A Producer’s Perspective: What’s the most important phase of any video project?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

I try and take Benjamin Franklin’s reminder into consideration with any undertaking — personal or professional, big or small. Of course, the higher the stakes, the more important the planning process becomes. If I sign up for a 50-mile race without following a carefully-planned training plan, I’m either going to not finish, or seriously injure myself, or both. If I try to start my own business and don’t bother to do research or write a business plan, my dream will probably end before it even gets off the ground.

What about video production? Chances are, if a business or organization has put a lot of time and money behind the decision to create a video — whether it’s for marketing, internal training, education or another purpose — there would be some level of consequence if the video did not achieve the level of success that the business or organization had hoped.

By now, my point that planning is important, is clear. But here are three specific reasons why I believe pre-production is the most important phase in any video project.

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Consolidate the vision

One of my first steps in pre-production is to get to know you. I want to understand how and why you made the decision to create a video in the first place; what event or thought process sparked the initial discussion; what you need to happen as a result of this video; what you like about particular videos; and even what you don’t like about other videos.

Getting to know you as a client as best I can is extremely important to me. It’s from learning all this information that I am then able to work with our creative team to develop a customized creative concept (or two or three) that we feel best accomplishes your goals. My hope going into any concept presentation is that, because we have done all the necessary research and pre-production up to this point, we will walk away with a clear concept with which everybody is happy and ready to move forward.

Ensure a smooth shoot

If I were a wedding planner, I wouldn’t tell everyone to show up in the morning and then hope for the best. There are a lot of moving parts performing different roles at different places at different times of the day, and if the day’s not carefully planned, then there’s a myriad of ways the day could end up — few or none of which would be ideal.

The same goes for the day of video production. Everyone on the crew has a different role, and as soon as everyone arrives, I want every person to know exactly where he or she should be and what he or she is responsible for, from where and when to set up equipment and where interviews will be conducted, to what time we’re eating lunch and where to get parking validated. It’s not that I don’t like answering questions; it’s that I want to make sure I anticipate every question that could be asked and answer those questions prior to the day of the shoot.

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Save time

If given the the option to spend more time in pre-production or post-production, my choice will always be the former. Spending more time in pre-production ensures the most efficient use of time in post-production.

Think of it like building a shed. You have differently-shaped pieces of wood, different types of screws, some tools, and a picture in your head of how you think all the pieces should come together. But what happens when you think you’re done, only to realize you forgot to actually level the ground first. You have to start all over, and it takes twice as long than it would have if you took the time to develop careful instructions and make sure you had all the right tools in place.

With video, you can have all the right pieces, but without at least an initial plan to put it together, there’s no strong foundation on which the story can stand.

Happy planning!

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