An hour in pre-production saves two in post. Are you prepared?

An hour in pre-production saves two in post. Are you prepared? Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Mario Calvo

“An hour in pre-production saves two in post,” is one of my favorite sayings.

Whether you are editing or shooting and editing (and producing, directing, etc.), this post is for you. Spending time planning, scripting, brainstorming and storyboarding will significantly decrease the time you spend in post production.

I have been on the winning and losing side of being prepared and not being prepared. Below are some strategies I use in pre-production to save time in post production along with some victories and mistakes I’ve made.

Site Surveys

Whenever possible do a site survey. Canvass the area that’s going to be shot. As far as production goes, check for access to outlets, sunny windows and those typical production-related items. For you the editor, speak up if you have concerns. Is the busy road going to cause you trouble in post? If so, can you move that shot further away? Is there a logo of some sort that’s going to be in the background that you’ll have to blur out? Change the shot or at least you’re prepared in post and won’t be swearing at the videographer.

Recently I had an emergency video that I had to shoot, edit and publish in an hour (crazy, I know). There was only one spot I could shoot in. It had overhead lights and a bright, sunny window with no blinds to one side. I had no time to strike lights and all I had in my camera bag was a green screen. I clipped the green screen across the window to diffuse some of the light. I had my PA sit in the chair and it looked pretty good, or so I thought.

I shot the quick video with the talent who had a shiny, bald head. I didn’t notice the problem during the shoot because I was in such as rush. When I got to my laptop and plugged in the SD card I saw it… a green glow on his head. If I had spent 2 more minutes setting up I would have noticed this and could have gotten access to a white screen. Instead I was in a rush and had to spend the rest of the dwindling minutes trying to color correct the guy’s head.

Everyone Reads the Script

The scriptwriter, shooter, editor, producer, director and especially client must read the script before shooting. The more eyes on it the better. You will catch mistakes. This might cause a couple extra rounds of revisions, and piss off whoever wrote it, but it’s better that the client realizes they want one more executive interviewed then than 4-weeks later when you deliver the fine cut.

As the editor you want to read the script so that there are no surprises. Was something marked saying that you’ll create some elaborate animation that’s way out of your abilities? Plan ahead. Tell them you can’t do it, need extra time or they’ll have to hire a freelancer. You can also start laying shots out in your head. If you realize that a nice CU of a smile or someone’s eyes would look good there, ask for it to be included in the shot list.

Years ago my old production manager and I started forcing our team to have pre-production meetings (what a novel idea!). Even though many of the videos we created were based off of templated scripts, there was a fair amount of improvement that could be done. We got together as a team (most of the time) before a shoot to read through the script together. We were always able to find a couple lines or shot selections to change for the better.

Brainstorming

Brainstorm everything. Make a list of the top-10 things that could go wrong and what the easiest/quickest/cheapest solutions would be. What happens if you forget the camera or it gets broken on the flight there? What if a high-level executive takes your interview space?

When my wife and I were planning our wedding in 2012 I wrote out a backup plan for nearly everything. What happens if the florist forgets to make the flowers? I had addresses and hours of the next closest florist and Costco. What if one of the groomsman forgets his tie? I brought a backup. What if a friend drinks too much? I got all my friends drunk the night before so they wouldn’t drink as much at the wedding! Luckily there were no emergencies but I was prepared for anything.

I also like to brainstorm what I can do to make a video better before shooting and after completion of the whole project. Should I hire someone to do makeup? Is there a cheaper way to do this? Could my assistant editor have done more?

I’d like to know if and what you brainstorm for projects. Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

Storyboarding

I seriously cannot draw. Nonetheless I still draw storyboards. They are very elementary in terms of how they look but they allow me to easily see how the video will play out and I can rearrange and tweak as necessary before the shoot. If you’d like to see a post or tutorial on storyboarding let me know in the comments sections.

I have a gift for you. Click here to download the storyboard that I use! Oh, and don’t make fun of it. I threw it together real quick years ago and it’s worked for me ever since. If it’s not broke don’t fix it!

With storyboards the shooter and editor can put together a better shot list. Storyboarding also gives me a better idea of what graphics I’ll need to create. I can start working on them before or during the shoot.

 Summing Up

An hour in pre-production saves two in post.

Before a shoot try to head out to the location to take a site survey. Take note and bring up anything you think will make editing more difficult. Make sure everyone, especially the client, reads the script. Brainstorm what could go wrong and have the best backup solutions ready. Lastly, storyboard your video. This will give you a head start when beginning to edit and help you put together a better shot list.

I’d like to know how you save time in post with better pre-production. Share your thoughts!

Last thing… if you know an editor or someone in the video world that would benefit from this post do them a favor and send it to them. There are some handy sharing shortcuts below or you can always just email them the URL (hey quick shortcut – on a Mac use Cmd+L to highlight the URL).

Okay, this is really the last thing! Thank you so much for reading. Every view, share, subscription and comment gives me inspiration to keep going. I’m headed on a three-day shoot next week so I might not be as active on Twitter but I’m still planning to have new post or tutorial out on Wednesday. If you haven’t subscribed to get emails when I come out with new posts you can do that by entering your email address on the bottom of this page. Cheers and I’ll talk to you all soon!