Pre-Production: Expectations v. The Reality
A good plan is imperative to any video production project. But, a well-defined vision is what makes a video memorable and effective. Our mission is to translate your concept, idea, product, or strategy into a visual solution that creates a lasting impact. But, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you expect to get there? Phase I of your video project begins with pre-production, an intensive combination of discovery, creative development, and meticulous planning. Let’s take an inside look at the expectations and realities of this crucial project phase with Chris and Taylor.
The Expectation: An Ideal, Systemized Process
You’ve got a clear message in mind, and you’re ready to begin working with us to produce your video project. The first thing we do at Launch Media is meet with all stakeholders to assess and develop messaging and creative strategies that best represent your concept to your target audience. After the Discovery meeting, we develop a Creative Brief and a detailed timeline and summary for the entire project life.
Then, we designate point persons to streamline communication. The Project Manager tracks time and project cost on progress reports to ensure the project stays on time and on budget. The Creative Director advances and manages overall project content and creative approach. The Producer scouts shooting locations, secures any necessary permits and licenses, and assists in the coordination of creative development.
We designed this process to create structure, give direction, and ensure that the necessary information is shared, discussed, and implemented within an unhurried timeline that allows for thoughtful revision and a bit of wiggle room.
The Reality: The Many Moving Parts of Pre-Production
As the old adage goes, “Expect the best. Plan for the worst. And prepare to be surprised.” While the ideal pre-production phase is a deliberate, methodical process, the reality behind every video production is sometimes a bit messy and is often crunched into a less than ideal timeframe. But, this is part of the dynamic evolution of a creative planning process that our team is accustomed to. Let’s take a closer look at 5 ways to approach the reality of pre-production.
1. Dive Into the Timeline You’ve Got
Last year, we had the opportunity to work with the Defense Advanced Research Agency under the United States Department of Defense to tell the story of its Insect Allies project, highlighting new capabilities to protect the United States’ ability to respond rapidly to food supply threats such as massive insect contamination, drought, or bio warfare. Before we were able to get started on the message, we had to acknowledge the very real logistical constraints.
“When we got this project, we were jumping straight into the deep end, coming on the tail end of a project that had been going on for three years. And, we were basically learning at the pace of drinking through a firehose to gather a solid base understanding of what they were doing.” Chris Jeansonne, Creative Director
It can be tempting to let a late start to creative messaging and the loss of potential footage derail a video project. However, this is precisely what the pre-production phase is for: meeting clients where they are in the process and adapting the plan accordingly.
2. Visualize What Matters
The most important thing in every project is to hone in on the element of your message that matters most to your audience. While this needs to occur in each project phase, it is perhaps most important to focus on in the pre-production stage. Establishing the story you want to tell at the outset sets the video up for clarity and success.
No matter what kind of industry you’re in, whether nonprofit or healthcare or corporate, your job is to tell a story. What’s the driving force that will create the greatest impact with your audience? How will you foster human connection with the information you share?
Our approach ensures that this thinking is the foundational component of every project. But, understanding this concept is even more important when dealing with a huge expanse of dense information. For Insect Allies, we needed to ensure that our interviews were thorough and all encompassing. It’s not just about accuracy, but it’s also about finding something palatable, fun to watch, and informative.
“First and foremost, we had to take the meat of this story and figure out, where was the heart? Where is that expressed? So, we could show the importance behind something as complex as the experiments.”
Taylor Stoma, Editor
3. Take Advantage of Access to Subject Matter Experts
In order to produce an accessible message, we had to distill a lot of high-level scientific information in a way that was accurate, understandable, and compelling. Our team has a history working with subject matter experts, and we were excited to tackle this incredible challenge. Step 1: Gather as much data as possible.
So, we traveled to all of the schools and labs to document the process, interview the researchers and professors involved, and show the student scientists at work. The core of the project consisted of infecting insects (aphids) with a pathogen, introducing them to a crop of corn in a contained greenhouse area, and then introducing other insects with an additional virus to then destroy the original contamination. Dense material calls for deeper understanding.
“We really had to approach it like we were going back to school. It was a little overwhelming because we had eight or nine interviews from scientists around the country. And, you can imagine that they got a little granular, but it’s some fascinating information. The final product had to really emulate what they were trying to accomplish and what they did accomplish and what the future holds.” Taylor Stoma, Editor
4. Keep Your Eyes Open
As a company, our approach to storytelling is rooted in a deep sense of curiosity. It’s more than simply attending to the message and key points that a client presents. It’s identifying the factor that will resonate with the viewer and bring our client’s message to life. But, what does that look like in practical terms?
It starts with a high level of interest. It’s about asking questions and listening for what the client doesn’t know to ask for. It’s about noticing the hidden opportunities along the way. And, that is the difference between merely planning a video and creating a visual experience.
“We were driving down this highway, and I was with our producer Deirdre and our DP. And, I saw this sunflower, and I was like, woah, stop! We’ve got to get this shot. You think, why are they getting this shot of a sunflower? And honestly, at the time, it was purely a golden hour moment – like an artsy, aesthetic thing for me. The symmetry on it, just incredible. And it ends up being this super stunning shot.
In hindsight, it worked within the context of the actual video because we were dealing with insects and the relationship of insects to us as human beings, the role they play in our ecosystems. And I think in that way, there was a connection. And, it ends up as the first shot of the video.” Chris Jeansonne, Creative Director
5. Embrace the Obstacles
Working with top secret information? Planning for production in high-security labs across the country? Location scouting becomes that much more important. Due to the risk factors in some of the labs, one sequence required our director of photography to wear a hazmat suit and leave his equipment behind for a month to ensure no contaminated aphids escaped.
“When we got into the project and started really learning the day to day, we found out very quickly that this was not a centralized thing. We were going all over, UC Davis in Sacramento, California, all the way to Cornell and Syracuse, all the way to the East Coast with Syracuse. And each program at the university had their own task, their own thing that they were trying to accomplish within the program structure.
So, logistically, it was pretty crazy, but it was a lot of fun to see this cycle from the tenured professor who has been studying this stuff since he was an undergrad to the postdocs who are about to get their PhDs because of this research. That was really rewarding.” Chris Jeansonne, Creative Director
Interested in learning more about the first phase of a video project? Download our FREE Creative Brief template to get started.
Creative Brief template form