You want to create a film, but are still a little unclear about what you have to pay attention to during the video production?
Don’t worry: the biggest investment you need as a beginner to implement our tips and tricks is not money, but time and the will to learn and improve from video to video. Have fun!
The ultimate guide to video production:
If you want to create a convincing video, you need to know a few things about video production. This article answers the following questions:
How do you write a screenplay?
- Do I need a storyboard?
- What is a good digital camera?
- How do I make sound recordings?
- What do I have to consider when shooting?
- What software do I need for editing?
- How do I create a sound mix?
- Where do I put my videos online?
- [Bonus:] There are anti-personnel mines waiting for you!
These tips and tricks from authors, producers and directors will help you succeed in video production.
AHow do you write a screenplay for a video production?
The film idea is the basis for the story you describe in the script. This idea is the spark that ignites your story. The formulated idea is called the story in the film. It tells your story from A to Z. That’s the storytelling.
To write a script, you need three things:
- A film idea,
- an evolving plot, and
- convincing film characters.
As a rule of thumb, a film idea is only good if you tell it to a stranger and that person really likes your idea. Of course, this only applies if you don’t make the film exclusively for yourself as the only viewer. In this case, only you have to like the film idea.
In all other cases you always create your video for the viewer as well. Even if the video production is only a topic for you, because you want to document your family holidays: Family members, friends or relatives are then your audience. If you plan to earn money with film or video at some point, there’s only one way to do it: Your videos must inspire others.
The form in which you describe the story depends on what you want to do with the story later. If you put it on your blog as a short story, all you have to do is put the story into words. Are you sure that you have chosen the right medium with video?
How do I start with the paperwork?
If you want to tell a fictional story, you usually start with an exposé. This is followed by the treatment. Later, in the film script, you need additional instructions for the division into picture and sound and for the director, cameraman and actors. That is why scripts have their own form in which they are written.
To create a video, you don’t necessarily need the same form for the script as they have for feature films. First of all, your own film does not need a form of representation that is understood all over the world. Second, once the video is shot, the script is just waste paper.
Nevertheless, many beginners decide against reason and already format their first short film script according to the rules of the global film industry. That doesn’t make the story any better. On the contrary: The unfamiliar way of writing dilutes the view of the 6 most important questions that you as a screenwriter always and without exception have to face:
- As a writer, where do I enter the story and the scenes, and where do I exit?
- Which turning points maintain the tension in the story for the viewer?
- Which hurdles does my main character have to overcome before reaching the goal?
- Why does my audience care if my main character successfully overcomes these obstacles?
- Is my plot logical and at the same time surprising, instead of predictable and unbelievable?
- Can my story later be made into a film with the means available?
The solution to these six questions is crucial for the professional success of any professional film and screenplay writer. Anyone can create a video, but these questions distinguish the amateur from the professional.
Once you have successfully worked out the answers for your film and put them down on paper in a comprehensible form, you can look forward with good reason to the next steps and to a successful video.
Read more: Creation for film and video, The ultimate guide to writing a screenplay.
BDo I need to create a storyboard for a video production?
A storyboard helps to plan the shooting. For the storyboard, you need to know how you want to split the scenes into camera angles and what setting sizes you want to use in video production.
The storyboard is the bridge between the script, which consists only of words, and the video footage that you later create while shooting with the film camera. It helps to visualize the visual realization of the scenes.
If you cannot imagine how you want to shoot a scene, you will not be able to create a storyboard. That’s why a storyboard makes sense. With a storyboard, you don’t have to wait on the film set to find out if you are good not only as a writer, but also as a director or cameraman. It doesn’t require that you can draw like a master. It is much more important in a video production that you understand the board as an important part of the preparation for the shoot.
Pre-visualization is not always useful
The storyboard is a tool for planning the shooting preparation. That’s why it only makes sense if you can really prepare the shoot. If you are planning a movie with real scenes, working with pre-planned settings is not an option. This applies to documentaries and event videos as well as videos with children or animals in front of the camera. In these cases, you will film whatever happens on camera. You don’t need a storyboard.
It’s different with computer-animated short films or real-life filmed scenes where you want to use effects to trick digitally later. Here, like the professionals, you will not be able to avoid working with a storyboard.
A far too little known alternative to the storyboard is, especially for beginners, the video layout. You assign them the roles from the script and shoot single scenes or the whole short film with your smartphone. It doesn’t matter if the locations are right and the role play is convincing. All you want to do is to test camera perspectives and settings and optimize them for the later video. You can even cut your test video roughly together to find out if the rhythm and timing of the played scenes work in the cut.
Learn more: A good storyboard
CWhat is a good digital camera?
Depending on the genre in which you will be working during the video production, a decision may have to be made within seconds: Do you pan to the left to keep the main character in the picture? Or do you move backwards with the camera? If you struggle with the camera and its controls at this moment, you have lost. A good digital camera is your best friend and you have to be able to operate it blindly.
A good digital camera is a camera that not only meets your technical requirements, but that you feel comfortable with. The camera is your eye! It determines the frame and thus what is contained in the film image and what the viewer sees.
If someone praises your video as a “beautiful” film, it doesn’t get you any further as a filmmaker. You don’t want to make a “nice” film as a director, you want to make a good film. That’s because a good film is not only beautiful but also relevant. It makes a difference. Don’t confuse image composition with technology.
A good film makes its audience cry, laugh or think. If you want to make more than cat videos, this compliment is your goal in video production. 99% of viewers will not love or hate your movie because of technical details. But sure, you need a camera.
Drei Möglichkeiten bei der Wahl der Kamera
You have three choices:
- you work with a camera you already have. Smartphones like the iPhone and photo cameras are all video cameras. That way you save money. Or, if you have the opportunity, you can invest your budget in sound equipment and a professional editing program instead of camera equipment. This strategy will make your film better than videos shot with an expensive digital camera.
- you rent a professional video camera. Many professional film equipment rental companies offer not only professional cameras in the price range of a small car but also simpler models. But watch out! Professional video equipment is made for the fact that the recordings are later processed with a professional workflow and the appropriate infrastructure. This can get you (and your video budget) in hot water. At the same time, this tactic only works if you have time to get used to the camera before shooting. For this you need a special deal with the rental company for several days.
- You buy your own digital video camera. Remember, however, that the camera must become a part of your body.
The following camera types (in alphabetical order) are recommended for beginners
- Canon VIXIA HF R800
- Panasonic HC-V770K
- Panasonic HC-WXF991K
- Sony XDCAM PXW-Z9
If you don’t want to make films just for yourself, but want to work professionally as a director or cameraman later, you can still make your first films with your smartphone.
Because no one will judge you on the technical quality of the video. Managers in the film business want to see talent and be able to see how you think in film images. The highest possible image resolution is just as unimportant as the film format. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you shoot in landscape or portrait format.
If you have what it takes and you are willing to work hard on yourself and your knowledge, you will get the best cameras in the world from a production company anyway.
DHow do I make sound recordings during a video production?
Regardless of the genre in which you will be creating the video production, the sound plays a major role. It is responsible for 60% of the film’s impact, but only accounts for a fraction of all film costs. So you simply cannot afford not to worry about the good sound of your video. It’s also not true that digital filters later in the editing process correct and save defective sound recordings.
A bad sound track can ruin everything in video production. Or to the silent movie. If you can only smear music over your recordings instead of original sound.
Your most important decision for audio recording
As a filmmaker, there are two things you decide on when you choose your equipment for video production. One of these decisions must not be such a decision at all.
There is little room for manoeuvre when it comes to whether you need an external microphone. You will definitely need one! Your only decision is whether you want to record the sound in the camera or on a separate (external) device.
Video cameras do not sell because of high quality microphones, but because of the increasingly extreme image resolution. Pixel number and chip size can be successfully marketed, unlike the beige vegetables used for sound recording. The microphones built into the cameras, on the other hand, usually lead a wallflower existence. Here you have both options. As long as the camera (or the smartphone) is not older than 2 to 3 years, you can decide with a clear conscience against an external audio recorder. If you shoot with a smartphone, such as an iPhone, you can use an external microphone for professional sound recordings.
So you’re still spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the perfect microphone.
For the beginner, perfection is not top performance in just one discipline. It is a microphone that is suitable for different applications. Which microphone is ideal depends on the situation.
Most of the time you end up with a cardioid microphone like the Røde VideoMicro. The name comes from the fact that the area of the room around the cardioid microphone where the sound is picked up is shaped like a human cardioid (a combination of a horizontal figure of eight and a circle). This makes the “kidney” ideal for reportage, voice recording and speech recording. The directional microphone has the opposite characteristic. It does not have a round microphone head, but resembles a long rod. The directional microphone radically isolates ambient noise and only records the narrowly limited area to which it is directed. In an ideal world, of course, you have more than one microphone available.
For video testimonials and video interviews there is a special lapel microphone (in technical terms: lavalier microphone). These small microphones can be plugged directly into the collar or blouse of the interviewee and can be easily hidden. They transmit their signal via cable or radio. Lavalier microphones only pick up the sound in their direct vicinity. For a documentary film with interviews, there is therefore no way around the purchase of a lapel microphone and a cardioid microphone.
Often the microphone is mounted on an extended rod called a boom. Held above the camera’s field of view, it records the sound from above. Holding the boom requires much experience and practice. If the microphone sinks into the picture area, the scene has to be repeated. If nobody notices this, you may have to do without this scene in the editing.
A wind screen is indispensable for shooting in the open air. The wind screen prevents annoying wind noises that sabotage every sound recording.
On the film set, if your camera allows it, you always let both the camera-internal and the external microphone run along for safety’s sake. You control the sound recording via headphones, even before the camera is running. This way you can locate and eliminate sources of interference at an early stage. Even during the recording, the headphones remain on, at least on one ear, to check the sound quality.
Always remember one of the most important rules of sound recording for sound engineers on the professional film set: if you can halve the distance between the sound source and the microphone, the sound will sound four times better! The quality increases by the square of the distance reduction. (so-called M2 rule). That’s why, unlike with a camera, you always want to get as close as possible to your actors with the microphone. The good sound quality and the audience will thank you.
EWhat do I have to consider during shooting?
Shooting is always teamwork. Unless you are planning a documentary in a godforsaken wasteland and want to travel there alone, you need a film crew and actors for the video. You have to find both first. For actors and extras, you will organize a casting.
The stronger the team pulls together, the easier the video production will be and the better the video will be. Therefore you have to do two things.
First, you have to plan and prepare the shoot as far as it makes sense and is possible.
Second, you have to explain to everyone involved what they have to do on the film set. Thirdly, you have to be able to communicate your vision, because only then can everyone involved think along with you and make the best possible film together.
For whatever purpose you want to make a video production, chaos and confusion keep you from concentrating on what is happening in front of the camera. Conversely, your plans should not make spontaneous creative ideas that improve the implementation impossible.
Perfect planning behaves like the crash barrier of a motorway. It prevents you from overshooting the bend, but leaves you free to choose how you want to take the bend. Stress on the film set is a sign of uncertainty or lack of planning.
Tried and tested in pre-production and for video production:
|Production plan||Overview map, which contains all important dates and milestones for the film. It shows all important steps of the video production|
|shooting schedule||The shooting schedule gives an overview of all shooting days. It clarifies which scene is shot at which time. Because it allows you to see all important points (location, interior and exterior shooting, required presence of which roles / actors) at a glance, it also serves to optimize the shooting. The shooting schedule is the most important planning instrument for changes in schedule during the shoot.|
|Daily schedule (Call Sheet)||The daily schedule (daily disposition, call sheet) shows the shooting day in all details. It determines how much time is available for shooting a scene and how many scenes are shot per day. At the same time, it lists all details related to the shooting, such as breaks, lunch, parking spaces, the forecast of the weather and telephone numbers of the persons responsible for the shooting and the locations.|
|Shotlist||Unlike shooting schedules and callsheets, the so-called shotlist often remains in the hands of the director, assistant director, production manager and cameraman and is not distributed to the entire crew. This list is nothing more than a listing of all shots per scene. Professional films distinguish between A-Shot, B-Shot and C-Shot. Settings of category A are mandatory for film understanding, B is desirable and C is optional. This makes it clear on the set which shots are cancelled without discussion in case of delays in order to stay on schedule.|
|Storyboard||The storyboard is nothing more than a visualized shotlist. Like this it is a planning tool. As a tool for creation and organisation, comprehensibility is sufficient. A storyboard does not have to have the quality of a comic strip (which also follows other rules of the game)|
|List of props||Where a fictional story is told, props are needed. Who organizes (and returns) them how and where regulates the props list|
|Transport list||Film equipment, film crew and actors have to get to the filming locations somewhere and from there safely back home after the shooting is over. The transport list plans all transports necessary for the video production.|
|Declarations of consent||Whenever there is a person in the picture, you need a consent form. Not only if you are allowed to realize a video production on behalf of a client. For extras, short appearances or when shooting on the street (Attention: permission required) this declaration is obtained directly on location. The necessary form is the declaration of consent.|
Professional software solutions exist for the creation of shot list, shooting schedule and call sheet. Often these programs even create their own suggestions for the shooting sequence. Nevertheless, most professional productions outside of Hollywood still rely on Word and Excel. Therefore, even if you are not doing the video production just for yourself, you will still be able to handle it.
More info: Checklists for Film & Video
FWhich software for image editing?
In the video editing your video gets its shape. In film editing you decide what remains in the film. In video editing, you set the rhythm and tempo, determine the final sequence of scenes, define the type of transitions and the length of the film.
The cut is the moment of truth. Only now does it become apparent what script, directing talent and vision are good for. All sins from each of the previous phases of video production now fall on you.
Nowhere are you as a filmmaker so mercilessly thrown back on yourself as in montage. You don’t need any additional stress to edit video.
That’s why the perfect editing program must first and foremost simply function as an extension of your brain and hand. It should be intuitive to use and reliable. Frame-accurate editing and more than just a video and audio track is mandatory.
Free programs for image editing
You can entrust your video recordings to a free program. But because Adobe gives you access to professional editing software for one month for the price of a pizza, you, as a smart person, will exchange this pizza for image and sound editing free of trouble. Instead of a free drink you get professional support and endless possibilities of digital image and sound editing.
You’ll never get closer, faster or easier to Hollywood than when you edit with Premiere. It’s only in editing that you play with the same tools in the same class as a professional film production, assuming you have the necessary talent.
|The 9 best programs for video editing|
|Adobe Premiere Pro CC||Adobe Premiere Pro CC provides everything you need to edit a video. The interface is easy to understand and, with a little practice, easy to use. If you have some experience with Photoshop, you’ll be up and running in no time. You’ll also find endless tutorial videos on YouTube on every topic you can think of. Only the rendering of effects can take a little longer (longer than in Final Cut Pro). | Target price: 15 € per month|
|Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X10||Corel offers almost too many possibilities with VideoStudio Ultimate X10. 360-degree videos can be edited here as well as 4K Ultra HD. Motion tracking and the creation of HTML5 video pages are also mastered by the software. Unfortunately a search mask for the countless effects is missing. | Target price: about 60 € (one-time payment)|
|CyberLink PowerDirector||When it comes to rendering speed, no other software can beat PowerDirector. 3D and 4K are included. The program also shines with additional tools for processing shots from action cams and for motion tracking. The user interface struggles a bit with clarity when using too many applications at the same time. | Target price: approx. 45 € (one-time payment)|
|Pinacle Studio Ultimate||Pinacle Studio Ultimate is not intended for professional users. The software package allows editing of virtual reality videos in 360 degrees, 3D and Multicam, together with proven audio tools for sound editing. At 4K, the program quickly reaches its limits. Multicam and Motion Tracking are not mastered by the software. | Target price: approx. 65 € (one-off payment)|
|Magix Movie Edit Pro Premium||Movie Edit Pro Premium is a complete package for filmmakers and digital film production. It includes everything from the integration of storyboards to 4K, 360 videos and Multicam. Speed and ease of use suffer from this. An import function is also missing. | Target price: approx. 79 € (one-time payment)|
|Wondershare Filmora||Wondershare Filmora does not want to be more than it is: a video editing software. The user interface is easy to grasp. The program offers rich effects, but does without virtual reality and 4K. The price includes 24/support. | Target price: about 40 € (one-time payment)|
|Adobe Premiere Elements||As the little brother of the Pro version, Adobe Premiere Elements still has a myriad of effects to offer. 4K, Multicam and VR videos are not supported by the software, but the almost same number of tools for video and sound editing as the Pro version. | Target price: about 80 € (one-time payment)|
|Apple Final Cut Pro X||The latest version of Apple Final Cut Pro X is designed for professionals and film enthusiasts alike. Compared to previous versions, version 10.4. is much easier to use. It is incomprehensible that older Final Cut projects cannot be imported (a third-party plugin is now available for this purpose). Unfortunately, an additional app for image compression is also needed to set the export settings for videos.|
|Apple iMovie (Mac OS X)||Apple iMovie is an entry-level software for video editing. It now processes videos and photos in 4K. The user interface is tidy and the color adjustment options and the chroma key tool are impressive. 3D, Multicam, Tracking and many of the standard tools found in other programs have been sacrificed for ease of use. | target price: free of charge|
More on this: Video editing. You can find free programs for video editing in the article Editing Video: Top 6 free programs in the pro test.
GHow do I create a sound mix for my video production?
Almost without exception, all common editing programs also offer the possibility of sound mixing. This makes double sense. First, you save the price of a professional software like ProTools. Secondly, you don’t have to deal with problems of synchronicity of sound and image. Your audio track runs parallel to the image from the beginning and stays that way. When combining different platforms and using software from different program families, this is much less self-evident than you might think.
Several separate sound tracks are desirable. For example, you can fade music and dialogue or lay them together over a scene. But always remember that in sound mixing less is more. As in storytelling, the highest, absolute maxim is comprehensibility. No viewer stops your video to listen to incomprehensible dialogue again. Multiple overlapping frequencies with music, sound design and dialogue result in a mess on the audio track.
This is also part of video production:
Listen to your mixture with your eyes closed. Repeat this experiment with a person who has never seen the film before (she also listens to the film with her eyes closed). To do this, choose a playback device with really lousy speakers.
Professionals know: with high-tech boxes in a professional recording studio, even a bad mix sounds bombastic. The moment of truth strikes for the sound engineer when playing back outside the professional infrastructure. Only when you’re sure that your audio track is convincing even on an old iPad or on a 2008 Macbook Air, can you sleep soundly. Because your audience will hopefully want to do exactly that: watch (and listen to) your film on all possible and impossible playback devices!
Read more about it: Audio
HWhere do I put my videos online?
Dumb questions, dumb answers? Reflexively you will say: YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo! But that’s only half the truth. Top dog YouTube crossed the 5 billion video upload barrier in 2016. Every single minute adds another 300 hours (!) of new video material. So your video, created with a lot of effort, has to be found first.
Regardless of which title and which tags (keywords) you choose for the video, you are never the only person who has chosen these words. The better your keywords are from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view, the more videos you can attract the attention of your audience.
YouTube has decided to reward success with success. In figures: 1 billion views are generated by just 10,000 videos. The chance that your video will go off like a rocket from Elon Musk is thus mathematically 0.0002 percent.
That’s why you need a distribution and marketing strategy for your video production. So that we understand each other: YouTube is an ingenious platform because it plays videos effortlessly and free of charge for every device on the globe. To make sure that the video is found and clicked, you build your own little advertising campaign. Here the circle closes with the video creation back to the script. Because even then you (hopefully) found out why your film idea has to be born as a film.
Not only where, but also why
This “why” is the core of the marketing strategy. It determines how the film poster looks like, which photos, film scenes are used as advertising clips or trailers and whether you only use digital media (social media) or also street marketing, PR gags and events.
You have only one goal: you want more and more people to link and share your video. This increases the ranking of the video in the internet search. In the best case you even trigger an upward spiral.
People like to watch when other people have to fight to reach their goal. You learned that when you were writing your screenplay. Use this knowledge for your movie commercials. Instagram, Snapchat wait for regular updates on your project.
Because you want to reach as many people as possible, you also use Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you even build a landing page especially for the video. Because you don’t do all of this overnight, you start with the very beginning of your shooting preparations. Publishing a making-of parallel to the completion of the video doesn’t work.
A video production does not mean to leave your comfort zone for headlines, nor to falsify the truth! Both can close the doors to the professional film business forever.
More on this: Video channels
Source figures: FortuneLords.com, YouTube Statistics 2018
★Pedal mines await you here at the video production!
Suddenly everything blows up in your face! The leading actress in your debut feature threatens to clash with you when the short film is released! Someone on the crew got hurt on location, and now you’re gonna pay! A police patrol interrupts the shooting because the necessary permits and papers are missing. Your shots were ingeniously unique, but unfortunately you lost them during the data transfer to the hard drive. All this can happen, but it doesn’t have to.
If there are no surprises, there can be two reasons: Either you’ve been lucky. Or you have thought ahead and around the corner and made sure that you don’t get into trouble.
|Checklist for avoiding the most common anti-personnel mines|
|Story||Can you tell your story in a way that will inspire them?|
|Budget||Are you sure that your film budget is accurate and your budget is sufficient for your project?|
|Film-Equipment||Does the film equipment work? If rented/borrowed: Costs and insurance cover (incl. theft!) regulated?|
|People in front of the camera||Have you arranged compensation, assignment of rights and insurance cover?|
|People behind the camera||How did you arrange compensation, rights to the work (if available, e.g. screenwriter) and insurance cover (at your own risk?)?|
|Locations||Is the period of use, compensation and insurance cover clearly agreed? In case of shooting on public grounds: have the necessary permits been obtained?|
|Props and costumes||If you use costumes in the private property of performers: Which party bears cleaning costs or risk of damage (owner or production/director). If you use branded products in your film: Have you respected the trademark rights?|
|Crew||Is it clear to everyone involved in the video production what their function is on your film set / production. Is it regulated who may give instructions?|
|Data Backup||Is it guaranteed that the filmed material is not only saved on a storage medium? Who is responsible for this?|
|Postproduction||Can the image editing program process the images (keyword: video format) and do you have enough memory and power on your computer for the selected resolution?|
|Music||Music compositions are protected by copyright. Simply dragging a song under your own video is prohibited and is a copyright infringement. When using music, GEMA is legally obliged to collect a compensation (exception: your music production is an original composition. Or you use royalty-free music).|
|Festivals||Attention: Film festivals transfer their liability for the violation of third party rights by showing a video at the festival to the submitter.|
|Credits||Is it agreed in advance who is named where and how in the opening or closing credits of the film?|
|Showreel||Which of the parties involved may use the film for their own purposes? With indication of which function?|
|Budget||What happens if, in the end, not only a video but also debts are incurred due to additional expenses? Who carries these?|
|Profit||If your video generates income against all expectations or the post-calculation shows that you spent less money than expected – who owns it? All parties involved in the video production? Just the director?|
As in life, the same applies to making videos: clear agreements, good friends.
The production of a film is always also risk management. Because in the heat of the moment something is said quickly that cannot be proven later in the heat of the moment, agreements must always be recorded in writing and reconfirmed.
That’s office work and that’s hardly the reason why you make videos. But it can be a reason for you to be successful with videos.
Read more: Tell the Inside