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Over the next few weeks we’re going to be discussing video production, and how it relates to small businesses in particular. Throughout the last seven years we’ve been in business, we’ve dealt with a ton of businesses – both big and small – who have some great ideas for video content, but might not always have the means to execute, for either financial or other reasons.
While we’d love to help every business we come in contact with, in reality we can’t take on every project pro bono. At the same time, we try to help these business owners in any way we can, without actually shooting a piece of video content for them. What we often find is that these people have some requirements, or could easily acquire the requirements, to produce a video asset on their own on a much smaller dime.
This blog series will help educate small business owners on three major components of video production: production planning, gear/camera options, and post-production. As easy as it is to pick up an iPhone or an inexpensive digital camera and start shooting, there are a few steps owners should take in order to properly plan out their video and add as much production value as possible to a low-budget film.
Without further ado, here is part one of our series, which focuses on production planning and creative ideation:

Asking the right questions…

What are you trying to accomplish?

Whether we’re talking to a small business or a national corporate brand, our line of questioning is almost always the same. Since you, as the owner, already know more about your brand than anyone else, that saves a huge chunk of time explaining your model to someone else. What you need to consider next is what you want this video to accomplish. Do you have a new product available at your store? Did you have a change in ownership? Are you moving to a new location/did you renovate? Are you trying to share your story? Or are you just making a video because everyone else is doing it? All of these could be viable reasons for creating a video, but it’s up to you to determine how much time and effort to spend on each piece.

What’s your strategy?

Your next question has to do with the image and strategy you’re trying to create. Are you planning on producing videos regularly or is this a ‘try-one-and-see-how-it-goes’ scenario? If you fall into the former, than you should try to prioritize the video content you have planned in order to budget your time (and money) properly. Videos about your story as an entrepreneur, your business journey, and other personal/business profile style videos should always be prioritized if possible. These videos generally tend to have more longevity and are more valuable to consumers who may be interested in buying/working from your for the first time.


Who is your audience?

Perhaps the most important, and easily overlooked question we ask in client meetings has to do with audience – who does your brand sell to? If your business is retail, where do people go to learn more information about your store? Are they a younger or older crowd? Depending on how you answer this question directly relates to not only the type of video you create, but also to how you should distribute it once its complete. For example, if you own a retail business that sells clothing to teenagers and millennials, you may want to consider creating a piece of branded content instead of a profile video. For an explanation of branded content vs. business profile, click here. Why? Millennials and teens are all about experiences, and older audiences tend to be more focused on benefits, education and functionality, which younger audiences may find boring.

Where are you planning to distribute?

Directly related to the point above, distribution is another key point of videos that is often overlooked. Most businesses figure if they upload a video to YouTube it’ll get enough traction to perform well. Let me be the first to say that is almost certainly not true. Very few videos online hit “viral” status, and while we’re not here to discourage you, this is a friendly reminder that the odds of this happening just isn’t very likely.
With that said, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t upload the video to YouTube. Once you have something as valuable as a video asset, you should try to upload it to as many outlets as possible, because it creates new, unique instances where the video can be found and played. What this does mean, is that you should spend a little more time, effort, and money (yes, money) on distribution on a few select channels based on your audience’s viewing habits. As we’ve said before on the blog, the social media networks your business uses need to match the sites your audience visits most regularly. In a nutshell, the younger audience prefers Snapchat and Instagram with the older audience leaning more towards Facebook. If you have a bit of extra budget to spend, we recommend utilizing an ad buy to help support your video once it’s released. This will help get a few extra eyes on your content and they’re generally fairly affordable depending on the size and length of the campaign.


How do you want your audience to feel when they watch your video?

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat down with clients who talk about great new ideas they have in mind for a video, and when we get to the end of the meeting they haven’t told us how they want their audience to feel. This, in a way, is a way of picking a genre for your video. It helps hold the entire concept together and gives you a cohesive goal to work towards.
When we say feeling, we mean reaction. What do you want your viewers to say? What do you want them to do? If you’re working on a recruitment video, you probably want the person watching to feel like they really want to work for you. If it’s a business profile video, you probably want your audience to feel like they need to visit your store to experience the vibe and quality of service you’re providing. When you hit this point in the planning process, it can sometimes be helpful to make a list of adjectives and go from there. This should give you a better sense of tone for the video.

Developing a creative concept

Once you’ve asked the preliminary questions listed above, you now have a pretty good understanding of what concepts will and won’t work, which will save you a lot of time in the creative/brainstorming process. When here, it’s important to set yourself up with a few parameters. Most small businesses have great ideas but get discouraged because they can’t afford to execute the biggest and best ideas. Don’t let this be a barrier, and don’t get down on yourself. One trick we try is to think of a gigantic idea that you absolutely cannot afford, and then scale back from it. Once you accept that you don’t have an endless wallet, you’ll be able to overcome it and work towards an idea that you love, but won’t put you into bankruptcy.
When brainstorming, try not to work alone. Seek help from a few employees, family members or close friends who may have a different specialty or expertise. It can sometimes be quite helpful to get the input of people with different perspectives on what would work best for your business. Once you’ve got the group together, give yourself a time limit. Anything more than two hours is too long. Next, get a whiteboard, or somewhere you can jot down notes or ideas that come up. In the brainstorm, give the group the answers to the questions you answered in the above section and start talking. It’s okay to be broad with these topics: what are things our audience is interested in? Are there any upcoming events that might be relevant to what we’re trying to do? What can we draw inspiration from or replicate? These are just a few questions that might help to get you going.

Key messages

Ideas can be anything. If you’re just showing off products, is there a cool way you can do that with the help of a few models? If the video is about your brand, what are the key messages that you absolutely need to convey? The video should be centered around these messages and your creative concept should help amplify them in an interesting way. If the messages are about a brand, maybe you’re planning to convey them through a story, and maybe your story is your creative concept, and that’s perfectly okay. Keep in mind – there’s no right or wrong idea, so feel free to get a little crazy here as long as you’re still able to convey your key messages. When it comes to quantity, try not to have more than three key messages, depending on the overall length of your video. If you try to squish too many messages into one video, you risk losing all of the messages and overwhelming your viewer.

What look are you trying to achieve?

The most helpful element of a creative brief is knowing the look our clients are trying to replicate. Almost every single person has seen a video or advertisement online or on TV that they really enjoyed, and it inspired them to pursue a project of their own. If this is the case, great. Share it with the rest of your team and use it as a template. If you saw a particular shot from it that you really enjoyed, maybe you can create your own rendition of that.


To storyboard or not to storyboard?

Whenever given the opportunity to storyboard, do it. Sure, you may not have the clearest idea of how the video is going to look from start to finish, and it’s okay to have a few gaps, but you should at least have the general flow of the video drawn (or written) out. If you’re working with a few other people, they should have a crystal clear picture of the look you have in mind which will make shooting day 10x easier.

Production planning – people and spaces

Shooting days can be the most long and stressful days of our business. We try to ease the load with the help of a production plan. What this does, is allow us to budget our time during the day based on how long we plan to spend on each shot or in each area. If there are multiple locations, shoot all of one location first before moving to the next to minimize back and forth. Production sheets are basically a breakdown of the day and should be given to everyone involved on shoot day.


Location, location, location

Almost there. You’ve asked (and hopefully answered) all of the right questions, and you have a concept and a few key messages in mind that you know you love. The next thing to consider is people and locations. Does your concept require you to shoot indoors or outdoors? If you’re shooting outdoors, remember that you can’t control mother nature. If it rains, do you have an alternate shooting day or plan? Keeping in mind that we live in Canada, seasons are another thing to look out for. If you’re shooting in mid-January, the cold could pose an issue for an outdoor shoot and may cause technology to malfunction. Whenever possible, if you can control the environment you’re shooting in, do it. It will make your life 10x easier.
If you are shooting indoors, where are you shooting? Do you need to do it after business hours, or on a day that you’re closed? Keep in mind that in order to be as efficient as possible, you might not want customers in play – unless they’re a part of your creative concept.

Who’s involved?

People are a big part of video, and you should organize well in advance who you’re planning to use. If you’re using models, give them a bit of a rundown on what’s going on and what you need them to do. If you don’t need them for the whole day, try to give them a window to be mindful of other commitments they have, even if they’re your neighbours, family members or close friends. The same goes for everyone else on set. Maybe you have a friend helping you film, which is always great. Make sure they have a great understanding of your concept and storyboard (if you have one) so they can help you achieve the look you’re going for.
Toronto real estate agent video production
Depending on how long you’re shooting for, you may want to consider organizing a few food and beverage options. You don’t need to go crazy here, but as nice as friends and family can be, everyone gets cranky when they haven’t eaten. If you can, organize a lunch or arrange for a few snacks to keep people focused throughout the day. Food owns all.
That’s it for this week – you’ve made it through part one of our ‘Gearing Up’ series! This should’ve given you a strong breakdown of what the basic pre-production process of our videos looks like. If executed correctly, it will make for an even easier shoot day and a much higher quality product when it’s all said and done.
Stay tuned next week where we discuss part two: gear, setting up, and other tips for shoot day. Let us know what you think in the comments below and please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!
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Chris Stasiuk

Author Chris Stasiuk

Chris is commercial director and founder of SVG, a Toronto based video content agency.

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