By James Taylor
Founder of the Scout Movement, Robert Baden-Powell, once said “be prepared”, and in the world of shooting video this could not be truer. Planning and preparation are everything when embarking on a production. If you are underprepared or taken by surprise for any reason, it can be very costly in terms of your production values – not to mention your bottom line.
Tip 1: Planning
Plan your shoot before you pick up a camera. Write a script. Even if you are planning to use nothing but visuals, write a list of the shots you want to get along with a description. Script templates are easily sourced on the internet and typically consist of two or more columns that allow you to break your script into components such as audio and video. More advanced templates give you columns to add in things like sounds effects and timecode.
Storyboard your script. After the script is written, draw or create a picture of each key scene so that you can see how your video will go together before you even film it. It lets you, and others involved, see what you want to achieve.
Tip 2: Research
Speak to some experts in the field before you go anywhere near a camera or set.
Do not be afraid to ask questions, it helps you realise exactly what you want and, more importantly, what is achievable for your budget.
Research your idea to achieve your goals – before you invest time and effort in a video, see if it already exists. Before producing anything, think about the purpose for your video. If you cannot think of a clever idea or a style, spend time on YouTube, or watch some of your favourite videos for inspiration. Watch commercials or documentaries for inspiration.
Tip 3: Selecting Video Equipment
There is a common misconception in the production world that more expensive is always best. This is most definitely not the case. Only use price as a guide. It is far more important to get the right tools for the job.
Have you ever seen someone buy the latest professional DSLR to then set it to automatic and never use the features? This is a classic example of where a camera costing thousands is doing the same job as one costing a few hundred. Horses for courses. Apples for apples. However you would best like to describe it, choose your equipment wisely, based on your requirements, and from a reliable supplier. Sound simple? You would be amazed how many productions we rescue because these three simple rules are not followed.
The tools you use to create your video will directly impact your final product. As video equipment is a major purchase, it will take time to get hold of these items. Consider brands that will be around for a while, can be repaired, can obtain additional parts and accessories for, and will not become obsolete in a year.
In the world of professional video, all equipment is not created equal. Take cameras for example. There are a host of different cameras shooting different formats at different frame rates hooked up to different storage and recording devices. Without research and expert opinion, it is very easy to make the wrong choice.
Do not get misled by cameras that promise you the earth for hardly any cost. It is true that the price of broadcast quality cameras has come down significantly over the last few years but the camera itself is just one part of the equation. You also have to consider lenses, accessories and the post production workflow or, in laymen’s terms, what you do with the footage after you have shot it.
There are many obsolete technologies that people have stashed away in their garages and lofts because the post-workflow was either too hard or too costly.
As a minimum, you will need the following items to produce a video:
1) Camera – Is it for web, education, TV or cinema, or perhaps just a bit of fun? There are many camera options to suit budgets and intended use.
2) Microphone – Want clear audio of people or do you want it to sound like it was recorded in a bathroom?
3) Tripod – Not everything needs to be shot handheld! A tripod is more important than you think.
4) Editing Software – you will need special video editing software in order to create your video.
5) Storage – where are you going to store all of your footage? Video can take up a lot of space and fill up your hard drive quickly!
Practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but unless you are a seasoned professional you have to try before you buy. Practice using the equipment before you start your production. Never use equipment for the first time at a shoot. You will be amazed how different equipment feels when you use it and how picky you will become about using a certain camera with a certain lens and editing with a certain software. It is all about finding the workflow that suits you and your production’s needs.
Depending on the size and complexity of your production, you may wish to find an equipment supplier to partner with. There are many out there. What is critical when choosing an equipment supplier is that they are experienced in the field of production, up-to-date with all the latest equipment, formats and workflows, and have solid, comprehensive and reliable support.
The world of equipment hire and sales can often be a cutthroat one and you will find people offering you kit at knock down prices or grey (overseas) imports whose warranties are not worth the paper they are written on in Australia.
It is wise to remember one simple philosophy, no equipment – no matter how cheap it was to acquire – is any good to you if it fails whilst you are shooting and you cannot get it fixed or replaced quickly and easily.
A good, experienced, reliable equipment partner will always have a Plan B, as should you.
Never, ever take for granted that equipment will not fail. In production, we call it having good ‘redundancy’. Never just store to one source – always have a back-up. Ignore this tip at your peril.
Tip 4: Avoid Legal And Copyright Issues
Just because you bought that new Macklemore track on iTunes does not mean you can use it as your theme music. Also be aware that many corporate logos (Nike, Google, etc.) are copyright and cannot be used without permission. Certain buildings are considered copyright (e.g. The Sydney Opera House). Get releases (permission) from people you film!
Tip 5: Sharing Is Caring – Find The Right Production Partners
You will find as you start to experiment that there are many people and skills required to shoot a production. Most people latch onto the director and talent, but what about the producer, cinematographer, sound guy, grip, gaffer … this list goes on. Whilst it may not be a full scale Hollywood production, someone will need to fulfil those roles.
People often play to their strengths and finding the right partners, especially where equipment and systems integration are concerned, can be invaluable.
Have a think about the size and scope of your production and what is going to be required from script to screen. How and where will it be shot? How will it be stored? How will it be edited and finished? How will it be broadcast or shown? Then decide who best can help you achieve all of the above. Sometimes people multi-task, sometimes it will be a different person required for each role.
In larger productions, the producer and/or executive producer will often make many of these decisions.
As far as the look and feel of a production, this almost always falls to the director and cinematographer (also known as the Director of Photography or DOP).
Tip 6: Show Me The Money
Budget and budget wisely. Budget for your needs, not your aspirations. Is this Auntie Anne’s birthday video or Avatar? Do not spend all your money on any one part of the production. Remember that there are costs to set the production up, acquire equipment, talent and visuals. Then you will spend money crafting your final edit in post.
As we said at the beginning, planning and preparation are everything, and nowhere do you need to be better prepared than at the budgeting stage.
James Taylor is the Sales Director at Videocraft. Established in 1972, Videocraft has grown to become one of Australia’s premier broadcast equipment sales and rental specialists. James heads the company with MD Jeanette Taylor. As system providers, Videocraft are dedicated to the sale and rental of broadcast and professional video equipment and involved in all aspects of digital production technology. With sales, support and service professionals operating from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra offices, the company has experienced consistent year-on-year growth in the broadcast industry. For more information, please visit www.videocraft.com.au