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How to disaster-proof your video shoots

How to disaster-proof your video shoots

Slack and Company | February 1, 2018

Scene: The sky darkens. There’s a rumble in the distance. The wind begins to pick up.

You feel a sudden chill in the air. Then, one runs down your spine.

Gulp. You didn’t think to check the forecast for today.

Today—the day that you’ve scheduled an 8-hour video shoot with your CEO. In various locations throughout the city. All of them OUTSIDE.

But you have a plan B, of course? Alternate interior locations?


Then, you must have a contingency built into your contract with your video production crew that reschedules the shoot in case of bad weather.



As fun as they can be (and they can be lots of fun, trust us—you won’t find many agency folks who’ll turn down work on a shoot, even if it means a 19-hour day and dinner from a hot dog cart), if you don’t plan ahead, your video production can go from smooth-city to meltdown-town in no time flat.

But your shoot doesn’t have to go down in flames—or out with the rising flood waters. In addition to the standard pre-production planning steps you’d normally take—pre-interviews, locking down vendors and dates, assessing wardrobe and prop needs—there are plenty of other things you can do to ward off a filming fiasco.

1. VIDEO USAGE: Begin with the end in mind

Before you script or scout anything, determine how the video will be used. And be specific. Will it be a five-minute client testimonial, housed only on your website? Will it feature animated graphics on top of shot footage and be projected onto a large video wall at your annual sales meeting? Or will it be a 30-second pre-roll commercial for YouTube?

And, do you need all of the raw footage on a hard drive post-production? If so, this could cost you a good deal more. Communicate as many specifics as possible to your vendor, so they can create the most accurate quote and contract.

2. CONTRACTS & RELEASES: Get everyone on the same page

Speaking of contracts, make sure all parties are in agreement with and that your company’s legal representative has reviewed and signed off on all production vendor contracts and talent releases well in advance of your shoot day. A few things you want to be sure are crystal clear:

  • Copyright/ownership: Who owns the footage, you or the company that shot the video? Make sure this is explicitly stated and agreed upon upfront.  
  • Use of video: Is your vendor allowed to use the video on their website and social media as part of their reel for promotional purposes?
  • Timeline for final delivery: Will the video be done in time for your big sales meeting?
  • Cost: How many edits/rounds of revisions does it include? Are music and stock footage extra or included? How about talent? Are you using professional actors (if so, are they union?) or real people? Voiceover too?

3. SCRIPT & STORYBOARD: Figure out the flow before you go

Depending on the structure of your video, you may or may not be able to script out every line of your shoot—a spontaneous customer interview vs. a scripted instructional video, for example. But, even if you can’t fully script it, you should be able to make a rough outline and storyboard and assign a proposed shot for each line or “idea” that you want to capture.

Doing this will allow you to figure out the number of shots, locations, clothing needs, and overall shoot length and schedule for your shoot. Creating a storyboard, together with your video producer, will also make the editing process on the back end infinitely easier—especially if the editor is not the same person who shot the video—as the editor just needs to follow the story flow set out in the storyboard.

4. LOCATION SCOUTING: Hit the ground running

This goes hand-in-hand with storyboarding. You need locations for all of those shots. Where will you go? Get creative. In addition to your company spaces, find unique places that add visual interest and best illustrate the ideas you’re trying to communicate. Parks, libraries, museums, bodies of water, cityscapes, trains, public art installations, agriculture, manufacturing operations, propped studios and more.

But don’t forget to consider the Three P’s before adding any location to your shot list:

  • Permits: Check to see if permits are required for any location. It’s not unusual for a private venue to charge upwards of $10,000 a day for film crews to shoot there. You’ll need to know in advance what will fit in your budget.
  • Parking: Make sure there’s easy parking near each location. The video crew will have lots of heavy equipment and will need to be loading and unloading it continuously as you move throughout the day.
  • Police/Security: Expect to get questioned or asked to leave if you don’t have permission to be somewhere, especially if you’re shooting near financial or government offices. Be polite and do as requested.

Hot tip! If you can’t physically scout the location yourself, Google Maps is your friend. Use Satellite View to see what’s around—is there a clear view of the water from there that would make that shot killer?!—and use the Directions option to see how long it takes to get from place to place, so you know if you have enough time in your schedule for setup, filming and break down.

5. ALTERNATE LOCATIONS & SHOOT DAYS: Make a plan—then make another one

What if you’re filming a sit-down interview with 12 members of your executive committee, and you booked the shoot in conference room C, not realizing there’s an all-day sales training meeting going on next door? Did I mention the sales trainer is a Tony Robbins wannabe?

You’d better have another room booked. One that’s away from noise and activity, such as cafeterias or elevators (that ding is every sound guy’s worst nightmare), and ideally one that has movable furniture and ample natural light.

What if you wake up the morning of your all-outdoor shoot and a Sharknado threatens to keep you indoors?

Well, we’re not quite sure what to tell you if that happens.

The point is, plan everything as best you can ahead of time. And then plan for everything to go wrong. That way, you’ll be prepared either way.

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