The 12 Steps of Filming

It's a Wonderful Life....in Jacksonville, FL

Is it worth producing a video just for the holidays?

I need to start this blog with a confession: I LOVE the Christmas season, and by extension, holiday-themed videos. My personal bias aside, Christmas-themed movies and videos typically do have an evergreen appeal that can make a story or premise, no matter how simple, inherently more engaging (ask any Lifetime director).

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Remove the holiday aspects from A Christmas Story and you have a movie about a boy who wants a gun and accidentally shoots his eye out. That’s basically just your typical news headline here in Florida.

At Just Add Video, we’re big fans of creating short, simple holiday videos that either recap the year, promote a deal or simply thank customers or clients for their support. A short social media video can be easy and inexpensive to produce.

What I want to quickly share are the 12 production steps that we follow to achieve the most streamlined workflow. Any team, no matter how small, can follow these to efficiently produce videos.

Note: While I’m specifically discussing short, holiday-themed social media clips, these production steps apply to any video, from Explainer Videos to Online Trainings. Also, we recommend a lot of gear in this video, none of which we are paid to promote. It's what we actually use in our everyday production. 

To keep with the holiday season, I thought it’d be fun to theme this article as such - and so let’s begin ‘The Twelve Steps of Filming’ (feel free to sing along):

"On the first day of filming, my director gave to me..."

1 Bright Idea or Story

As with anything creative, the first step when creating a video is coming up with your idea or story. Because we’re focusing on holiday videos, we recommend keeping the idea simple. The goal here should be announcing a deal, webinar, or just to reaching out to your audience and let them know what you’ve been up to over the past year.

Below is an example of a holiday video we did for a client.

2 Hands a Typing

The next step in creating videos is also probably the most important: the scripting process. Scripts are the foundation of a video, so make sure that you get it perfect before you ever even turn on a camera. One big piece of advice when crafting a script is to read it out-loud while timing yourself. Half a page of text usually adds up to a minute of video, so try to keep it short. For holiday videos, a simple outline will probably suffice.

3 Thumbnail Sketches

After we have our script, the next step is storyboarding. For more complex videos, a storyboard is essential in discovering scenes, camera angles, and the length of shots. You don’t need to be an artist to storyboard either - the goal here to better visualize the video before you begin filming. Plus, they're crucial when pitching ideas and getting budgets approved.

You can see an example of a typical storyboard on the left, and a rougher/quick one we produced for a holiday video on the right. As an added gift, we've attached the blank storyboard as well. 'Tis the giving season!

4 Scouters Searching

More than likely, you will film this video in/around your office. If you plan to film somewhere unknown, it’s always good to scout the location beforehand. Make sure that the lighting, ambient sounds, etc are conducive to filming.

5 Budget Meetings (hopefully less)

The gear you’ll need depends on what you’re filming, and for simpler projects you can probably get away with using your smartphone. But below are the essentials that we recommend if you’re serious about shooting videos - just tack it onto your year-end budget!

  1. Camera - We recommend a Digital Camera or the Sony Camcorder with Gimble, as it removes the shaky hand look. Make sure that you get a card for storage that works with your camera. 64 GB minimum for 4K resolution and slow-motion shots.

  2. Tripod/Slider - To further keep shots steady, we recommend a good tripod.

  3. A Powerful Computer - When it comes to editing, more RAM (Random Access Memory) is better. You can probably get away with your typical laptop, but if filming in a higher 4K resolution, you’ll need a computer with at least 8 GB of RAM, 16 GB being ideal.

  4. Audio Recorder - You can use either a boom mic or a lapel mic - we prefer a lapel when recording a single person, or a boom when recording multiple people. You’ll want a SD card for this as well.

  5. Lights - We recommend several lights for setting up a studio, but you can get away with one or two for most videos. We prefer LED lights, as they are more portable and don’t heat up.

6 Audios Waving

Speaking of mics, audio can be the most important part of video, and the easiest to mess up. If you plan to have speaking roles, make sure that you properly capture the audio and remember to HIT RECORD.

7 Clappers Clacking

 That clapper got about 600 clacks before breaking.

That clapper got about 600 clacks before breaking.

It’s time to start shooting! Make sure that your exposure (brightness), focus, and video size are all adjusted or set to auto. For more complex videos, we recommend purchasing a clapper to keep track of scenes; this saves a lot of time in the editing room.

Remember to take notes and most importantly, to HIT RECORD (Yes, we never tire of saying this).

8 Files Loading

Okay, so you’ve filmed your scenes and have every shot you need. It’s now time to start loading the footage to your computer. We recommend creating a structured folder system (that means NOT saving to your desktop), like the one pictured below. It’s also good to label footage once loaded, as having everything named saves time when editing.

Just Add Video _ File Structure.JPG

9 Edits Scrubbing

We’ve come to the hardest part of the video making process - editing. It’s good to find your music (if applicable) early, as you will likely be editing to the rhythm/beat. It’s also good to save your files as different versions, ie ‘HolidayVideo_v1’, in case of corrupt files/unwanted changes.

As for your software, there are plenty of free options like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, but if you plan to keep making videos it’s great to invest in the Adobe Creative Suite. It’s subscription-based, meaning it can be canceled at any time. It comes with Premiere for editing, as well as Photoshop and After Effects for motion graphics. They may seem intimidating, but there’s plenty of tutorials online to teach you the basics.

Note: Adobe isn’t paying us for this ... but they should!

10 Graphics Groovin'

It’s now time to add some graphical flair. While creating motion graphics requires a greater understanding of design and animation, you can still add some polish in the form of text. Write messages and time them to the film, and even add text to allow the video to be enjoyed silently on social media. It’s also good to brand the video with your logo throughout.

Adding simple effects, blurs, lower thirds and color-correcting can bring your video an additional level of polish and quality.

Simple Pre/Post Graphics Compairson

11 Codecs Crafting

There’s ton of different codecs to choose from, but only a few that you’ll actually ever need. For those not in the know, a codec is how the video is formatted and compressed, which determines how and where it can be played. The more compressed, the smaller the file. The smaller the file, the better it will play, but the worse it will look. For posting on social media, you’ll probably only ever need a .mp4 or .gif, depending on the length.

Just Add Video _ Exporting.JPG

To select a .mp4, look for H.264, and select one of the presets (if using Premiere), There’s usually ones made for YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. Also make sure you’re exporting at the right size, likely 1920x1080.

You can get even more bang for your buck by exporting small segments or bloopers as .gifs, which loop and can be used for aditional posts or on your website.

12 Bluebirds Tweeting

You've produced an amazing (holiday) video! The final step is posting your video to your social media and/or website, and share the joy!

And so completes our guide to filming:101

For more recommendations on gear, subscribe for reviews on cameras, lights, sliders and more. If you need any help, give us a shout out in the comments below.

Just Add Video specializes in helping companies set-up personal studios, and we’re always happy to help answer questions or recommend gear.

Oh, and lest I forget: Happy Holidays!

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Brent Knauff

Art-Director, Just Add Video.