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This is Part 2 in our series on planning a project (don’t miss Part 1)

 Successful video projects rarely just happen; in fact, they often involve a great deal of planning. Budgets need to be created, contracts drafted, crews booked, and schedules made. A video shoot has many elements: lighting, shot design, locations, audio, directing, and videography—to name a few. All of these require planning and choices to be made before the shoot day.

A detailed schedule is often part of the planning process.

You must plan

Many photographers are interested in just shooting and living in the moment, but trust us when we say a little bit of planning goes a long way. Advance preparation prevents potential problems the day of the shoot. Where will you place the camera to get the best angle? What kind of lighting is ideal for each scene? In what order will you shoot the sequence to maximize your time and available light? How will you optimize the use of crew and locations?

It is far better to plan ahead rather than while your expensive crew and gear are waiting for your next move. Proper preproduction saves you time and money—two things we can all use more of. On the first day of a video shoot, you should have executed the entire shoot in your head, on paper, in discussion with team members, and in as many ways as possible in advance.

A scoping document is an essential piece of the project management plan.

Defining the scope

A well-defined scope for a project provides a reference point for both producer and client.  Writing down the scope of all the deliverable items gives you a measuring stick to track progress.  This is usually referred to as a scoping document and this one piece of paperwork captures the essential details of a project and lays it out clearly for the project team and the client. It can be as detailed as you need it to be.

The scope of work is going to drive both the budget and the schedule.  Scoping a project generally takes 2–16 hours to complete (depending on its complexity). When you’re finished, you’ll end up with a document that’s typically between 2–10 pages in length. This brief document is essential because it captures all the nuances of the project and becomes a charter for all involved. Additionally, you can get client sign-off to ensure that everyone is literally on the same page.

Here is an outline for what should be covered.

Project Scoping Document Outline

  • Project Name
  • Executive Summary
  • Background
  • Project Scope (High Level)
    • Project Objectives
    • Deliverables
    • Organizations
    • Interfaces Required
    • Assumptions
    • Constraints
    • Evaluation Criteria
    • Risks
    • Rewards
    • Budgets
    • Schedules (Due Dates)
    • Project Team Readiness
  • Key Roles
    • Executive Sponsor
    • Project Manager
    • Business Experts
    • Technical Experts
  • Signature Lines – Sign Off “Charter”
A successful production typically takes much more equipment than just a single camera..

Determining equipment needs

Early on in the project you’ll need to determine what equipment is needed. The camera is at the center of the action. All that meticulous planning and staging exists to be recorded. You’ll need to choose from a pile of gear to enable the camera to capture what you want. You’ll need to consider which lenses are needed to achieve the vision of the director.  You’ll want to plan for lighting and support equipment to achieve the desired shots.  The purpose of camera bodies, lenses, and accessories is not only to execute the shots you desire, but also to play a creative role in the look of what you record.

But don’t just stop at the production stage. Thinking through a project’s postproduction is also important.  You may need extra help on set to log details about the project (such as continuity or script supervision).  Are there special effects that need to be planned for?  What’s the end deliverable format needed? Can your camera meet the technical requirements of the client?

An excerpt from a detailed line-item budget

Project development

During the course of planning a project, you will produce several items.  The following pieces of paperwork are considered standard in the video industry.  While it’s possible that not every project will have a script, the other three items are essential.

  • Script – A professionally formatted script can help present your good ideas in the best light. There are dedicated scriptwriting software tools are on the market (such as the robust Final Draft and Final Draft AV). You can also format a Microsoft Word or Apple Pages document to use the traditional video two-column approach.
  • Budget – Never discuss approach without having an idea of your financial constraints. Creative types often get swept up into big ideas without knowing what the project can support. It is important that you create a detailed, line item budget so you have a clear idea of the work involved and the costs associated with the project. Many clients will expect this level of detail in your pricing. You may also find it helpful to share a line item budget with your production team members so they know how much time is budgeted for each task. If needed, you can remove line item pricing from budgets that you share with others.
  • Schedule – Equally as important as budget is schedule. You need to understand any major milestones so you can schedule work and adjust your approach to match the available time. Placing major milestones on a calendar and tracking your progress can also improve the chances of successfully delivering the project on-time.
  • Treatment – The treatment is a narrative description of the project.  Some call it an elevator speech or a pitch. The goal is the creation of a one-page document that accurately describes the tone and structure of the project. This helps communicate the artistic vision to all parties and can greatly influence the shooting and editing approaches taken.

Up next is Production