A quick guide to working with a
production team and the steps in the video production process
Before you start…
PRE-PRODUCTION is the stage where, between
yourself and the video producer, everything is planned. What should
happen is that:
A Script is written and agreed.
This is essential unless this is purely a newsgathering exercise, for
example a record of a conference or other event.
Casting: this is required if you
are using actors for a drama. Often you can rely on the production
company to find actors they have already used. If you need to
audition, limit the number of actors you invite; shortlist from their
CVs and photographs. Television experience is more useful than
Presenter: if you need a
front-of-camera presenter, they all have showreels, so you can make a
choice based on seeing them perform. Fees range enormously from £500
up to £10,000, depending on celebrity and ego.
Director’s recce. Someone from
the video production company must visit the location in advance, to see what
is practical and work out how the scenes are going to be shot.
Otherwise something is almost certainly going to go wrong. Also this
is a chance to meet key people at your end; video crews have often
been thrown off a location because no-one thought to check with the
union or the production director or the shopping centre management or
Some form of coordinating document
is produced to explain exactly how the shoot will run. This may be
called a “call sheet”, “schedule” or even a “storyboard”
(but don’t expect a cartoon strip treatment with pictures – this
is usually only for tv commercials and feature films). What this
document should include is: A list of all the key personnel and their
contact details, both on the client and production company side. A
timetable for the shoot, location by location, scene by scene. Details
of performers, props, etc and when and where they are required.
does everyone know the video crew is coming – especially Security,
Senior Management, etc?
is there somewhere near the shoot location to unload the camera and
lighting kit? A trolley to move kit is always useful.
a secure room to store equipment cases, charge batteries, sit actors
to rehearse while they’re not wanted for a scene.
Power: for interiors, is power
available for the crew’s lighting? 13-amp 240-volt is normal for
video kit. Does your company safety policy require an electrician to
check the kit on the day of the shoot? Does the kit need to be
Availability: have you checked
that machines to be filmed will be running, no building work going on,
etc, etc.? Remember also that daylight fails around 3pm in midwinter
and that shots showing Christmas decorations look bizarre in the
Suitability: rooms used as
locations for interviews should be large enough to accommodate both
the interviewee and the crew and all the lighting, not have noisy air
conditioning or low ceilings, but be visually interesting. Agree these
with the video director in advance.
Interference: traffic or people
talking nearby, banging doors, walking through the shot – all these
can mean shots have to be done again, which means delay. Put up signs
asking people to be quiet; ideally divert them away from your
location. In locations where the public have access, it is polite to
put up signs warning them of the shoot, in case they don’t want to
appear in the background.
Permission: as soon as someone
becomes an identifiable part of the video, rather than a passing face
in a crowd, you should have their agreement to film. Stunts which
could be misinterpreted or could be hazardous, a staged bag snatch on
a shopping street for example, may require police permission. You do
not have a right to film on a privately owned land, even if there is
general public access (eg a shopping centre or car park).
Insurance: clarify the position
on your liability to the video crew and their liability to your staff,
customers, etc. A risk assessment will be needed if the shoot could in
anyway be hazardous. You may also need to provide PPE.
Fallback position: do you have
alternative locations if, for example, a machine breaks down or it is
pouring with rain?
Interviews: the normal practice
is for interviewees to be asked a number of questions by the video
director; they will look “off camera” at the director, rather than
the camera lens or “on camera”. These questions are then cut out,
so the director will be looking for a “complete answer”, ie a
statement that stands on its own. For example: “The key benefit of
the new distribution centre will be…” rather than: “Yes. Same
day delivery.” Each question may well be asked a number of times, so
there are enough variations to edit together into a cohesive,
articulate whole. The joins between questions may be covered with “cutaways”
(shots showing what the interviewee is talking about), a change of
shot (say from wide to close-up) or a quick fade to/from white or
black. Interviewees can prepare by thinking about what they are going
to say, but should never try and memorise a script; if they do, the
result will almost certainly be very wooden.
Pieces to camera: here either a
senior manager or a professional presenter talks direct to the camera
lens. If the piece is short it can be memorised. Otherwise a tele-prompt
mounted on the camera or a mini-recorder playing audio into the
presenter’s earpiece will do the trick. Cue cards are not
recommended, especially for non-professionals; it’s extremely
difficult to look at the cue card and the lens at the same time.
Chromakey: otherwise known as “blue
screen” or “green screen”. The presenter or interviewee is shot
against a flat blue or green background. In the edit, the blue or
green is replaced electronically with a graphic or a shot taken
elsewhere. This can be a very efficient way of rattling off a series
of interviews in a controlled environment.
Sound: the microphone sitting on
the camera itself is just for background. Speech will be picked up
with a separate microphone on a boom, or through a “tie”, “clip”
or “radio” mike worn by the speaker.
Actors will need somewhere to
change and to sit while they’re not needed. They will have learned
the script in advance, so don’t ask for last-minute script changes
if you want a coherent performance. If actors are playing the part of
your staff, you will need to provide uniforms, PPE, etc as
Refreshment: a video shoot is
hard work, so the crew will appreciate the occasional cup of coffee
and a break for lunch.
Beyond the ordinary: you can add
some of the trimmings of a feature film or broadcast television
production to a corporate shoot if they help the story or the
presentation. These need not be particularly expensive. For example:
A make-up artist if you’re
doing drama, especially in costume
A stunt co-ordinator if
staging an accident for a safety video
A pyrotechnician or armourer
to provide flashes and bangs and smoke
Aerial photography, either
from a helicopter or a remotely piloted drone
Special “grip” equipment
such as a track and dolly or a steadicam (both allow the
camera to be moved smoothly over a distance), a crane or a
Obviously there is an expense to hiring a
video studio, but, it does give you a quiet, controlled environment, which can
be very productive. Lighting, blue screen and infinity curve backgrounds
are usually standard. On the other hand, a studio is an empty space, so
you may need a set – whether some physical scenery or a virtual set (a
computer generated background applied in the edit).
Post production is the process that follows the
You may be offered copies of the rushes (the shot camera tapes) to view,
often as VHS tapes with burned-in time code (BITC). This allows you to
identify shots and will typically be tape number – minutes – seconds
– frames (eg 02:12:46:08).
The Offline or rough video edit was, in the days
of tape-based video edit suites, made as a guide, on low format (and hence
inexpensive) equipment. Once you had approved the offline, the material
then went into the Online suite, where it was assembled at broadcast
quality, complete with titles, voiceover, music and special effects. Now
virtually all editing is computer-based, so the technical distinction is
blurred, even thought the two stages of the rough and final cut have been
It is wise to record any voiceover
narration after the shoot, in case the result on the day was not exactly
as per the script.
All music costs. Tracks from well-known
rock classics are the most expensive, followed by music written
specifically for your production, then library music (on special
background music disks, licensed through the Mechanical Copyright
Protection Society) and finally “buy-out” or “royalty-free” music
which can be bought online.