Video Production: Best Practices
These days, everyone can shoot a decent video – just get a smartphone or a digital camera, and you’re all set. However, if your goal is catchy, high-quality clips, you’re going to need a lot more than that. In addition to carrying an idea or message that would appeal to the audience, your videos should also look professionally shot.
Although some A-grade filming equipment will bring the video production cost up a lot, the money invested in it will pay off pretty fast, especially if you plan to use videos to promote your business. But to make sure you use every penny with maximum efficiency, you should take a few tips and tricks into account.
What Is Video Production: 5 Important Ingredients
Even David Cameron won’t be able to shoot a top-quality video, having only a camera and a few minutes of spare time. A serious project requires at least a solid plan, adaptability, and efficiency. Should one of these points get cut from the production process, you won’t get the result you are hoping for. What’s the secret recipe for a successful video? Here it is.
A Nice Plan
Good planning saves time and makes your job easier. The lion’s share of a video relies on a plan made up during pre-production. At this stage, you (and your team if you have one) organize all the assets crucial for a shoot. There are a few pitfalls that can stall your progress, such as wrong software, tools, and so on. A plan should address these issues beforehand. Bottom line, planning is the basis of the production process that helps optimize the time and costs invested in the project.
While a good plan reduces the risks of running into problems, there still might be some unexpected flaws. For instance, you plan to shoot a video in some quiet place. You arrive there just to find out that college students decided to throw a huge party there. Your plan and script rely on shots you need to take at that place, but dozens of drunken freshmen wandering around don’t let you shoot a single scene. There can be a variety of similar situations, and your task is to learn how to adapt to them quickly.
When a video is shot, real work begins. An unorganized production stage can become an editor’s nightmare. In order to avoid pain in the neck during post-production, a video shoot must be structured. This stage also requires a plan. Ideally, when shooting is done, the editor should have a list of the best takes instead of wasting hours browsing through shots that won’t end up in the final video anyway.
If you’re shooting a promotional video, it has to be short and straight to the point, as the average attention span of internet users is just around 8 (!) seconds. For longer videos, you’ll need some kind of hook to keep your audience interested. Apart from that, your video should run smoothly and load fast.
Unless you’re planning to shoot vlogs and vines, the quality of your videos should compete with professional commercial clips made by video production companies. Low-quality promotional videos might scare the potential customers off and harm your business.
Video Production Process
Depending on the type of video you shoot, some minor aspects of the production may vary, but in general, the process of creating a clip from start to finish always includes three main stages. These are pre-production, production, and post-production. As mentioned above, the first stage involves organization and planning. The production stage is where you shoot the video. And the final, post-production stage is where the clip acquires its final shape.
Each stage consists of a few sub-stages which, if organized well, speed up the process and make it easier to spot potential mistakes. Here’s what video production workflow typically looks like.
Everything, from a short comedy sketch to an epic Marvel movie, begins with pre-production. This is the phase the success of your clip depends on. This is where you research the potential topic of the video, do 90% of planning, and solve the majority of issues you might stumble upon during the next two stages.
Here’s what you do during pre-production:
- Form the goals and strategy of the video;
- Plan the budget and scope of the project;
- Build a story;
- Set the timeline;
- Write the script;
- Hire the actors (if needed);
- Check the video production equipment;
- Scout the location.
All the talking and planning is done; you’re ready to shoot. It’s where the fun starts! It’s time to begin filming and see if you did everything right during the first stage. If you work with a team, make sure you’ve discussed all the details with the director and producer and explained your vision of the video.
What the production stage looks like:
- Setting up all the necessary equipment (video, sound, lighting, etc.);
- Voiceover recording (if needed);
- Extra footage filming.
At this point, all the shooting is done, and editing begins. During post-production, the editor starts tinkering with bits and pieces to turn them into a top-quality, mind-blowing product. After the parts are edited together, you can spice them up with special effects, music, and other elements that make the clip look professional.
During the production phase, you:
- Produce the final story;
- Log the interviews (if needed);
- Select music;
- Edit the video;
- Receive final reviews and approvals;
- Post the clip.
If you have a production team, your role at this stage is small. Just let the pros handle the entire process. Feel free to relax and watch as your vision and ideas come to life. Video post-production is a rather time-consuming process, so have some patience.
Video Production Equipment
Now let’s get back to the pre-production stage. The script is written, and it’s time to proceed to the technical part. The following are the basic tools you can’t do without.
Surprised? No, we’re not going to remind you that you can’t shoot a video without a camera. The choice of recording equipment depends on the kind of video you’re making. There can be a few options: an action, SLR, simple digital camera, or even a smartphone. An action camera works best for vlogs and dynamic videos, while an SLR camera is better for more static videos.
If your camera allows for changing the lens, feel free to experiment with different options. With a professional lens, you’ll be able to shoot great, high-quality clips even with a simple camera. There are three main characteristics you should keep in mind when choosing a lens:
- Focal length. Some lenses don’t allow for zooming the picture in and out.
- The f-number. It’s a quantity indicating how well the light passes through the lens. It gives a higher sharpness of the image.
- Stabilization. With it, the picture won’t get blurred when shaken.
If you want to achieve the same quality as video production companies offer, you’ll need a tripod. It provides reliable stabilization and allows you to smoothly rotate the camera in any direction. You’re free to choose between different types of tripods: a steady but heavy tripod, a compact monopod, a tripod belt, as well as various combined options.
A good tripod should have a floating head which allows not only for rotating it but also for changing the angle of inclination.
High-quality sound in a video can be a game-changer. Built-in microphones in cameras and smartphones usually can’t provide the desired quality, capturing a lot of extraneous noise. So when shooting a video without a microphone somewhere on the street, you’ll record everything, from wind noises to traffic sounds, but not what you really need. To avoid this, use an external mic or voice recorder.
The place where you’re making a video should be well-lighted. It’s better to shoot during the daytime when there’s natural light, especially if you don’t have professional lighting for video production. When shooting at night or in a dark room, use some stage lighting.
If you want to experiment with the background, prepare a green screen. When editing the video, you can replace it with anything, from palm trees to Nicolas Cage’s face.
That’s about all you need to make a good clip. Make sure you have enough space on your SSDs to store the material.
Video Production Software
Alright, you have tons of raw footage. What you need now is a nice editor to turn it into a viral video. Here’s the list of the best video production software on the Web.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
Lightworks is a professional video editor that suits both beginners and pros. You can use it for free, but the number of formats and video resolutions will be limited. The subscription costs $25 per month.
The key features of Lightworks include more than a hundred different effects, convenient tools for video and audio editing, and a simple interface. The program has a great community, so you won’t have any problems finding your way around it.
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
This one is a piece of fully free, open source video editing software. But at the same time, Shotcut offers a variety of basic tools and effects a beginner or amateur can use. In addition, the program supports a large number of formats, although its interface can’t be called simple. You can customize some elements to fit your needs, leaving only the necessary tools.
The editor works fast even on weak machines and has a portable version that you can use without installing the program.
CyberLink PowerDirector 16 Ultra
Just like Lightworks, PowerDirector suits both professionals and beginners. The program supports all popular formats and offers a wide choice of effects, tools, and editing modes. For example, in PowerDirector, there’s a smart video color correction mode and a set of functions for editing 360-degree clips. With this program, you can also create video collages, using patterns to combine different clips or overlay one video sequence in another. A special Storyboard mode allows you to quickly edit simple, short movies.
CyberLink PowerDirector 16 Ultra costs $99, but there’s a free trial. The program isn’t compatible with macOS.
VEGAS Movie Studio
VEGAS Movie Studio is another advanced video editor, previously known as Sony Vegas. Movie Studio is more than enough for amateur and most professional tasks. It offers stylish effects and transitions, support for common formats, powerful tools for working with audio, and many other features.
And yet, it lags behind its competitors, like PowerDirector in terms of functionality. It doesn’t have such features as 360-degree video editing and motion tracking that some demanding users might be interested in. But VEGAS Movie Studio is cheaper: it costs $50, and there’s a free trial. You can test the program for a month and see if it works for you.
Video Production: Best Practices
Now that you know how to shoot and edit clips, let’s find out how to take your digital video production skills to a new level. Here are five major practices that will come in handy.
Focus on the Goal
Defining your goals is a key step. Without having a clear idea of what you want, you’ll hardly achieve anything. Just answer one simple question – what your videos should do. Introduce you to the world? Promote your company’s services? Whether the video must help you get more likes on Instagram or inform your staff about the changes in your company, you need to fully understand your goal and concentrate on it.
Apart from that, you can’t allow yourself to shift your focus towards another goal in one video. Let’s say you want to promote some goods. How are you going to accomplish that goal? You can’t just make one part of your promotional video serious and fill the other one with jokes.
It’s so tempting to make a video that would answer all the questions. But a really good clip should have one clear message. Otherwise, your potential audience won’t be able to focus on it, and as a result, none of your messages will fulfill your goal. Besides, the more topics you cover in a video, the longer it gets. And this means that a certain number of users won’t watch it to the end. For maximum efficiency, keep your clips up to three minutes long.
Know Who You Make Videos for
Every business engaged in commercial video production struggles with understanding the target audience. The thing is that to understand your audience means much more than to know some dry statistics. It means to be able to tell what’s going on in their heads, what stands behind their decisions. Spend some time researching your target audience before you begin making videos.
Keep Your Content Interesting
You won’t get far, publishing mediocre videos. Make sure you spend enough time improving your content during pre-production. Don’t worry if there are other great videos similar to yours out there. Your task is to make your clip at least as good as them (preferably better). But in no case should it look like a cheap copy.
A good video must add a certain value to your audience. If you’re planning to make a five-minute long clip where you do nothing but talk about how awesome your company is, spare yourself the effort. The viewer must learn something new or see how they can benefit from your video. Keep your audience interested, and you’ll build a strong connection with them. This brings us to the final point.
Establish an Emotional Connection
Probably the biggest plus of videos is that they help establish a much stronger connection with the user than articles and posts. But this doesn’t mean that you can use this advantage as a way to keep people interested throughout the whole video because once the viewer understands that the content you offer carries to value, the connection will be lost. That’s why the content should also keep you and your audience on the same page. This should be easy if you have a clear idea of what you’re doing.
If you made it through the whole article, you’re probably thinking about starting a video production company by now. But there’s still so much you need to take into account when it comes to producing high-quality content. Take your time when planning and shooting, keep the balance between the never-aging practices, hot trends and techniques, and you’ll have no problem creating perfect clips that meet your expectations and appeal to your audience.