I’ve been a part of thousands of video projects over the years, and every successful project has one thing in common. They all follow the same 4 step video production process.
This approach works for every kind of video project, from large-scale drama projects to simple video blogs.
The four stages of video production are:
- Pre Production
- Post Production
Pre Production covers all planning and scripting. Production is capturing all the visual content you need, usually through filming. Post Production takes in all editing work, and delivery is the final distribution of your project.
You should follow these four stages in the correct order for your video to be a success. Skipping a step or cutting it short can be a huge mistake, as it’ll have substantial knock-on effects for the rest of the project.
It’s a bit like preparing for a dinner party.
First, you make a plan and find a few recipes you know will go down well (Like the planning and scripting stage). Then, you head out to the shops and get all the ingredients (That’s production). Once you have everything you need, you can put it all together according to the recipe (Post Production). Then, finally, serve it up to your guests (Delivery)!
Now imagine if you did that in the wrong order.
Would you go food shopping before you decided on your recipes? What would happen if you began serving your guests but realised the food was different from what they expected?
It would be chaos!
It’s the same with video production.
I follow this video production roadmap with every project, and it’s never let me down! In fact, a project only flops when clients insist on skipping or rushing stages.
Here’s a breakdown of the four simple stages of creating a successful video production.
Pre Production is the first stage of the video production process and is a mix of organisational and creative tasks.
A project manager or producer usually leads the pre-production stage. They’ll bring all the production elements together and ensure clear communication between the client and the production team.
Think of them like the head chef – directing the preparation and approving everything before it reaches the customer!
What is Pre Production?
Pre Production in video marketing consists of:
- Developing creative concepts and ideas
- Writing scripts and/or interview questions
- Creating storyboards or mood boards
- Sourcing locations and carrying out recces
- Arranging filming days
- Producing schedules for cast & crew
- Writing risk assessments
- Casting talent such as actors or voiceover artists
- Negotiating artist fees
I find the best way to start pre-production is to get all key stakeholders together for a friendly Zoom call. This ensures everyone is on the same page about the project before it begins. It also acts as an unofficial starting pistol for the job and gets the ball rolling!
The production team will then get to work on the bulk of pre-production. Things like researching key messages, scripting, and developing visual ideas.
Script writing can take a few different forms, depending on the video type. Sometimes you’ll need a verbatim script with each shot carefully storyboarded. Other times, it might be a list of questions with guidance on visuals and motion graphics.
There will be several informal check-ins with the client during this stage and more formal approval processes for things like scripts and schedules.
Why is Pre Production important?
Most see pre-production as less exciting than filming, editing or animation. But to complete any video project effectively, you need to spend dedicated and focused time on pre-production.
Pre Production sets the wheels in motion for the entire video project. Get it wrong (or ignore it altogether!), which can have disastrous consequences.
Skipping pre-production can mean:
- The job goes over budget
- The script misses out on key messages
- The goals of the video are inconsistent
- The target audience isn’t accommodated for
- Filming time is squandered
- Key messages are missed
- The edit goes on for too long
- Distribution isn’t planned properly
In short, every aspect of the video production process is affected by pre-production!
I’ve seen over the years that the more time spent on pre-production, the more successful a video will be.
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Production is capturing all the content required to make the video. Usually, this is filming but can also include recording a voiceover or animation.
Filming is where all the effort of pre-production comes together. An expert team of professionals execute the script, schedule, and risk assessment to capture all the content you need for your video.
The crew for a corporate video filming day may include:
- Director / Producer
- Camera Operator
- Sound Recordist
- Lighting Gaffer
- Makeup Artist
- Runner / Assistant
What is a typical day on a film set?
Your filming day will be a breeze if the pre-production has all been done correctly!
The camera crew will be the first to arrive. I always recommend an overnight stay beforehand, especially if the location is more than an hour away from home. You want to ensure everyone gets a good rest before a busy day and no one gets stuck in rush hour traffic!
After the camera equipment has been unloaded, it is taken to a holding room or the first location, where it will be set up. Understanding where the loading and parking areas of the site are essential, especially if filming in busy places like city centres.
Once all the kit is set up, the shoot will follow the schedule going through each scene or setup one at a time. Sometimes all crew will be needed, sometimes only a few. But a filming day is a well-oiled machine, so there’s always something important happening!
What can go wrong in filming?
Of all errors in video production, mistakes during filming are the most costly. Reshoots often mean paying again for crew and kit and can take several weeks to book into the calendar. So you must do everything possible to avoid these and ensure the shoot goes to plan.
Here are the most common pitfalls you might come across when filming.
Starting filming before a script is approved is a huge mistake. Remember, the script is the recipe for your video. If you don’t know what key messages you need to capture to tell your story, you’ll end up filming too much and probably too much that isn’t required.
A lousy schedule can ruin a filming day! Not having time to set up, move location or give adequate breaks to cast, crew and client can lead to a tiresome day. Not to mention a low-quality video at the end of it all.
Poor location planning can be a disaster too. All it takes is a noisy location or the lack of easy access to a site to significantly impact the filming day. A recce in advance to identify problems and plan for them in the schedule is ideal.
Going into filming with a clear plan that was put together in pre-production will save you time and money and lead to a much better video.
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Post-production is the stage of the video production process where your video starts to take shape!
After gathering all the ingredients during filming, it’s time to use the recipe to put it all together!
What is Post Production?
Post-production in video marketing consists of:
I already know how the video will look when it gets to the editing stage.
The hard work put into scripting and developing concepts in pre-production through a meticulous filming stage means editing is a relatively straightforward process. Essentially, it’s taking all the content created and crafting it into a story with a clear beginning, middle and end using the script as the blueprint.
How do you edit a video?
Editing always begins with a rough edit, sometimes called a content edit. The key elements are cut together into an extended edit in this fast process. The focus is on building the story out of your ingredients and not getting deep into details.
Editing is then several stages of refining and trimming. Reduce the rough edit’s length by removing shots that don’t serve the story. Do you need that introduction by the interviewee, or will a name strap graphic do the job? Will a 10-second interview comment tell the story best, or will a 2-second cutaway shot do the job instead?
Once the edit is at an appropriate length, it’s time for the final polish. This takes in processes such as colour correction, sound mixing, adding music and creating motion graphics. Once these are complete, your video will be completely transformed from the initial content edit and ready for the world to see!
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Once your edit is complete, the final stage of the video production process is to serve up the video to your audience!
There are more video marketing distribution platforms than ever, and each has its unique delivery specification and audience.
YouTube and Vimeo are the two I use the most, and your video might be designed for one platform or many. In either case, you’ll likely have an MP4 file, as well as an SRT file. This is only if your video has foreign language subtitles or closed captions (you can turn these on or off in the video player).
Best practices for YouTube
There is a good chance that your video will end up on YouTube. If so, optimise it by adding all the necessary bells and whistles to keep the search engines happy!
It’s essential to write a catchy title for your YouTube video. The best titles are between 20 and 60 characters long and include the keywords you want your video to rank for.
Your video description is perfect for adding more context to your video. You can write up to 5000 characters and include hyperlinks to your website or social channels. Adding a shortened version of your script is a good idea. Just make sure to include those all-important keywords!
You should also add keywords as tags to the video. YouTube uses tags to optimize videos for search, so you won’t see them on your video page. Add at least 20 tags, and include long tail keyword phrases and single words.
YouTube End Screens can generate more engagement with your video, so definitely consider including one on your video. This is where you can embed a subscribe button, a link to another video or an external website onto the last 20 seconds of your video.
A custom high-resolution thumbnail image will make your video more attractive in the search results. Images with good contrast, text and eye-catching photos work best.
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Common pitfalls with video delivery
This final stage of video production is where many projects fall apart.
The common misconception is that simply having a video will attract people to it. You just upload it to YouTube, and that’s all there is to it.
That’s not the case.
You must put time and effort into sharing and promoting your video to attract an audience. Optimising the YouTube page for organic growth or using ads to drive traffic to it are great places to start.
Here are some of the most effective ways to promote your video online
- Upload to YouTube and optimise for organic traffic
- Add to playlists of similar videos
- Use paid marketing (e.g., YouTube Video Ads)
- Embed your YouTube video on a webpage
- Post to social networks
- Link or embed in social network profiles
- Share in an email campaign
- Reference the video in other marketing material
- Show at live events (e.g. conferences or trade shows)
As you’ve seen, the video production process comprises four critical stages – pre-production, production, post-production and delivery.
But above all, pre-production is the most crucial step as it affects every stage after it. Start well by planning thoroughly and crafting a tight script. If you do that, the filming days will run like clockwork and lead to an efficient and creative edit. Then, the cherry on top is the impactful distribution of your video into the wider world.