Your boss peeks over your cubicle and says, “Meet me in my office. I have an opportunity for you.” Alarm bells go off in your head. The word “opportunity” has a strangely ominous tone. You walk into their office, and they explain that the budget for your training video was just reduced to peanuts. (There’s the challenge.) They go on to say that they thought you, “would be a great candidate for the production job, considering your awesome social media posts.” You politely thank them for the “opportunity” and race back to your desk to avoid showing your panic.
As everybody knows, training videos are a great addition to your learning library, as they are scalable and accessible, making them easy to share and access on mobile devices. But the steps for creating one can seem overwhelming. The good news? We’re here to help! We have some key pre-production strategies to make you look like a planning, execution, and budget master.
What’s the first step? March back into your boss’s office and declare, “Challenge accepted!”
Focus on the StoryDevelop your concept and think about the narrative you want to thread through the piece. Then write it out in script format. Flesh out all scripted lines to be spoken; any relevant directions for camera, talent, and editorial; and any additional images or text.
Like all training material creation, the more detail the better! For example, simply writing “The dog will bark” sets the idea. But writing “The dog, wearing a red collar with Fido on his tag, barks toward the treat offered by a hand off camera” creates a vivid mental image. Having a detailed outline supports you, your actors, and your crew so everyone is clear about the process.
Adding details to the script will inform what you do in the next phase: pre-production! Pre-production is the critical legwork that happens before you say, “action.” If you invest energy in these early steps, you can save time and money in production. So let’s dive into some of these factors.
Time Is MoneyOne of the most important pre-productions skills you can hone is your scheduling ability. You should plan which parts of the script will be filmed when, down to the quarter hour. You’ll find opportunities to shave time off filming with every planning decision you make. For every time segment, think about:
- Who is in the scene?
- What are they doing? Wearing? Will any of that require extra time to get ready?
- Where are they located? Are they standing still or moving to another spot?
- What props or additional items do I need to have in this scene?
- Keep locations to a minimum. Setting up many location sets can waste valuable shooting time.
- Keep filming to one day. This is not the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Try to schedule everyone to participate in one long shooting day. This will help keep your resets low as well as your talent and crew time limited.
- Stagger your talent. If your script is conducive, you can have your talent arrive throughout the day. No one likes to wait around doing nothing.
- Build in buffer time to account for unforeseen issues.
If you plan your schedule to the letter and keep to it, you’ll get through your entire script.
Location, Location, LocationBased on your script, you have to find a fitting place to film. It seems like a no brainer, but scouting a location before your shoot date will put you ahead of the game. Look for these site-specific elements:
- How is the lighting?
- Are there any windows that let in natural light?
- Where are the outlets?
- Where are the entrances and exits?
- Is the location busy? Loud or quiet?
- Are there any fun features about the location that you can take advantage of?
Some locations will allow you to film when they are closed at night. While filming an all-nighter may not sound ideal, an empty and quiet location can be a huge bonus.
Star PowerDon’t forget about talent . Pre-production communication to prepare talent is just as important as the shoot day. You have the opportunity to set the tone and get them pumped up to do their best work. Show them how much you value them with your exceptional planning. Some simple ways to prep your talent:
- Send the script to your talent (and pertinent crew members) well in advance of your filming day. Give them time to memorize lines and think through body language. This also familiarizes the crew with your vision.
- Discuss wardrobe options and ask them to bring a few different looks.
- Ask them to bring any makeup or hair care products they like (or need to use, in case of allergies or skin sensitivities).
- Let them know that you’ll have a kit on hand with essentials like a brush, hairspray, and concealer or powder to help ensure everyone looks their best. (Pro tip: Notebook paper works great as oil blotting paper!)
The truth is, pre-production is a lot of work, but by taking a step-by-step approach—planning your script and shoot in as much detail as possible, you’ll set yourself up for success on shoot day. Well done!
For a deeper dive into training video production, join me and Alicia Seguin at ATD TechKnowledge 2023 for the on-demand session: ACTION! Training Video Tips and Tricks for the Accidental Videographer.
Editor’s note: This post was adapted from content originally published on the Reflection Software website.