Video Production Process (Pre-Production, pt. 1)
Well, I hope everyone is feeling tanned, rested, and ready after the Memorial Day weekend. And if you’re wondering just why your holiday was so awesome, here’s why.
But now that we’re all back, I thought I’d talk about the most strategically important/most often overlooked stage of the video production process: Pre-Production.
It’s strategically important because it’s everyone’s opportunity to make sure the project ends up doing exactly what it was meant to do, and it’s often overlooked because DEADLINE BUDGET BOSS PRIORITIES CONFERENCE CALL IS IT DONE YET AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Yes, good Pre-Production often adds to the overall timeline. But without it, the business purpose of the project could suffer.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS PRE-PRODUCTION?
If ‘Production’ is the stage where the actors are in the studio, the lights are on, and the cameras are rolling, then ‘Pre-Production is literally all of the work that’s done in advance of that. It includes creative work like concept development, scriptwriting, and storyboarding, and it includes logistical work like budgeting, staffing, and scheduling.
To give you a better flavor of what I’m talking about, here’s a partial list of the things we want to know before the Pre-Production process is complete. First of all, there are the creative and development elements. The big questions are:
* What should this project do for your business or organization? Is this a product or sales video intended to demonstrate the features and benefits of your product or service? Is it a training video intended to show your customers how to get the most out of your product after they’ve bought it? Is it a brand video designed to help your customers see the kind of organization you are, or is it perhaps the opening video for your conference designed to share your theme and get your attendees excited to be there? If so, is there a way for this video to have life after the conference?
(Hint: yes, there is.)
* Who do you want to see it? Your potential customers, your existing customers, the general market consumer, your association membership, your team, your prospective team? Knowing your audience is key to crafting your message.
* Where, when, and how do you want them to see it? Is this going to play in your company’s trade show booth? If so, then we need to be sure that all of the information you’re trying to communicate is shown visually on screen. Why not use the tried and true voice-over narration (VO), you ask? Well, because the sales guys working the booth will be so sick of hearing the same music and VO after the first half dozen loops on day one of the exhibition that they’ll mute the volume.
But let’s keep the VO handy so you can use that same video on your web site with minimal changes. See? Two uses for one project! You’re already increasing the ROI.
* What do you want them to think, feel, or know after they’re seen it? Or as some put it, what’s the tune they should be humming on their way out of the theatre? What’s the core message of the piece that you want people to remember and/or act on? This is harder than it sounds, because once we get going, it’ll seem like a great opportunity to tell everyone everything – but focus is key.
If you find that there are too many messages and/or calls to action for too diverse an audience, then the answer isn’t to crowd them all into one extra-long video, the answer is to break them up into sub-videos that are specific to each topic. Research shows that viewers will watch more minutes of your content if they direct their own experience, so give them options and let them choose to learn.
*How long should it be? Don’t underestimate the embarrassingly short attention span of the modern consumer.
Some projects already have a standard length (TV commercial? 30 seconds on the nose. Looping product video for your tradeshow booth? 6 minutes max.) but most are at the client’s discretion and there are some general rules that can help you get a handle on it.
For example, if a viewer is casually surfing YouTube videos and isn’t engaged in the first 8 seconds, they’re out. If they’ve gone to your Web site and seen something interesting that’s relevant to why they’re online right then, good content can hold them for 90 seconds.
If your content is educational and the viewer found it while searching for answers online, you can hold them for as long as your content continues directly addressing their questions.
But if they lose faith in the relevance of your content to their search in the first few seconds, they’re gone baby gone – so it’s critical to lead with key points and tease to more.
There’s more to the Pre-Production story, but we’ll touch on it next time. Until then, I leave you with this nugget of wisdom from someone far smarter and more insightful than I:
A professor in my college theatre program used to say that you can’t expect good product without good process.
Pre-Production, my friends, is all about good process.