Think about this: Have you ever left home for a quick trip to the grocery store with just $20 in your wallet? In your mind, you just want to pick up a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk and maybe a package of cookies or chips for a snack. Visions of a quick trip and just a few items while ending up at the Express Checkout counter (“15 items or less”) can quickly morph into a situation where your arms are filled with several bags of things you did not intend to get: pizza, ice cream, eggs, butter, shrimp, and at the end of it all, you also have a busted budget. Without a plan and a strategy for achieving your goals to reach your intended audience, the process of planning and shooting a video can be like the haphazard shopping experience described.
While that shopping story may be humorous, in the video production world it would be disastrous. When creating a video it is important to be as efficient as possible to get the best product. The first order of business is to know and establish your budget. What in-house resources do you have? How solid are they? ? How much can you afford to fund your project? Once you know what you are working with in terms of your budget, you will know whether you’re looking at a remake of Star Wars or a colorized version of Voyage to Mars. There is a difference!
Secondly, thoroughly analyze your audience. Who will see this? What will be their reaction? What stimuli does my audience positively react to and what turns them off? How long will they pay attention? What do I need, if anything, to illustrate my message and information? Not all stories require a picture, but it’s always a good practice to consider possible material that could be used for “b-roll” (background roll) to dress up your video and take away the monotony of a person looking into a camera talking. Knowing the audience will help the budget discussions. Some audiences may need a “short and sweet” treatment with no “bells and whistles” to get your message across. Other viewers may require a more involved production that is anchored by a script and accompanied by some sophisticated graphics to help illustrate the information. For example, creating a video for a scientific audience has a totally different set of considerations compared to a video for the general public, even on the same topic. An audience analysis can also determine whether you need a written script or a Q&A or some other format, as well as the length of the video.
Third, who should be the messenger? Picking the right person (or persons) to speak to your audience is critical. Once you know the audience you can make intelligent decisions about who will be on-camera in your video and more specifically what they should say. It should be someone who relates well to the intended audience. It’s all about credibility.
When you have these three elements nailed down (budget, audience, spokesperson), you can move to the next phase of your planning process, which is developing the actual story-- visualizing and “storyboarding” the video. And it is important when you get to this next phase – a highly detailed level of planning – to lay out every single idea and “want” on your wish list about what elements you would like to see in the video. This is the time to discuss everything that comes to mind that might be included: the use of graphics and to what extent; any photos, video clips and animations that might work as “b-roll”; voice-overs that might be needed,. What about a TelePrompter, will you need one? This is also the time to discuss where the video will be hosted. Is it going on a social media site? A traditional web site? Will it be hosted or embedded? Also, what level of accesibility should be considered for this audience such as closed captioning? It may not seem like it, but all of this figures into planning and executing the actual video shoot.
The post-production process where the video is edited and finalized is often the toughest aspect. This is the stage where “surprises” can be costly and can seriously impact quality control. Planning – the more, the better -- is the difference between great, good and just passable. The bottom line is this: plan, plan and plan again. The more planning you do BEFORE the video camera goes on, the smoother your final project will be.
- James Alexander