Creating an engaging professional video that successfully delivers a message takes a thorough understanding of the complete process. Budget, creative approach, content, and timeline may result in some variations, but the video production process still embraces the same fundamentals.
Video production is a collaborative art requiring creative, administrative, logistical, and technical inputs. The type of project – whether it’s advocacy, promotions, informational videos, or other works of cinematic storytelling – guides many decisions, but the production still follows some well-established guidelines.
Producing a professional video includes these four components: pre production, production, post production, and finishing. This guide explains those steps and provides tips for achieving the best results for any project, regardless of budget or other constraints.
The Four Phases of the Video Production Process
The four phases of the video production process are pre-production, production, post-production, and finishing. These activities meld together, with each as important as the other, to create a coherent whole and a finished project. Let’s talk about the fundamental role of each of these video building blocks in creating a professional product.
The pre production component of the video production process is when the team outlines the idea, defines the creative approach, writes the script, develops storyboards, and auditions and selects the cast and crew members. The team scouts locations, creates shot lists, selects music, designs and constructs sets, gathers props, determines wardrobe, and nails down a budget. We also discuss distribution channels and develop a production schedule in collaboration with our clients.
This is where shooting begins. Equipment and crew size are based on the creative approach and whether production is indoors or outdoors, in a studio or on location. We conduct interviews, direct talent, shoot broll, and gather original source materials to use in the program. This is also a time to record timecodes and take notes and obtain release forms signed by anyone in the video who isn’t an acting professional. Training and informational videos might also include employees or subject matter experts.
Once production is complete, the post-production phase begins. The producer and editor work collaboratively to edit the video, reviewing all the footage and transcribing interviews if any. This is where the final story comes together, along with professional narration, music and sound effects, motion graphics, animations, text, and any special visual effects. Post-production is a multiphased endeavor, starting with a string out, a rough cut, fine cut, and finish cut. Client reviews are made along the way via secure online channels.
Once the finish cut has been reviewed and approved by the client, the finishing phase takes place. Audio tracks are sweetened and mixed, all video is color corrected, and Section 508 closed-captions are generated. If language localization is required, that happens during this phase, either by adding in language tracks or subtitles. And finally, once all that work is done, final deliverables are created. Digital compressions are made for all broadcast and online distribution channels and all development assets, including final, as produced scripts and original source media are archived.
The above steps are applied to essentially all professional video production processes, no matter the project scale or scope. Each phase requires a range of creative and technical skills, experience, and attention to detail to create a successful, engaging product that meets or exceeds all end goals.
Steps of the Video Production Process
The overview above only scratches the surface of the video production process, so let’s get into the weeds a bit and delve into some specifics. Both the client and the production team play a part in each phase, working hand-in-hand to cover all the details and flag any potential problems. Here are a few more examples:
1. Pre Production Planning
Every project begins with the client’s determination of a need. Beyond that, they may – more or less – have an idea about how to accomplish the task. It’s our job to help guide our clients – based on factors such as budget, schedule, and approach, to the best, most appropriate and engaging solution. We do this by working collaboratively to craft an overall concept for the video, always focusing on the messaging, their audience, and their notion of a successful outcome. We think about the look and feel of the product, audience engagement, calls to action, and results. We explore the administrative and logistical sides of development, too, and always strive to educate our clients as to our development approach and our production process. This process ends with a vision and a plan for the project.
The writers then turn that vision into a script. To do this, we often have to become authorities ourselves, engaging in in-depth research on the topics at hand. We’ll conduct telephone interviews with subject matter experts, which we transcribe and use to inform our scripting. For scripted dramas, we’ll develop characters with personality and backstory that helps actors bring them to life. Finally, scripts can be developed in two-column or film-style formats, but either way, they guide the subsequent location, talent, and props breakdowns, the shooting schedule, and shot list that determine where and how the project is filmed.
3. Hiring Talent
According to the needs of the project, the team auditions and casts on-screen talent and voice-over actors for narrative or dramatic roles. We have a variety of means to access professional acting talent – directly through our working relationships with actors, by reaching out through existing online talent networks, or by working with local and national casting agencies. We’re always careful to define all required characteristics (such as gender, age range, ethnicity, and look) to ensure a quality, appropriate, and diverse cast. We work with both non-union and SAG/AFTRA and Equity union casts, with payments made through certified paymasters.
4. Set Construction and Production Coordination
In addition to breaking down scripts and creating shot lists, we scout and secure locations, acquire wardrobe and props, and design and construct sets if we’re shooting in the studio. Production coordination consists of precisely scheduling each shoot day, hiring professional freelance crew members, making travel arrangements, and packing our gear or one-ton production van if we are traveling or going on location. The final step is to create and disseminate daily Call Sheets to all project participants containing all necessary information for the coming shoot.
This is where our professional team of creative and technical production specialists brings all our planning to life. Whether on location or in the studio, creating a genuinely engaging visual program takes the right people and high-quality tools and the skills to apply them effectively, all managed by our experienced producers and directors in close collaboration with our clients and subject matter experts. Smoothly integrating all these moving parts, precisely executing every detail while remaining open to the possibilities of serendipity make for a successful product.
6. Technical Considerations and Special Effects
Our production team works diligently to achieve our client’s specific vision, creatively and technically. We take the time to set up and capture the best looking and most appropriately executed shots, whether we’re shooting handheld, on sticks, on a dolly, a jib, a gimbal or Steadicam, or even underwater or with an aerial drone. We can mount our cameras in or on vehicles, we can make it rain or snow, smoke up a room, or apply a variety of special effects such as gunshots or explosions to our projects.
We have the experience and capability to apply a variety of lighting techniques to ensure our on-camera subjects appear dramatically or naturally wherever they are. Years of experience informs our directors to guide professional and non-professional on-screen talent to comfortable, natural performances. We always steer our clients toward make-up, hair, and wardrobe when budgets allow. Beyond the look and feel of what we capture visually, we never forget that capturing clean, clear audio is equally important, whether recording a dramatic scene, voice-over narration, or ambient sounds to weave into our final mix.
7. Post Production Finishes
This is where our editors, motion graphics artists, color correction artists, and audio mixers edit and polish our projects into final products. The producer reviews all original source footage and transcribes any interviews, then creates the final script for the editor. The editor then works their craft to assemble all the pieces, taking inputs from our graphics team, adding stock footage, and working collaboratively with the rest of the team to identify and incorporate music and sound effects, record professional voice-overs, and creating any required special effects. Products go through several rounds of edit, review, and client approval to ensure we create that final, captivating video of the client’s dreams. Once approved, the program master is finished, final deliverables are exported, and the project archives are delivered.
There are many nuances to the video production process, and the video production team always educates our clients on anything unique that impacts their project. Thorough and transparent communication is essential at each step in the process to ensure everyone on the team is fulfilling the client’s messaging goals.
Three Tips to Make Sure the Video Production Process Goes Smoothly
Unexpected things always seem to arise. Minds change, schedules are accelerated, weather forces a ‘Plan B.’ Being aware of potential obstacles, having contingency plans, and constantly considering the ‘what ifs’ that might occur helps us ensure that no matter what happens, we’ll be ready to push on and be productive with as few frustrations as possible.
Don’t Skimp on Pre Production
Spend as much time as necessary on pre production to create a tight script and a realistic plan to execute it. Triple-check everything, including details such as locations, shots, props, and anything else that might cause concern. Consider contingencies for weather-related issues, etc.
Be sure to develop a detailed production schedule, because the best-laid plans can go awry if a step is forgotten. Ensure that plan is communicated to all project stakeholders and reviewed and understood by all. Make no assumptions that others understand all production requirements. Even a simple detail overlooked – such as a place to park – might create an unfortunate ripple in the schedule that affects the entire day.
Bring a Positive Approach
Keeping a positive attitude encourages collaboration. An open mind is always more receptive to creative thought and inspiration. Ensuring the entire team is emotionally invested in the project and giving everyone ownership over their part always makes the end result better.
Following these tips and understanding the nuts and bolts of the video production process allows the client and the team to focus on meeting the project’s goals effectively and efficiently. There are many moving parts in a professional video production – always remember it’s a collaborative art – and our experienced team knows how to keep those parts moving in the right direction toward success.
Let Us Guide You Every Step of the Way
Rock Creek Productions has the industry knowledge, professional equipment, and hands-on experience necessary to ensure every project runs smoothly from ideation through final distribution. Our award-winning team of production specialists can run with your film, video, or media project and deliver an engaging creation that meets your goals and exceeds your expectations.
Contact us today to speak with a team member about Rock Creek’s premium video production services in Washington D.C. and across the Mid-Atlantic.