The past few years have brought us new forms of technology, media, and communication which have blossomed to become near essentials of business and our everyday lives. “Always On” mobile & tablet devices, social media, and consumption of cloud-based media have transformed both the way we live and the way we do business in profound ways. And with respect to the latter, user engagement through content marketing has become a key component of many an online marketing campaign.
Simply put, companies are in need of quality content, including video, to help engage prospects and persuade them to become clients and customers.
Articles about video typically stress the importance of video’s engagement, SEO, and social media benefits. These are all critical points. We believe that a high-quality video on a website or in social media serves multiple functions – it informs, educates, and keeps you top of mind. It helps build trust and credibility. In a world where your prospects may not always meet you in person, video can also be an effective way of conveying your warmth, personality and values to both clients and prospects alike.
However, with much already written about benefits, we want to turn our attention to process. How does one create a high-quality video that is at once memorable and brand-enhancing? And how does the right team help you navigate through this process so it becomes manageable — and perhaps, at moments, even pleasurable?
This article is geared for the “beginners” – those who haven’t gone through the corporate video production process. Also, for our purposes, we’ll cover production of a “live action” video as opposed to an animated one.
The production of a corporate video (or even a short or feature film) fits into four general stages — with some overlap — each of which poses its own unique challenges and solutions:
- Concept Stage – What is Being Shown, to Whom, and Why?
- Pre-Production – Setting the Stage & Writing the Script
- Production – Getting It Filmed
- Post-Production & Finalization – Creating the Narrative Through Editing
Let’s examine each of these in turn.
I. CONCEPT STAGE:
Most video projects take place in the wider context of a marketing campaign or branding initiative. A video can convey new information and insight into a business and its products or services, and/or reinforce existing messages. It may consist of customer testimonials. It can try to sell a product, discuss a practice area, or explain a process. Whatever the goal and whoever the intended audience, this should be crystal clear from the project start.
Primary questions at this stage include: what messages will be conveyed about the company, service, or product and what is the most effective way to do this? What kind of “action” will be shown? What visuals are best suited for this purpose? Is there a specific audience segment or demographic we are trying to reach? And what action do we want these viewers to take?
Three further considerations that come into play at this stage are: (1) cost, (2) duration, and (3) style. All three set the general constraints of the finished work and the production process. Cost is self-explanatory and sets the general constraints of all that follows. Duration is also key, ensuring not only that the entire production stay within budget but that the impact of the message is maximized (since excess running time may distract and dilute the video’s effectiveness).
Finally, style adds the finishing touch to the final product and is often a motivation for the audience to watch. But it is integral to the production process and informs many of the decisions along the way. And since a watched videoclip is one of the touchpoints of a brand with its audience, the video style should ideally conform to the client brand.
Let’s assume we’ve explored these questions and determined that we want to produce a two and a half minute “commercial” style company introduction, with company principals speaking about mission and services, and typical office scenarios (e.g., client interactions) shown as background.
At this point we move to:
This is the setting of the stage: the preparation of all the concrete components that need to be in place for a near-flawless video shoot.
At this point the production or marketing team writes a script — or advises the client on the writing of one. The term “script” may mean different things on different shoots – depending on the context and details, it may be as general as a list of topics or as specific as word-for-word text. An off-camera set of questions may also be used to elicit statements from the subjects so as to minimize their having to commit too much information to memory. Either way, words matter and a well-written script or set of questions is an essential component of pre-production.
Logistics of the filming also start to come into play. The mechanics of filming is sensitive to a myriad of variables, and preparation is key. While sometimes challenging, delving into logistics is also an exciting time to witness an abstract concept start to take shape.
Among the questions that arise in pre-production are:
- What are the shooting locations, over how many days? Will filming be strictly indoors or involve outdoor shots? What kind of travel is required, for the production team as well as the client?
- Who are the main subjects to be filmed? Do they need any preparation or coaching to enhance their on-camera presentation?
- Will employees, team members, testimonial-providing clients, or other parties appear on camera?
- Are “extras” needed to fill certain background roles or scenarios – e.g., a client or customer interaction?
- Is background footage needed? (this is sometimes referred to as “B-Roll”) Can stock footage clips be used or is additional filming needed?
- Are any permissions or legal releases required ahead of time?
- If filming is taking place on a client’s premises, is any preparation needed and how will disruptions to office workflow be minimized?
This list can go on – but let’s assume we’ve gone through these details and have everything we need organized and ready to go. We then move on to:
Production — the actual filming process — is its own entity, filled with nuance and requiring skill and experience to pull off. However, thorough pre-production planning makes a huge difference in helping this stage flow smoothly.
On the technical side, optimal lighting, sound recording, appropriate backgrounds, choice of camera, shooting angles, and scene set-ups are critical in producing quality footage. Then there’s the “action” – the emotions, credibility, and presentation, of every on-camera subject. Whether in foreground or background, these details create the nuances that the editing process then shapes into a well-presented narrative.
This may be a good time to mention costs. What used to be a significantly expensive proposition in the era of film is now much more reasonable in the current digital age. With high-definition digital cameras, compact lighting, and improved sound capture, production costs – and times — have been drastically reduced from what they once were.
While every shoot has its budgetary constraints, there is a lot more flexibility and leeway in the production stage than there once was. This flexibility can be used to produce more takes, variations, and a better product.
IV. POST-PRODUCTION & FINALIZATION:
The three previous stages end with the creation of footage or “raw material” – and post-production is the process which brings everything together and infuses this material with a narrative and emotion. It is the “multi” part of multimedia — where a several minute clip gains the power to captivate, engage, and entertain.
This is achieved through editing – taking footage and recorded sound and mixing it with music, narration, and even graphics to create a compelling story. Editing is both a skill and an art. Every viewer has an unconscious understanding of what makes for a well-presented – hence, well-edited — story. As part of the production team, the editor is invaluable in understanding these conceptions and cues, and putting together the building blocks to create something moving, both physically and emotionally.
Just like the writing process entails re-writing, editing often consists of re-editing, trying things in different ways and making adjustments and corrections. It often entails further tweaks once a client sees the near-completed product: a client is typically presented with a “rough cut” and after some feedback and discussion, additional edits and streamlining of the video may be made.
The video is then finalized, delivered, and uploaded. It may reside on a client’s website, be aired as a television commercial, be shown to employees or clients in-house, or get funneled into a long-term marketing campaign. But online or off, a strong video has the power to reach audiences for the long haul.
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Producing a high-quality video does involve its share of time, planning, and hard work. It requires an examination of a company or organization’s marketing, brand, and messaging goals. It may require rigorous thought and a written out script. It always involves some type of time commitment to shoot. But when produced with the right team, the video production process can also be exciting, thought-provoking, and rewarding.
And hopefully, the finished work will also live online in a way that will be beneficial to the company’s brand and bottom line for the long run.