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30 Production Tips to Get Video Right Every Time

17 min read
January 31, 2018

So you want to make a video. Now what?

Regardless of budget, there are a few key steps to consider when approaching any video, to make sure things run smoothly and that you’re conveying the intended message to the best of your abilities.

Here are 30 tips for dummies – a.k.a. smarties – who want to make a video.

Mindset, Concepting, Pre-production, Shooting and Editing              

  1. Explore your idea and decide the type of video you want to create
    There are endless types of videos out there. Before you dive into the spark of your idea, explore the internet. Take a look at similar videos, get inspired and think about what you’ll need to get started.
  2. Set your intention
    In a similar vein, when you’re zeroing in on your concept, ask yourself: “what is my reason for making this video, and what feelings/knowledge do I want my audience to walk away with?” It may seem simple, but targeting this early can help you make smarter decisions later down the line. For example, if the reason for creating the video is to inform your social media audience of an upcoming event, and you want it to be funny, quick and engaging, perhaps decide on a quick, live video of your coworker plugging the event in a goofy outfit. Alternatively, if the reason for creating the video is to gain a measurable amount of new customers, and you want your audience to be inspired to purchase a product after watching, perhaps you need to invest in more complex, high-cost video solutions.
  3. Be your own producer
    Start creating your production schedule by asking yourself the five W’s + H: Who needs to be involved – behind and in front of the camera? What is the subject matter and what do you need (props, wardrobe, etc.)? Where will you be shooting? When will you need to shoot (or have to shoot based on time constraints/weather)? Why are you shooting (revisit your intention)? And how will you be shooting (gear)?
  4. Write your script or interview questions
    If you’re creating a narrative project, give yourself ample time to write and revise your script. If you’re creating a newsy style piece – driven by interviews with your subject(s) – be sure to write and review your questions beforehand as well. Often times, more indirect questions about your targeted topic may lead to the more natural, candid responses you’re looking for.
  5. Decide: do you need b-roll?
    As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, b-roll is the extra footage captured to enrich the story you’re telling and allow for greater flexibility when editing. Instead of featuring only talking heads in a video, additional images you can cut away to will add dimensions to your story.For a very quick, low budget piece – you may be able to fly without b-roll – but otherwise, you owe yourself and your audience a favor by capturing as much b-roll as you can.
  6. Decide: do you need one or two interview cameras?
    Having multiple interview cameras is always preferred, as it gives you more flexibility in editing. If your subject has a tendency to stutter or you need to remove an awkward pause, it is always more flattering to cut to an alternative angle instead of the same shot. Again, for a very quick, low-budget piece – you can probably get away with it – but otherwise, do you and your audience a favor and go the extra mile.
  7. Lock in on your audio
    At least 10% of your video budget should always go towards sound. Take the time to research the right microphone for you. Lavalier microphones are great for a hands-free, intimate recording of your subject. Shotgun microphones are more directional, and avoid any rustling of clothing you may get from a lavalier mic. Handheld interview microphones are your best bet for a live event set-up. Additionally, look into an external sound recorder as it may help you retain a much better sound quality from your microphone than if you record straight into your camera.
  8. Lock in on your lighting
    At least 10% of your video budget should always go towards lighting. Start by learning three-point lighting; it’s how the pros set-up for interviews. If your budget allows for it, I would highly recommend investing some bi-color – daylight to tungsten – LEDs. The flexibility to use the daylight function when you’re outside or close to a window, and the tungsten function when you’re indoors is HUGE.
  9. Be realistic with your production value
    Unfortunately, great looking video is oftentimes more about money than talent. Go easy on yourself if you have a tight budget. Manage your expectations early, and you’ll have fewer headaches later down the line.
  10. Create your shotlist and schedule
    Visualize every interview and b-roll shot you’ll need, and make a list. Then, create a schedule that gives yourself ample time to capture those shots. For more information on types of camera shots, angles and camera movement, check out this resource.
  11. Get to know your gear
    Simply put, before you shoot anything for your organization, you should be well acquainted with your gear. Take some time to walk around with your camera and have fun with it before you shoot. As always, practice makes perfect, so the more time you’ve spent with your gear, the more confident you’ll be come shooting day.
  12. Charge your batteries and clear your cards
    Even if you’re shooting for five minutes, you should always have extra cards and batteries on hand just in case something goes wrong. You never want to miss a magic moment simply because of poor planning.
  13. Don’t forget release forms
    These days, anything and everything might need a release form – people, locations, art, etc. – so before you shoot, be sure to be well acquainted with your brand’s legal guidelines, and have all required forms printed out before shooting. Don’t forget your pens and clipboards either!
  14. Get everyone on the same page
    Most importantly, check in with your set of players often before shooting day. Make sure they know when to arrive, what they’re wearing, and if appropriate, what they’re talking about. The more comfortable and prepared everyone can be, the better.
  15. Set up and test shoot before rolling
    Camera gear is often times heavy and tricky to step up. Be kind to yourself and give yourself at least a half hour. If you have the time, take some test shots so that you’re confident with how things look before your subject arrives
  16. Recite the horizontal pledge
    Unless your content is specifically being used for Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Periscope or Pinterest, you should not be shooting vertically! Our eyes, and every screen other than our cell phones, are horizontal.
  17. Auto vs. manual
    Great video comes from shooting manual, but if you’re just getting started or are under tight time constraints, auto is your best friend. Manual gives you the flexibility to play with ISO, shutter speed and aperture – the settings that take an image from zero to hero. Auto gives you its computer generated best recipe of those settings based on your lighting environment. So when all else fails, shoot auto!
  18. Don’t forget to focus
    …Literally and figuratively! Before you hit record, make sure to focus in on your subject. If you’re capturing an interview, be sure to focus in on the eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, after all!
  19. Go through the pre-interview checklist
    Before you hit record, remind your subject where to look, to restate your question in their answer, to watch their ums and ahs and to leave some dead air between your question and their answer (this helps in editing). Once you hit record, start by asking them to say and spell out their name. This is nice to have in editing in case you need to create a title card for them in your final video.
  20. Roll with the punches
    When shooting, the unexpected can and will happen. We’re human, after all. Be prepared to adapt on a whim without losing your cool.
  21. Back up and store your footage
    As soon as possible after shooting, move your content off of your memory cards and store it on your computer in multiple locations. Ideally, you should be storing your footage somewhere on your computer and an external hard drive. Working off an external hard drive is the best way to go, because video files are huge, and you don’t want them slowing down your machine. Although, it’s always nice to have a backup, which is why a local copy is great too.
  22. Choose the right editing software
    Editing software will not make or break your story. If you don’t have a huge budget, and you already own a Mac product, start with iMovie. If you want to invest in a more intuitive video editing program, Adobe Premiere offered within the Adobe Creative Cloud suite is my personal go-to, but Final Cut has a loyal following as well.
  23. Organize your footage within your software
    Set yourself up for success by organizing your footage before you even start editing. Create folders by interviewee, angle, favorite b-roll shots, etc. The more specific you can be during this stage, the easier your editing flow will go.
  24. Transcribe your interviews
    If possible, get your interviews transcribed. It can be hugely helpful to have physical printouts of your interviews to read while you edit. It helps to make sure none of your key talking points are overlooked.
  25. Find the right music
    As much as you might love Bruno Mars, he doesn’t like when you use his music without paying him! Be sure to find royalty-free music that fits your video’s mood perfectly. YouTube is a great resource for this. For cheap, copyright-free music, I also like Pond 5 and Audio Jungle.
  26. Pass 1: Lay out the foundation of your edit and choose the right soundbites
    It’s finally time to edit your video! For your first pass, lay out the foundation of your video with the best soundbites to create your story. Do a quick export and review with your team to be sure that your messaging is on point.
  27. Pass 2: Set the foundation to music, add b-roll, play with second camera angles
    For Pass 2, set your foundation to music, play with your extra camera angles, and add b-roll. Try your best to set your shots to music in a way that aligns with the beat and rhythm. With b-roll, choose shots that help to visually explain what your interviewees or actors are talking about. Once finished, route with your team again for feedback.
  28. Pass 3: Add title cards, add intro or closing logos/graphics and correct colors
    Now’s the time for final touches. Create title cards for each of your interviewees. If appropriate, inform your viewers by adding opening and closing logos/graphics. Lastly, play around with color correction. Even just a little extra saturation to your images can make a world of difference. Again, export and route with your team.
  29. Exporting: Be mindful of file type and aspect ratios
    It’s finally time to export your video. For posting online, .MOV or .MP4 files with a 1080p resolution are your best bet. Unless you’re creating a square video or need a more compressed file, you should hopefully be able to stick with your software’s automatic exportation settings.
  30. Share your video and celebrate your hard work!
    You’ve finally reached the finish line! Now it’s time to post your video, and share it with your friends, family, and followers. Be sure to choose the correct social media platform for your type and length of video. The more places you can host your video, the better.

Best of luck with your video pursuits. Remember, practice makes perfect, and if you have any questions or need additional video resources/support, feel free to reach out to Liz Lewin (llewin@martingroupmarketing.com) at The Martin Group.

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