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My Small Video Production Guide

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Mark PopeMy Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 17, 2006 at 6:56:00 pm

I've recently developed a guide for salespeople and clients to help them understand the production process. You may find it useful, and I'd appreciate feedback. It's designed to be revised.

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JNeo25Re: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 17, 2006 at 11:15:25 pm

I skimmed a bit, but great work! Very strong understanding of producer/director/writer triple threat. This is an excellent package for every new client.

You might be a little low on the production budget of 10%, I would say at least 20% or 25%. Other than that, nice job! I'd certainly fwd new clients (and all those pesky "hey, what is it that you do" calls) to that page.

Best Regards,

John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____

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Kevin WoodRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 12:06:33 am

Under Post-Production, I would add "Creating Final Format," or something to that effect.

This could include tape, web, DVD, etc., but I suggest keeping that step seperate from the actual editing, the same way you seperate digitizing.

Make sure that your clients know that it takes time to render, output, develop, etc.

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Mark PopeRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 4:26:49 am

To both the previous posts ... good suggestions. Just what I'm looking for. Thanks for taking the time to check it out.

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Nick GriffinRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 1:30:54 pm

Mark -
What a GREAT job you've done putting all of this down. It's obvious that you've spent more than a small amount of time answering all the dumb questions which come up WAY to often.

A couple of brief suggestions.

Film vs. Video
I usually explain this as the difference between capturing a few hundred shades of a color versus several thousand. For some things it doesn't matter at all for others the ability to see subtle details makes a huge difference. Film is smooth and natural. Video tends to be more harsh. And just to add confusion, high end HD video can take on a film look.

Camera Moves
You might want to explain how a camera moving into, away from or with a subject is a much more dramatic effect because it simulates the way we see. Zooms, pans and tilts kind of accomplish this, but nothing like the real thing. That said, it's essential that clients understand that this is truly a case of getting what you're paying for. Dolly shots cost more because there's more equipment, more people needed and more time to set up and rehearse them.

Is DVE missing for a reason? Explain the computational power makes certain transitions of shots possible. Maybe describe some of them like squeezes and/or (God forbid) page turns.

Dead on! Depending on the size of your market you might want to explain the differences between union (AFTRA/SAG) talent and non-union. Of course the real key always seems to be how often they've done something similar. And as far as voiceover, personally I would NEVER work with a voice talent without directing the session and most working from home studios have the ability to give you a phone patch so you can easily control the session.

Thanks, Mark. You've provided an excellent tool for us.

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Ron LindeboomRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 1:42:33 pm

The only thing missing that hasn't already been mentioned by others, is that I would make it a little more clear in your music and sound section that people cannot use their favorite song. The ones who are going to use your chart, are ones newer to the process and so they are the ones that need a "red light" thrown up quick. There are too many (some even here at the Cow) who argue "Fair Use" and other nonsense. Me, I'd make that a little more clear that using popular music can be a minefield.

Ron Lindeboom

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Mark PopeRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 7:02:23 pm

"Dolly shots" ... that's the term I was looking for. I used to work with an old photographer (videographer) who used to gripe every time I asked for a zoom. He carried a track in his truck, but we often wouldn't have time to set it up. We worked for a TV station, and it was all about grinding it out. He retired a couple years ago ... the best camera guy I ever worked with.

Could you give me a little more clarification on DVE's as a separate category. In my thinking I include them under "wipes", but maybe I'm wrong. The world of computer generated effects deserves mention in any case. When I first discovered Media Composer (in the early 90's) I couldn't get enough. I'm more conservative now. Now when I add a transition I actually think about whether it adds to the spot.

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Nick GriffinRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 18, 2006 at 8:33:19 pm

Let's see. A wipe is the covering/revealing of a portion of the image. A DVE uses computer power to take the entire image and squeeze, stretch, curl, twist and even move it in 3D space. Very different from a wipe, yes?

And you are correct in that it is indeed quite easy to lessen the aesthetics of a production with the overuse and inappropriate use of DVE effects. BUT... they still are one form of transition.

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Mark SuszkoRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 20, 2006 at 6:01:21 pm

It took me a while to get around to reading the whole thing, I think overall it is a very good effort. Two places I want to make some suggestions about.


I feel you over-simplified your descriptions of linear editing. Feel free to borrow chunks from what I normally use to describe linear and non-linear. I tell clients:

Since videotape was first created, editing between tapes was like assembling a college term paper using only a typewriter, scissors, glue and tape. If you wrote ten full pages of a story, and then needed to move or remove a paragraph or three paragraphs on page five, you left a 3-paragraph-long "hole" that meant you had to re-type every page from where the change occured on page five, all the way to the ending, so everything came out neat again. If you tried cutting and pasting over the paper with other pieces of paper with new words on them, they might or might not fit well, and the change might be objectionably obvious.

You could take the cut-and-pasted sections, make a photocopy of that, taking it down a generation from the original, and save yourself some re-typing, but the copies from page five to ten would not be as crisp as the original typed sheets from page one thru four. This was an "analog" process and referred to as "linear" editing because every shot depended on the length of the shot before it, and all the effects-dependent shots had to be laid down in page 1,2,3,4, etc order...The master tape was "destructively" edited, in that, like the term paper, you had to record over and destroy previous images on the tape to lay down the new changes. Even further back, in film, you actually had to cut up and splice together the film, so you were physically changing the original material, and you couldn't always go back and undo the damage if you changed your mind. So editing in the analog linear days required a lot more thinking ahead, planning, and weighing the cost of trying something against the value of the result and the budget and deadline. I had clients who would make me set up a sequence of ten or more dissolves, then constantly want to go back later and change something in dissolve number three. They could not understand that all overlapping effects/transition shots (known as A-B shots) leading into and out of that shot needed to be re-recorded each time they made one tiny change. Like with the term paper and typewriter. It took all day to remake those ten dissolves six times, only to wind up exactly the way they were to begin with.

When digital video editing came on the scene, the task changed much as it did for writers switching to word processors. NLE's are video word processors. Now each piece of video and audio was stored on a hard drive, and the editing commands were just pointers, pointing to the requested data. Like titles of the songs on an audio CD. The process is called non-linear because you don't have to start editing with the first shot anymore; you can lay down footage from any point in your story, then work forward or backward from there. You can pick up a chunk from the ending and drop it in near the beginning if you wanted. A change at one point no longer demanded everything past that point be re-done. Want to change the speed of a dissolve? You can see the change instantly, fiddle with it all you want, nothing else is affected by the experimentation. This lets you really get things EXACTLY how you want for maximum impact. You can search-and-replace a specific shot like you could a name in an electronic document. You could drag-and drop, cut-copy-and-paste the video and audio files just as the word processor does, and any gaps created by you removing or changing a section automatically filled in. It is non-destructive editing: the original footage is never altered, you are generating a list of clips like the list of songs on your favorite CD and you "edit" by altering the order the list of clips is played in, just as you can shuffle the order the songs are played on the CD, and the songs are never changed, just their play order.

This means you can make many many (too many?) different iterations of a program, a version for every day of the year, and they all retain their original first-generation quality. From a practical standpoint, Nonlinear editing (NLE) lets the editor try more changes, improvements, or refinements in the same time it used to take to make just one version the analog linear way. Or make multiple targeted versions of one commercial spot with different logos or city information, etc. in the time it used to take for just one. As long as the data remains on the system, anything can be changed or updated, without fuss.

Once laid off to tape, and the hard drives erased, the program is now a linear thing again. We can make a change now by sort of scanning the finished document back in as you could with a paper, but we don't have the same level of creative freedom as we did when all the original elements were on the hard drives. It's like we transfered the CD to a cassette, and now you have to fast-forward or rewind past the songs you don't like if you want tot change the playing order. We could not extend the length of a certain shot you like because we only have as many frames of that shot as the master tape does. To make that change, we have to re-digitize the reel with the original shots on it and replace the old shot with original footage that synchronizes with it and now we can extend the shot for you as you like. This kind of work adds time and cost to a project, so you really want to have everything fully approved before you flush the info off the ahrd drives, or you wind up paying more for the re-edit.

Oh, you were waiting for number 2?

2: Writing.

You sort of hint around it, but I think you could do more in this area in tems of detail. The way I present it is; you start with the needs accessment and research: figuring out what the clients says thay want, if what they want is really what they need, what kind of audience you're trying to reach and with what kind of message. This leads to the next vital step which I think you glossed over: the Creative Treatment stage. Newbie clients think they just type a script from a standing start, like Athena popping out of Zeus' forehead. No. That almost NEVER works.

You use the information about the audience to figure out what kind of creative approach will reach them with your mesage and be retained and acted upon. Read the recent cow posting about "voice" for more on this, but in capsule form, you don't talk to the counter crew at McDonald's the same way you talk to franchise owners. You have to know their age, gender, education, vocabulary and socialization levels, just for starters. Then your creative approach may be to use humor, or dramatization, or testimonials, whatever your research says these people will accept best.

The treatment is NOT a script; it is a blueprint for the script, a description. It describes the actions and the kinds of things that will be said, but not the specific words.

Example: Scene one> Location: warehouse, with pallets and racks visible. Bob tells Joe he's not stacking the pallets in the approved way. Joe asks what's wrong with his method. Bob explains the steps of the "A,B,C" method... We didn't write the dialog yet, or any camera directions but you have a good sense of what happens and in what order, where. A writer can fill this structure in with well-tuned dialog and you have something that will work. Reading a treatment is like being able to take a time machine ahead and see the finished program in mockup form. It is the tool that allows you to get advance approval for the direction the program takes, with no surprises to the guys paying for this. It allows you to figure out budget and scheduling logistics to see if this program can be made within the client's financial limits.

Clients can easily get hung up on a single word in a finished script and decide the whole creative concept is wrong. Treatments are more mutable than scripts and easier to collaborate over. If they later object to the word, you can alter the word but keep the narrative structure derived from the treatment the same. The best part is there are no surprises in this process; everyone goes ahead and approves this with eyes-open. Changes after this point become VERY costly, so the extra step of writing and approving a treatment actually SAVES you money.

Writing scripts without the treatment process is like trying to hit a pinata, blindfolded. Treatments take the guesswork out of the script. A good writer can blaze through writing a script once the treatment is approved, and now you KNOW it's going to do the job. You can point at every line in the script, relate it to the treatment, show how it ties into the client's original needs and the research into the audience. Remember the guy that approves the script may not be it's target audience, so you have to show him why it will work on the audience even if it doesn't move him personally.

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Mark PopeRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 20, 2006 at 7:55:04 pm

I thought your expansions were good, Mark. I am going to revise the guide. I'm not sure I'm going to go into much more detail on some sections. Here's a little background on myself and the guide. I'm a freelance Producer/Writer/Editor. Have been for about 6 years. Prior to that I worked as an employee in several TV stations for about 10 years. Prior to that I was a Radio Production Director in markets small to large. So for many years I've been dealing with Broadcast Salespeople and their clients.

The guide began as an instructional piece for new salespeople at a regional cable news organization. I didn't want to go into much depth with them. My experience with many new and even experienced Salespeople is that they will smile and shake their head, and not take in one word you say about something. I had to keep it simple.

Since I decided to put this on the web as an html piece I see that it's kind of taking on a broader character. I think what I may do, especially with longer posts like yours, is to create a separate page titled something like "other points of view" and copy and paste (with a few edits) the piece with attribution credited, of course.

Thanks for your input.

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Mark SuszkoRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 20, 2006 at 8:58:32 pm

Yeah, for what you want to do, the dissertation (grin) on editing could be collapsed down to: "the old linear systems were like typing everything out with a typewriter, and if you wanted to remove one paragraph, all the pages after it needed to be retyped after every change, whereas modern NLE's are the video equivalent of word processors: drag and drop, cut-copy-paste, any changes any time." Everybody I say that to gets the difference instantly.

I would suggest of the two things I was bloviating upon, the latter bit about actually going thru the research, needs ananylsis and most of all, the Creative Treatment stage is the more important one for your sales-oriented types to understand.

It speaks directly to their job and how well they do it. They will lose repeat business if they are just order takers that write down a few bullet points from a client and hand that to the editor as a "script". Spots done that way don't usually work out. Local car spots done by in-house cable operations suffer from this a lot. The sales guy needs to do a lot of listening and ask a lot of questions to determine if what the client is asking for is really what they want, and WHAT THEY NEED. There is a career's worth of difference between those terms.

Treatments are not just for long theatrical projects or training films; they are useful tools for something as short as spots as well.

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Ron LindeboomRe: My Small Video Production Guide
by on Jul 21, 2006 at 2:10:48 pm

What you might also do, Mark, is post a link at the end of each of your simpler and shorter explanations that says "Want to learn more?" and then they can jump to a "dig down" page that addresses that particular topic in further detail. At the bottom of the page could be the "Other Points of View" area for feedback that might run counter to your own, etc.

Ron Lindeboom

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