Ah, video content marketing.

It’s been a hot topic in 2013 (we’ve written about it, too), and many end-of-year predication posts assert it will be more of a focus in 2014. Why? Well, as Forbes explains, people respond to faces, voices, movement, and emotion—and video often contains all four of those elements, making it one crazy-powerful marketing tool. But you’ve heard the “whys” before—that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Here, we’re discussing how to organize and execute a successful video shoot.

Unless you properly prepare, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and a lot of money for hours of unusable footage. And that’s no way to kick off your video marketing initiatives.

Below, we cover three phases of video production: Preparing for the Shoot, During the Shoot, and After the Shoot.

I. Preparing for the Shoot

Start with a Project Brief

Before doing anything, you need to define the purpose of, style of, and audience for your videos. These points should live in a project brief, a document outlining the key expectations and specifications for the final product. The brief will help you stay on track, keep the goals of the video shoot top of mind, and ensure that everyone working on the video shoot stays on the same page.

A useful project brief should contain the following:

Project Specifications: This is the bare-bones, straightforward description of the video project. How many videos are you creating? How long will they be? How many days or hours will you be filming?

Overview: Write 2-3 sentences that sum up the topic and purpose of this project. Why are you creating this video? Who is the audience for this video? What is the main message?

Outline: Think about each video as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Whether you’re creating one video or twenty, think through the key points you’d like to cover during each. It may seem like overkill, but the more prepared you are the better, especially because small details make a big difference on film.

Creative Inspiration: This piece of the planning process is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. Finding 2-3 videos that capture the style, flow, or format you have in mind will help everyone involved in the video creation process. It helps the director plan for shooting and camera setup, the editor/designer choose images, illustrations, or music for the video, the script writers understand the desired end-product, etc. As you find examples of videos you like, note what exactly you like about each one. This step will do wonders for the final product.

Write the Script

Now comes the first step in content creation: the script. Keep in mind that writing a script is different than writing a blog post or eBook. In a script, it’s even more important to ditch the buzzwords, keep sentences short, and convey a clear message. Scripts should be easy to follow and understand, so when in doubt, keep it simple.

Use the video outlines from the project brief to guide the creation of your script, and make sure to keep in mind exactly how long you want each video to be. Once you finish your first script, read it out loud. Time yourself. Is it too long? Are there phrases or sentences that are hard to say? If so, cut down the script or rephrase certain sentences. Are there specific words that should be emphasized? Make a clear note for the person who will ultimately read it.

Once finalized, share your scripts with the videographer and director. It will help them get a feel for the topic, length, and style.

Get the Right Equipment

Teleprompters (and Alternatives)

For scripted videos, you’re going to need a teleprompter. If you have a proper teleprompter that sits around the camera, then use it. This is especially important if you want someone to be speaking into the camera. Teleprompters are specifically designed to make it look like the actor or reader is talking directly to the audience. This is less of an issue if there won’t be close-up shots of the speaker’s face. But if that is part of the plan, a teleprompter cuts down on eye-tracking (when your eyes move from left to right or skip lines as they read) and the possibility of the speaker looking just above or below the camera.

If you don’t have a teleprompter, you can rent one. However, they can get pretty pricey ($500 or more). If that’s not in your budget, worry not. There are a few work-arounds.

Buy or rent a large television or monitor, and place it behind the camera. Then, connect your laptop to the screen. You can then use free online tools that turn your computer into a teleprompter, such as EasyPrompter.com.

Cameras

We recommend using at least 2 cameras. Especially for scripted videos that won’t have images or b-roll (the footage of people talking on the phone, running through a park, walking around an office, in a meeting, and all sorts of other activities depending on the topic that is used to smooth awkward cuts in film), make sure to have at least two cameras with two different angles. This will allow you to cut film and different takes together seamlessly. For example, if the beginning of one take is better than another, you can cut from one angle to another and it will keep the flow of the video intact.

Lighting

Next, you need good lighting. Make sure you have quality lighting set up, and that it’s consistent throughout the shoot. Having someone who understands the art of lighting will ensure there are no weird and distracting shadows on the actor’s face or in the background.

Other Stuff!

Your videos may also require props, costumes, special backgrounds, or other pieces specific to your project. Create a checklist of everything you need. You don’t want to show up the morning of the shoot missing that one crucial piece. 

Gather Your People

For a seamless shoot, you should have at least four people around at all times: the talent (the person being filmed), script supervisor/teleprompter operator, director, and videographer. All of these people play crucial roles in the production process. Also, hire a makeup artist for the morning of the shoot (or, if in your budget, all day). You want your talent looking and feeling their best on screen. If you only hire a makeup artist for the morning, don’t forget to have makeup on hand for touch-ups throughout the day.

Choose a Location

If you’re working in a studio, be sure to choose somewhere quiet. This is especially important if you’re not going to have background music to cover up those little noises that will inevitably occur while shooting. The microphones will pick up everything. Seriously. Someone sneezes outside the door, your video will have a sneeze in it. Make sure the studio is quiet and has the background or style you need. If you’re shooting outside, take into account potential shifts in weather, and how the light changes throughout the day.

II. During the Shoot

Scripts written, location set, team on board. It’s filming time. Here are a few key pieces to keep in mind during the shoot.

Testing, 1-2-3, Testing

Before you get into it, make sure to test everything. Do a few test shots to make sure the video angles are where you want them to be, the audio is coming through loud and clear, there isn’t any distracting eye-tracking, the makeup looks good, and that there aren’t any awkward or distracting shadows in the background. Get these things taken care of up front, otherwise, you might be stuck with a whole bunch of unusable footage after a long day’s work.

Keep Track of Takes

As the filming begins, make sure to take notes on each take. This will help immensely with the video editing process. If you like the beginning of one take, or the end, write that down next to each take number. These notes will streamline the editing process and ensure that only the best parts are used in the final product. This will also help you know if you need to do more takes, or redo certain parts of the script.

Watch for Consistency

Make sure you note everything for consistency’s sake. For example, where is the actor standing? How exactly are the cameras angled? If you’re shooting a series of videos that should all look the same, it’s important to note all the details. In this case, the floor might look like a work of duct-tape art. The actor’s front toes should be in the same spot. Mark where the cameras are set up. Mark where the teleprompter and lights are set. If you’re shooting for multiple days, make sure to leave everything you can exactly where it is. 

Note Any Changes

Did the actor have trouble saying that particular word, so it was changed during filming? Make note of that on the script. You want to have—always—an accurate record from your shoot.

III. After the Shoot

Once the shoot is over and done, time to work on the final product.

Deliver Footage and Notes to the Editor

The editor may be the videographer or the director, but whoever is actually cutting the film together, make sure they have everything they need to be successful. They should have the outline of each video, the project brief (including the creative inspiration pieces), all introduction text or credits, and final scripts (the updated versions from the shoot). If you don’t provide these pieces to the editor, you might not deliver the final product you’re hoping for.

Start with One Video (or a Piece of the Video) 

Get an example, even if it’s only a rough cut, of a video (or piece of the video) before the editor completes the whole project. Note any and every issue you have with this first version. Once this first piece is discussed, the editor will be able to use it as a template for the rest of the video or videos. This will ensure that the finished product is what you have in mind, and it will save the editor a lot of time and revisions.

Market Your Content!

Once you have the final product, make sure you share it! After all that effort, you want to right people to see this incredible piece of content you’ve put so much time and effort into. Create blog posts with the video embedded, or create previews of the topic and post them to Vine or Instagram. Share them through social media channels and in email marketing campaigns. If the video is longer, use it as a content pillar and break it into multiple sections. Without a thoughtful distribution strategy, those videos will never see the light of day.

With video becoming an increasingly popular form of marketing, there will be even more of an opportunity to get creative with your video content. But to deliver a creative end product, you must first have a plan in place. These steps will help you get there.

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