Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video The importance of pre-production, part of Learning Video Production and Editing.
- If you want to create a compelling video production, the last thing you should do is grab your camera and start shooting. Trying to get shots without a clear creative goal is a great way to waste time and money. The most important step in the video production process is pre-production. It's the one thing that can make or break a project. More than the camera you shoot on, more than the video editing software you use, if you haven't planned out every detail of your production you are setting yourself up for creative heartbreak every time. Planning and organizing can be very intimidating for a creative person, so where should you start this process? I truly believe that creativity flows from a well-ordered system, and a well-ordered system starts with a clearly defined goal.
No matter how big or small the budget, every video production needs to start with an idea that can be clearly communicated with words. Anyone who has ever taken a class from me can recite this quote: "If you can't explain your idea "in a complete sentence then it cannot be done." This is way more than just anecdotal advice. It's based on the fact that long before video existed as a medium, we communicated with words in the form of stories, plays, novels, textbooks, sales brochures, posters, writing your idea down forces you to think it through from beginning to end in a way that cannot be done behind the camera.
Let's use this course you're watching as an example. Here's my goal for this video production. Introduce the important steps in the video-creation process to lynda.com members in a way that is accessible to a viewer with little or no video experience. Once I had this goal written down, it became the driving force in the creation of this project. Every decision we make about what you, the viewers, see on screen flows outward from this first simple sentence. And I now have a context in which I can begin to write an outline. Just like in a book, the outline covers the major points of your project.
For example, if you are creating a documentary on the civil war to show the war from the eyes of a specific soldier, then your outline might start off with an introduction to the soldier and their family. Then, how major socio-economic trends leading up to the war affected the soldier and their decision to fight. We can stop there, but that should give you an idea of how to begin to organize your thoughts in a broad sense. The outline is a listing of the important creative elements of your project, but this serves a crucial purpose in the production. In the creation of a course or video production like this, the outline becomes more than a simple listing of subjects or movies in the course.
It becomes the document I share with my producer. A producer is a critical component of the production. It's their job to organize all of the parts of a project into a manageable and executable sequence of events that culminate with the delivery of a finished video. The most important reason that a producer is such a critical component of a production is that they take on all of the organization and planning of a shoot. And this frees the director to focus purely on the creative goal of the project. During pre-production, the director and producer work closely together to answer every possible question about the project.
How many crew members? What does the set look like? How long do we need to book the stage for? Do we need to hire extras? Will we need motion graphics to support the ideas? These are just a few of the many issues that a producer will need to take care of to make a project go smoothly and set up the director for creative success. The outline is just the beginning of the writing process. A producer can do a lot with a simple goal and an outline, but the real work on a project begins when the scripts are written. The script writing process is where your ideas come to life.
Even if you're creating a music video with no spoken words, the act of writing out your story in detail causes your mind to think through every shot of the piece, and it's the least expensive place to test your ideas. By the time you're ready to shoot, you should have all the problems of your story worked out. Producers and writers are an essential part of the pre-production process, but even if you're operating on a smaller scale where you find yourself in charge of most or all aspects of the production, you can't skimp here. Put on your producer hat and really take the time to get everything in order before you pick up that camera.