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Planning your video production shoot

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. The old adage can certainly ring true for video production. It’s crucial to plan your shoots before any filming takes place.

The planning stage for a video shoot can include devising a script and storyboard, working out the best camera angles for scenes and deciding upon the most appropriate presenter for the video. It’s also the time to pin down logistics: choosing the best location for filming, for example.

Let’s take a look at some of the key pre-production elements to consider in more detail. Most apply whether you’re going to work with a third party camera person or take care of the filming in-house.

1. Script

Having a script prepared is key whether you are filming with your own in-house presenter or outsourcing the work.

A good approach is to treat scripts for online business video in the same way you would tackle selling a product or service in web page copy.

Consider covering the benefits first and then mention specific features. Balancing these two aspects will help to ensure that the video is both informative and sales driven.

Keep it short and to the point. Read through the script and see how long each section takes to read aloud. Bear in mind that there are usually moments in a video where there is no talking, only imagery. This means that the final run-time will generally be a little longer than the script.Check the run-time of similar videos to make sure that yours isn’t unusually long.

Try and keep the script jargon free. Think about your target audience and the language you use. If you’re dealing with the general public, you don’t want your presenter to sound patronizing. On the other hand,the script mustn’t be too wordy or complicated – you want the typical person in the street to be able to understand what’s said.

If you hire a presenter you’ll benefit from their impartial input, through their interpretation of and take on the script.

Can they understand it? Your presenter isn’t necessarily an expert in your field, so it’s important that they can make sense of it. If they find it clear, that’s a good sign. If they are struggling to decipher your jargon, however, you probably want to simplify the script. Otherwise you’ll just confuse your audience too.

Don’t be afraid to learn from the shopping channels: use ‘sales’ words and create calls to action. Try including some of these seven powerful sales words to help sell more product: ‘free’, ‘new’, ‘guarantee’, ‘fast’, ‘value’, ‘proven’ and ‘you’.

The ability to encourage a viewer to take action after watching your video is important. You may want the viewer to download a brochure, learn more from your website, sign up for a trial or add a product to the shopping cart.

Calls to action tend to thrive on action-oriented language and may use time-sensitive words to help create a sense of urgency.

Words like ‘call’, ‘buy’, ‘register’, ‘subscribe’, ‘donate’and so on all require action, and getting viewers to act is core to an effective sales funnel.

Here are some examples of calls to action that you could include in your video script or on the web pages that host your videos:

  • Join today
  • Signup for our newsletter
  • Signup now
  • Learn more today
  • Download now
  • Join now
  • Buy now at an introductory price
  • Sign me up now
  • Sign up for free
  • Try for free
  • Sign up for a free trial
  • Free one month trial
  • Purchase book
  • Try free for 30 days
  • Buy now
  • Find out more
  • See our case study
  • Order now
  • See plans and pricing
  • Get it now
  • Get a quote
  •  Book now
  • Search now
  • Try it now

2. Storyboard

With your script complete – and its run-time checked –  it’s a good idea to use a storyboard when producing your video.

The value of a storyboard is that it can help to create a focus for what needs to be shown on camera. It will let you identify in advance the kind of shots you need as well as flag up any issues you may have to overcome during filming.

A storyboard can be as simple or as advanced as you like. It’s true that there are some advanced storyboard software programs on the market, but a simple template with notes and ‘Stickmen’ drawings will usually do the job just as well. What’s important is that the storyboard conveys to you and your colleagues what you must film and how to frame the shots.

See below for a storyboard template you can printout:

3. Using a presenter

If you’re going to film your own videos you must decide whether to hire a professional presenter or ask a member of your company to present the video.

Choosing a professional presenter

A skilled presenter can give you the benefit of their experience and expertise, and might help your videos look more professional.

Presenter – Carmel Thomas

A professional will also be able to memorize the script well, which could save you shooting time on filming day as well as time in the editing suite. Getting it right first time means fewer takes to sift through.

A presenter isn’t usually expected to advise on how you stage your shots, but an experienced professional may come up with some useful suggestions and improvements to your script, perhaps making it more conversational in tone.

In addition, a professional can help to build trust in your company and give your online videos credibility.

Presenting in-house

This needs careful thought…

If you have someone in-house who can genuinely present well in front of a camera, it makes sense to use that person. Using someone from within the business to represent your company feels more genuine and can help your customers feel more attached to your brand.

Issues that may arise if you use an in-house presenter can include the presenter leaving the company shortly after filming; forgetting their lines; not looking as good on camera as you’d imagined; or requiring a lot of takes, which will increase the amount of unplanned-for time in the editing suite.

You will save money on a presenter’s fee. But it’s nevertheless important to weigh up all the pros and cons of using a colleague or employee to present.

If you’re serious about using someone in-house, it’s highly recommended that you ask the individual to complete an informal screen test beforehand. Simply ask the person to present your rough script in front of the camera.

It doesn’t have to be perfect first time, but you must be sure that they can do the job.

Ask yourself:

  • How do they look on camera?
  • Can they remember their lines?
  • Do you think they will help the finished footage to look professional?

The reality is that a professional presenter may remember their lines and deliver each take just about perfectly. A colleague on the other hand, might need 20 attempts to get a take right. It’s vital to factor this in, as your shoot could take much longer than expected – as could the editing process.

Tips on finding a presenter

You have a few options as to how to look for a presenter. The most immediate of these is to run a job posting on a talent website.

As there are many artists, singers, models, actors and soon trying to find work, placing an ad for a paid presenting job is likely to elicit a large number of responses.

It’s not unheard of to have between 200 and 300 people apply for a presenting job within a few days of an ad going live.

Usually it’s immediately obvious that 90% of the people who have applied are not a match. You must screen these people out from the off. This can still leave you with 20 to 40 suitable applicants, which should ideally be whittled down to just three or four likely candidates.

Actors versus presenters

There’s often a big difference between professional presenters and actors. For online business videos that are quite sales-drive nor include product demos, it’s best you opt for a presenter rather than an actor.

From personal experience, presenters are much more comfortable selling in front of a camera. The best way to find the right person is to decide what type of person you’re after and ask yourself whether likely candidates have both the right image and experience.

Should I hold auditions?

I’m not a huge fan of auditions for small video jobs. They can take a lot of time and many presenters will be put off by having to audition for a job that pays only a few hundred bucks.

That said, if you’re going to do a sizable number of videos over a set period of time, hosting auditions is certainly an option worth considering.

A simple way to audition potential presenters is to set up a room with a camera and lights to film short screen tests. Choosing a few basic subjects for each person to talk about in front of the camera will help you to get a feel for their style and competence at presenting.

It’s certainly possible to audition around 15 to 20 people a day in this way. Make sure you only audition because it’s a genuine need: this isn’t about creating an excuse to role-play scenes from X Factor USA. Treat it like a job interview.

Always be polite and respectful to everyone who auditions and never imply that you’re going to hire someone unless you really are sure that you will.   

If you’re pressed for time and want to find the best person for the job but don’t have time for auditions, you can take a pick based on their credentials and showreel.

Ask all of your shortlisted presenters for their showreel whether or not you also audition them. This will help you to narrow down the competition. As with any job interview, you also need to ask the right questions, for example, to find out if they’ve worked on similar projects.

Check that the work on a presenter’s showreel is not all down to auto-cue if you’re hiring them to work to a script.

How reliable are they at getting back to you via phone or email? If they’re slow and a little unreliable early on, it could just be the thin end of the wedge. And you certainly don’t want people pulling out at short notice.

Also find out if your preferred presenter has worked on any of the major shopping channels. In my experience, this can be the very best preparation for presenting web videos.

Dealing with agents

If you’re hiring a presenter, you may find that some of the best ones have agents.

Dealing with agents can be a mixed bag: they can be a good source of reliable talent but are often pushy. An agent is paid a percentage of the talent’s fee, so will try to get the highest rate possible for the job.

It’s the agent’s job to promote their acts, so they’ll have positive things to say about all of the talent on their roster. Don’t be surprised if they send you showreels for many presenters they represent and then call you repeatedly to follow up.

Potentially this can be a little draining for you, but it does mean that the agent is doing a good job for the artists they look after.

Using an agent brings benefits other than easy access to a handpicked bunch of talent. Because an agent often has many artists on the roster, they provide great back-up. If something comes up and your preferred presenter isn’t available on the day, then the agent will likely be able to supply you with a good alternative, even at short notice.

4. Location

Some things to think about when selecting a location to shoot your video are lighting, noise and privacy. You need to find somewhere that has good light (or light you can control), quiet and is somewhere you can shoot without being disturbed by members of the public.

Filming indoors versus outside

Filming outside means that you usually don’t need to worry about using lamps to shoot your video as you have natural daylight to illuminate your scene. But it could rain, which might mean you’d have to call off filming.

Rain on the camera lens is a major problem

Filming outside usually means coping with more ambient noise that you may have no control over, like traffic noise, machinery,passers-by and so on.

Cloud can create low light issues and fog can ruin landscapes for filming. Even wind can interfere with microphones – not to mention your presenter’s hair.

Wind and poor light can also cause problems for a shoot.

Even if you’re lucky with the weather and the sun shines,you will tend to have the most flattering filming light for only those two hours after dawn and two hours before dusk.

You need to take all of these issues into account when working out the practical logistics for filming.

One major benefit of working indoors is that you can control the light and ignore the weather. If it’s windy outside, you needn’t worry about noise picked up by the microphones or how it affects the presenter’s appearance. If you have a showroom, shooting here out of office hours is one option, but any quiet, spacious indoor location is often a better bet than filming outdoors.

Summary

In this planning a video article we covered:

  • Why a script is very important and techniques to make it workable.
  • How a storyboard is a very useful tool and worth investing time in.
  • When to hire talent, ways you can do this and dealing with talent agents.
  • Considerations you need to make when choosing a location to film (the challenges of noise, low light issues, access, general interruptions and more).

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