This is part 2 of a series about how to make a video, which covers the basics of what to do before you begin production on a video. Review part 1 on how to make video.
Make a Plan: Don’t Pick Up the Camera First
There are a lot of other tasks to complete before starting your video by picking up your camera, and while we won’t go into a lot of detail about each of these right now, there are a lot of great resources to help you get started.
I have created a lot of videos without a script, and without fail, I will miss something, say something incorrectly, or stumble and have to redo part of the video. Scripting is a key guide to helping you to make a better video.
As learning professionals, this shouldn’t be a surprise recommendation. Scripts are the words to be spoken and have a huge influence on the video that will be created. Writing a script can take time, but can save a lot of time when you start creating your video. By having a script, you know that you will cover everything that needs to be said in a concise and effective way. You get to craft your message and outcome.
As you create your script, try to strip out the unnecessary content. Be ruthless! With every sentence and word you should ask, “Is this helping me to accomplish my goal?” If it isn’t, cut it. And don’t make this all a mental exercise, you or your talent needs to read the script out loud. Some things just don’t sound right when they are said out loud, or you may have created a sentence that is the equivalent of a tongue twister like “Sally sells seashells by the seashore” or “Unique New York.” (Say that fast 5 times!)
If you’re recording a meeting, lecture, or an interview, scripts aren’t necessary. Even in these situations, you may want to develop a solid outline, questions you’re going to ask, or a checklist to ensure the key points are covered.
If scripts tell you what to say, storyboards tell you what to show. Storyboards are incredible time savers, and they have an important place in forcing you to think through the visuals of every part of the video. As you think through the visuals and start to sketch them out (stick figures are perfectly acceptable), you are building a list of shots that you will need to create.
Get started by grabbing a pen and paper to doodle with. Think of the first thing you want to show. Is it a title slide or animation? Is it an establishing shot, like a location, or your computer’s desktop? Roughly sketch that. Next, read a little of the script, what should be shown? Maybe it’s a person who is going to talk: do you want the camera close to them, far away, between close and far? Now roughly sketch that. You can even write down what the shot is, so you don’t forget. Can’t think of what to draw? No worries! Jot down what you want to happen, like, “Close-up shot, Matt turns to face Sara.” As you go, make sure you note on the script or storyboard how the script and the storyboard correspond to each other.
Especially with camera video, time is precious, and using a lot of time is expensive. You don’t want to be in the shooting stage and trying to figure out what to do for each shot. Have a plan, and then execute on it. Even if during the shoot you need to change something, it will still be easier to adjust.
Two other key points about storyboards. One, if you need stakeholder approval, the storyboard can help get pre-buy-in. Your stakeholders can see what you’re planning and make suggestions before the camera rolls. Point two is that your storyboard will show you the video you want to create while you are editing. It is like a template for the video you are going to build. Once you have all the pieces created, you can create the final video easier and faster. You will hopefully remove most of the guesswork and can slot into the various parts and pieces to create the video you want.
I don’t know anyone who really loves getting their work reviewed, but when you’re investing in creating a video, it can be a helpful process (and at times humbling). I recommend that with both your script and storyboard, find one to three people to review your work. A few things to look for: Is the message clear? Will the viewer be able to take the appropriate actions? Have you left out bits and pieces, that someone unfamiliar with the topic would find confusing? If you tried to add some humor to your video, did it work or fall flat?
When you ask your reviewers for feedback, tell them you want brutally honest feedback. I know it can hurt, but it’s really the only way to get better. You might even get a few people together and perform what I call a table read. In a table read you will read the script out loud, and have the reviewers listen and take notes. Then the reviewers give their feedback point-by-point. Your goal is to not defend your work but to listen for the ways that you can make it better, and improve the video you’re going to make.
If you have anyone in your organization that has made videos before, I recommend you ask them for their feedback as well. Their experience may help you avoid any pitfalls or challenges they have come across in the video creation process. An example from my experience is when I was creating videos for TechSmith’s web hosting site, Screencast.com. I asked one of our team members, Anton, for feedback. His feedback was very accurate and precise, even to the point of telling me the timing was off by half of a second. Sometimes the feedback was hard to hear because I thought I knew better, and sometimes because I thought the project was in really good shape. That feedback, after I worked through it, always led to a better, more polished video, and I became a better video creator because of it.
Gather Materials and Equipment
As you’re creating your script and storyboard, you should make a note of objects and information you need to gather, and a few items to arrange before you start shooting. These can happen in any order that makes sense, but have your list ready before you start to create your video. It will save time, effort, and reduce your overall stress level.
Brand Colors: Make sure you know what the approved colors are for your organization, or colors that you are using to brand your work. If possible, have the RGB, CMYK, or Hex values on hand. Being able to access those colors without much thought will speed up the post-production process, and save you from having to go back to correct mistakes later.
Logos & Images: If you have graphics you are going to use, create a folder on your computer and put them in one location. When you’re ready to edit you won’t have to think about where you last saved them or spend time searching for them. You can also spot check to make sure that they are going to work together, or if you’ll need to adjust them. Included in this are items like lower third graphics, title animations, brand logo, screenshots, etc.
Equipment: It makes sense that you should get your gear together before you shoot, but don’t do it immediately before the shoot. A day or two before (at least) look through everything to ensure you have what you need. Don’t forget things like spare batteries, cords, tripods, props, or any other gear you’ll need or want with you. You might even want to run through setup to make sure everything is in working condition and will serve you well during the shooting process.
If you are recording voice overs, you will want to make sure you have your microphone, microphone stand, and other audio gear ready to go, and everything is working.
Location: You can’t gather a location, but there are actions you can take to make sure you’re ready to shoot. First, if you’re doing a camera shoot and you’re going some place that isn’t your workplace, you’ll want to double check on permissions to record in that location. Beyond the permissions, go the recording location around the same time of day you are planning to shoot. Scout it out and see if it’s going to meet your needs. Are there obstacles that might get in the way? Are there sound issues, like a noisy HVAC system? Problems that might make lighting difficult, like too many windows, or too dark.
At the very least, go to the location with your storyboard and see how it will match what you are planning. Then make adjustments.
During one video project, we decided to record on the campus of a major nearby university. It was beautiful setting near a river. We were shooting at 6 AM and thought we prepared for most everything. What we didn’t prepare for was swarms of mosquitoes that attacked us frequently. It’s hard to shoot video and swat bugs at the same time. A short visit to the location would have given the team a heads-up to the issue, and we could have been prepared with clothes and mosquito repellent.
Talent: If you are going to have people in your video, who are you asking to be on camera? Are they a Subject Matter Expert? Is it a co-worker playing a part? Are you bringing in professional (or amateur) actors?
Regardless, if you are inviting someone to be in your video, you need to make sure you are preparing them. You will want to talk your talent through the video concept and share the script with them. Make sure they know what their role is and your expectations for them when they are on camera (e.g. do they have to memorize everything?). You should also tell your on-camera talent with what you would like to them what clothes to wear when on camera, and if you have any recommendations or requests for hair or make-up.
After all your preparations and helping them be ready for their close-up, depending on who you’re working with, you may need to have them sign a release agreement allowing you to use their likeness in the video. Some companies have built into their policies the ability to use photos and videos of their employees, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Voice Over: Similar guidelines apply for anyone recording the voiceover as when looking at shooting locations and working with talent. You need to make sure you’ve giving directions on pacing, style, and any specific pronunciations in the script. You will also want to ensure the recording space is free of noise and is going to provide the best possible recording space.
There is a lot to think about leading up to creating a video. All of this isn’t to scare you off or dissuade you from making a video. In fact, the hope is that you make your first video and don’t stress about everything else in this list. Just make that first one. Then, before you start the next video, pick up one or two of the ideas in this article. Apply those tips, be better prepared, and make a better video. After video two, pick up another idea and add it to your workflow. Follow this pattern, and keep making videos that are better and better. It will take time, hard work, and practice, but it’s possible for you to make a great and effective video.
There is a lot to consider when making videos, and it can feel overwhelming, but getting some of these ideas in place will make it easier, faster, and less costly. So my friends – after reading all of this how could we not be friends – let’s start. Let’s make a great first video.
To help you out, we’ve turned Part 1 and Part 2 of the How to Make Video series into a downloadable checklist for quick reference.