It’s no secret why video marketing spend is slated to reach $37.4 billion in 2021. Brands produce videos in-house, or even out-of-house, because this type of content delivers big results.
Not only is video 1200% more shareable than text and images, but you can also reap the benefits of increased brand awareness and traffic without going over budget when producing this type of content.
Having a large budget, experienced production team, and high-end equipment is an asset — there’s no question about it— but teams of any size and level of expertise can produce engaging videos with the resources they have access to.
Even still, you can’t just jump into production without a plan.
Before you even look at a camera, you need to put in the work during pre-production to plan out every aspect of the shoot. This is where a pre-production checklist comes in.
9-Step Pre-Production Checklist
Every pre-production involves the same core steps. Let’s take a look at what those steps are and how you can make the most out of your time and budget in the days or weeks leading up to production.
1. Outline & Script the Project
Flushing out and fine-tuning the concept for your video is priority number one — whether you’re filming a 15-second social media video, 10-minute explainer video, or 2-minute TV commercial.
At this stage, the main objective is to create and develop the video plot. And that’s because luck will only get you so far if you’re entering into production with an under-developed concept.
The process here is simple: figure out what message you want to convey, how you want to convey it, and then take time to write an outline and script.
Remember that the more detailed these documents are the better, especially since you’ll refer back to the outline and script constantly during production.
While the creative side of this process is extremely important, you also have to make sure that your team has the budget and experience to turn a potential video concept into a reality.
No matter how interesting your video concept is, if it isn’t doable with the resources and skills that you have, the concept is a non-starter. You could end up creating an outline and script for a project that you can’t actually make.
If you have a small budget and need to keep production costs low, no problem. The Dollar Shave Club did this as a startup when they created their first ad, and received 12,000 orders within 48 hours of the video going live.
When you write the outline and script with your budget in mind, you shouldn’t run into any cost-related issues when building the shot list, prop list, and gear list.
2. Create the Shot List, Prop List, and Gear List
This pre-production step is all about visualizing how your video will come together on-screen — what camera shots and angles you’ll use (and when), what props will be shown in-frame, and what gear you’ll need to capture the footage.
These documents are important because, without them, the rest of your team can’t do their jobs properly. So, as you create each list, be as detailed and specific as possible.
3. Recruit and Coordinate Talent
Maybe the script calls for eight unique talents with a certain skill set (i.e., actors with choreography experience ,improvisation experience, etc.). Maybe you’ll need to recruit and hire more or less people.
Every production is different, which is to say that the criteria for this talent search might be dramatically different from the criteria for your next project.
The sooner you check this box off, the better— especially when coordinating with multiple people that have differences in availability.
4. Scout and Acquire Locations
The script gives you a good idea of the type of filming location(s) you’ll need to reserve for production. And just like talent recruitment, time is of the essence here.
Will filming take place indoors or outdoors? In an urban or rural setting? Your answers to these questions and more will guide your search for locations, but it’s not always enough to find the right location.
If booking a particular location will take up too much of the budget — or there’s just no availability — you need to be able to adapt quickly and find alternative options.
5. Confirm all Talent and Locations Before the Shoot
Once your team narrows down on the talent and locations you want, make sure that you double (or even triple) check that you’re all set for production with time to spare before filming starts.
That way, if one of your talent cancels at the last minute or a venue is no longer available, you’ll still have some time to work out a solution.
6. Prep the Gear & Confirm the Props
At this stage of pre-production, your team is one step closer to implementing your pre-production plan. Your focus now is to pack all of the audio equipment, lighting gear, props, etc. that you need to bring onto set and then take inventory to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind.
This is your opportunity to work out any last-minute issues and make sure that the gear and props are prepped and ready to be used once production starts.
7. Charge Batteries (and Extra Batteries)
Last-minute complications and flukes are bound to happen during production, but that doesn’t mean you should leave everything up to chance.
No matter how minimal or extensive your gear list is, it’s important to be proactive about preventing common technical issues. Make sure that every piece of equipment is functioning properly and has a full battery-life. (You’ll be kicking yourself later if you don’t.)
8. Test Cables and Connections
You don’t want to wait until production to verify that the cables and connections you’re relying on for audio quality are working properly.
The same goes for the monitors, lighting equipment, gimbals, and anything else that can and should be tested ahead of time.
If you’re using audio captured during filming(as opposed to audio recorded after filming), a great resource to have on hand is an input list (i.e., a document that outlines exactly where to plug in the equipment once your team arrives on location).
For more information about input lists and this side of production, check out this video.
By taking this proactive and preventative step, you can rest assured that you’ve done everything in your power to avoid any unexpected technical issues when filming starts.
9. Print out the Scripts, Shot Lists & Talent Release Forms
By this step in the process, you’ve put in a lot of work to make sure that production goes smoothly. Before filming starts, one of the last things you’ll do is distribute copies of the script, shot list ,and talent release forms to everyone that needs these documents for production.
And one last note: To prevent potential legal issues, don’t start filming until all of your talent has filled out and signed the talent release form.
The importance of pre-production shouldn’t be understated. By using a pre-production checklist, you can guarantee that every necessary task gets done when it needs to.
Think of this guide as a jumping point for your team’s pre-production process, and don’t be afraid to adapt this checklist to your specific needs when producing videos in the future.