This week I have to film forty-five videos. Then I have to edit them all and send them out to clients by the afternoon. My usual turn-around is averaging one to two weeks, how am I expecting to get forty-five videos done in one day?
It’s insane, but I’m not the least bit worried. It’ll get done. I know it’ll get done, all because of one simple fact: we’re prepared.
By spending time on the following three steps, even the most daunting of filming days can be made manageable, if not stress free.
It pains me that I actually feel the need to write this down, but your first step when filming should always be to have an idea of what you’re filming. The number of times I’ve asked for a brief and been told “We’ll work it out when we get there” is depressing.
That’s not to say you need a complete, detailed script, with a teleprompter or memorized performance, although that’s certainly helpful (and, to be honest, one of the ways we’re achieving our herculean film shoot): rather, what you need as a minimum is an outline of what topics will be discussed, and if you’re filming interviews, a prepared list of questions.
This outline, and your interview questions if you’re using them, can be as broad or specific as you like or need. You might just need to get the ball rolling on a conversation and let it develop naturally, or you might need to ensure specific details are covered. Whichever way you decide, it is crucial to have that outline down and agreed upon before you even think of setting up a camera.
In an earlier article I said that the primary consideration when filming someone is to ask whether to have the subject talk to the camera, or to a person. The videos are personalized presentations to individual people, so we’re having our subject talk to the camera as though addressing the person watching. From that, we also know that we’re filming with a teleprompter, which office we’re filming it in for the best shot, where the camera will be set up, where the light will be, and how the microphone will be set up.
I’d be lying if I said I had this level of preparation for every shoot. I’m often filming in locations I’ve never seen before, let alone been in, so knowing the exact location of the camera, subject, and interviewer beforehand is impossible.
Surely, then, that means I’m not prepared?
Not at all. Before I get to the client, I know that we’re filming an off-camera interview. I know where my camera needs to be relative to the client for the best angle. I know that shooting with a window as a light source is ideal, whereas shooting with a window as a background is asking for misery. I might not know precisely where things will end up, but I do know what the setup will be and what my limitations are. The only thing left is to work out the specifics on the day.
As with the outline above, you don’t need to know exactly how you’re filming, you just need to know what your basic setup is and what your requirements are so you can adapt them to your needs.
My herculean shoot is going to sound a lot less impressive after this, but here’s the thing: those forty-five videos?
30 seconds each, sending them out as multimedia messages over the phone.
Because of this, we know we can cut certain corners with filming and editing. The bulk of the videos we actually only film once, then use personalised beginnings and ends, with editing to make them look like single, continuous videos. We know we’ll lose a lot of quality when we compress the videos down to a phone-friendly size, so we can skip most of the precision work we normally do in post-production without compromising on quality.
That’s why knowing how and where your video will be presented before you start filming is so important, and should be something you know when you’re making your initial outline. Even on the shoots where there was no plan content wise, we always knew what our delivery was going to be. If nothing else, just knowing that can give you the barest structure to work from and help you deliver a quality finished video regardless of what the day throws at you.
Follow those three steps, those three major pillars of preparation, and you’ll not only save yourself a world of stress but start to create better content. And if you need help getting the ball rolling, find a video you like — one you’ve made, one on the internet somewhere — and structure your plan around creating something similar. That’s not to say create a carbon copy, but at least find a style and feel that resonates with you and guides you down the right path.