What is Production?
Hello, and welcome to my blog post! A guide for production and how to get your video’s production level to go from a novice piece to a legitimate commercial work. First we should discuss what production really is, because a lot of people beginning in the field confuse it or include it in other stages of the production process.
Production is only the things involved in the actual capturing of images. This means that production is recording onto a camera, capturing audio and setting up the scene as deemed fit. This includes lighting, staging, prop placement etc. Everything else can fit into pre-production or post-production. Pre-production being the planning stage; this includes writing a premise for the video, a working script, shot lists, story boards, gear and prop acquirement if necessary, etc. Post-production then would be choosing which shots to use, editing them into a cohesive work and then touching up anything that needs it before it is finished. The efficiency and time spent in Post-production directly depends on how well the scenes were shot and captured in production, which is why I am focusing on how to take your production skills to the next level.
Any good production needs careful, intentional time spent in pre-production. Think of it like any other major work or event in your life. The more prepared you are the better the results are going to be. This largely means making sure you have all the equipment necessary for the shoot and then going in with an established script and shot list and sticking to it. Also, in case it is not clear when I refer to equipment I mean bringing an appropriate camera(s), lenses, lights and audio gear, and a shot list is going through scene by scene and having a written plan for how many and what shots you want to best convey your story.
Most of this content creators already know and do, whether it’s written out or all stored safely in your noggin. However, the biggest mistake I see most novice creators make is not using appropriate lighting or not giving audio the tender love and care it deserves. This is the clearest indicator and difference between a student project and a commercial success. This usually involves nothing more than giving yourself a few extra steps in setting up a scene, but the payoff is miles more than the effort required. Effective lighting and audio can make footage captured with just a GoPro look professional and sound beautiful.
Unfortunately for a lot of us just starting out we do not have the funds necessary to get proper lighting and audio equipment. This requires some creative thinking on our part and to some extent sacrifice when it comes to some shots. This can be best described by an example. I saw a student project that had a really neat idea for a shot by capturing an intense moment between a couple in a car by making the situation seem small. They did this by recording the scene through the car window. The audio was good enough to be understood but a large critique was that it wasn’t clear. They defended this by saying they didn’t have the equipment to make it work. This was refuted with the simple solution of just using a different shot where the audio could be clear. A ready example that comes to mind is giving the audience the perspective of sitting in the back seat. This is what I mean when sometimes sacrifices need made and what separates an amateur work from a professional one.
Lighting is a different beast entirely and is best understood by just devoting time to it and learning as you go. Some quick and simple tips I can give with lighting however is to be intentional. Don’t use lighting in a way that distracts from the subject. Don’t avoid lighting as an excuse to influence the tone or mood of the content. I’m not saying that every scene needs to look as well-lit as an office building, but be intentional to the point where the image is still clear. Another tip is to use different kinds of lighting based on the work being produced. A good rule of thumb is that commercial work should always be well lit, avoiding shadows as much as possible, whereas for narrative there is more creative liberty in your use of shadows. Don’t believe me? Pay attention next time you watch TV to the commercial lighting in juxtaposition to your favorite drama.
All of this careful intentionality in production can reduce the time spent in post by nearly half, sometimes more. It also ensures that everything you capture during production can be a ready option for use in the final cut of your masterpiece. My final advice is to just have fun. Part of what is so great about content creation is the creative liberties you get to take in the process, so take all of this as advice that is not mandatory, but rather helpful tips as you find your footing as a creative starting out in the industry.
Author: Seth Weaver