Our Storytelling Approach to Professional Video Production
How Pre Production, Production, and Post Production work at Advent Media, Inc.
By Steve Puffenberger on
This article is to help you understand the steps we take to assure your video production project will meet your expectations and connect with your audience. In order to do that we have to first learn what you want to accomplish, who will view the final product and how they will be watching it. All are factors that impact the Viewer Experience.
Here is the process we've perfected at Advent Media, Inc.:
We meet to discuss your expectation of the project:
We'll ask you do do a little homework, and assemble material for us to evaluate:
- A reasonably detailed outline of the points to be made
- Brochures or other printed material
- Previous media pieces (print, online or video) that we will either replace or complement
- Corporate branding guidelines (if any)
Treatment/Budget (Concept Development)
Next it’s our turn to respond to your requests:
- The Treatment is a proposal on how the content will sequence and how things will appear in broad generalities
- The treatment defines the "segments, "chapters," or "acts" in the screenplay outline
- The treatment outlines the "flow" of content that will make sense to the target audience
- The treatment is constrained by the Budget that was suggested at the initial meeting
- The treatment is flexible, and totally subject to your approval. It can be changed or trashed and we start over in a different direction.
- The Scope of Work is derived from the Treatment, and it indicates the time and material resources will be needed to bring the Treatment to life.
- The Budget is based on the Scope of work. It is negotiable, but changes to budget will necessarily change the Scope of Work and/or Treatment.
At this stage everything is flexible, and we can fine tune treatment and budget until both meet with your approval.
- When we agree on the Treatment and Scope of Work, we sign a contract and request payment, typically 50% of the budget.
Now the fun begins. Pre-production is the most important part:
- Fully researching the content and audience to be sure we understand how to communicate from the viewer’s perspective
- Write the script, which may be a re-write or touch up of what you already provided, or an original work. Writing for media is different than writing for regular prose. It has to sound “right” when read aloud, which doesn’t always look proper on paper. If open-ended interviews are involved, writing at this stage is conceptual. The final script will be delayed until the interviews are conducted and transcribed.
- Visualizing the script. This goes along with writing, because pictures and animations can replace words. The less verbosity the better. A storyboard may be employed, but usually it's just written out visual cues. Visualizations are budget-driven, and we strive to be budget couscious to avoid cost overruns.
- Approvals. Several drafts of the script are presented to you for approval. A “scratch” audio track may be mocked up to help you envision the concept. When we reach final approval, we can begin production.
- Production Schedules. A list of milestones is developed to keep production on track, especially if there is a hard deadline.
- Location Requirements: If the project requires location filming, it usually involves the client's facilities and personnel. Client gets a list of requirements and schedules resources for the camera crew. Also props or other historical photos or footage may be required from client archives.
Finally we get out the cool gear and work with it. Depending on the medium in which we’re producing we will be doing:
- Principal Videography. If we do interviews or show the “talking head” of a host, those scenes are usually filmed first. With interviews we must transcribe what is said so we can see it in print. If we’re doing scripted drama, this involves sets, actors, makeup, sound, multiple cameras, etc.
- “B-roll” Videography or Still Photography. Video or stills that illustrate what is being said is known as “B-roll” footage (because the principal videography is called the “A-roll.”) The B-roll may include product photography, exteriors, illustrations, or any variety of images. Purchased stock still images or video footage may also be used. Some videos are 100% B-roll with voiceover or just music.
- Graphics creation. The overall graphical theme of the piece is determined and submitted for your approval. This may include logo development, or incorporation of existing branding. Approvals are requested for color, font, and other graphical theme issues.
- Music. We have an extensive production music library which is licensed for DVD and online uses. This keeps our clients out of trouble with the copyright police. Some projects benefit by having a custom score created by local musicians with whom we partner. With a custom score, we can more tightly match the pace and mood of the music with the content. If clients insist on using commercial (popular) music, we have the connections to purchase licenses for limited use.
If doing an interview-based documentary, principal photography must be complete before the script can be finalized, so Pre-Production and Production may overlap.
This is the exciting part where it all comes together
- Visual Asset Assembly. This is the step where we sort through all the various takes and images to determine which ones are best to use.
- Soundtrack Assembly. If doing a show with voiceover, this comes first. It determines the timing of the program. Music selections are made. An approval of the soundtrack is requested.
- Video Editing. This brings together the rest of the images. There are several stages
- Paper cut (interviews only), where the transcripts are edited and sequenced on paper, which you would approve
- Rough cut(s), where the project is roughed in for timing and to see how the sequencing flows. You may see some "placeholder" images for things that are yet to be created or filmed. There will be several versions to approve as the production evolves. Approvals are critical because having to redo things costs time and money.
- Final cut, where all the transitions and rough areas are worked out and the show takes on its final form, which again is approved by you.
- Polish cut, where final tweaks are made and the show is ready for mastering.
- Final Approval, after which the project is "locked" and we're ready for mastering.
Post production typically begins while Production is in process, and after rough-cuts, we go back into the field to shoot more B-roll to fill in gaps.
Payment of 2nd half of production budget is usually requested upon final approval.
Mastering, Authoring and Fulfillment
This stage has had the most change lately, as newer modes of delivery are being introduced almost daily
- DVDs and Blu-Ray disks require a step called “authoring” where a menu is created and disk function tested. Following that disk copies are made and delivered.
- Web delivery involves exporting to a Web-friendly file format that is then uploaded to a video hosting service. We recommend embedding a video player in the client's Website, either as a pop-up or in-line, so that the viewer is not distracted by the video host's interface and competing videos or ads. We can help your Web team insert code (provided by your host) that will make videos look like they're part of your Website.
- File delivery allows users to play video on computers, phones, tablets or other devices. This can be complicated because newer, more efficient file types are no longer supported by older devices. After we learn what devices you'll be usint to play the files on, we'll create and deliver compatable file(s) on a flash drive or provide link(s) to download the files online.
If we're duplicating physical disks, additional fees for the first run of copies may be due at this time. More can be ordered anytime. Large quantities are sent to a 3rd party replication house for manufacturing.
So that is how video content is created at Advent Media, Inc. The process can take from 4 weeks to a year, depending on the complexity of the subject matter and timeliness of approvals.
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