Starling Productions|October 11, 2018

Top Five Steps to More Effective and Affordable Video Production

Posted by Robert


If creating video content for your brand seems overwhelming, unaffordable and ineffective, here are five time-proven steps that I’ve compiled from my time working as a veteran video producer and owner of Starling Productions.

1. Pre-Production Planning

The most expensive aspects of any production are typically filming days and editing days. Stop the bleeding now by evaluating and improving your preproduction process. The attention to every possible detail upfront cascades down into every aspect of the project by robbing you of precious time and money on while filming and editing.  Just like you script out every moment of your video, be sure to take time to script out every moment of your filming days. Scripting out every single step such as scouting, camera prep, crew meetings, permits, wardrobe, crew paperwork, load-in, load-out, parking, food, and the all-important morning coffee equals money and time in the bank for later.

2. Location Scouting

Scouting studios and off-site locations are major time and money savers too. Having your director, cinematographer, lighting and audio team with you means they will arrive with a game plan and proper equipment and crew on the day of the shoot. Instead of their first-hour on-set looking for a place to set up equipment, find power and more, you’ll be ahead of the game while you all recap the day’s schedule and timeline over that great cup of Joe someone brought and the cups to put it in. The great news is most department heads will welcome and do simple scouts at a reduced rate and sometimes at no charge just to make the shoot day easier for them and you.

3. Hiring the Right Crew

Every city has it’s A, B and C level production crews. Once you have your Director and/or cinematographer in place, the absolute best thing you can do is let them pick and suggest who they want on their teams. It isn’t just about hiring buddies and friends. Every department head for camera, lighting, audio, HMUA, set design, etc… have their A team they’ve worked with and know will get the job done seamlessly and efficiently. Instead of the cinematographer having to explain how he likes his setups to a new cam-op, gaffer, etc… time and money is saved once again on your most expensive days of production because their A teams already know what to do.  The old adage of “pay peanuts, get monkeys” applies more than ever in production.

4. Sticking to the Script

This is by far the largest budget breaking pitfall I see happen time and time again. Why? Because the staffing, planning and equipment needs all change.  Adding even a simple scene or shot angle isn’t just as easy as move the camera here and have the talent “say it this way” or sit instead of stand. The simplest reset can take 15-20 minutes or more and 2-3 of those can easily put your crew into overtime or make you miss that signature money shot at magic hour. Worse case you blow up your budget.  Either plan for variations and what if scenarios in advance with your Director and cinematographer, or be prepared to rush at the end of the day and write bigger checks than expected.

5. Editing and Approvals

Congratulations!  Your shoot is in the can and you’re ready to edit! For an editor, the script is everything. It is their step by step recipe to create and tell your story.  One of my personal favorite and top money-saving tricks for clients is to include and involve our editors in the scripting and pre-production phase. Not only will they love you, but they’ll also potentially make small suggestions that save you time and money in the edit bay and you’ll end up with a more effective finished project.  There’s nothing worse (or more expensive) than hearing your editor say “we’re missing a shot” or “I really wish we had this XYZ cutaway or B-roll for right here”. This is why on our most complex and high-end shoots, I’ll have our editor out during filming. The next step is a defined approval process. If you don’t have one in place and stick to it, you’re simply setting up a painful circle of income opportunity for your editor and another hit to your budget. Our approval process goes like this: rough cut, client comments, first cut, client comments, second cut, client comments, picture lock, finishing (color enhancement, SFX, audio sweetening etc), client approval, final cut and export to specifications.

As you can see, you have opportunities every step of the way to create a better story for your brand and to save instead of wasting money. It all starts with preproduction, paying attention to details, making a plan and script and sticking to it. Follow these steps for a less stressful, actually enjoyable project that makes you and your brand look like the heroes you are.