Video Production for Beginners

               When planning a production of a commercial, documentary, movie or TV show a process is involved to bring the finished product to market.  The processes involved are Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production.  In all three-production steps, similar aspects of lighting, sound effects, cinematography, logistics, budgeting, staffing, scheduling, investment, and engineering are required.  In all three-production steps, certain above the line (creative production personnel) and below the line (technical production personnel) work incessantly towards a goal of a production step.  Ultimately, they work towards the finished product.  A wide degree of creativity is required for the production personnel as well as the technical engineering personnel. Collaboration is as important to production as the senses are to human beings.

The Executive Producer is the CEO of all operations involving a video/film shoot.  He is in charge of all programs, program series, or movies.  He coordinates with the investor, client, station, corporate management, advertising, talent, budget and all agents of talent and writers.  He hires and fires everyone that has to do with multiple productions although he leaves responsibility to a single producer in a single production. In a single production, the producer is CEO.  The producer is responsible for all floor personnel and all actions they do.  He sometimes doubles as writer and director or hires them.  The writer is responsible for the groundwork of writing which is the basis of every single decision the production team will make.  Without a complete script, you can’t cast the program, design its look, determine the crew and equipment needed, list the locations of sets or budget or schedule the production.  The producer and writer carefully towards perfection, scrutinize the script for every major and minor detail for the director to direct the script into effective communicative video/film.  The director is in charge of directing the talent as the script moves along and transforms the script decisively into video and audio messages.  The director is hired by the producer to also direct all technical operations during the shoot.  The talent, technical supervisor, art director, photography director, lighting director, stage manager and floor manager also work for and with the director.  All the other production personnel and technical personnel including the cameraperson usually work under the above listed billets to perfect the production.  Large productions may also have a composer and choreographer.  In smaller productions, a few personnel on the floor may carry on many different jobs by multitasking them . Pre-Production’s are all planning and nothing but every detail of the production period.  The Production period is all the characters and/or messages in the script into video/film.  The Post-Production period is all about directing the audio and video cutting to completion of final product.

The Pre-Production is as said before, more paramount than anything in the entire production process. This process involves the planning of scripts and storyboarding, special audio effects, lighting, people, places, and feedback, investment and scheduling these jobs with an open mind and with attention to detail.

A treatment is the start of the script planning. A script is then revised many times by a writer at the producer’s discretion. Scripting is followed by storyboarding. Storyboarding is compiled by the writers and directors and they draw up audio and video shots for the scenes that are complex. The property manager and all personnel are then ready to plan and create sound and special effects for either in real time or computer related within budget  While sound and special effects are being created, the lighting is being planned as well as the locations to shoot the production are being planned.  The personnel involved in casting are planning and the producer is budgeting all of these expenses to do so. Then all plans are verified carefully to fix major and minor problems that may arise. The most common problems are power problems, contact problems, additional sound and lighting, cameras and how many, location issues and time, communication and safety issues as well as one of the most important, legal and government code issues.  Additional problems might develop at the last minute so be prepared.

The all-powerful schedule comes next.  Creating a timeline for the overall project, from development to completion is what has to happen.  Scheduling and budgeting go hand in hand here ,so you may want to schedule all scenes at a particular location together.  Shooting in sequence is a luxury few productions can afford.  The director of photography can give you a list of all scenes and how long they might take to complete after planning.  With extremely good scheduling, it is off to production and Take 1!

At production the producer has to lay off and let the director do all the work.  Although the producer may double as the director in certain instances the director’s position is to move the talent into certain visions and emotions the audience will realize and stay tuned in.  He must also follow the script and production plans organized in Pre-Production.  In single camera production, if you don’t stick to plan regardless of retentiveness, the cast and time of day could be fine but small disasters may originate..  For example, if you indeed shoot one scene when you are supposed to shoot another one, something as silly as a white t-shirt could be a problem.  If you were supposed to shoot scenes 2, 3, 6 in order and you shot 2, 6, 3 here is the paradox.  Scene two was supposed to have a dirty t-shirt, but scene six is supposed to have a clean t-shirt, so you rush to the cleaners after scene two to get scene six ready.  When you shoot scene six and go onto scene three you find out that scene three has to look exactly like that dirty t-shirt in scene two. What are you to do, is there a way to get the shirt dirty the same exact way for scene three?  If you don’t stick to plan, small things pop up that could ruin everything.

If the script is the basis for the planning and shooting plan, then continuity personnel or yourself must guard that script to a tee and catch every problem and keep you informed. Also know that no shoot is ever completed exactly as planned, so have plan B ready just in case. You should know where the locations, costumes and props are in every production. You should also have ideas on how to adjust plan A as well, because something like a dirty t-shirt can cause major problems.

Before shooting always apply the color bars to the camera as well as white balance.  Applying color bars aligns the camera and videotape recording systems.  The white balance provides accurate color temperatures for the color information that makes up the video. This is done by zooming in on a white board for about one to two minutes before production.

When you are shooting try not to over excess panning – which means moving the camera from right to left or zooming in and out too much because you create too much motion.  It will definitely make the scene be a retake.  Panning for any other reason than to include everybody in the shot is a bad idea.  Zooming in and out while shooting much makes the quality poor and gives people a headache.  It is a great idea to change angles frequently to include lots of shots of various objects and persons to diversify your directorial message in scene.

Lastly, review your footage when you are done before you wrap up any location.  You may need to retake bad shots before you leave that day of work.  If you’re done it is off to the edit room for Post-Production.

Today’s computer editors are capable of almost every effect you can dream up.  Various well-known editors movie or video writers are Adobe Premiere and Pinnacle Studio for Windows operating systems, and Final Cut Pro for Macintosh/Apple systems.  While most software have their pros and cons it is important for the producer/editor to fully optimize all performance as budget allows so the production can roll smoothly.

Editing production is yet another precise process.  Directors will generally give the producer and editor several takes of each scene. The most common objectives in editing are to cut when action happens, cut when natural, normal and mundane sequences end and to cut to view object pictures or clues. These three are important because you can keep the audience’s concentration on the main idea.  For example, this means that the audience won’t likely want to walk to the refrigerator or flip the channel because of interruptions or boredom.  Two major terms known in editing are cutting and frames.  A cut is an instantaneous change from one shot to another.  A full frame is a complete picture or video message appearing at thirty times per second.  At this rate the images blend together to create the illusion of motion.  As an editor you must often and frequently cut from one frame to another as someone exits the frame from the right and comes in from the left.  This is the way the illusion of motion works, the picture frame moves from left to right.

Common issues with editing are the infusement of audio at the last minutes of editing.  How do they do it?  This is a common action by transitioning music and video to play together after the production has taken place with your editing software. Also, most production teams make videos too long and don’t recognize that the longevity of the video/film makes it “slow moving” that connotes boredom. Boredom is a major “no” when producing the film/video. All three ideas for editing and cutting discussed before could be used. The production team needs to understand that scenes should be only as long as a group can keep interest.  You can visually do this with a group of individuals to see when a scene is redundant and go with the popular opinion to fix that problem.

The most integral idea in editing video is the basis of the word “edit.”  If you have doubts about a certain picture that has no bearing in the overall message, it should not be in the shoot and should be cut away from the video/film.  If you can understand this, remember that in the first few seconds of the film/video, the idea has to be exciting to entice the audience and make the video/film a major hit.

If the video/film is just a message, make the message clear to the masses by planning.  If you can plan the shoot, you can shoot the plan and edit the shoot creatively and lucratively.

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