Most people have got an idea of the different steps that go into the production of a video. Here, we thought we'd take a moment to outline each of the different steps so that you can see how it all fits together. Of course, the way different companies, producers teams make films might be slightly different. The general principles explained below should ring true though.
We made a film about this many many moons ago. Lots of the Casuallers featured in this video have moved on to new pastures. Those of us who have remained are slightly greyer, slightly wrinklier and less annoyingly youthful (ish), but it still gives a good grounding in the process:
So how does it work?
Simply put, we need to think about what we’re going to produce, organise it, produce/create it and then share it. This means that productions break down into the following four stages:
This is where we do all the work to understand what the right thing to create is. This pre-creative/brief-writing stage is arguably the most important in the whole process. This is often not given enough time in the desire to get on with the hands-on project. Needless to say, clear insight gained here is far cheaper to put into action than that gained when the film is finished and delivered. It is remarkable how many times I have made films with global brands, only to reach the end of the process and have someone who wasn’t consulted early enough ask, “Why are we making this, anyway?”
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Once we have this, we can start to think about how you are going to achieve all those objectives. This is known as creative or scripting. Creative tends to go through a number of iterations, until everyone is happy with it.
Once we have an agreed creative idea, we can start to organise all the things that are required to accomplish it. This will include an outline of the different actors/interviewees, props and locations. Making a film is very similar to organising an event. The event of physically making the film is called production.
The hands-on production of the film is usually relatively short compared to the rest of the project. It is also often the most expensive stage in the project. This is because we can have lots of people in the same place at the same time. As we covered earlier in the book, the cost of the production phase has come down drastically since the days of scores of crew being required to get a decent-looking result. Today, a single self-shooting director/filmmaker can achieve a surprisingly high-quality output. That said, there are still elements that can add to the cost of the project. These include a large number of actors/extras, shooting in locations that require travel/accommodation for the team, and specialist production elements such as drones, underwater cameras and cranes.
Once it’s all been shot – ‘in the can’, if you like – the film then goes into the edit. An editor goes through all the material that was gathered during the production phase and selects the best moments from what could amount to hours of material. Many purists argue that this is true filmmaking, as it’s where the film is actually made.
The first step is to get to an initial assembly cut. This is made up of all the best shots, which are pulled into a basic running order. This is also called a rough cut. The film now goes through a series of back-and-forths between the editor/producer and the various project stakeholders. If the editor is ‘chunking’ (splitting) the video for a number of different edits to be shared on social channels, he/she will tend to work on one main output, to get that right before moving on to the other cuts. This allows the editor to familiarise himself/herself with the footage, and to establish a style that the stakeholders are happy with.
It is said that, in the process of making a film, the creators actually produce three: there is the film that was initially conceived in the creative phase, the film that they believed they shot during production and then the film that is actually there once the editor has finished his/her work. Needless to say, it is the third film that remains to be shared and known by the world beyond the production team. This trope underlines an important aspect of filmmaking: be clear on what you are trying to achieve, but be prepared to incorporate positive additions as they occur. It is almost impossible to plan for every single eventuality that might befall the production. The best work comes from taking the events that occur – a beautiful sunset, a perfectly timed bird flying through the shot or an accidental nudge of an edit that just works – and being ready to integrate them.
Once the project sponsor is happy with the edit, it is sent for a few final tweaks. At this stage, the titles, graphics and any final visual flourishes are added to the film. The picture is then considered to be ‘locked’. This means that no one can make any more changes to the project’s visuals.
Then, the edit is colour graded. This step tweaks and stylises the colours to make sure that they are all uniform and stylistically fit the story. For example, adding a blue hue to scenes filmed at night.
The film is then sent to have the audio finished off. This includes having any sound effects and composed music added. Then, the sound designer tweaks all the levels of the audio to make sure that the volume is consistent, the dialogue is audible and it all sounds right. With modern content becoming as disposable as it has, this may not happen on every production. In that case, it comes down to the editor to give the film a once-over to make sure it is all good instead.
We now have the finished output/outputs, but the whole process has been for nothing if the target audience don’t get to see it/them. This is where the delivery method comes in. There are many, many different ways of getting your content seen, from Facebook banners to bus-mounted video screens. What is really worth doing, though, is including the distribution method in the briefing phase. This allows the production to be tailored to make the most of the displays that the outputs will be shown on or the different ways that people view each platform.