Tips for successful production

We have collected the following tips to help you prepare for a smooth project.

strategy :: Structure :: Visual Style :: Shooting :: Screening :: Edit Preparation :: Edit Session :: Successful Distribution [click on the camera icon to come back to the top of the page].


Conceptualizing the edited program

The following questions should help you clarify the goals and objectives of your video project before you spend a dime!
  1. What are your objectives ?
    • To introduce a subject to a new audience
    • To demonstrate a process, technique, or equipment
    • To sell a product, service or brand?
  2. How will this video be used ?
    • reach out to new clients
    • reaffirm old clients
    • Training new employees
    • Solidify brand
    • Sell product, service or brand?
  3. What is your budget ?
    • Client time available for pre-production
    • Number of new scenes/minutes to be videotaped
    • Number of rough edits required
    • Deadline for completion
    • Length of final tape(s)
  4. What source material will be used?
    • Scenes videotaped by client
    • 35 mm slides
    • Black-and-white or color photographs
    • Animation (Does it need to be transferred to video?)
    • Graphic stills (TIFF with LZW compression preferred)
    • Narration/script
    • Natural sound
    • Music (Are performance rights-cleared?)
    • Printed materials
    • Previously existing video
  5. How will you distribute this tape?
    • Videotape (VHS in US and Japan. PAL overseas. How many copies?)
    • Web (QuickTime. RealVideo.)
    • CD-ROM
    • DVD
  6. What is the target audience ?
    • Level of interest
    • General-interest audience
    • Technical audience
    • Level of education
  7. What is the title of your project?
  8. What will the project look like? ( storyboard )
  9. Do you have performance copyrights and location releases?
    • Please note that we are unable to accept responsibility for the use of copyrighted material in post-production.
    • We must assume that clients have acquired copyright permissions prior to post-production/compression sessions


Structure: Determining Genre

As you are planning your project, consider the video's structure. Just as you would prepare an outline before writing an essay, think about the main point you wish to cover and consider the way each segment will fit together.

Structure is closely related to the genre of the video. For instance, is your project a narrative story or a demonstration? Here are several possibilities:

  1. narrative
  2. documentary
  3. infomercial
  4. commercial
  5. experimental?

Also, will the final video be long enough to justify an opening sequence to establish the subject? (Usually, a piece which is 5-minutes or longer will benefit from an introduction.)

If so, what are the main points that will be covered? Is there engaging visual material to support those points.


Developing a Visual Style: Consistency Across Media

  1. Are there existing treatments in video or print?
    • Fonts (serif and sans-serif)
    • Color palettes
  2. What visual language will be used?
    • Minimize intrusion of techniques on content
    • Plan to cut between shots just as the eye blinks when looking around
    • Use dissolves to represent changes to a new place or time
  3. Can you tell a story about your project?
  4. Plan a beginning, middle, and end
  5. For a piece longer than 5 minutes, capture interest with an open segment
  6. Develop sequences or scenes to illustrate the story
    • Capture actions and reactions
    • Shoot discreet shots
  7. Vary the visual scale
    • Wide shots establish the location
    • Tight shots show the action
  8. Vary the pace of the action
    • Alternate between long and short shots as appropriate (3-10 seconds).
  9. Will you use narration ?
  10. Pre-interview talent, record narration, write script, re-record narration audio
  11. Prepare script for on-camera talent
    • Print cue-cards in large type on letter-sized paper
  12. Consider shooting primary themes on camera, and reading remainder of script
  13. Will you conduct interviews ?
  14. Prepare a full range of questions covering the topic
  15. know how to interview, so that the questions are restated with the answer
  16. Interview several participants with the same questions
  17. Be sure to plan for shooting multiple cutaway shots illustrating the themes/questions


Videography: Shooting to Edit

Use the best camera available.
  1. Think in terms of scenes
  2. Just as a paragraph captures a single main thought, several shots in a scene illustrate one key intellectual or emotional point.
  3. Consider each scene a story with a beginning, middle, end.
  4. Think in terms of 5-10 second shots.
  5. Get a static wide shot of each scene (environment) you're in.
  6. Get 5-10 separate close-ups of details in each "environment".
  • Composition suggestions
    1. Change the point of view between shots -- shoot from different angles.
    2. Change your shooting height: higher or lower angles adds interest.
    3. Keep action within the 'safe area' in the middle 75% of the screen.
    4. Place eyes on a line about one-third down from the top of the screen.
    5. Add some space in front of people.
  • What you should know about Conducting interviews
    1. Prepare a set of questions about each idea or event and interview at least two people. Asking all participants the same questions will allow a much-more interesting edit.
    2. If you can create a rough script before the shoot, you should reverse the position of each person so they're not all facing in the same direction. This adds visual variety.
    3. When interviewing, start your questions with "Tell me about...">
    4. It is a good idea to have the interviewee repeat the question in their answer if possible. For instance: Question: "Tell me what you like about this or that?" Answer: "One of the things I like about this or that is....
    5. Be sure there is complete silence for 1-2 seconds between and after all questions and answers.
    6. No wide shots (head to foot) of a talking person.

    Edit Preparation: The "Paper" Edit

    1. An edit script, or outline, communicates a general idea about how the video might flow. This step, although optional, can make sure the structure of the first rough edit follows your vision.
    2. To prepare an edit script, simply copy and paste the complete information for each clip (the full line of text) into a new document in the order you wish.
    3. Prepare visual elements
    4. Provide existing print or other graphic designs ahead of time
    5. Create a list of participant and their titles
    6. Write text for full-frame graphic screens
    7. Prepare a full list of credits including all participants

    Music preparation

    1. We can help you choose music from several libraries for a reasonable fee
    2. Remember that commercially-recorded music is protected by copyright
    3. Use a rights-clearinghouse to purchase rights
    4. We can provide custom composed music and live recordings.


    The Edit Session: Putting It All Together

    We provide Non-linear (digital film-style) editing on Final Cut Pro.
    1. The first rough edit
      • Once screening logs, files, and master tapes are in hand, we create a rough edit with low-resolution video which easier to save and store for multiple projects
      • No transitions or audio mixing are added yet; the story structure is simply assembled in order to make sure the intended messages come through clearly
      • We make a VHS copy of this first edit for client approval
    2. The final rough edit
      • After client approval, we make a second pass to add transitions between scenes, clean up the sound, and add music, if any. We may go back and forth with additional rough edits to make sure the content is just right.
      • Before final mastering, we add titles to identify people, places, and things; to help tell the story; or to give credit. Titles are rendered. Bars and tone are added to the beginning for future reference
    3. Final mastering
      • The final step is to playback the program on the computer and record it onto a Betacam-SP master tape
    4. Labels
      • Labeling is important in that it determines information that will be printed on distributed copies. We ask clients to spend time considering this step carefully.


    Distribution: Getting The Word Out

    Videotape duplication
    1. We can reproduce your project on DV or VHS tapes complete with vinyl library cases and printed labels.
    2. Compressed video for the web
    3. We can compress segments of your videotape into digital files for CD ROM, DVD or web usage.

    These tips have proven useful to many of our clients. When followed, they have saved an untold amount of time and money. Video Rate Sheet