THE PRODUCTION PROCESS
If this is the first production that you have commissioned, or if you have not been involved with a production for a while and would like to know about the process, this overview should help you understand some of the things we do as a production company .
As a client, your production company will need your input at key stages but you will not need to see each step of the process. With a professional video production company involved you can have as much or as little involvement in your project as you wish to – or have time for!
The first part of the production will be the initial briefing meeting. Your production company needs to know what you need to say, who you want to say it to and why. It's really important that they fully understand your situation and your audience so that they can create the very best communication solution for you.
For help and more information about briefing a production company, have a look at my 'how to commission a corporate video' document on this resource site.
Proposal and Quotation
Once your production company has understood your requirements, they will write a proposal. This will include the aims and objectives of the project, the style they are proposing, the content or information to be communicated and an outline production quotation.
If appropriate they will also include ideas and a quotation for other communication services that they can help with. It may be that the project needs to be delivered on the web, or on DVD / CD-ROM with some eye-catching packaging designed for it. You may wish to consider a video-email launch for a new sales incentive as well as a business TV campaign.
If you like the proposal and you decide to go ahead with the project, this is the time to discuss the production company's recommendations and fine-tune your brief, after which they will provide a final itemized quotation. Once they have agreed a cost this should not change unless the brief itself changes – so, no surprises later on!
If a script is required, now is the time to write it based on the proposal. Again, the more information you give your production company, the better. Obviously, they can never read enough to match your experience and understanding of your company culture and brand values, so you should ask for a first draft to read through and make any necessary amends before they complete the final script.
Once the script has been approved, it is time to agree a production schedule including shoot and edit dates. It is helpful if you are able to attend on some shoot days and at key stages of the edit to answer any specific questions that may arise, so your production company should arrange the schedule around you and your deadline.
Planning the Shoot
It is now time to start doing what producers do best – planning and organizing the production! The more time you can allow for planning, the better the video will be, so a production company usually works backwards from your deadline leaving as much planning time as possible.
If your project requires actors or a presenter, the production company may hold a casting session and will negotiate with the agents. They may need to choose outfits and organize makeup artists and hair stylists if required. They may also organize rehearsal sessions so everyone is word perfect for the filming days.
If your program is in the style of a documentary, a producer or researcher will introduce them to the people to be featured, explain what they are intending to do and ask them about their experiences. The script for this style of program will be based on these conversations with your staff, customers or industry experts.
Other things we sort out for you at this stage are:
o booking crew, talent and equipment
o sourcing locations
o booking a studio and designing the studio set
o finding props
o organizing travel and hotels
o commissioning music composition
o briefing graphic artists for title sequences, 3D cross sections, CD / DVD menus and web components of the project
o Producing shooting schedules listing all required shots and shoot timings
o Obtaining film permits
o Producing Call Sheets – documents detailing each location and the contact names and numbers everyone involved
o Arranging specialist insurance and risk assessments
Your crew, usually consulting of a Director, a Cameraman, a Sound Recordist, a Producer and / or Production Assistant and any presenters or actors will arrive on location and, after checking with you that there are no amendments to the schedule or script – will get on with it!
An established corporate video production company should be well-accredited to filming in schools, offices, airports, helicopters, boats, trains and planes. In any place of work they should do their utmost to cause as little disruption as possible. They may need to re-arrange a few things to make the shots as attractive as possible, but should always make sure they put everything back as they found it – unless you prefer it their way of course!
The Director will have a TV monitor which shows what the camera is recording, so you will be able to check any shots yourself if you need to make sure that something or someone is or is not seen.
I am often asked what the production Assistant does on a shoot. In brief, s / he ensures that the shoot goes smoothly: preparing for the next shot while the Director is focused on the current one; finding replacement interviewees should someone be absent or change their mind about appearing in the program; leasing airport baggage handlers when bags go missing; making sure that you know what is happening at every stage of the process. This basically means that the Director can focus on making your program look great. The PA will note which takes the best, which ones to avoid and will also ensure that everyone featured in the program signs a release form giving permissions to use the footage as required.
Once the production company has all of the shots they need, it's back to the studio to start making your program.
Logging and Digitising
This involves watching through all of the footage and identifying the best takes. Each shot will be marked and labeled by the production team so that time is not wasted in the edit watching through bloopers, or trying to find a specific angle. All the best shots are then digitized on to the non-linear edit suite ready for the edit.
The Offline edit is the 'first cut' of the program. The production team works with the Editor to produce the main structure and content of the program, which they will then need you to watch and approve. This is the point when you need to involve your collections to watch the program and make one list of amends to make in the online edit.
This is the final edit when the team team make your adjustments and 'finish' the program. The shots that make up the final program are now re-digitized at full broadcast quality. The program is audio mixed and any graphics such as people's names and job titles, and credits are added.
The online may include a color grading process depending on your project. A Colorist gives your program a 'look'.
You now have a program, but how will it get in front of your audience? It will need to be prepared for CD, DVD, mobile phone, PDA, big screen or little screen. Depending on your communication strategy and the production company's capabilities this is the time to encode and prepare the program to make sure that all the right people can access it.
If the program is going to be delivered on an optical disc (CD or DVD) the production company will have sent designs and concepts to you through the production process. The approved design now becomes the bespoke menu system to complement your program.
If you communicate with a foreign audience, the production company will translate and create subtitles, produce international voiceover versions, and ensure that the delivery format is accurate and appropriate. To access the widest possible audience you should consider British Sign language and hard of hearing subtitles for your project, or even producing an audio-description of the project for a visually impaired audience.
A good production company can guarantee the quality of your project, but this is worthless if your audience do not notice it! Get your produciton company to demonstrate how you can print and package your program for maximum impact. Replication companies can deliver thousands of disks a day, and a fulfillment service ensures that your program gets to your audience.
A production company should not just talk about webstreaming – they should be using it to deliver your project straight to your audience. Look around the production company's website, and if you do not see video, dont call them. It is a producer's job to be at the forefront of digital screen media development, they should offer advice on delivery and design and if the project can be delivered on the web they should come up with a successful solution.
You should expect your video to look like TV. Quality production companies will have exacting standards for every project they deliver. They should encode your program at exceptional quality for streaming. You can include the project on your own website or have the production company design a microsite using Flash and Windows © Streaming Servers. Create a buzz about a launch – show your audience a trailer, allow them to interact, or send them an email with colorful video and images in it.
You deserve the best from your production company. So do not accept anything else.