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).

PRE-PRE PRODUCTION

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.

TREATMENT / BIG IDEA

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.

PRE-PRODUCTION

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.

THE GEAR

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 PRODUCTION

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.

POST PRODUCTION

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...