Lessons + Plans for a Smooth Video Production Project
There are a lot of lessons you learn over 29 years in the video production business, especially working with dozens of amazing clients and creative minds. One of the first things we learned remains one of the most important — how to communicate.
Smooth projects start when a client is able to communicate their idea, deliver a scope of work, and define their budget. These projects remain successful as our crew collaborates on the script, shoot, and edits, and then delivers a piece that answers their needs.
More challenging days come when our clients come in knowing that they need a video to show, but have yet to define their messaging or have a specific inspiration in mind. While experimentation can bring some unexpected and beautiful results, there are dangers of missed deadlines and budget overages that we’d prefer to avoid.
The vital need for communication came clear to us again over the past couple of weeks.
The Big Corporate Event
By now we’ve been to enough team meetings to know that the potential for boredom is high. Fortunately, event planners and those in corporate marketing have seen enough nodding heads to mix things up and add a bit of flair to these occasions.
Our client, a Fortune 250 company, came in looking for video and animation assets for one of their employee events. The client’s marketing team had a general idea of what they wanted, but not a well-defined aesthetic or scope of work.
“At that point, you’ve got to know the questions to ask,” reports Atomic Production Senior Editor/Producer Matt Ruby. “Sometimes, the client is so overwhelmed that they don’t know how to answer. So, we ask broad questions about the inspiration for the video, vibe, colors, and maybe what kind of music they think would work.”
Senior Digital Artist John Oczkowski adds, “That’s how we got into this project. We sent the client 20 or so music cues, and he narrowed it down to five or so. That gave us the mood and a direction for the pieces.”
The client and Atomic editors traded calls and emails, honing the project scope and feel.
“We ended up delivering 43 video and animation assets in just over a week,” Ruby states, “that were seen on a 12X40-foot LED screen that was on the stage as well as multiple screens around the event.” Included in that list were Welcome and Thank You videos along with introductory set pieces for each speaker.
Additionally, the client tasked Atomic editors to deliver a standalone video that featured interviews with employees talking about corporate culture. What started out as a 90-second project turned into a five-minute-long video.
Determining the project scope was one thing. The fact that the company’s creative team was simultaneously updating brand assets, including colors and typography throughout the early stages of Atomic’s edit, was another. Final details were not locked down until less than a week before the event.
“It was a hard, fast run,” Ruby adds, “but the show went off, and everyone was happy. That’s always the bottom line.”
The Out of Towners
A longtime Atomic client had an emergency — they needed an edit of a video in two days for a huge industry event in Australia. The catch? The Director of Brand was about to hop on a plane, and the Creative Director was out of the office on the east coast.
“Another production company had started to work on this video, but it wasn’t up to the client’s brand guidelines,” says Atomic Productions Executive Producer Danny Angotti. “We got the call on a Wednesday, the files on Thursday, and the event was the next Tuesday. So, the rush was on.”
Matt Ruby points out that the process went smoothly because the company’s Creative Director started working on storyboards immediately, and the Director of Brand had a clear idea of what had to be cleaned up.
“There are organized fire drills and disorganized fire drills,” Ruby says with a laugh. “This was a slightly organized fire drill. We knew what to do that Thursday, and I started to edit furiously. John (Oczkowski) had to come up with all the graphics, and we finished it just in time.”
Angotti adds: “We had a clear plan and that’s how we were able to deliver it in such a tight timeframe within budget. You can’t get anywhere without a plan. Also, we were able to meet their budget on the project because this client had a plan. The quickest way to go over-budget is to come in with no ideas.”
An Outsider’s Perspective
Atomic has a long track record of working with clients that are developing their first broadcast commercials. A new company came through the door with an idea and a script last month, turning it over to our production crew to deliver.
“They wanted to change the script before we shot it, which was no big deal because we were still a couple of days out from the shoot,” explains Angotti. “We supplied them with some concepts of how we thought it should look and feel, they gave us that creative flexibility, and then we executed that.”
That type of client/production house collaboration continued into the editing process.
The footage came back to John Oczkowski, who was due to edit the piece. “He had fresh eyes and had a different idea on the flow of the spot,” Angotti reports. “It was a better way to tell the story, and it worked. We showed it to the client, and they agreed.
“It’s valuable to have people look at a project with a different viewpoint,” he adds. “We will often bring the editor to the set so that they can get an early sense of how a piece is going to flow. They’ll see something different and make a suggestion that makes everyone’s job easier and the project better.”