Stage Three: Edit, Don't Sweat It!

This is part three of our blog series explaining the main stages of how to design, develop, and deliver successful videos. Over the past couple weeks, we have delved into the primary components that make up video production. So far, we’ve covered pre-production and production.

Today’s installment centers on post-production.

Post-production is the final step in creating a video masterpiece, which ties pre-pro and production together into a coherent story. Following suggestions in the previous two blogs sets you up for this stage to go smoothly.

A solid producer is perhaps most valuable during post (ask any editor). They need to determine how they want to form and frame the story, so that it clearly conveys the client’s message. Weaving together sound bites taken from interviews that flow and move the story along, while also evoking some kind of emotion, and telling the client’s story, is the goal.

The edit is where a project finally comes to fruition. The editor is the last in the line of creatives who is responsible for crafting the piece. Here, details of a story can be crafted and honed into the client’s vision. It’s often said, that the story is found in the edit. This isn’t to say, that decisions made during pre-pro and production don’t lead to the final story, but rather, it illustrates how a story can be molded into its final form through the editing process.

As always, organization is key to accomplishing a high quality final product. Good labeling and well-crafted workflows allow editors to quickly drop in alternative shots, re-organize soundbites, as well as keep track of revisions.

Typically, while the edit is progressing, on-screen graphics and motion graphics are added in parallel. During the script writing and storyboard phases, the ideas about how to use graphics as a communication tool and enhancement are discussed. They are then executed here. Well thought out graphics are always the hallmark of good pre-pro, and a talented post-production team.

Just like with graphics, the decisions made during pre-pro about music, the tone and feeling that needs to be conveyed, are executed in post. Music can sometimes be as simple as dropping in a stock track, or as complex as embedding a custom written score. Audio in music is often referred as 50% of a video, so it shouldn’t be considered an afterthought.

The post-production stage of video production is where everything you and your client have been working towards, comes to a head, and the overall vision is achieved. Whether you’re creating a corporate video, commercial, film, or otherwise, solid pre-production, production, and post-production are the foundation for effective, authentic storytelling. 

Stage Two: 3, 2, 1 ... Action!

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Last week, we introduced you to our 3-part blog series on the main stages of production, discussing the high-level phases that encompass video production.

This week, we will concentrate on production, including the primary crew roles and responsibilities. Generally speaking, if you dedicate the necessary time and effort to pre-production, you — and, more importantly — your client, will have an exciting, rewarding, and relatively smooth day in the field.

Key personnel on set typically will be a producer, who will sometimes act simultaneously as a director, a camera operator, an audio technician, and a production assistant. Depending on the scope of the project, you might additional crew members.

A producer/ director is the voice that brings the set to life. They call “action” to get the camera rolling, audio “speeding,” actors acting, etc. They’re considered the conductor, making sure everyone is on task, coaching interviewees, explaining the shots they want the camera operator to capture, and being the main client relationship manager.

A great “eye” separates special camera operators from mediocre ones. The job of the cam op is to capture the vision of the producer/ director. Basically, there are two parts to any story: a-roll (interviews) and b-roll (support video). Cam ops are always looking for opportunities to add visual interest, when shooting b-roll, with an assortment of shots using equipment like tripods, monopods, dollies, and Steadicam-like rigs. A good rule of thumb is the more coverage you have, the better. When you think you’ve shot enough, shoot more! Your editor will love you.

Golden ears are the sign of a solid audio technician. The audio tech is tasked with recording live audio of interviews and natural sound of your shooting environment. On smaller budget projects, the audio tech could be replaced by simply putting up a boom mic on C-stand or placing a lav mic on an interviewee. Capturing audio is no easy task though, and while staged equipment may be cheaper, having an audio tech on set is incredibly valuable. They're able to work through the myriad challenges that can arise, from background noise to rustling clothing. It should be said that audiences are rarely forgiving of bad audio, and always notice it. Besides, 50% of video is audio.

A stellar production assistant seems to have more than two hands. Among a PA's most important tasks are taking thorough timecode notes. An alert PA will mark the best takes and which shot types (wide, medium, tight) are filmed. Those details will be extremely beneficial when the editor begins cutting. Detailed timecode notes can greatly expedite the post-production process! PAs will also need to jump in and be a grip. They’ll carry equipment, set up and break down cameras, lights, etc. PAs occasionally need to play the role of makeup artist and be sure interviewees look good on-camera (no bunched-up shirts, fly-away hairs, or shiny skin).

Every crew member plays a vital role in making sure shoots run as smoothly as possible.

Determining whether a shoot was successful should revolve around the following questions:

  1. Did you execute the client’s vision?
  2. Did you meet the expectations outlined in the scope of the project?
  3. Did you capture all the shots?

If you answered yes to all three, then you are prepared to produce the final piece!

Next time, we will cover the post-production stage. Until then...

Stage One: Inception Perception

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Whether you’re creating an internal video for a client, or making a film for an audience, you’ll need to consider the three main stages of production: pre-production, production, and post production.

This week’s blog post will focus on pre-production, including its various aspects, and its importance in setting you up for a successful shoot and ease in the edit room. Proper planning and consistent communication between clients and production companies is vital to making sure you achieve your initial expectations.

The inception of a project typically involves a kick-off conference call or meeting between client and vendor, in which you determine the overall scope, which includes specific goals, deliverables, and most importantly, budget.

Once those elements are discussed and agreed upon, the creative and project management aspects of pre-pro take effect. Those involve script writing, storyboarding/ shot breakdown, location scouting, crew sourcing, and production schedule. Many projects, but not all, will also include professional narration or voice-over (VO).

Now the fun begins!

You’ll need a deep brief from your client to fully understand the project and their expectations. That’s the only way to provide a great script and/ or storyboard. That will drive your graphics design, shoot, music — basically, the look-and-feel of the piece, and eventually your post production.

Establishing clear communication from the beginning, staying organized, focusing on project scope, and setting/ resetting expectations are the bedrock to successful creative and budget outcomes.

 

The Soundtrack to your Message

We all have one; a song that serves as a time machine. Every time we hear that song we’re transported back to a very specific moment in our lives. Never underestimate the power of music in your video production. Regardless of whether your audience is internal or external, if you harness the power of a soundtrack, the results can be truly remarkable. 

A great example lies in the story of the founder of iconic American music provider, Muzak. During World War I Major General George O. Squier became the Army’s first Chief Signal Officer. Almost by mistake he legendarily discovered that by providing the Army typing pool with fast-paced music they collectively became more productive. Still think music is just for background ambiance? Then, when radio was still in its infancy, he perfected a method for transmitting music across electrical wires – thus giving birth to the company, Muzak. This advancement allowed music to be sent to businesses and residences. Fast forward to when the first skyscrapers created the need for elevators. As you can imagine, workers in these innovative buildings weren’t totally sold on this idea of getting into a tiny metal box and being pulled up a very tall shaft at high speeds. By piping music into the elevators, building owners calmed the nerves of their tenants. 

The Full Scale team knows how valuable music and sound is to your production, and how to integrate this craftwork into the video workflow. We continually integrate the musical abilities and audio expertise of Joe Miller, through Sounds Like Joe LLC and Tune Dogs LLC, to our client’s benefit. This partnership is proven. What benefits can an expert in music and sound bring your production? What qualifications do you want to see from your vendor? 

Our partnership brings years of professional work history; performing in front of thousands and to global audiences, producing original music for national television advertising for major brands, scoring award winning feature films, mixing cable television shows, and negotiating complex licensing agreements. When we needed to assist John Legend for a performance in NC, we brought Joe onto the production. When it’s time to score a feature documentary, we have the ability to scale up to meet that need. We leverage a complete professional studio ready to handle any project; from music production to voice-over and ADR to Foley and complex synthesis. 

When you need to take your audience to the next level of immersive experience through video, remember the impact of music and sound. 

Tell me your favorite time machine tune and where it transports you. Mine is nearly any song from the “Classic Rock” era. Play some Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or Santana or Allman Brothers or Bowie to the Beatles to B.B. King, but being a Jersey guy, you can spin a little Bruce and I’m all in … and immediately brought back to my high school years.

Let me know if you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address. In the mean time, I’ll be back next Friday with more sound advice.

Makeup and Wardrobe in an HD World

It’s probably a safe bet to assume your leadership team is not thinking about wardrobe or makeup when you book them to be part of your next video production. Someone needs to impress upon them the impact of both. A good video production partner will do just that.

To put anyone, regardless of gender, in front of an HD camera without at least basic foundation and powder is doing them a disservice. Our team prides itself on making our clients feel comfortable behind the scenes and in front of a camera. When it comes to first-timers behind a puff we often equate the use of makeup to that of sunscreen. We ask them, “You’d never spend a day on the beach or on the course without sunscreen – right?” Foundation and powder are serving a similar purpose – protection from HD cameras. Nobody, not a single skin tone, looks alive in HD without the help of makeup. We want the audience for your messages to be focused on exactly that – the messages, not wondering why the person on camera looks anemic, or sweaty or blotchy or you take your pick. Studio or field lights can be hot, people sweat and when that camera light goes on, people sweat. It’s natural; makeup allows this to happen without affecting the impact of the video.

After makeup, wardrobe is deceivingly simple. At least it can be if you follow a few basic rules. Small patterns, herringbone, tiny checks, thin lines buzz the screen, and create what’s called a moiré effect, which you want to avoid at all costs. A buzzed viewer is not an engaged viewer. We counsel your on-camera team to stick to high contrast bold colors, and if patterns are involved in a blouse, dress, or tie, we make sure they are large scale. We also encourage them to “dress the part.” Attire sends a subliminal message, so be conscious of ensuring that what you wear is in sync with the message you are conveying.

Well-applied makeup, the right wardrobe, and the proper lighting can also reduce the “camera adds 10 pounds” effect. Strong, flat light directed straight at a person is a sure-fire way to add this digital poundage. We take great care in the blocking of every shot to avoid this phenomenon.

Does this blog make me look fat? Let me know what you think. Do you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address? In the mean time, talk to you next Friday.

Great Expectations Require Good Planning

Expecting the unexpected is a given in any video production process. What separates the great production teams from the ... well ... others is the ability to maintain an open dialogue with their clients so that when the unexpected does, inevitably, occur, they can react quickly, offer a solution and keep the production on track. The foundation necessary to anticipate unforeseen issues is, quite simply, good planning.

The next time you choose a production partner be sure to get a sense of what formalized systems they have in place to track a project from pre-production to the final cut. Those who lack a formal method of blocking out milestones and tracking a process are a potential liability to your ability to meet a deadline and stay on budget. Our team lays out contingency plans as part of every project we take on. Rain can shut down a day of external shooting. An executive’s schedule is fluid. A new product can be delayed in transport from the manufacturing facility to the shoot location. All these scenarios have the potential to delay a production and delays usually equate to missed final delivery deadlines and cost over-runs.

However, good planners build-in contingencies to make sure that when those unexpected events occur, the other tasks necessary to meet the original deadline can quickly be inserted into the newly opened time slot. Graphics can be sent for approval. Music tracks can be sampled. Interior shots can stand in for a shoot day that was meant to be spent outside.

Of the many unpredictable variables involved in a video production, one thing remains certain, if you expect the unexpected you can plan on your project remaining on track, on time and on budget.

Let me know your expectations of this blog. Do you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address? In the mean time, talk to you next Friday.

Roughing It Is a Good Thing

Few things in life are absolute. However, in the world of video production there are two things that are – pre-production makes for better production and a rough cut pays dividends by saving time and therefore money.

It’s common practice for our team to build project timelines with pre-production meetings that provide for valuable direction and insight to be gathered from our clients. It’s information that flows both ways and in the end saves time. Most video budgets are tight and our clients want to ensure that the dollars they spend add value to the final product – not spent in loops of revisions and avoidable rework. If your communications and video partners don’t advocate carving out plenty of time for pre-production, you’re beginning a process with a significant disadvantage that will most likely catch up with you before the final edit of your piece. That will mean more time and money.

We also build in time for our clients to review rough cuts. A rough cut is essentially a no-frills version of the video in process. Before we spend too much time on layering in graphics, special effects, sound design, etc, we share the rough cut with our clients for feedback. We take a “no surprises” — good or bad — approach and the use of rough cuts allows us to stay true to that philosophy. Again, if your team does not build in this phase of production they’re doing you, and the final piece, a disservice.

I consider this blog a bit of a rough cut in the sense that it should be the start of a two-way means of communication. But, for that, I need your input. Do you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address? Let me know. In the mean time, talk to you next Friday.