Working with a video production agency on location

In this blog post we’re going to take a look at the ins and outs of actually working with a video production agency. I want to explore what’s involved in the production process, from both the client and agency side, from planning and ideation through to post production colour grading and sound editing.

Let’s start though with a few considerations to bear in mind before engaging with a video production agency in the first place.

Are you working with the right video production agency?

Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions you should ask before you even engage with a video production agency is ‘are they the right company for my project?’ Whether you’re looking for a video production company in London or Lancashire, you will find that agencies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with different specialisms, in-house capabilities and access to expertise and video technology.

You may be looking for some very technical architectural visualisations and fly-throughs, in which case a company with little or no animation and 3D graphic design experience won’t be your best bet. Alternatively, you might know from the outset that you want to get some aerial shots in your video marketing, so a video production agency with drone filming services might be a prerequisite.

It’s also important, before you pick the phone up or start drafting emails, to take the time to look at client portfolios. If your budget is very limited then an agency that tends to work with major brands might not be the most cost effective choice. Conversely, a small agency might not be the best option for creating your next major TV commercial campaign.

Whatever size video content agency you do work with it’s important to also look at customer reviews and testimonials online and on their website. If you can’t find any, then you should really be asking yourself why.

For now, though, let’s assume then that you’ve found an agency to work with. Let’s start looking at the video production process, stage by stage.

Planning Stage - Working with a Video Production Agency

The Planning Phase

The planning stage is all about content strategy and can be broken down into two broad areas, which I’ll detail now:

Video content strategy

Whatever type of film you are making and for whatever purpose, it is not something that should be taken in isolation. Having a strategy in place is essential if you are to maximise its effectiveness, achieve your goals and avoid it becoming just another piece of orphan content. By putting in place a proper strategy, you are also able to find cost efficiencies and make budgets go further by repurposing and reusing content and integrating it across multiple digital and offline channels.

There are several techniques to putting together a detailed video marketing strategy which can include:

  • Audit of your existing content
  • Audience profiling
  • Mapping your wider business objectives
  • Analysing your competitor’s output
  • Defining your brand identity
  • Buzz monitoring

You may already have an established marketing strategy in place of course, in which case you will want to get straight to the creative part. Either way, you will want to be going into the creative part of this phase with a brief, detailing what you want to achieve, your activation plan, a creative framework and some key metrics and KPIs to measure success.

Creative idea generation and scripting

Any good production agency will have its own in-house creatives, who will be instrumental in translating the brief and generating an actual concept behind what your video will look and sound like. The amount of input you have in this process is really a case of how you prefer to work. Your assigned account manager will help establish this working relationship, where you can feed your own ideas and input into the process and eventually sign off on the finished script and concept.

It’s important to get client buy-in during the creative and scripting process. Depending on the scope of the project and your own internal procedures, this may require getting internal sign off within your own organisation. To keep to budget it’s important that this process is as streamlined as possible, so establishing effective communication channels is really important.

At the end of this process, you should end up with a script and a storyboard (also known as a ‘scamp’). This will help you visualise how the video will be shot and looks something like a comic book in layout. It should detail lighting, colour, framing as well as how any transitions or effects will come into play.

Pre-Production Phase

The pre-production phase is really all about logistics and planning for the shoot. Depending on the scope, style and format of your video this may be a complex or fairly straightforward process that may or may not require much input from you. If you have decided to create an animated film for example, then there is no need to physically travel to a location to shoot (although voice actors / presenters may need to be sourced).

Some of the considerations your video production company will have to take into account before shooting your video include:

  • Scouting a location or booking a set
  • Assembling the right film crew (the best agencies should have in-house capabilities)
  • If not owned by the film company then equipment must also be rented
  • Sourcing and hiring actors or presenters
  • Sourcing and hiring makeup artists and additional crew
  • Making sure licences and all other red tape is taken care of
  • Creating a project schedule and managing that schedule
  • Putting together contingency plans in case the shoot has to be postponed or cancelled (due to bad weather, unplanned illness, etc)

One thing that needs to be considered if you are filming on the location of your offices is disruption to staff and the day to day business. If you are going to be interviewing staff, then the shoot will need to fit their own internal schedules (business goes on regardless, at the end of the day.)

Once everything is taken care of it’s time to set up and start actually filming.

On Set with the Video Production Agency

Production Phase

Unless you or your staff are going to appear in the production, there’s little involvement in the actual production stage from the client side of things. Of course, it’s natural that you might want to turn up to the shoot to watch what’s going on, but it’s best to let the director and the film crew do their thing unimpeded. This is what the script and a detailed storyboard are there for at the end of the day. Depending on the nature of the video being shot, some producers will want to make sure that the client is on hand to answer questions so that filming can resume. Film crews are expensive so it’s important to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Directors will run the shoot and will film as many takes as they feel necessary to get the film looking as it should. This will involve making sure that everyone in front of the camera is relaxed and delivers a convincing performance, as well as getting the lighting and camera angles just right.

A director’s other main role is to make sure there is enough footage for the editor to put together a seamless film that corresponds closely with the agreed script and storyboard.

Post Production Phase

The post production phase is where everything comes together to create the final product. There are many stages to the post production stage and depending on the type of video being made, some or all of them may be needed. They include:

  • Editing: The main task will usually be editing, in which all the footage is stitched together to form one continuous film. This will involve examining many hours’ worth of footage to find the material that best represents the script and storyboard. A good brand video must be visually arresting and it’s the job of the editor to keep it interesting, consistent and on message. There is sometimes the chance that the client will want to give feedback during this process but it’s imperative that, if you do, you don’t stray from the storyboard.
  • Visual effects and animation: Many videos will contain graphical effects of some sort. This could include kinetic typography, motion graphics, stop motion, infographics or more weighty 3D animation and visual effects (VFX). The affordability of this technology has dropped significantly in the last five years or so, meaning many more clients are deciding to take advantage of it. VFX isn’t something that can be bolted on at the last-minute so this will have to be signed off in the brief and incorporated into the storyboard.
  • Sound and Music Editing: Musical score has the ability to liven up even the driest of subject matters. The choice of music will usually be agreed in the planning phase but many other noises and effects can be added after the final edit has been signed off. Music and sound are crucial to setting the pace and tone of the video and this falls to the job of the sound editor.
  • Voiceover: If your video contains a voice-over then this will have to be recorded after the final edit has been signed off. Sourcing a voice-over artist will have been arranged during the pre-production stage.
  • Colour grading: The final job in the post production stage is to colour grade the video. This will be done by a specialist who will be able to create a unified colour tone across the whole edit, whether that’s bright and garish colours to a more washed out look. This will help to convey the mood and message of the video, whether it’s bold and in your face or more of a thought provoking or serious film.

If you’re thinking of creating a marketing video (or any other type of video for that matter) and would like to know more about working with a video production company involves, why don’t you give us a call today and we’d be happy to have a chat.