely useful for products that have solid general appeal or services targeted to a specific geographic area. Local television ads may be well within the budget for even a smaller business, depending on timing. However, television ads have some downsides as well; they need to be broadcasted in a traditional ‘commercial’ or ‘infomercial’ format, they are difficult for an audience to interact with, and they aren’t shareable.
Video platforms – Media-based platforms encourage sharing and ‘going viral.’ Though a video platform can be posted on for free, there are also ways to promote posts by paying for them. Video platforms can target videos to specific demographics and they can contribute to a video going ‘viral.’ Free video posts may struggle to get viewers if the company’s social media presence is not significant, and paid video posts will generally get as much traction as a business is willing to pay for. As a company builds its presence on the platform, it will find itself gaining even more significant returns.
Social media platforms – Primarily social media-based platforms are an excellent place to share videos that may be already posted on a video platform, or to upload videos to directly. Companies that are able to build their social media presence can immediately interact with all of their followers, who are already likely to be interested in their product. However, access to customers who aren’t interested in the product may be somewhat limited, and like a video-based platform, there needs to be work put into the social media platform’s overall campaign.
Websites – Companies can also distribute their videos on their own websites. ‘About us’ videos, explainer videos, and product videos are often distributed in this way — but they’ll only be viewed by an audience who is already on the company’s website. This costs nothing but may have a narrow band of viewers. Companies can, however, still purchase paid advertising for their site and its videos, in order to draw in additional traffic.
Videos can be pushed towards many online venues without any additional cost. It’s in a company’s best interest to publish videos on as many platforms as possible; a company can publish a video to a video platform and then link to it on their social media and on their website for maximum exposure. In order to boost their videos, they can then pay for advertising on social media and video platforms.
Regardless, a video’s success is going to be dominantly controlled by its content and its professionalism. Professional-looking videos and interesting, compelling videos are going to be shared by a user base, which delivers the company free advertising without any additional cost. Though a company often can’t plan for a video ‘going viral,’ it can create a video with the highest possible quality.
Each of the five stages of video production is essential to create a highly polished and entertaining end product. A professional video company is able to bring all of these components together at the lowest cost, whereas those who are not experienced in video production may find the process slower or more costly. Either way, the planning and preparation stages of video production tend to be the ones that are most important to the final product.
Article by Joe Forte, co-owner and producer at D-Mak Productions, a full-service video production company based in Arizona.