Planning a Video Production

PHOTO: Shooting an interview at the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre

What makes a great video?

We have all been told about the power of video for marketing and public awareness. But before you post that grainy, shaky, inaudible cell phone video on your corporate facebook page or YouTube channel, think twice about the overall message it gives to your audience. Your organization has a well designed marketing strategy and branding that is in sync with your graphics, website, and advertising, but is that not-so-slick video running contrary to your image?

As a videographer, I am often approached by organizations to produce promotional videos. I try to be involved right from the planning stage to help guide the decision makers along the path through shooting, final edit and delivery. After all, the goal is a video that gets attention and delivers the right message to viewers and potentially new clients.

Video Production Workflow

The video or film production process, regardless of budget or scale of the production, is basically a workflow that depends on the completion of the following steps: pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. This workflow is very helpful in explaining the process to anybody involved in the production. It helps to establish budgets, timelines, scheduling, choosing locations, hiring or recruiting additional talent or crew.


When planning the production, I often ask my clients to visualize their completed video being viewed by the end user. What is the look and feel that will grab the attention of their target audience? This will translate into the treatment. Where will it be seen? This determines the sound and video specs and the desired duration. What is the goal or purpose of the video? Ideally, your promotional video or PSA (public service announcement for non-profit groups) should illicit a call to action by viewers that can be quantified. This should translate into increased sales or funding, more and better informed users of your service and greater public awareness.

Developing a Script
Most clients are able to develop their script from existing documents that are already used within their organization.  This may include brochures, the organization’s website, mission and visions statements, PowerPoint presentations, reports or press releases. The script writer will need to crunch text from these sources into a narration script that runs close to the desired video duration when read.  Plain, concise language should be used while industry jargon should be explained so viewers outside the organization will understand. Keep in mind that the end result ends up on an audio track, so it should be tailored to roll off the narrator’s tongue when spoken and should be easily understood by the listener. If you don’t have a good writer on staff, you can have us research and write a script for you.

A storyboard is a visual aid that puts the script on a timeline. Large budget productions use illustrations to show the framing and content of each scene. Our simplified version uses descriptive text only. The video and audio details are matched scene by scene.

Shot List
The shot list helps the videographer plan his shooting schedule and budget. Interviews require equipment set up time before the camera starts to roll. Equipment typically used includes: camera, tripod, shotgun mics or lavalier mics, headset and lighting. The location and background need special attention as they will affect the mood or ambiance of the interview and may have to be dressed with additional props or rearranged. For the talent appearing on camera, costume, hair and makeup need to be considered. Additional supporting footage or B-roll shots are filmed on location with ambient sound.

Storyboard for a promotional video with narration, B-roll video and graphics

Narrated Script with B-Roll

This treatment is normally the simplest. A narrator’s script is written prior to shooting and supporting video (B-Roll) is matched to the script in the timeline. In some instances, still images, stock footage, graphics and titles are acquired to round out the required shots in the storyboard. In this treatment, no interviews are done on location and the script is read in our sound recording studio by a suitable narrator.

Interviews/Testimonials with B-Roll

This treatment is highly effective in connecting concepts and human experiences with your audience. While a storyboard is employed, the script is not necessarily verbaten. Interviews are an interaction of the film maker or interviewer and the selected interviewees. The interviewer may be seen and heard on camera. In the testimonial, there is no interviewer included in the shot or on the soundtrack. The film maker will prepare the person appearing on camera with the topic and often guide them to discuss or relate an experience, concept, process or opinion. A usable testimonial will bring color to a topic through the experience and feelings of the person on camera. They should be expressive yet genuine and speak concisely. In post-production, the editor will be looking for the perfect sound-bite to support the video topic and goals of the production. The film maker will take cues from the words spoken in the testimonial to shoot supporting b-roll. Ideally, the person being interviewed should be filmed reenacting some of the ideas presented.

The above treatments are commonly employed for promotional videos, TV news stories and documentaries. Other variations may include dramatizations, explainers, talking-head, animation, infographics and a combination of all the above. Of course, planning, creativity, talent and having the camera rolling when the money shot appears in frame may get you 500k views or even nominated for an award.