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The Best Video Pre-Production Plan: 3 Imperatives

The Best Video Pre-Production Plan: 3 Imperatives
Chelsea Taylor
Production Manager

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On location for a video production, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the stress and excitement of working behind the scenes. The heat from the bright lights, the abundance of technical equipment, the sound of clapper all heighten the energy on set . And while this all may sound intimidating, at Tiny Giants Co., it’s these not-so little details that we look forward to on our production days.

From the hair and make-up to the raveling and unraveling of endless power cables, our Tiny Giants thrive under production pressure, whether that be pre- or post-production services. But we know this doesn’t come naturally to everyone and takes a good amount of practice to fully understand what it’s in store for long production shoots. With that being said, at Tiny Giants Co production is our bread and butter. With over 15 years of experience in the production industry, we thought we could share some of our industry knowledge to best prepare others for those long production days we all know and love.

Now for those of you asking, “so, there’s a “pre-production” before a production? No worries, we can help explain that.

[#section1]What Is Pre-Production?[#section1]

“Pre-production” is one of the 5 stages in film production, but arguably one of the most important one. In this stage, you are planning and prepping every detail of a production before production begins. This is code for “check-lists galore.”

You are completing scripts, scouring the earth for cast talent, finding locations for shoots, hiring more crew members (if required), confirming which pieces of production equipment will be needed, crunching numbers for a budget. We hope you were sitting down for that one.

So, say you were to hire TGCo for a production, all those “pre-production” worries that may have your head spinning would be taken care of by yours truly.

[#section2]1. Pre-Production People Preparation[#section2]

We approach production by first understanding our purpose. It’s in our TGCo nature to make sure the client and their vision is at the forefront of our production arrangement. Many people don’t understand what a production day entails until they set foot on location. Our goal is to make sure that their experience, whether it be their 1st or 101st time on set, is a great one.

As producers, we try to answer the following during our pre-production process to best prepare our clients and talent for production:

  • What does our client need to succeed?
  • Have they been a part of a production before?
  • How are they feeling? Nervous or Excited? 

Now, you may notice that this isn’t a typical pre-production checklist. One where you identify the tone, target audience, goals, video style, etc. I promise we will get to that.

And while those details are just as important, our TGCo “doctrine” if you will, is based around people and our relationships with them. So, consider this a “pre-production people preparation.”

Is that enough alliteration for you?

Similar to how we test and check equipment, it’s just as important to evaluate the capabilities and limitations of your clients and talent. Take a piece of equipment, for example. You’re on location, and you notice, your camera battery isn’t charged. What do you do? You need to find a solution. So, you either grab a new battery or use a different camera to create a quality shoot. And just a sneaky reminder that having spare charged batteries is definitely a must!

As for people on production, while you can’t necessarily replace them or get them anew battery, you can help them feel more comfortable on camera. It’s safe to say we all know someone who shies away from the camera. They get clammy or stiff. 

Sound familiar?

Well, if it makes you feel any better, we have people on our own team that get that way as well. Being in front of the camera isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay! For clients or pooled talent, we want to make sure that while even though they may be feeling all those nervous emotions, that they are still emitting a natural energy to the camera.

Don’t be afraid to communicate directly with your clients to gauge comfortability level. Their comfort levels can dictate the overall tone, performance, and success of the shoot. As we mentioned above, a production shoot is a buzzing location with lots of fast-moving components that can easily get people wrapped up in the excitement.

Our mission: block out the buzzing.

[#section3]2. Pre-Production Checklist: Arrange Those Details, Details, Details[#section3]

In this pressure cooker of excitement and nerves, there are a lot of things that need to go right & so many things that can easily go wrong. It’s some risky business, but that just means we have to go in with a plan of action to execute with purpose. When going in for production, it's important to stay organized and remain focused on each task at hand. And what’s organization without a list, am I right?

Remember that pre-production list, we mentioned? Well, now it’s time to jump into that crazy space. Unfortunately, there’s no fancy name for this one, so I guess we will just call it our “pre-production checklist”:

Pre-Production Checklist:

1. Location

  • Location scouted (you’ve seen the space before the day you going to film)
  • Appropriate permits required
  • Location release form signed
  • Bump in and bump out times confirmed
  • If outside, wet weather contingency plans
  • Set pieces/props acquired

2. Gear

  • Gear list checked and operational (i.e.,batteries charged)
  • If hiring gear, pick up and drop off confirmed and communicated

3. People

  • On screen talent has been locked in
  • Scripts signed off and sent
  • Call sheet created and sent to all
  • Talent release forms signed

Know your plan inside out and always have multiple backup plans. Your backup plans should have backup plans. Production schedules often need to change on the fly, so being structured, flexible, & adaptable will be crucial in helping you know how to best deal with the changes. Take it from our own Production Manager:

“Production managers and Santa Clause are very similar. They both make lists, they check them twice (at least) and then they proceed to laugh in jolly manner when they’re executing their plan. Lightheartedness is going to get you through the production days. No one is going to be better off when there is a stressful air over an already full day. We make plans so that we have all the information to pivot when (not if) we need to pivot.”
Chelsea Taylor, Production Manager at TGCo.

The art of being in the creative industry is being able to embrace new ideas that come up abruptly. And while maybe not all the ideas are winners, many directors and producers are really able to envision the full scope of the project once they have been able to sit in the production space for some time.

[#section4]3. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work[#section4]

We’re sure you’ve never heard of that phrase before. Super unique and specific to only us. But on a less sarcastic note, as generic and “basic” as it may sound, it couldn’t be more true for production shoots. The teamwork does indeed make the dream work on production.

Producers are reliant on the team surrounding them. And although production teams may not be the most fashion forward in their all-black outfits, they should at least be trustworthy and reliable to work with. And who doesn’t love a little all black outfit every now and then. It’s slimming.

So, your crew members are trustworthy and reliable, but what do they do?

What are their jobs?

Well, we’ll tell you.

Now depending on the size and scope of your video production, your needs and capacity may vary. You may have more crew members that work “above the line” or more that are “below the line.” Some productions are large, some small, but no matter the size of the team, choosing core key members with distinctive roles and responsibilities, who are problem solvers and don't get frazzled under the pressure of ever-changing plans & schedules of production life, is critical to your production success.

To follow in line with this “checklist” idea, we created another checklist to confirm you have all the right people on production. So, without further ado, behold another checklist within a checklist:

1.   Producer

We know what you’re thinking. A Producer on set for a production? Weird. But really a producer is the leader to the entirety of the production. We know - shocking.

From concept to approving scripts, from financing the team to arranging the production film idea, producers are the leader of the pack. They monitor that all members are working on-time and on budget to reduce any more spending on their project.  

2.   Director

Ever heard of the names, Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese? What about Quentin Tarantino? Does that name bring shivers down your spine? Kathryn Bigelow, Olivia Wilde or Ana DuVernay? What do all these people all have in common? They’re all directors, and quite famous ones. So, if you don’t know who these people are you may want to check if you’re living under a rock.

Directors manage the film assembly and shooting of your production. Consider the director the body of the production, and the rest of the crew, their arms and legs. Without the support of their crew, the director wouldn’t be able to capture the vision of the shoot.

3.   Screenwriter

There’s not much to unpack here. The role is in the name. You could probably guess that the Screenwriter writes the dialogue for the video production.

But even more so than that, they dictate the flow of the film, the story’s transitions, and sequences of events. Without their input, most video productions wouldn’t exist!

A great example of this would be the ad campaign project we completed for Century21

Don’t let the little boy fool you. As well-spoken as he is, we can confirm those words were not his. Our scriptwriter created a dialect that used big verbiage with a sophisticated tone to convince the audience that he is older than his age may appear. The power of words was on display here for this video production.

4.   Cast

This is your talent. Either outsourced actors and actresses or fellow company employees your forced to make an appearance in your production.

Regardless of who they are and their acting background, your cast makes up what is going on in front of the camera. Make sure that they are all wrangled on set and ready to go.

5.   Production Designer

A production designer most of the time bi-lingual – translating written word into visual art. Here is where the creativity begins. They begin with storyboarding filled with an array of sketches to visual display the beginning, middle, and end of the story you are capturing.

Consider this role to be the mapmaker of your production, visually designing the look and feel of your shoot.

6.   Art Director

Location, location, location. An art director is in charge of determining the setting of your production. The exterior shoots, the interior shoots, the various backdrops, you name it.

They’re job: convince you, the audience, that the actors are really in the location they claim to be in, whether that be the beach, London, or Mars. Seeing is believing, right?

7.  Costumer Designer

For some of us, we already know fashion is everything. And when it comes to video production, what people are wearing can really dictate the time period, age, tone, economic status, and even attitude of the character.

Just as the set must visually match the look and feel of the location claimed to be portrayed in the script, so must the characters match that same aesthetic. Think “You got to look the part, to be the part.”

Take for example again the ad campaign for Century 21.

To your surprise, the little boy in this production is actually NOT a wealthy business manor the CEO of a major company. At least not yet. And while his age may have been a dead giveaway, we still wanted him to appear as if he was able to afford a nice home like the one in the ad, so we had him dress the part to convince the audience regardless of his age.

8.   Cinematographer

Also referred to as the director of photography (DP), their role is simple. All they have to do is capture the essence of what is being conveyed in the script onto video. Easy, right? Not at all.

A cinematographer is working double time, noticing the angles, lighting, and camera zooms all within the span of a single take. Working under the will of the director, the DP needs to be capable of adjusting the lighting, film style, etc., to capture the specific visual qualities needed from a shoot.

9.   Editor

Did you think editing only happened during the post-production process? Editing begins with the very first shoot, structuring footage and arranging shoots to follow the correct sequence of events.

Handling the multiple angles and takes in a single scene, editors are the true magicians of production. Their editing style choices directly impacts the final product of the video production.

As you may have gathered, there seems to be a lot of magical beings in production, from Santa Clause to masterful magicians. But even more impressive is the power an experience and well-equipped team can have on your production. And like we previously mentioned, the scale of these roles can waiver depending on your needs.  But regardless, you want a team that is efficient and well-equipped for anything on set.

Lack of communication?

Don’t know her.

On location, we only know how to over communicate with our team, to make not only our production experience more efficient, but to make sure that everything we are capturing is exactly what the client intends.

[#section5]Need A Production Team?[#section5]

Okay, now that we’ve talked the talk, we have to show you that we can walk the walk.

Tiny Giants Co wants to help visually tell your story and to perfectly capture your tone, identity, and voice. We work with you every step of the way to fully bring your vision to life. Let’s get a conversation started!

Contact us on our website to schedule a consultation.  

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Wir sind Experten für kreative Inhalte, Webdesign, Videoproduktion und digitales Marketing. Seit mehr als 16 Jahren produzieren wir bei Tiny Giants Co hochwertige Inhalte, die inspirieren, bewegen, und die Geschichten der großartigen Menschen und Marken erzählen, die uns umgeben. Sie möchten mehr erfahren?

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