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The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Production for Creating a Successful Video

Video Pre-Production Guide

Before the onset of the digital age, the video format was typically reserved for movie rentals and expensive recording equipment used to record weddings and birthday parties. Now, everyone has a high definition video camera on their smartphones and tablets and can view major motion pictures, television programs, and marketing videos instantly from the palms of their hands.

With online video viewing at an all-time high and rising sharply every year, marketers are taking advantage by creating video content designed to reach these massive audiences of digital communities.

When done right, marketing videos are powerful tools to help increase the visibility of your online brand and reach your business goals and objectives. 

When done right, marketing videos are powerful tools to help increase the visibility of your online brand and reach your business goals and objectives.

Some revealing statistics that demonstrate the power of video include:

The importance of pre-production planning

Producing a marketing video for your business might be a time-consuming and costly investment that can yield a high return by generating web traffic that will lead to more revenue and profits.

To maximize the effectiveness and impact of your video, comprehensive pre-production planning will help drive the project and keep it on track.

Pre-production planning provides direction and clarity for the entire production process.      

From budgetary considerations to creative and marketing decisions, taking the time to make important determinations about the way your video will be shot, edited, and distributed is essential to the success of your marketing strategy. Pre-production planning provides direction and clarity for the entire production process.      

Steps of the pre-production process

The more organized you are, the easier and quicker the video shoot will be and the better chance you have at getting the footage you need to deliver your message in the most engaging and compelling ways.

Taking the following steps helps to ensure smooth production throughout the process.

1. Set Project Goals & Objectives

Videos used for marketing purposes can fulfill a wide variety of goals and objectives. What you hope to achieve from a product demonstration video will be different from producing a company profile or testimonial video.

What kind of goals and objectives could be set for a video marketing campaign?

  • Improved customer education
  • Generate website traffic
  • Lead generation and conversions
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Customer engagement

2. Define Your Target Audience

Knowing your audience is key to how your video and the content will be presented.

Many modern digital advertising opportunities allow you to target specific groups of consumers based on demographic markers such as age, location, and income.

One approach in defining your target audience is through analyzing the data that Google Analytics acquired from the website.

Age, gender, and location are typically the easiest to find. If you want a more sophisticated way of tracking user information online, then you can also use information acquired during checkout or through submission forms.  

What are the steps to defining your target audience?

  • Identify customer base and common characteristics 
  • Learn about your competition
  • Identify influential demographics based on:
    • Name
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Location
    • Income
    • Purchasing history, habits
    • Interests
    • Industry

If you don’t have data, you can rely on your imagination to figure out who you should be marketing to.

  • Begin by considering the problem you solve for your target audience.
  • Then think about who exactly would benefit from solving that problem.
  • Finally, refine your target audience by considering which portion of that group has the means or desire to solve the problem you identified.

Understanding your target audience will make it easier to market to them. A useful tip to achieving this is by documenting the characteristics of each person’s persona. 

3. Create a Realistic Project Budget

Without a doubt asking “how much is this going to cost?” should be in the mind of everyone looking into making a video. While we’d all like to create a smash hit viral video, the reality is that video requires commitment and long-term investment is key. 

Each type of video project will incur expenses in different areas.

Creating a logical, realistic budget dictates how much you can spend on a location rental, actors, production personnel, and more.

Get specific and detailed about the expected video production costs at this stage of the process or you will run into financial problems later. Use this video production cost estimator to help you give an idea of a realistic budget.

What are the factors that influence a video project budget?

  • Length of video
  • Location of shoot
  • Size and type of production staff
  • Post-production time
  • Travel expenses
  • Equipment rental or purchase

Video production costs can vary depending on complexity and budget. Videos can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars if you’re outsourcing production to a professional agency. Your budget will largely depend on how you’ll produce your videos — outsourced, in-house, or DIY.

Your budget will largely depend on how you’ll produce your videos — outsourced, in-house, or DIY.

4. Script Writing, Editing, Re-Editing

The script is the foundation of your video guides in all areas of the production.

Creating the video script should be a collaborative effort with various members of the production team helping to revise and edit it to arrive at the final version. This is the document the entire crew will be working off on, so it needs to be as concise and thorough as possible while including all of your marketing and brand elements.

Techniques for video script writing include:

  • Educational videos like this by HubSpot

  • Persuasive videos like this example 

  • Explainer videos like this one below produced by Dollar Shave Club

5. Create Storyboard

A storyboard is a visual representation of the planned shots that will be included in a video.

Think of it as a graphic roadmap detailing every scene in your story. Photos, sketches, illustrations and even still photos of stock video footage may be used to compile a storyboard, and most of them include text that spells out what’s happening in each scene.   

Creating a storyboard for your video allows the team to visualize what needs to be shot and address technical issues of lighting, blocking, and setting.

Looking at the project from a shot by shot perspective will trigger production needs for the day of the shoot and at the post-production stage, such as equipment and personnel. The images do not need to be professionally drawn or perfect to give you a visual representation of the project.

Types of storyboards include:

Photo storyboards

Photo storyboard example

Rough sketched storyboards

Rough sketched storyboard

What are the steps to creating a storyboard?

  1. Define project objectives
  2. Create a timeline
  3. Create a template and begin drawing
  4. Include text insertions
  5. Revise and edit

In addition to the collection of visuals that accurately reflect your video’s grand vision and creating a storyboard, there are additional elements you should work on to make your storyboards as useful as possible.

  • Include the script
  • Add a shot number for every scene
  • Add notes to help explain and clarify the scene

A storyboard done right succeeds in uniting the production team and client in a shared vision so that there are no surprises on set or in the editing room. The more detailed the storyboard step is, the better prepared you will be to make a terrific video that accomplishes all of the goals you set out to hit.

6. Create Shot List

A shot list uses the information from the script and storyboard to make a list of every shot needed on the day of the shoot.

Shot lists detail specific needs such as camera placement and the direction of the lights. This will guide the schedule during the shoot and should include a description of the shot, on-camera and off-camera personnel needed, dialogue, props, and plenty of space to make notes.

What does a typical shot list include?

  • Scene numbers
  • Shot numbers
  • Locations
  • Description of the shot
  • Framing specifics 
  • Action and dialogue
  • Actors involved, entrances and exits
  • Props needed
  • Additional notes

Here’s an example of a video shot list Sparkhouse created for client Seed Legend:

Video shot list

7. Determine Production Needs

Now that you know every detail of each scene of the video, a list of production needs is compiled that includes the equipment needed for each shot, from cameras and tripods to microphones and lights. The production manager works with the videographers and other production crew members to determine what works best for every scene.

At this point, you also know the personnel needed to set up, break down, and man the production equipment.

Make Pre-Production Planning a Priority

The time and effort you invest to fully prepare for a video shoot will help to ensure the project goes smoothly so your goals and objectives are reached.  Pre-production planning creates a blueprint to follow that can be reviewed and adjusted throughout the production process. 

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