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Tips For Creating & Producing a Quality Film

I am pleased to present this guest post from Paul Banks, Creative Director at Digifish, a video production company based in York, England.

Paul put this post together with his best tips for ensuring that you produce quality videos for clients. (Or yourself).  Paul has over ten years of experience and has worked with many high-dollar clients.

Canon video camcorder

Digifish has recently worked on video projects with large clients such as:  The Script, Playstation, Sony & The Stone Roses.

Now here’s Paul!

Planning

Firstly, before taking on any new project, it’s important to spend some time ‘fact-finding’. You’ll find that you may just be able to take the smallest idea on board and build upon it. It’s always a good idea to meet with your client so that you can build a good, solid relationship.

We always ensure that we ask the client whether they have any creative ideas, and it doesn’t matter how big or small they are. Then, we’ll make sure that we run through our ‘fact-finding questionnaire’. We think this is a great way to find out what kind of ideas our clients have, from locations that they would like us to shoot from, to who they want to be in their films, and the all important question…budget!

Before meeting with your client I would recommend that you do the following:

  • Research their business / industry
  • Research films that have been produced within their sector

Once you have met with you client and have generated some ideas it’s time to prepare a creative treatment so that you can present your ideas back to the client. We’ve found that there are loads of creative resources online to help you structure your treatment. Make sure that you find links, photos or use illustrations so that the client can ‘visualize’ your proposed concept.  Unless they have experience with prior video productions, chances are high it will be extremely difficult for them to visualize your ideas if you do not provide

Pre – Production

Before moving into production we would strongly advise you to make sure that you prepare a script and shooting schedule and that you get this approved by the client.

Before shooting we always do a recce so that we can check out the location. Something may look great online or in a photo but unless you visit the place yourself you can’t guarantee that it will be suitable for filming. For example, I’ve found air conditioning units can be problematic and has resulted in us having to change locations.

Whilst you’re looking for noise issues you should also consider potential lighting issues. Always ensure that you take the right lighting for the job! At Digifish we always carry a set of Dedo lights with us, as well as a starlight, as we always want to ensure that our footage looks as good as possible, even if it’s a simple interview.

I find that a ‘three light’ setup works well, a key, a fill and a back light – you can find lots of good tutorials online to help you with any lighting setup. I would recommend that you always close any curtains when filming interviews. You shouldn’t rely on using sunlight as your main light source as it changes and could mess up your footage. Finally, don’t forget to white balance, nobody wants to look orange or yellow!

Tips For Creating & Producing a Quality Film

Filming

Wherever possible film your interviews with two cameras, a close and a wide – this enables you to do much tighter edits. If you do use two cameras then don’t forget to start your filming with a hand clap, that way you can sync them up later. I would also advise you to purchase quality audio equipment, you can get a good lapel radio mic kit for around £350 and I assure you it will be the best thing you have ever done!

If you’re filming an interview then I would suggest asking the interviewee to incorporate your question within their answer so that when you remove your voice the answers still make sense. Whilst filming if you think that something isn’t quite clear enough then don’t be afraid to ask your interviewee to repeat what they have said you can always edit bits out.

Make sure that you plan your cut away footage. For example, a three minute film that includes around four interviews will require at least twenty different cut away shots to make it look interesting. We always film the same scenario in a multitude of ways, for example we’ll capture:

1. Close ups
2. Mid shots
3. Wide shots
4. Panning shots
5. Dolly shots
6. Static shots
7. Hand held shots
8. Steadicam shots
9. Time lapse footage

You can never have enough quality B-roll footage!

During the filming stage make sure that you try to involve the client as much as you can so that they are able to approve set ups. We’ll often upload raw interviews for our clients to see as we find we get feedback a lot quicker and it speeds up the whole process.

Editing

Editing is a vital phase of the whole process!

Here are some video editing tips:

      • Listen to the content when placing cut away footage.
      • Sign up to a good music site provider and use quality, royalty-free music.
      • Invest in good graphics, front indents, on-screen, name bars and end screens.

If this area isn’t in your skill set then make use of a good freelancer – it will be worth it! Your films will look much better in the long run and it’s an investment in your company.

Listen to the music and play the visuals against it. Loop sections of music if needed and create a quality sound bed. I prefer to use music with no singing and I always make sure that the music track ends at the same time the film does – a music fade out is a cop out!

Once you are happy with your edit upload it to a private channel on YouTube or Vimeo so that your client can review and approve it.

Now, you’re more than likely to be asked to make some changes at this stage. Take them on-board and work with them, the best editors are ones that can take constructive feedback and work with it!

More often than not a second pair of eyes will offer an idea that only makes YOUR edit better, so embrace the feedback.

From a business point of view however you need to agree how many sets of changes are included in the price right from the outset. At Digifish we normally include one set of changes within the agreed budget and make it clear that any further changes will be chargeable. When I first started 10 years ago I got into situations where I was working on version 10 of an edit and I wasn’t getting paid for it…so cover yourself!

To finish up, be a perfectionist! I treat each and every film with the same amount of care, love and attention. After all, every edit and film that you make is your shop window, so make it beautiful and appealing – something that you are proud of.

Paul Banks, Video Producer

Thanks Paul, great tips. I’d like to put more emphasis on your point about making it clear with the client UP FRONT how many changes will be done within the proposed budget. Honestly, I had to learn that one the hard way more than once. Yeah, I can be slow! 🙂

Since video production is a multi-step process, make sure EACH step is approved before moving on. There is nothing worse than being on step 45 and then having the client conclude that step 2 needs changing! Video production at this level is an extremely time consuming process.  If you do not be careful with this issue, a difficult client will cost you tremendously.

Another important tip here is to work closely with the client to make sure they truly understand and can visualize your script, storyboards, or however you present you ideas.  Storyboards present WAY better to most clients than scripts with text only, no matter how well you describe the planned visuals.

Most people who have never been involved with video production have an impossible time truly understanding a text script. So if they do not understand, and then do not like the way your video turns out, chances are good it is because you did not communicate carefully enough with them during the beginning stages. In my experience, some clients need lots of hand holding.  Others are more easy going and simpler to please.

So onward and upward VPT readers! Get to making those videos clients rave about!

Lorraine Grula
Internet Video Gal

Lorraine Grula, Internet Video Gal

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula has enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. You are totally right about the interview shots, so may times I see these done from one angle and they can boring very quickly.

  2. Hi New Media
    Indeed. Using different shots from multiple angles, with some wide and others closer, does a lot to spice things up visually. Of course this also increases your budget quite a bit. If a video is very reliant on interview shots, it is usually worth it!
    Thanks for your comment.
    Lorraine

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