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Everything you need to know about video pre-production

Posted By Ezra Auperle  
14:00 PM

When you're commissioning a video the last thing you want is to end up with is a video that is off brief or not what you expected. Following our pre-production guide will ensure you're never left in a sticky situation.


Five steps to successful pre-production:

  1. Request a director's treatment

Treatments can range in complexity, but the core objective of this document is to enable readers to understand and visualise the director's vision for the project.

  1. Ask for storyboards

Depending on the type of project, storyboards can either be indicative references for the core scenes of a video or they can be a comprehensive shot by shot breakdown that includes the script and/or voice over. Once you've seen this you should have a clear overview of what is being shot and how it will be pieced together in alignment with the brief.

  1. Ask for animatics

Animatics are used to test and prove whether shots, timing and transitions will actually work in a video before it is even filmed. This is particularly useful when creating videos that need to be a specific length as you can test the timings of shots and dialogue. They are created by animating storyboard frames into a video sequence that includes place holder music, voiceover and/or dialogue.   

  1. Check locations in advance

Location scouts enable the production team to assess the suitability of a location for filming. The four major location considerations are lighting, sound, space and subject positioning. Checking these prior to production eliminates risk and problem-solving during production and post-production, which can save dollars in the long run.

  1. Work with an experienced team

Producers and production managers are responsible for organising talent, locations, call sheets, run sheets, permits, budgets, releases, travel, critical paths and much more. Spending the time organising everything in advance makes for a smooth and stress-free production.


So how much is too much when it comes to pre-production? The short answer is, it depends on the complexity of a project and type of production, but there are some items that should be considered as critical for every project.


Production management

It's a bit of a no brainer, but every project needs management whether it's a producer, production manager or coordinator. You should avoid cutting costs here as it will directly impact how well the project is organised and executed. This applies to pre-production, production and post-postproduction. In some instances, costs can be reduced by a client organising some minor aspects of the production, however this does add an element of risk that is worth paying to mitigate. Consider this analogy, it might save money to bring a builder more nails if he runs out, but if you get the wrong nails the entire process needs to be repeated.


Director's Treatment

If you're working with a director, you should always request a treatment. It might only be a one pager, but it's critical to understanding how they envisage the project coming to life. When written well, a client should be able understand, visualise and check that the creative direction aligns with the brief. You can check out our blog post on treatments for more information on what they cover, but the minimum should be a short paragraph summarising the concept and narrative, a detailed breakdown of each major scene, and visual/thematic references.

We always recommend speaking to a production specialist about the level of pre-production a project requires. They'll be able to provide expert advice on the five elements we've covered here and whether or not they're detrimental to the success of the project. Happy video making!