video paper to product

Taking Your Video from Paper to Product

I was thinking to myself the other day, “what if media were like school children?” Well, email would be like the old friend who’s always dependable to get things done, TV would the one who you’re just realizing has a WAY cooler little sibling named Netflix, and online video would be the cool, mysterious new kid who just moved to town. Let’s take some time to get to know online video and what it takes in order to succeed while taking your video from paper to product.




Talk with Clients

In terms of where to start the production process, this seems like a no-brainer. You wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant where they spend their time and effort to make you a four-course meal complete with hors d’oeuvres when all you wanted was a burger. Talk with your client and find out exactly what they want; take their order, so to speak. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great ideas that you think they might enjoy – sometimes the waiter can recommend a dish the guest wasn’t even imagining – but the key here is for it to be a collaborative process. Ask your client what they want and be sure that you can deliver what they’re looking for; if your client’s looking for a burger and you specialize in pizza, make that clear up front. In case you got carried away with the idea of food and lost track of the metaphor: a burger could be like a live-action video, whereas pizza could be an animated video. Your capabilities should match their expectations.

Develop a Working Script

Now that you’ve talked with your client and you’re both happy with what you’ve discussed, it’s time to plan a working script. When I say ‘working’ script I mean this: develop a script that would work in a perfect world but try to leave room for improvisation and alterations. We’ve all been in situations where things don’t work out exactly as we had planned, and that’s okay. Maybe you’re shooting a video for a mining company and they have this awesome new machine they’d like to highlight, but the only technician who can operate it had a medical emergency (God forbid) and couldn’t be around for the video shoot. These things happen, it’s life. But don’t let it ruin your entire shoot. Be prepared with a plan B if things go awry.

Draft a Shot List and Storyboard

You’ve got a working script so you know how you would ideally want your video to sound, now it’s time to start thinking about how you want your video to look. Developing a shot list will also help to make sure you’ve got your bases covered in terms of what footage you need to capture while on set. Think of your shot list as an on set to-do list, and I’ll give you an example from one of our recent video shoots: a client wanted a video that highlighted aspects A, B, C, and D of their business, so in our shot list we made sure to have shots that highlighted all of these aspects. You don’t want to finish a shoot and realize a few days later when going through the footage that you forgot to take shots of something that your client wanted to be included in the video.
Developing a rough storyboard can also be helpful so that you can visualize what the end-product will look like. But a word to the wise: don’t let your storyboard hinder inspiration. If you arrive on set and think something will look better if done differently than planned, don’t be afraid to go with your gut; but at the same time, don’t rely solely on your gut. Personally, some of my best work has been done on the fly with no preparation whatsoever, but you can’t depend on this. Have a plan from the beginning and course correct during production. And if you don’t fully trust your gut yet, do both: shoot what was developed on your storyboard, and then also do some spontaneous shooting. Another tip: don’t be too concerned if you have a lack of drawing skills, stick figures are completely acceptable in a storyboard.

Plan a Schedule

You know what your client wants, you know what you need to do to achieve what they want, so now it’s time to plan a schedule to make sure you have enough time to accomplish everything. Maybe your client wants to shoot more than one video in a day. Awesome! But make sure that you give yourself the necessary time to capture all the footage you need while also keeping in mind the hours that your client’s business is open. And don’t forget to account for the time it takes you to initially prepare, as well as if you have to switch equipment during the shoot. Going from tripod to Steadicam? Great, but make sure to work the extra 15 minutes it takes you to switch over to the Steadicam into your schedule.

Double Check Equipment

Simple, yet crucial. At least one day before the shoot: clean your lenses, get all of your batteries on their chargers and take care of any time-consuming factors before the shooting day. If your Steadicam needs to be properly balanced, don’t wait until you arrive on set to do this. And nothing’s worse than realizing the night before a shoot that you lent an important piece of equipment to a friend who’s out of town.



Have a Partner

Producer. Director. Production Assistant. Whatever you want to call them, things become exponentially easier when you’re not a one-man band. The camera operator has enough to worry about when it comes to details surrounding white balance, ISO, audio levels, etc., so having an additional hand on deck to keep the production process continually moving forward is crucial.

Stick to the Agenda

Remember that schedule you planned before the shoot? Now is the time to stick to it, and your partner should be able to keep a strong oversight on what’s been accomplished and what still needs to be completed. But the schedule itself is less important than the time dedicated to each part of the schedule. Say you wanted to spend an hour doing interviews and an hour capturing b-roll footage, and right now is the moment in which you were supposed to be filming interviews but the interviewee is currently busy. Don’t stress! Use the time to shoot your b-roll footage now, and shoot the interviews when the interviewee’s schedule is free. If you’re sitting around doing nothing, you’re wasting valuable time.

Know your Surroundings

Show up early to your destination and check the place out a bit before you’re supposed to shoot. Familiarize yourself with your client’s business and don’t be afraid to wander a little bit, because you might find something completely unexpected. Before shooting for a client I walked around their place of business for a little while and discovered a massive mural on one of their walls within their shop. This was something genuinely unique to their business and it spoke to their company’s culture, but I wouldn’t have known it was there without familiarizing myself with the office beforehand.

Respect Your Client’s Workspace

Chances are you’re going to be shooting your client’s business during their hours of operation, so do your best to avoid disrupting their normal daily activities. Remember that while you’re there to do your job, they’re there to do theirs as well (on a side note, I don’t think I’ve ever used all three versions of ‘there’ in a sentence before, life goal = completed). If you’re shooting a video at a car dealership, don’t disrupt the salespeople while they’re with a customer.



Keep Organized and Backup Footage

At the end of the day how you stay organized while transferring and converting your footage is completely up to you, but please make sure that you actually do it! While being creative and being systematic don’t sound like they go together, they inherently do; it’s just like labelling your layers in an Illustrator or Photoshop file. If you ever had to return to a project at a later date, keeping things organized and labelled correctly will make it infinitely easier to understand what you were actually thinking at the time of creating the video, and it will also make it easier for anyone else looking at your project. Don’t forget to also create backups of all your footage! Hard drives can crash at any moment, so make sure to have at least two up-to-date versions of your project.

Stay on Schedule

This is pretty self-explanatory, but if you tell your client that they will see the first draft of their video by a certain date, make sure you have it completed by the deadline. Being accountable for what you say you will accomplish is a priceless trait to have.

Get Comments from the Client

After you’ve handed off the first draft of your client’s video, ask them for feedback. Maybe they’re not happy with the background song, maybe they want a particular shot removed or added in, who knows. But it’s much better (and also more respectful to your client) to ask for feedback than to wait for them to provide it. It’s called the first draft because that’s what it is and, at the end of the day, it’s a video for their business, so make sure it’s what they want. And don’t take it personally if they want things altered, even Hemingway said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”
To learn more about the different types of video that a client may request and where they fit within the sales funnel, check out our blog post on the topic.

Taking Your Video from Paper to Product