Surprisingly, unlike most individuals who adopted new hobbies during the COVID lockdowns, my wife has continued to bake sourdough bread. Her sourdough starter, the living organism from which all sourdough baked goods emerge, continues on in our fridge, like so many condiments in jars and bottles. The process amazes me.
Though chemically complex, maybe even alchemy, the steps are simple. First, before making the dough, the starter must be activated and fed a balanced diet of water and flour the night before. The following day, the dough is formed with more water and flour, and thirdly, baked in a dutch oven at 450 degrees.
The bread is dense if it’s rushed, missed, or handled with less than complete focus. It won’t last long. And worst of all, it won’t be enjoyable to eat. After all, we make sourdough bread to be eaten.
Let’s take video production in reverse. What, if we boil it down to one thing, is the purpose of your marketing video? Certainly to tell your brand story. To drive sales. To introduce new hires to your culture.
But alternatively, there is a pure reason. I don’t mean to be facetious, but before a video accomplishes your specific goals, it must be watched.
There is a process to producing video content that your target audience wants to watch. However, each step of the simple process cannot be rushed or mishandled because just like no one wants to eat dense sourdough bread, no one wants to watch a slapped together copy of someone else’s video.
Pre-production covers all things related to the creative development of your video or videos, logistical preparations, and the estimating/finalizing of a budget. For the video production company, this is when decisions are made about gear selection, filming locations, crew, talent, and more. For the client, this is when overall vision decisions are made as well as any necessary coordination and planning for shoots (especially if filming takes place in the client’s work space). Depending on the size of the project, pre-production can be finished in a few hours, or up to several days.
If the project is a scripted video for social media or TV, pre-production will include the writing and editing of a screenplay. This is the blueprint for filming, so it is imperative that both client and video production company are clear about the entirety of the script. It’s best to have all misunderstandings and differences of opinion worked out in pre-production because once the train of production leaves the station, it is very hard to stop.
Like many of our projects, if the content is more docu-style, pre-production will be about ensuring time is spent on filming the right moments. If your video is about the relationship with your client, then the majority of production should be focused on filming relational elements like meetings together, happy hours, and industry events.
Now it’s time to make the dough. If you did everything right the night before, and your starter is in good condition, then the dough will feel just right in experienced hands. The texture, density, and moisture level of the dough will give an indication to the baker of how it’s going to bake.
Just so with production. It’s lights, camera, action, and now there’s no going back. Production is the execution of the plan laid out in pre-production. Pre-production is sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and a laptop; production is artistic manual labor. Production has many moving parts, often on a tight schedule, but it is absolutely an exciting train to be on.
But it doesn’t always go perfectly. There are more than a few ways production can be derailed, but generally it comes down to a few specific issues.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
Producing video content is a delicate process, and the importance of the relationship between the client and the producer cannot be overstated. For us at MR. we invest time in our clients beyond the time laid out in the estimate. We want to understand you and your culture as best we can to ensure it shows up on screen.
After the video production company is brought in and pre-production is wrapped, it’s important to allow them the freedom to do their job. If the pre-production process was disciplined and focused, then you can rest easy knowing your production company understands you.
Too few crew members
This is the reverse of the previous issue, and comes down to the nuts and bolts of budgeting accurately. If a certain scope was laid out in pre-production, and your experienced production team says they need ‘X’ amount of crew members to do the job at that level, then it’s best to increase the budget to bring in the additional crew. What you do not want is to force a certain scope onto a budget not built for the scope, and then end up with a video that is obviously reaching, or worse, no video at all. If there’s too many crew for the budget, it’s best to reduce the scope and come out with a great video.Too few shoot days
Similar to the previous issue in that it’s a matter of scope and budgeting, having too few shoot days is often an issue in video production. You can hire all the crew in the world, but if there’s not enough shoot days to cover all the needs of the project, then it will be evident in post-production. In docu-style branding, having too few shoot days results in a lack of coverage. There could be a strong interview moment about the work culture, but without corresponding footage to back it up, the moment loses authenticity.
Post-production is movie magic. It is the art of experimenting with the juxtaposition of images and sound to create ideas or emotions in the heart of the audience.
In docu-style content, your brand story is quite literally written in the edit as pieces from interviews, candid moments, music, SFX, and footage are sculpted together into a narrative. In scripted pieces, the edit trims excess invisible in pre-production, and creates energy where none existed before.
We break the stages of post-production into two categories.
The rough cut
This is like the rough draft of your high school essay, only more professional. In docu-style content, the production company begins to go through all of the interviews and footage to pull out the good parts. The work is detailed and essential. Next, we pull the best quotes from the good sections and shape the narrative.
In scripted content, the rough cut is putting the video together as written in pre-production and then making adjustments or cuts as needed.
You will have the opportunity to review and give feedback on the rough cut, removing sections that aren’t needed and adding emphasis.
The final cut
After all of the notes have been made, we perfect the video with professional color grade and sound mix/design. Experts in their field handle these essential parts of making your video stand out with excellent polish.
After the client approves the final cut, the production team will deliver the files in the best format for distribution on the various social media platforms.
You pop open LinkedIn and upload your new video to the company page. First, clients and industry colleagues are delighted by a narrative they never saw coming. Then, people begin commenting and sharing their passion for the well-told story. Before you know it, talented individuals are reaching out, interested in being a part of your culture.
The baked sourdough bread smell is in the air, filling every room of the house. My wife takes the loaf from the dutch oven and transfers it to the cooling rack. The exterior is an inviting crispy golden brown. Before slicing it, she raps her knuckle on the bottom of the loaf listening for a sound you can taste. A soft hollow knock. It’s perfect.
Author: Caleb McKnight