Demystifying The Video Production Process – Pre-Production

  • Focus: Video

Nowadays, video is unavoidable, especially integrated as part of a marketing campaign. In this Demystifying The Video Production Process 5-part series, we go from script to screen to show you our process, and the major key parts to the video production process.

Demystifying the Video Production Process - Pre-Production - Waverley Knobs - Boston MA


In this second part, we discuss Pre-Production. In this stage, you will plan all the different elements of your video, from finalizing a script, to determining locations for your shoot, resources needed in terms of equipment and crew, as well as talent or actors. You will use what you found in the Discovery Period to inform all your decisions – but also take into account any other restraints, whether they are time, budget or location related.


Based on your discovery session, how can you best communicate the goal of the video through both verbal and visual means? You can begin by brainstorming different ideas, and as you finalize one, think about your script in visual means first, and add in any voice over or dialogue/monologue after – since video is primarily a visual medium. Since you’re telling a story, write a storyline.

If you are having a difficult time trying to figure out your plot, read our blog article on the 7 basic plots of storytelling you can utilize such as ‘Overcoming The Monster,’ ‘Rebirth’ and ‘The Quest.’ You can also utilize your video production company to help create your script.

Basic points to keep in mind when writing your script are:

  • Who, or what, are we following in this story? Who, or what, is the protagonist?
  • What is the obstacle or the journey they take and what is the end point? During this point, keep in mind the reality of budgets and timeline.
  • Brainstorm first, worry about the details later. Does your story skeleton work? Do a little “local market research” by asking friends, family or co-workers for feedback.
  • Flesh out each scene with visuals. Often, you will find that you don’t even need words / dialogue. Add in dialogue or voice over as needed.
  • Tweak and polish a final script.


This is not an optional step, although many video veterans like to skip it. Storyboarding can truly save you hours of time spent on set “figuring out” what you actually meant with your script, because you already have the visuals, the framing, the action points of the scenes figured out beforehand.

You don’t have to be an artist – just roughly diagram how you envision the script taking life. Use stick figures to determine where actors would be, plot furniture or props in the frame, and determine what the audience will actually see. At the very least, write down several descriptive sentences of what the audience sees, if you can’t draw it.

  • What and who is in the frame? What can your audience see, scene to scene, shot to shot?
  • Is it a medium shot, a close up shot of your product, a wide shot of the entire landscape?
  • Will you need special lighting to emote a specific mood or feeling?
  • Plan out your transitions or camera movements. A fade? A wipe? A clean cut? Is it a stationary shot? Is the camera panning left to right, or tilting up, or rack focusing (manually switching the focus from foreground object to background object, for example)? This step is important as it is will serve as both a roadmap for your editor and your camera set-ups.


Demystifying the Video Production Process - Pre-Production - Waverley Knobs - Boston MA

Working with People

Talent & Crew – two sides of the same coin?

Unless you’re a one-person team who is filming inanimate objects, you will need to work with a crew, and often also with on-camera talent.

How do you determine who you need for crew? It mostly depends on the needs of your project but there are always minimums, or a basic crew list with which you should try to start.

  • A basic team would be a Producer or Director, Camera Operator, Audio Engineer or Sound Recordist/Boom Operator and a Gaffer.
  • Depending on the type of shoot, it would be beneficial to also have 1 or 2 Production Assistants, Hair/Makeup and a Grip.
  • Ideal teams include more specialized people (such as 1st Assistant Camera).

For talent, this can include professional actors or simply the people you’re filming, if it’s a documentary, interview or other video that does not want, or require, professional acting.

  • Outside of any ‘main characters’, is there a need for background talent? (Think: extras!)
  • For professional actors, are you working with equity/union individuals or non-equity/non-union? Children or a special demographic? If you decide to work with union actors, or children, there are very specific things that need to be done before and during the film shoot so make sure to educate yourself on all requirements to avoid legal issues.

OK, so now you know what you want (or at least what minimums you need). What’s next?

  • Put out ads for talent and crew, and get yourself someone to help wrangle them all into place. (Producers typically handle finding and managing crew, Casting Directors typically handle finding talent. Directors typically manage the talent and direct them in rehearsals and on-set.)
  • Familiarize yourself with forms and use them! Forms like Talent Release Forms and Crew Forms (which specify roles and compensation) will become invaluable once production is underway.
  • Remember to budget correctly to make sure everyone can be paid – both the talent and the crew!

BONUS TIP: Make sure that your crew is experienced and that your talent knows how to act. Working with friends, co-workers or someone else you “volunteered” is great… until it isn’t, and you’re left with a shoddy project, which may or may not be finished, and a souring friendship. You’re handling lots of things already – probably – being every other crew member on set and also in front of the camera should not be an option.


Demystifying the Video Production Process - Pre-Production - Waverley Knobs - Boston MA


A bit self-explanatory. What are you going to capture footage and audio with? Much of the equipment also depends on the crew that’s going to be using it (and making sure they are either comfortable with using the equipment or has enough time to get acquainted with it).

  • Do you have everything you need or do you need to rent it?
  • Do you have crew that can work with the equipment? A Steadicam is great for capturing flawless shots but do you have someone who knows how to work it properly?
  • What are the costs associated with the equipment? Will they fit in the budget? If you’re renting, remember that each day of filming tacks on costs.
  • Do you have the RIGHT equipment? 4K is tempting, but can your editing computers handle it?
  • Types of equipment to think about, on a basic level: something to film with, something to record sound with (if you need it!), something to edit with – and all their various accessories. (we can go into more detail on part 2?)
  • Advanced equipment includes things like: lighting equipment (lights, and also bounces), extra storage equipment, extra batteries, sound blocking, external monitors.


Some videos will dictate locations pretty loudly (an interview and B-roll of a corporate space) while others may be more open ended, and result in a need for location scouting and possibly even a studio hire. Your Location Manager will become a key asset of your production crew if you require more than one location, and more than one type of location. They will help with things like scouting as well as permitting.

  • What locations will best represent your visual needs while keeping budget and time in mind?
  • Will you need a controlled environment, such as a studio, as a potential filming location?
  • Have you scouted your location and ensured it meets your needs? Did you check it at the time you will be filming? (If you are in need of a daytime location, what does the sun look like at your potential location?)
  • Do you need any special permits to film there? How will it affect your budget?
  • Can your talent and/or crew get there easily? If not, do you need to make special arrangements? Is there parking there or is it accessible by T?
  • Is it available when you need it or do you have to work around their schedule?

Wardrobe / Set Decor / Make-Up

The more attention you pay to the details, the better your production looks.

  • People need a little confidence booster, especially if it’s their first time on camera. Ensure that they know what they are wearing and what they need to look like. You’ll get a better performance out of them. What is your talent wearing? Do you need to purchase special attire or can they use their own? Do they need make-up?
  • What does your location or set or environment look like? Are you using what’s there? Do you have to manipulate anything? Do you have to build anything? Bring anything in? Rent?
  • What are the financial costs and time costs associated with all of the needs and wants of the production outside of talent, crew and equipment?


Demystifying the Video Production Process - Pre-Production - Waverley Knobs - Boston MA

Shot List

– closely tied in with the –

Shooting Schedule

Once you have all the other elements figured out – time to figure out your shot list and your shooting schedule.

Depending on the locations you need or the script, you may need to film things out of order, whether chronologically in the storyline or in the timeline of the storyline – and that is usually the case – especially with TV shows or films.

Look at your storyboard and determine how many separate scenes you have (a scene is typically determined by location). It is ideal to film all scenes in one location at the same time, to minimize the travel costs of your talent, crew and equipment.

Of those scenes, how many different shots or camera setups do you have storyboarded? Write out all the different individual camera setups and scene shots separately so you have an idea of how many shots you need to get through. This is your shot list. It is also another roadmap for your editor, so they can put your disjointed footage, audio and other elements together in the order of the storyline.

From there, guesstimate how long it will take you to:

  1. load in and set up the equipment for the very first shot
  2. get the talent ready
  3. film the scene from that camera at least 3 times
  4. set equipment for the next camera shot of the same scene
  5. film the scene from that camera at least 3 times (at least once if you’re pressed for time, but we highly recommend repeating the process several times, especially if you are working with actors)
  6. break down equipment and move to the next scene

and note the time totals for each shot (“frame”). For example, if it will take you 1 hr to load in and set up, and you are filming a 5 minute scene from 3 angles, your total time spent on that scene would, at a minimum, be a little less than 3 hours – assuming everything went smoothly and according to plan.

Which, as you may guess, rarely does. When you factor in people, weather, traffic, equipment snags, and forgotten lines, it’s always smart to add a few minutes on top of every activity. It’s always nicer to finish something early, and either give your crew and talent a break, or move on to the next scene and thus save time overall in the day.

Once you have time totals, you can finish your shooting schedule, keeping in mind to:

  • film all scenes in one location at the same time if you can, so you don’t have to return later,
  • adding in extra buffer time,
  • and not to overwork your crew or talent, otherwise performances from all will suffer.

It’s better to allot extra filming days, not just hours, when you’ve got a project that takes more than 8 hours per day to film. You may incur additional rental costs (of equipment for example) but well worth it because it will save editing costs to get exactly what you need, and it will provide invaluable quality footage for your final video.

Stay tuned for the next part of the Demystifying the Video Production Process: Production.

Don’t have time to read? Commuting to work? Listen to this article as part of the Branch-Out podcast – in two episodes!


Pre-Production – #1!

Pre-Production – #2!

by Tatiana Ivan


Originally from Romania, Tatiana Ivan combines operational prowess with creative flair to produce smart and visually stunning brands. With degrees in neuroscience and psychology from Brandeis University plus experience working with start-ups in the biomedical and pharma industries, Tatiana knows first-hand that the most powerful way to persuade people to get behind an idea, concept or product – no matter how creative, technical or complex – is by telling a compelling story. As the COO and Creative Partner of Waverley Knobs, she combines powerful cinematography and compelling storylines for clients so they stand out and shine in the market.

In addition to turning visions into reality and running the daily show at Waverley Knobs, Tatiana is a twice-published poet. She’s also a certified InsideOut® Coach, able to unlock the knowledge, skill and talent already within people and teams so they can improve performance and results.

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