Pre-Production tips for your video shoot


By: Josh Hughes (@friendofjosh)

So you’re going to be shooting a commercial, music video, or even a short film; this is going to be a lot of fun!  But in all of the creative excitement you picked out a day, met with your crew, and realized you haven’t done any planning.  I know, I did it too when I first started out.  But that’s how we learn and I want to make sure you aren’t left on the day of a shoot without extra batteries, a proper shot list, or getting arrested for trespassing.

Let’s start off with your idea.  You just got hired to do a spot for Cabelas and their new line of hunting gear.  The commercial should be around :30 – 1:00; VO with a nice testimonial or even some dialogue.

First you should write down a script. Even if you don’t plan on having dialogue, a script will make sure you have a structure to follow.  Remember one page is roughly one minute of video.  Awesome, you now have a page script with a little bit of dialogue at the end.  Top priority is location.  You need to find a field or woods, it’s hunting season after all.  Since the spot is for Cabelas there should be no problem if you want to shoot in the store.

Next you should find your actors.  You can use friends since there is only a small speaking role, but make sure they know this has to be professional.  Otherwise put out an ad for local actors.  Colleges are a great resource as well.  Along with this is props, the store should be able to provide you with hunting gear to show off but let’s say they won’t.  Your actors can raid their closets and bring a few outfits, you can check with your local thrift shop, or if you have a larger budget you can purchase your own wardrobe.

So you have all the fun stuff prepped, now comes the nitpicky stuff.  Gear—make sure everything is charged, cleaned, and packed nicely so you can get to it in a hurry. Test and double test just to be positive that your microphones have no issues, along with all your gear.  Make sure your lights are working, bring extra bulbs, and tailor your light necessities for where you will be shooting.  Additional equipment—what’s the weather going to be?  Will you need jackets?  What if it rains? These are all good questions to ask.  Bring chairs if you’re going to be taking up a large amount of time setting up shots.  The last thing you need is tired legs and nagging actors.  You should also bring water and snacks if it’s going to be a longer shoot, just to keep everyone happy.  Purchase additional gear and equipment from the budget you receive, it’s always good to have that something extra incase.

Your location and actors are secured.  Wardrobe has been ordered from an online store, and you just received that really nice lens in the mail.  Let’s tailor a shot list and make sure you stick to it.  You should always get the establishing shots first, these are most important.  Then you should work on close ups, make sure to show off the product.  Once all the crucial shots are done.  Take some time to write down a couple of creative ideas that will really show off what you can do.  I’ve learned that if you “wing it” in the field you are going to be kicking yourself in the butt later on in post production.

From my experience these have been the most troublesome and overlooked circumstances of any shoot.  For some of you this may be common knowledge, but for the person without a film degree or proper training, you may not know too much on the subject.  In life it’s always best to be over prepared for any situation!


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