Wednesday, February 14, 2018

9 Essential Tools Video Producers Should NEVER Go Without

Do you still think that to be a video producer, all you need is a camera (or screen capture software)? Of course these are necessary but you aren’t going to make a decent video with just a camera. You should still have a few tools at your disposal.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share with you 9 tools and give you my reasons you need more than just your camera on every shoot. None of these will break the bank and are well worth the investment in time and money. Briefly, my 9 essential tools to producing a video are:

1. A plan

2. A script

3. A stabilizer

4. A microphone

5. Lighting equipment

6. Reflector

7. Cleaning tools

8. Headphones

9. Gear bag with tools

Your Overall Project Plan

Your camera, or your computer if you’re producing screencast videos, is just a tool. Granted, it’s a really important tool but it can’t create a great production on its own. For that you need a plan.

If you are serious about making money selling your videos, or just producing them for your video marketing campaigns, you have to engage in pre-production activities and the key activity is planning.

Pre-production is essentially what the name implies. It is everything that happens prior to beginning actual production of your film or video. It may not be the most exciting stage, but it is perhaps the most critical step to producing a successful video. No matter if you are working with a team of others or producing it by yourself, time-consuming and expensive errors and omissions can be avoided by spending the necessary time to make a clear plan. Not only that, but if you are looking to others to help you fund your project, you’ll need a strong outline or script and a marketing plan before you approach them.

It is not unlike planning for a vacation. When you get ready for a trip, you not only make arrangements ahead of time, you also determine where it is you want to go, who you’re going to travel with, how you’re going to get there, where you’ll stay, what you need to take, what activities you want to do, etc. You need to know what you are going to pack, then assemble and pack all of your clothes and toiletries. Advance planning makes the trip so much easier and more pleasant. Spontaneity results in more surprises and adrenaline, but that’s not what you want in your video production.

By the end of the pre-production phase you should have written a script, obtained funding or have the budget for shooting, hired your key cast and crew members if needed, determined your shooting locations, built sets if necessary, decided on wardrobe issues, finalized a shooting schedule, coordinated everyone’s call times and obtained any required permissions. (Templates of these permission and release forms are available in our book Shoot To Sell: Make Money Producing Special Interest Videos and at

Before the cameras are in position and turned on, professional video producers make sure they have everything planned out. If you’re serious about producing a great product (which you should be if you want to make money!), you’ll do the same. It will save you valuable time and be less stressful for everyone. You have to be flexible and deal with the unforeseen circumstances that you encounter, but it’s better to be prepared.

Even if your videos are going to be screencast movies, they need to be planned and thought out. You don’t want to start your screencast program and then have to search your desktop for the program or other documents you are going to refer to…especially if someone is going to pay for this. You’ll look disorganized and sloppy. You’ll at least want to have an outline of your program to keep you on track.

Your First Step? Refine Your Project Idea

Before you can write a script or even your outline you must clearly define what it is you’re trying to accomplish. This is especially important if you have partners in your project. You want to make sure you are all on the same page.

After you have identified and researched a topic of interest, it’s time to develop your project further by asking and answering the following questions in more depth. All of these questions and answers need to be written out in a more comprehensive manner. From there you will develop your outline, script, and shooting schedule.

1) When do you need to get your video done?

One of the first questions to ask…that way you work backwards from that deadline to get your project schedule. This is your launch date, the day the video is announced as being available for purchase. From this overall project schedule you’ll develop your production schedule. They are different schedules; the project schedule will encompass the entire plan from inception to sales, whereas the production schedule is only about producing the actual video(s) and will fall into the project schedule.

You set this due date to keep yourself on track. If you have arranged for a distributor to carry your video they may be planning to include it an upcoming catalog, so be sure to meet any distribution schedules.

2) What are your goals for your video?

This takes into account your video’s purpose but it goes further to determine what you’ll do with the video after it is completed. Don’t just say “my goal is to make money.” What is the intended outcome of your video? Will viewers learn a new skill, be entertained, learn about a foreign country or what? What is the completed project going to “look” like?

3) Who is your audience?

Knowing your audience is critical. Keep this audience in mind as you write your script and develop your marketing materials. Your video will fit their needs and speak their language much more accurately that way.

4) What specific topic(s) will you cover?

The best path to take is to produce a video on a narrowly defined topic that is targeted to a specific audience that you have identified. A video covering a broad general topic will be harder to market because it is harder to identify and contact the potential market.

5) How many videos will you produce?

Even if you only have one title in mind now, be thinking of how you can expand this topic into more videos. Try to do this early in the pre-production phase and you can enjoy an economy of scale when you go into production.

For example, if you have 3 or 4 highly related topics you can be shooting for all of them while you are at a location, maximizing your time and travel expenses. Going back to my videos on growing and propagating cacti and succulents, while visiting large wholesale greenhouses in Southern California I could be shooting for both videos at the same location, plus another video on greenhouse conditions and a fourth title on soil mixtures for succulents. This type of work would require you to be very organized, with specific shots lists for all four videos, but what a great way to leverage your time.

6) How long will they be?

I generally aim for 20 to 30 minutes maximum. If it is a lot of material then it is better to break it into smaller videos. That also gives the series more value and higher potential profits.

7) How will you market your videos?

This is the million dollar question and one you need to think about from the get-go even if you plan on hiring this aspect out. This is one part of your business crucial to your bottom line and one that you should be engaged in. I would even say that if you’re not willing to do any marketing, you’re not ready to get in this business.

Oh, and one last suggestion: you should include a budget item for pre-production planning. You might need to pay someone for consulting or script writing, do some traveling, and at least dedicate quality time to this phase, and those things cost money.

Like I said, these are just some things you need to think about before you go any further. I’ve put together the following checklist of areas in which you’ll have to make decisions before you start and throughout the project. Go through each one and determine the targeted date of completion. Put this into a spreadsheet or word processor and feel free to add to it.

Pre-Production Checklist                  Launch/Release Date __________
Task Completion Date Completion Date
B-roll ________________ Project Outline ________________
Cast/Talent/Narrator ________________ Props/Materials/Supplies ________________
Crew ________________ Releases/Permits ________________
Delivery ________________ Sales Funnel ________________
Distribution Channel ________________ Script ________________
Editing ________________ Set ________________
Graphics/Images ________________ Shot List ________________
Interview Questions ________________ Software ________________
Landing Pages ________________ Storyboard ________________
Locations ________________ Video/Audio Equipment ________________
Packaging ________________ Website ________________

This has scratched the surface of what you need in the pre-production planning phase of your project. If you wish to dig deeper, I encourage you to get our book where we dedicate an entire section to the pre-production process.

Not only do you need an overall plan for what exactly you’ll be doing, i.e., what you want to accomplish with your video productions, you also need a plan for what you’re going to be shooting. That’s where we’ll turn our attention to next week. Until then, have I missed anything in this pre-production checklist? Also what is on your list of video essentials? Please comment and share below. Thanks!


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