At first it seems really cool to make a film or start a vlog or web series. The thought of seeing something that I created broadcast widely is what attracted me to video production, and I loved the idea that I could frighten someone or make them laugh using images and sounds I manipulated. But a lot work—often boring and tedious—goes into developing a video series, and much of it takes place before turning on a camera.
Pre-production encompasses all the tasks and planning done before a shoot. This is the most important part of video production to me. It’s where I make sure I’m prepared for the filming and editing ahead. Careful planning helps to video projects go as smoothly as possible.
Landing subjects is always difficult, so I was happy to get the support of the founder of Women Bike PHL. I planned to visit the group’s weekly coffee club meeting and then get some b-roll of members riding their bicycles before sitting down for an interview with the founder.
I thought I could get some incredible footage of the bicyclists moving through the streets using a GoPro, so I borrowed one from Arcadia’s video lab. Over the weekend, I played with the chest harness, helmet, and various pole mounts, and I went through the manual and learned how to connect my GoPro iPhone app to the camera. After figuring all that out, I made a list of all the shots I wanted for the bike story.
Figuring out how to use the GoPro was only one part of pre-production process. Before I interview someone, I do background research on them, looking for background information from previous interviews and whatever other materials I can find. Then I make a list of interview questions and make sure to confirm the interview date and time a few days before.
The day before the bike shoot, I went to the video lab to pick up equipment (cameras, tripods, microphones, and cables). I also made a trip to the library to print out release forms. Later that evening, I checked if all the batteries were charged and packed spare ones just in case.
I felt prepared. But I found out that doing an outdoor video shoot during the winter isn’t always a good idea. It snowed on the day of the shoot. All that preparation—learning how to use the GoPro, coming up with interview questions, borrowing video equipment—and it looked like I would come away with nothing.
I didn’t panic, though. Instead of canceling everything, I decided to head into the city to conduct the sit-down interview, figuring I could reschedule the b-roll shoot with the bikers on a nicer day. As I’ve learned, planning certainly helps, but you can’t plan for everything. Video producers often have to manage the unexpected and work in conditions that aren’t ideal. The key is to be flexible and improvise.