video production

Video Pre-Production

When it comes the time to begin working on a video production, you can’t just dive into everything. You should begin planning things out and that is where pre-production comes in. With pre-production, you are taking the steps to get everything ready so that you can begin working on the video project. Without pre-production, the entire project can be haphazardly done and the finished project will be inferior when compared to one that had proper pre-production done.

So, what exactly is pre-production and what does it involve? It is not as daunting as you may think, but it can involve a lot of work to ensure the success of the rest of the project.

video production

Pre-production Step-by-Step

There are many steps involved in pre-production. Depending on the complexity of the project, there are going to be more steps than with other projects. The important thing is to make sure once you’re done with pre-production the production phase is ready to begin.

Define Your Audience and Message

This is very important because you need to make sure that you know your audience and what they want to see. If your audience wants to see you test drive a car, don’t do a talking head with you talking about the history of tires. Your audience does not want that. Knowing what your audience wants will also show you what you want for a message. These two things go together and they will ensure that when production starts, you are ready to start making a great video that your audience will love. Your concept is directly tied with knowing your audience and your message. You will have a good idea of your concept when you know what message you want for your audience and what your audience is expecting from the video.

Determine Your Budget

Knowing your budget is important. If you are just doing a small project, your budget is going to be small. Larger projects with more people will naturally increase in size. Always expect to spend more than you think you will and make your budget reflect that accordingly. Videos can be very affordable or as expensive as you want them to be. It comes down to your expectations about quality and what image you want to portray in your video. But if your service that you offer is expensive, do you think that a poor quality video with no lighting or microphone is going to attract clients with enough money to pay for your service? Probably not. Always consider you online brand and image.

Write the Script

This is important because you don’t want to just improvise everything unless that is the entire point of the project. You should write out a script, then rewrite it, then rewrite it some more. Never go with your first draft. Always look at ways you can make the script more streamlined and how you can make it get the message across in an even better manner. Don’t be afraid to write up a script and throw the entire thing out to start over. Better to have a great script than something you don’t like.

Determine the Video Length

This is essential. When filming a documentary, will it be a 10-minute documentary or a feature-length documentary? If you are filming for YouTube, then you should have content that is two minutes long. If you are filming for the Sundance Film Festival, then you will want it to be 90-minutes long. Knowing your video length will ensure you know your script length and it will set in motion everything down the road for your filming.


You don’t have to draw everything out, but having a storyboard will show you where you want people to stand, what you want them to do and how you want them to act. This is true if you are selling cars through a video or showing people how they can bake a cake. Make sure you plan with a storyboard because it will show you where to shoot and what to shoot when you get to the production stage.

Make A Shot List

You should also make a shot list for your video. The list may be short for a two-minute video, or it may be long for your feature length documentary. Nonetheless, you want to have a good shot list so that you aren’t going into a situation and wondering what to shoot. The shot list shows you in a clear manner what you need to do and how you can do it.

Create a production schedule

A schedule is important in pre-production because it will not only show you how long the production will take, but it will also show you where you should film, who is filming, what is being filmed and what you expect to be done during that filming. It will show you the equipment you are using, and will show you the shots that you need to get. It is one of the most important parts of your pre-production phase and is a step you should not skip no matter how small the production may be. In regards to your schedule, ensure you overestimate how long things are going to take.

Location Scouting

Never go into a situation where you are randomly choosing locations without scouting them first. This can be the longest period in the pre-production, but it is one of the most important. When you do location scouting, you will know what to expect from the location, what you want to shoot there and you will know about the challenges you may face shooting there. That is important because it will also influence your schedule, and your shot list. You may also get some ideas about what to shoot when you go to a location. Shoot everything in studio is fine, but make sure you check out a few places just in case something really stands out to you. When you are doing location scouting, remember to:

  • Look at the lighting when in the location, know if you will need to bring lights, go scout locations at the time that your think the shoot will take place. 
  • Check the power supplies of the location. Ensure you have what you need to power everything.
  • Listen to the area. Is it loud or quiet? Will the noise be a problem?
  • Look where you should set up when you bring the equipment and what challenges that may present.
  • Make sure you have permission to film there.

Know Your Equipment

What equipment are you going to need for filming? Do you need to have lighting, will you need shading? Will you need to have night vision video or will you need waterproof cameras? What will you need in terms of your audio? Will you need a variety of different video cameras?

Decide on A Format

What type of format do you want for your video? Is it going to be all animation? If so, make sure you know how to make good quality animation. Will it just be interviews with lots of B-roll? Will you be doing talking heads? Is it gonzo filming and street filming with very little planning? The format you choose will dictate much of the pre-production tasks and your format is often based on the message you want to present and the audience you are showing this to.

Hire the Right People

When you hire the right people, you are going to have a better production. For your crew, make sure you hire the people who have good experience and good recommendations. Talk around to other filmmakers and find out who they like to work with. Don’t be afraid to spend extra to get the crew you want. Do as many auditions as you can for the actors to find the right person and take the time to do rehearsals so everyone is ready for the production.