Some of our new clients have had little or no experience in working with a corporate video production company, and so the process involved in creating a video remains a mystery. As a result, we’re often asked to explain the steps it takes to bring video content to fruition.
In this piece, we take a closer look at what makes up the workflow of the corporate video production process.
At the simplest level, video production can be broken down into three broad phases: pre-production, production, and post-production.
During each of these phases specific tasks need to be completed along the road to the completion of a successful corporate video. Of course, the specifics differ from project to project, but each video production also has much in common.
The first step is to create a clear brief. This brief can be formulated by the client alone, or in collaboration with an experienced corporate video production company or video marketing agency.
The brief is an opportunity to explore the following key points:
- Do you have a preference for the video format (e.g. animation, interview, voiceover)?
- Is there anyone in particular you want to appear on camera (e.g. the CEO)?
- Who is your audience?
- What key messaging do you want the audience to take away from the video?
- Is there any specific visual material you want the audience to see (e.g. your new office, an app being used, the customer service centre, examples of teamwork)?
- What is the tone of the video (e.g. authoritative, friendly, low-key)?
- Where do you want to reach your audience (e.g. LinkedIn, company website, a pre-roll YouTube ad)?
- Do you require Social Media edits?
- Do you need subtitles (SRT file or ‘burned in’)?
- What results are you hoping for (e.g. views, likes, subscribes, ROI)?
If you have any video benchmarks you like and a sense of your budget, that is also very helpful.
For a downloadable brief template visit this page.
With your objectives defined, you’re in a good position to approach your preferred corporate video production company or to put out a tender to, say, three of the best video marketing agencies. If you have not defined your brief and you ask different companies for a quote, you’ll find it difficult to weigh up their budgets and proposals side by side in a meaningful way: most likely, you’ll be comparing apples with pears. Often in this situation it’s the cheapest quote that secures the tender, but what you will then frequently find is that the cost for various budget lines – specialist kit, Social Media edits, subtitles, and so forth – have not been included. With a good brief, you should get back comparable proposals with costs that give you a clear picture of each video content agency’s suggested budget and their creative ideas.
It’s not only essential to define your objectives in a brief to get back meaningful proposals, but to provide a set of guiding principles for the video content, and to frame the criteria against which to measure the outcomes.
The script is the backbone of any video project.
The specific nature of each project will dictate the content and complexity of the script. If, for example, the video involves drama with spoken lines, the script will require detail on characters, ages, costumes, and locations, as well as the dialogue.
Some corporate video content is very structured. See, for example, this About Us video for an international law firm produced by NextShoot, or this creative approach we took to a video for Bloomberg. These corporate videos both required careful scripting to define exactly who said what, in which location, and a sense of the camera movement for each shot.
The script gives the client and the video marketing agency a sense of the content, and the balance and rhythm of the piece ahead of any filming. It’s also the document from which the video production company draws out the information they need to plan the filming effectively (cast, locations, shot lists, camera movement etc).
If the final video content is interview-based, a case study video for example, the script might just be a simple structure that notes in a bullet-point form what each speaker might say, illustrating the editorial flow of the story, and noting what imagery might be used to support the interview content (eg b-roll, stock footage, supplied assets).
If the filming involves locations outside of a client’s own premises, the creative content agency will source these locations either directly with the owners or via a specialist location agency. Locations fees vary in cost, from £75 per hour for a council’s street or park filming permit to £1500 for a day’s filming in a hired office or home, to many thousands of pounds for shoots in rare or large locations.
For some shoots a studio is the perfect solution, though not all are suitable for filming that involves sound (i.e. they’re designed for photography and mute video shoots). NextShoot has its own 1000 square feet of studio in Central London (NW1 9TN) where we can conduct interviews against a backdrop, a dressed set or the white walls of the studio.
Interview filmed against a backdrop
The NextShoot studio dressed for interview filming for the National Gallery
Using the white, brick walls of the studio as a backdrop, with interesting lighting
We can also film green screen elements in our studio
If you’re filming an advertisement, your project may feature characters that need to be cast. While your video marketing agency can easily book extras (ie actors without lines), they will probably outsource the casting of leading roles to a specialist. Casting directors work to a specific brief, putting forward CVs, headshots and showreels for the producers to chose from. They then audition these actors, with a member of the production team present, or they are filmed and shared online. Of course, the client has the final decision on who represents their brand.
From the script the video’s producer or director will draw out the information required to make the filming day or days go smoothly. This will likely include a set of questions for each contributor with a sense of what they might include in their response, and a thoughtfully structured b-roll shot list.
Video is a dance between what is said and what supporting imagery is shown on screen. With interview material, or with video content that only has a voiceover, it’s likely that the film crew will shoot b-roll material. It’s important that the creative agency considers the b-roll carefully before a shoot – typically by undertaking a recce or looking at pictures provided by the client – so that they have a clear understanding of what is possible in the filming location, can clear permissions to use the preferred spaces and arrange for extras to be available, typically from the company’s staff.
Corporate video b-roll might include gimbal (i.e. travelling) shots of the key contributors moving through their office space or outside, sequences showing meetings, and users interacting with company products or services. For each of these sequences the shotlist might include a breakdown of the specific shots, shot size (e.g. Wide Shots [WS] or Close-ups [CU]) and noting the action and location. These sequences will each be allocated a time slot, which is added to schedule (see below).
Storyboarding is typically used on complex shoots involving actors or that require considered camera movement. With a storyboard the action in a sequence is broken down into a series of key frames, sketched as individual panels. The sketches include the shot size, the movement of the performers and a sense of camera movement.
As well as giving the client a good feel for what the finished product will look like, a storyboard also provides the director of the creative agency with a useful visual steer on how to frame shots and direct camera movement. With complicated shoots, where time is crucial, it’s a way of ensuring much of the thinking is been done in advance of filming and acts as an aide-memoire for the director and the DOP.
Here are some examples of storyboards for NextShoot video projects.
Where a video project involves graphics, it’s best to move forward step-by-step. Creating graphical content is expensive, and so it’s important to progress with client buy-in to ensure the video marketing agency doesn’t go too far down a path that is not aligned with the client’s vision. The most sensible route, therefore, is for the agency to offer up tests to show the direction they are proposing for the look & feel of the project before too much energy, time and cost goes down a particular creative route.
Examples of NextShoot early concept work
Once a look & feel, and possibly character development, has been agreed upon the creative content agency’s graphics team will block out the story in the agreed style. This could be an animatic, a low resolution video playout with suggested camera movement, or a storyboard with key frames.
If a video requires live action filming, a key task for the producer and director of the creative agency is to work out the crew required to capture the content. Of course, crews can range from a single filmmaker capturing footage and sound to a crew of over fifty shooting scenes with complex actions and trucks of equipment.
With some shoots, a minimal crew presence is an advantage, while on other projects ensuring that all the filming is captured in a single day by having multiple crews and sets of equipment might be the best option. A video promotion with a footballer, for example, might be set up a day in advance and rehearsed many times before a 15 minute filming slot. There’s no time to lose in moving equipment from one location to another, so all set-ups are prepped in advance and as much of the talent’s precious time is used to film well-rehearsed sequences.
You can dive into more detail about crew sizes and responsibilities in our post on the subject here: https://nextshoot.com/blog/what-crew-do-you-need-to-film-a-corporate-video/
Schedule and call-sheet
In the case of live-action filming, with these steps out of the way, the video content agency can now create a shoot schedule. Filming for any type of marketing or advertising video requires careful planning and so times for set-up, interview and b-roll sequences, breaks, unit moves (i.e. travelling with kit and people from one location to another) and de-rigging equipment are all factored in to the schedule. How long does it take to set up for an interview? About 90 minutes.
One of the key details on the call sheet is the call time – the time crew members need to be on location. Of course, call times may vary for different members of the crew. Wardrobe, Hair & Make-up and Location Managers tend to arrive the earliest and leave the latest.
With corporate video production, costs are typically given for either a 10 or a 12 hour day. Whether travel is included within that time depends on the ‘home base’ of the production company. For video production companies in London, travel to and from locations inside the M25 is not included as part of the 10 or 12 hours.
On corporate shoots, lunch and breaks tend to be short, no-fuss affairs: quick enough to grab a sandwich and have a cup of tea. With adverts, drama and traditional broadcast rules tend to be governed by the Advertising Production Association (APA) regulations. With these a filming day before overtime tends to be 10+1, which is to say 10 hours of filming and a 1 hour lunch break. Penalties can be added to invoices for short lunches (ie under 1 hour), or for late lunches (ie longer than maximum time suggested between breakfast and lunch). The earliest call time that does not incur overtime charges within APA guidelines is 07.00.
Whatever the shoot, the key is for the corporate video production company (interchangeable with video marketing agency, creative content agency or video production services company) to be clear about the rates and time regulations agreed with each crew member, and to ensure that these are honoured so as to avoid a creep in the cost of a filming day.
The schedule is sent out to cast and crew members and informs them where they need to be and at what time. It is accompanied by a call sheet: a document listing all those involved on the shoot with their contact details (the exception might be key talent, whose details are kept private) and other information, such as the nearest A&E.
Heath & Safety
Once a shoot has been defined and planned, the final stage of pre-production is to create a comprehensive Risk Assessment Method Statement (RAMS) prior to filming. With corporate video production the producer typically manages this process. The Risk Assessment is a document which explores risks particular to a shoot and the measures that are put in place to mitigate risk to an acceptable level, while the Method Statement is a more generic document dealing with the approach to safe filming across all productions. Of course, filming in the time of COVID-19 presents a particular set of challenges, but it is possible to shoot in a safe and productive manner with the right precautions in place. Please see here for NextShoot’s COVID-19 filming protocols.
With the pre-production process complete, it’s time to go into production. Production could last a single day or many months, depending on the project, and is the period in which the footage and sound that will make up the raw material for a video is captured.
With most corporate video the commissioners don’t attend all of the filming, with a client’s key input taking place during the pre-production and post-production periods. However, they may want to have a rep join the creative agency for some key parts of the shoot, to sign off on interview content, for example.
During the production period all the work done in pre-production pays off. Recces to locations, shotlists, storyboards and schedules ensure that this part of the process goes as smoothly as possible. This said, filming at every level, from corporate video and branded content to broadcast documentaries and feature films, requires flexibility and adaptability. Challenges with natural light, equipment, and unexpected sound sources (helicopters, leaf-blowers and angle-grinders to name a few) are to be expected. Resourcefulness and quick thinking can normally save the day, which is why working with the best creative agencies, those with deep industry experience, is important.
Filming is a team effort, but the conductor is the director. With corporate video the director has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that everyone who appears on camera is authentic and knows what to say or do. With corporate video production, filming is likely to involve some interview content (for Customer Testimonial videos/ Case Study videos, or About Us videos, for example) and b-roll, that is supplementary footage which is used to enhance the story being told
Of course, b-roll can be filmed with a range of production values and a variety of kit, including aerial filming with a helicopter and a gyro-stabilized mount, drones, steadicam/ gimbal platforms, jibs, cranes and dollies. Budget will dictate what equipment can be used, but even with generous resources kit should only be used to enhance the telling of a particular story. After all, not every story benefits from a drone shot.
While directors rely on their crew to deliver footage that’s well-shot, well-lit, and well-framed, they lead the way with suggestions and steer the filming throughout the day with one key goal in mind: providing the required material to the editor to fulfill the video brief as set out with the client at the start of the pre-production process.
This precious cargo of image and sound material is copied off cards during the shoot day onto at least two drives. On larger shoots there may well be a technician whose key task is to ensure that cards are copied correctly and back-ups are double checked. The cost of a reshoot on a TV drama or feature film due to lost data may run to hundreds of thousands of pounds, so the role of the Data Imaging Technician (DIT) has become a key one in the camera department, and the bridge from production to the post-production process.
Once all of the sound and video footage has been recorded and compiled, it’s onto the post-production stage, during which the material is shaped into a video that meets the brief.
Good editing is the difference between a video that shows a sequence of events and one that truly tells a story, which is why a skilled editor is vital to carry the project down the home-stretch.
The editor takes all the filmed materials and other assets – which might include stock footage graphics and music – and assembles them in an editing software such as Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro.
The starting point for an edit is the script or storyboard and it’s likely the first structures of the video will follow this as closely as possible. However, as editors join the process unencumbered by prior thinking and decision-making, they bring a fresh perspective to the materials and story. A director who was on location at 04.30 to get a particular shot will have a greater emotional attachment to its use in the final video than the editor, whose focus is on creating the best story flow, regardless of the efforts that went into capturing a sunrise or securing an interview.
With corporate video production much of the editing involves the judicious selection of interview content. Three one-hour interviews tend to be whittled down to a narrative of 3-4 minutes. It’s a process which is affected by the skill of the director who undertook the interviews, but a good editor can make sense of unstructured thinking and loose phrasing, so long as they have enough b-roll to cover the cuts.
The editor hones the video, cognisant of the short attention spans of today’s audiences and aware of the specific target group for each particular piece as outlined in the original brief.
It’s worth quickly outlining some of the other elements that go into the final edit.
Front cards, end cards and name/ title captions
Front cards in corporate videos typically include a logo and the title of the video. Sometimes the title card comes after a short, summary introduction called a ‘pre-title sequence’.
End cards usually feature the logo and links to web or social media pages for viewers to explore further information. Some end cards are interactive, for example those used on the YouTube platform. YouTube calls these End Screens. Thumbnails with overlays can be created that invite viewers to explore other video content by clicking on them.
A name/ title caption identifies each contributor speaking in a video. This helps the audience to understand the context of a speaker’s opinion, for example, that they are offering a view from the perspective of HR or as the C.O.O.
All of these elements need to be created within the parameters of an organisation’s brand guidelines by using the approved fonts, colours and language.
Stock footage and stills
Easily purchased online from various sources such as Shutterstock, Dissolve and Getty images, generic video and photographic images can be sourced to supplement a story. These images often work best with a text overlay.
Animation, Motion Graphics, Infographics,
Branded content, corporate video and video marketing assets might contain graphics beyond front and end cards and name captions. In fact, the whole project might be graphical – such as a 2D character animation – but on the whole, graphics are used in a supporting role. The sort of graphical assets typically used in this sort of content include Motion Graphics (2D imagery that has been animated), Infographics (eg animated charts, graphics and maps that display data) and Kinetic Typography (text that animates onto the screen to support or reflect what is being said by interviewees or the voiceover). These assets, created by a different team, are provided ot the editor and included in the timeline.
Music can heighten the effect of a video on an audience, creating energy or emotion, depending on the genre, rhythm and lyrics of a track. There are now extensive music libraries online offering a range of songs that do not require ongoing rights management, making it simple to purchase for online video content. It’s worth noting that while a company like Audio Network offers tracks for £150 for online commercial content, the price structure changes if there is advertising spend put behind the content, such as for a YouTube pre-roll ad campaign.
In some instances, for example with TV adverts or branded content with high production values, it’s an advantage to have music composed and recorded specifically for a project. Of course, commissioning bespoke music comes at a cost, but it is probably less costly than licensing a well-known track and gives you more control than with music sourced from a library.
With any type of music the editor will decide if the images are cut to the rhythm of the track, which is typical with a showreel for example, or if the music is more of background ‘bed’ that doesn’t consistently match the editing of the visual content.
Some content has no interviews and only a voiceover. Other content, for example many broadcast documentaries, has a mix of interviews and voiceover. In this case the voiceover might be an omniscient, detached narrator that provides facts, while the interviewees focus on their personal experiences and feelings. With corporate video content a voiceover might represent the brand – ‘At Acme Products, customer service is at the heart of everything we do…’ – or it might be more neutral.
Once a broad decision on the type of voice required for a project has been agreed with the client (age, gender, nationality, regionality, tone etc), the creative agency will offer up a number of voiceover artist reels. When a final choice has been made, the voiceover will be recorded either in a studio, or by the voiceover artist in their home-studio. The latter is becoming more common, and at NextShoot we have over 200 voiceover artists on our books who can record remotely. We are able to direct these using Zoom or the like.
The voiceover sound file is provided to the editor, who will add it to the timeline and adjust the pictures as required.
Track Laying and Sound Mix
Sound is often considered the cinderella service of corporate video production, but it makes a massive contribution to the success of a video. In truth, poor images and good sound can be used to create content (think of all those low-res Zoom videos we have seen recently), while good imagery and poor sound is a non-starter.
An editor will balance the sound levels of interview material and natural sound captured on b-roll and likely lay in some other sound effects sourced from online libraries – the sound of people playing in a park, a dog barking, lift doors opening.
With feature films, when it’s often difficult to capture dialogue on location, actors’ lines are sometimes rerecorded in studio conditions as Additional Dialogue Replacements (ADR). Likewise specific natural sounds that might be hard to record on set are recreated by a Foley artist using surprising techniques (think bacon frying in a pan as a substitute for the sound of rain, or using scrunched-up crisp packets to simulate fire).
For more answers to your questions about Foley visit to our A-Z piece What is Foley?
At every level of production – corporate video, branded content, video marketing, broadcast documentary, feature film – the different sounds tracks (speakers, music, sound effects) are brought together and balanced in a final mix that matches the final cut of the pictures.
Colour correction and colour grading
With colour correction and colour grading the same tools are used. Colour correction includes removing spots from an image, and unwanted skins marks. The colour correction process also covers the ‘matching’ of footage from different cameras.
The colour grader then adjusts the image in specific ways to create a stylistic effect: for example, ‘crushing’ the blacks of an image to make it feel contemporary or increasing saturation to make it feel like film stock from the 1940’s.
Colour graders – also known as colourists – are the rock stars of post-production, and draw clients into a particular post-production facility. With corporate video production, the colour grading will likely be done in-house and typically takes a half day for a 3 minute video.
With the way that we now consume video, sub-titles have becomes increasingly important. The vast majority of video on Facebook, for example, are watched with the sound off. https://digiday.com/media/silent-world-facebook-video/ LinkedIn, often viewed at work and without headsets, is another platform on which video content is best supported by subtitles.
Side by Side – English and Korean versions with subtitling and graphics translated
With subtitles, they can be added offered in two key ways:
– as an SRT file, which can be activated in the video player by the viewer
– as ‘burned in’ captions, which are a part of the video file itself and cannot be switched off
The advantage of using a player that supports SRT files (see our article https://nextshoot.com/blog/a-guide-to-video-on-social-media/) is that it’s possible to offer the viewer subtitles in different languages, or the option to turn off the subtitles altogether.
The sign-off process tends follow two key viewings of the project by the client: a rough cut and a fine cut. After both cuts, the client offers feedback. The version of the video after the fine cut feedback becomes the master video file.
Part of the reason that so much effort is put into the pre-production stage is to avoid the need for extensive re-cuts or even re-shoots near to the finish line. If all has gone according to plan, there shouldn’t be a need for significant changes, but any corporate video production company, video marketing agency, video production services company or creative content agency is going to want to be sure that their client is happy with the final result, and so tweaks tend to go on until everyone is satisfied.
Distribution and ROI
Finally, with the production process completed, it’s time to release the finished video via the agreed platforms and to measure its progress against the markers agreed in the original brief.
The yardsticks for success might be the number of video plays, how long viewers watch for, how many likes are garnered, the number of comments that are left, the volume of traffic to a website, the increase in call enquiries or, where measurable, sales directly related to the video are made. It’s not easy to find meaningful and measurable metrics, but it’s the only clear way to decide on the ROI.
Of course, every video production is unique, but the steps in this guide are common to every type of video project. We hope that by sharing the journey through the pre-production, production and post-production process our new clients will come to the video creation experience with a clearer understanding of the work-flow, which not only make it a less mysterious and more enjoyable process, but frees them up to concentrate on the key decision-making moments.
Written by Dominic Sutherland, Managing Director of NextShoot, a video marketing agency in London. NextShoot has more than a decade of experience in creating content for internationally known brands and organisations and a reputation as one of the best corporate video production companies in London.