What goes into a video shoot

So, I sit here killing time as my footage from the last shoot imports.  And I'm realizing that people don't really know what goes into a video shoot.  Beyond the actual shooting (which I'll cover too) there are lots of tons of other things going on and being planned.  Wonder what?  I'll use a recent shoot for a client (see the finished product below).


Every project starts with an email, phone call, or text.  It usually goes like this "Hey, I've got a project we're thinking about doing a video for.  We're talking to a couple people, but can you put together an estimate together and do you have time for this project?"  There's usually a call to go over what ever assets they have (script, storyboard, etc) so far.

The estimate is pretty easy at this point.  I know, pretty accurately, how much it costs me to have my office open for an hour.  That includes the office space, electricity, internet, computers, cameras, audio gear, lights, software, even the desk (it's called the Cost of Doing Business).  So it's a pretty simple calculation... how much time will it take X CODB + hard costs (VO, music, stock) = The total cost of the project.  There's some profit factored into my CODB, so if a client comes back and says "can you work with us on this?" there can be some flexibility.  But it makes zero sense for me to take a project way below my costs, so I pass on stuff from time to time.


Everything starts with an idea and it's a good thing to know what you're getting into ahead of time.  Hopefully there's been a script or storyboard developed, but a lot of times we'll help with that side of things too.  It's important to get that idea down on paper so the right people can approve it.  For the shoot the other day, they were really buttoned up.  Beautiful storyboards and script.


This is the planning stage.  Most of the time, it's the most important part of the whole project.  It's when you go through EVERYTHING in the project and plan it all out.  For the shoot I was doing, it included two big things.  A call to go through the storyboard and put together a shot list with the client.  And the biggest part... finding a laundry room we can shoot in.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But think of your laundry room.  It needs to look perfect first and foremost.  But then you need room for a tripod and big camera, 2 or 3 lights, props, me and an assistant, a person to be "talent" (from the agency), and 2 or 3 agency people to approve what we're shooting.  It took a while to find.  I hit up every person I know, the agency went through people they know, I searched dozens of Airbnb listings.  Finally we found a great laundry room.  It was a little far from the agency's office but timing was tight.  We had like a week and a half for all of the pre-pro.


Before I get into the actual production, the other part of pre-production is identifying what it will take to get the shoot done.  I also firmly believe in having a back up for everything.  Here's a list of what we brought...

  • Sony FS7 Camera - we were shooting 4k and needed slow motion
  • Canon 5d Mark III - brought as a backup and for stills if needed
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • Canon 70-200m f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Metabones Speedbooster EF > Sony
  • Metabones EF > Sony - backup adapter
  • Kinoflo Diva - key light for the shoot
  • Astra Lite Panel BiColor LED - back / fill light
  • Lowell DP 4 Head Lighting Kit - backup lighting
  • Small HD 5" monitor w/ LUT support
  • Sachtler Tripod
  • 3x C-Stands
  • Leatherman
  • Gaff Tape
  • Lots of Batteries & accessories


The day of the shoot went pretty smooth.  My assistant showed up early and we got out to the location around 8am.  I like to show up at least an hour prior to the client arrival so that we can get stands, lights, cameras, everything up and checked before they walk in.  This is good for 2 reasons.  Primarily, I get to check everything before someone is looking over our shoulders.  We test before we head out, but it's a safety so we can solve any problems without the client being alarmed.  Secondly, it leaves less time for the client to sit around.  We want them to be in and out as smoothly as we can.

Client walked in, we tweaked lighting for the product they brought and got to the shooting.  During pre-pro we had set up a shot list and I'd ordered it into the most effective sequence for what we needed to get.  But we're always open to input and additional shots.  For this, we had a lot of those to make sure we were covered.

We shot for about 4 hours and sent the client on their way while we broke down.


So now the fun begins.  Most clients think you can jump right into the editing process.  In fact there's a half day or day of things to do prior to shooting.  Here are the steps...

  1. Take all the cards (which are well labeled for what order we shot in) and import them into the job folder.  Depending on how long we've shot, this can take a while.
  2. After that, I make disk images of every card.  If something gets corrupted during import or an emergency happens, I have an exact copy of the card we shot on and I can re-import.  I hold onto those until the project is completely wrapped.
  3. Once all that is done, the imported files are then renamed to match the project.
  4. Then everything gets backed up from my main working NAS to a backup NAS and an offsite NAS.  To lose something I'd have to have 2 drives in each of those fail all at the same time.  That's why I back it all up first.
  5. Then the footage gets imported and sorted into Adobe Premiere and we're ready to edit.

At that point I assemble a rough first cut that goes to the client via Wipster.  I can't say enough amazing things about Wipster.  Clients can comment directly into the video and it's matched to the time code.  It's amazing.  We go through a number of rounds of revisions and then we're wrapped.  When it's wrapped I send the clients MP4 and MOV.

So that's some of what goes into each shoot.  There are a million other little things, but if you're thinking about a video project you'll know most of what goes into it.  Here's the finished piece...

I'm way behind...

I'm way behind on updating my blog.  In 2016 my goal is to get it done at least once a week.  If only for getting me to stop and think more about what I'm doing and not be so focussed on the next project.

Here's a project I did for an agency in Chicago that was for Coca-Cola and Nabisco.  They shot in NYC on Red Dragons, but were looking for someone to do the post production as well as some pickup shots.  They turned to my company, AV Collective, and we executed 9 of these 3-4 minute videos as well as a half dozen or so :30 versions.  They came out great.

I have no job.



I mean, I always have a job.  But for the first time in a LONG time, I don't have a 9-5 job.  I have always done freelance while having a full time gig.  Even if it meant getting home from work, doing the freelance all night, going straight back to work.  But now I don't have that middle of the day thing to eat up my freelance time so I'm going full speed ahead with AV Collective.  If the right full time opportunity came along, I'd entertain the idea.  But right now I'm really psyched about offering full service photo and video to a wide range of clients through my own company,  AVCollective.com  It's not really that different than what I was doing before, other than the fact that my family depends on my salary and it's elevating my hustle to work with new clients.

Along those lines I've added new clients and projects the past two months that I'm really proud of.  I'll put together some case studies on each of them so you can see exactly what I did and how we executed.  It's been a blast.  So stay tuned as I reboot my websites and re-engage.

216k views in 1 week

Whoa!  Today I logged into my old company's youtube and saw that they went from 1 million to 2 million hits this year on the backing of the video content I did for them.  Pretty cool.  Then I logged into my current company's youtube and saw that 1 video I edited had over 200,000 views in just 1 week.  Those 1D fans are crazy.

Rihanna in LA

Found out on Friday at 2pm that our shoot with Rihanna moved from NYC on Tuesday to LA on Sunday.  Insane turnaround to get everything set up, coupled with the fact that I had to do it all in 1 hour because we were on our way to interview Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers and we had to leave at 3pm.  We got it all done and the footage came out great.  Can't wait to see it on the network.

Amazing bikes

I love this video for a couple of reasons.  First, it's a well put together video.  But beyond that, the bikes they're making are pretty amazing looking.  But for me the real heart of the video is the company's founder talking.  Clearly a really old man who tells his people to "get their heads out of the computer" and create.  People like that are becoming fewer and farther between.


New Lighting Setup

The other day I posted some photos I shot between setups for my video shoot.  Here's a screen grab of the shoot.  Went for something a little more dramatic than I typically do to highlight the contrast on his body.  Pretty happy with how it's working out.

Lunch Time Cinema


Yesterday my copy of The First 70 from Kickstarter showed up. I wanted to watch it ASAP so I decided to start a lunch time car cinema. I've got my sandwich, strawberries, and a good documentary. It's going to be a good lunch.