Wednesday, November 1, 2017

10 Secrets About Video Production That No Company Will Tell You - Part 2

This is Part 2 of First Pillar's Ultimate Guide to Video Production, if you haven't read part one then head on over to it here.

"We goin' on vacation y'all!"
My absolutely favorite part of this job is travel. Why? You get to see the different places and things while also working for the monies! Well that, and I have a weird affinity for hotel rooms - I don't know what it is but something about relaxing in a small room that gets magically cleaned everyday does it for me. Travel can be one of the best parts of working in video production but it can also be one of the most expensive parts. Not every job has the budget to fly a 5 person crew across the country with tons of gear and suitcases. When we budget for travel we ask ourselves 3 questions: Is it necessary? Can we drive instead of flying? How many people and how much gear has to travel? The last question analyzes whether we can hire local crew and rent local equipment or if it requiresf our whole crew and all of our equipment to travel. Once you have the specifics down you can then look at your budget and see if it's feasible. Sometimes it doesn't work and you have to be creative. Say you have a crew of 4, each with 2 suitcases and then add on about 10 pieces of gear... even with little knowledge of how airlines work in 2017 you can do the math and see how expensive this can get!

"It's the Little Things that kill"
This one is not as apparent as the rest but I feel it is important to mention. Sometimes in the thick of planing out a production you forget to plan in time for the little things such as where to meet up or where will the restroom be, or how about weather?! Little details like this are easy to overlook but can be just as important as the big things. We like to make a checklist when we get closer to our shoot day that goes over all of these little details. Some things to consider: flight/driving times, gas, rentals, important phone numbers, return times, contact info for everyone, food, restrooms, weather, charging batteries, electric, time zones, special needs of anyone involved, setup time, breakdown time, travel time between locations, release forms, contracts, language barriers, maps...the list can literally be endless. My advice... your going to forget something no matter what, try to learn from your mistakes and make a detailed list that you go over for every production.

"Don't ask me a question until you've looked at the schedule!" Your schedule is everything, it is the glue that keeps everyone together and the show moving... but your schedule will change. The production schedule is the most contradictory piece of information you will have. It's one of those things that just doesn't make sense. You need to have it, you need to make it, but inevitably it will change. Accept it. Don't let that stop you from meticulously planning out every moment of your production. This is your show and dammit, your gonna run it smoothly! The key here is to know all of the moving parts. Everything we have talked about so far is a part of a greater whole, the schedule helps you to control all of these pieces and make them work together. Try to keep in mind ahead of time what can possibly go wrong with each thing, this will help you plan for the unknown. But there is only so much planning you can do and at some point, the machine starts moving and your job is to be able to adjust accordingly. The more you work on productions, the better you get at rolling with the punches and coming up with creative solutions to problems... or you start to go crazy. One or the other.

"Did you get my email?"
Should I say it? Communication is key. It is. No secrets here really. Everyone has a different preferred method of communication and different ways of interpreting information. Keep it simple, clear and stay on top of it. You might have to be a bully here and that is ok. Maybe you have some people who prefer texting, some like phone calls, or some like emails... don't try to cater to everyone. Come up with the best communication solution for you and usually everyone else will get on board. If you find yourself in charge of a whole production crew, a slew of actors and having to communicate with the client, make sure you group your communication properly. A CEO of a major client does not need the same information as your Director of Photography - try to keep your communication appropriate for your audience. And the biggest tip I can give you is to stay ahead of things. Don't let the production days creep closer without having your shit together. If people start to wonder what the gameplan is before you have a gameplan that is usually not a good sign. You want to know whats going on way before anyone is even thinking about it. Once you have that information, get it out there in a clear way. People always appreciate advaced notice and keeping everyone happy keeps you happy. 

"Just then the Director yells: Action!"
It's time to do this thing. You have done all of the planning you possibly can and now it's the day of production. The actors are in place, the crew is ready to go, the gear is working perfect! Be proud of yourself. Pulling a production off for a big client, with a limited or even regular budget, on time, and making it high quality - is a small miracle. If it is your first one, don't worry, like everything else it gets easier with time. Also remember something will most likely go wrong. Stay calm and keep moving. Most likely your client wont even notice but that all depends on you! Good luck out there.

Mike Ramsdell is the Creative Director and co-owner of First Pillar Studios and has worked in the creative video production industry since 2008. Contact Mike at or visit 

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