We have a process. It works.
80% of the work that goes into making a film happens not on the day(s) of the shoot, but in the days and weeks leading up to the shoot and the post-production process that follows. These additional processes are usually somewhat hidden to the client and viewer, so this page is our attempt to summarize the process that we go through with client work.
If you approach us about making a film for you, then it’s possible that you may already have certain story elements in mind. It’s also possible that you don’t quite know what you want. Either way, engaging with our process usually means that we’ll walk away from our initial meeting with ideas already flowing and a clear direction.
So… what does this process look like?
This stage of production is where all of the planning happens. Make no mistake about it… showing up to a shoot without a plan can sometimes result in a pretty good video. When that happens, it’s a lucky accident. With a plan, however, success is more assured. The editorial process should be about assembling carefully crafted pieces. It does not need to be a situation where you are crossing your fingers hoping to cover up mistakes and oversights made in other stages of production. There’s a saying about polishing a turd that comes to mind…
Pre-production includes all communications between us and a client that happens prior to a shoot. It also includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Defining objectives
- Hiring crew
- Story developing
- Crafting pitches
- Script and copy writing
- Securing permissions
We discuss budget as early in the process as possible. We are often asked “What does a 30 second spot cost?” The answer to that question is “$0, or $5 Million, but probably somewhere in-between.” There are many factors that determine the cost of a production. There are endless hours of labor that go unseen and then of course many that are seen, and then props, actors, locations, rental equipment, and other things that can influence a budget. At the end of the day, defining your budget range will help us create pitches for ideas that you can afford instead of wasting our time and yours by overshooting the mark. Knowing your budget range allows us to confidently produce a film at or under your budget. If we can’t produce the film you want for your budget, then we’ll let you know. We’ll go back to the drawing board or recommend getting quotes from other companies. We offer a premium product at an affordable price, but we can’t please everyone and we also have standards that we refuse to lower, so we aren’t always the right fit. We’ll be honest up-front when that seems to be the case. No hard feelings.
Usually, we’ll leave our first meeting having found the answers to these questions:
- What is your story?
- Who are the stake-holders in the project?
- Who are the people that need to sign off on ideas/edits?
- Who is in charge of the budget?
- What is your budget range?
- What are the deliverables desired?
- What is your wish-list for the production?
- Who is creating the main concept/script?
In addition, we’ll give ourselves a deadline to get back to you with our pitch and add a date to the calendar for us to have a follow-up meeting or call about how to go forward with the project.
This stage of production has the most visibility. It’s where we commit our ideas to video and enjoy watching our plan come together.
The decisions regarding production usually rest on our shoulders, but all of the decisions are guided by the plan and understanding that is created during our collaboration with the client in pre-production. Here is some of the work that goes into production:
- Camera selection as well as the number of cameras used
- How to move cameras around (dollies, gimbals, static shots, drone, etc)
- Lens selections (focal lengths, filtration, and optical characteristics)
- Lighting package
- Grip package (used to shape light)
- Crew (sound recordists, camera assistants, grips, gaffers, etc)
- Directing on-screen talent
- Securing location and talent release forms
- Crafty (industry term for snacks/drinks made available on set)
On the day of a shoot, the crew will arrive early (how early depends on the scene and lighting plan) to set up. The size of our crew depends entirely on the scale of the production. We often find ourselves working as a two-man crew. If appropriate, we can facilitate a much larger production where we act as department heads and pass on instruction to crews beneath us. Most commonly, we hire camera operators or assistants, general production assistants, and sound recordists. Regardless of the positions that need filled, we have a network of talented and hard-working contractors that we trust to do these jobs.
Regarding equipment, we generally have all of the equipment needed to execute basic productions. We own cinema camera kits (some of the best in the state), lenses, lighting kits, grip equipment, etc. That said, we frequently find ourselves faced with new challenges and ideas that require specialty equipment that we don’t have. In these instances we first turn to our peers in WV who might have the equipment we need, otherwise we routinely rent equipment from Tennessee. Either way, the cost of rentals is calculated into our budget because the equipment rental list and crew hire list is determined in pre-production once we have solidified the style and concept of the project.
This is where the editing happens. But that’s not all that happens! Here’s a look into the stages of our “post” process:
- Scheduling of editing/revision deadlines for both us and client
- Backup of raw footage onto multiple drives
- Prep and assembly edit (confirming that we have the shots we need)
- Preliminary titles/graphics
- Music selection
- First cut (for client review on our cloud platform)
- Client review/notes
- Second cut (working on any notes given by client)
- Licensing of music tracks
- Third cut (or more revisions if necessary)
- Final tweaks to titles/graphics
- Locking the final cut
- Audio mixing and "sweetening"
- Transcribing dialogue for closed captioning or subtitles
- Color correction and color grading
- Transcoding into final delivery specifications
- Uploading and delivery to client
- Archiving project and camera raw files for future retrieval
As you can see, the post-production process is often oversimplified when it is referred to as “video editing.” There are many stages of work. We go through nearly all of these stages for every video and film we produce.
Later in the year, we’ll do a writeup specifically on the color correction and color grading process because it tends to be one of the biggest unknowns to our clients. Hopefully, laying out our workflow will help create better expectations about what is coming next.
Lastly, we’d like to point out the importance of the final step: archiving. Sadly, creating backups and making footage 100% secure is often an afterthought. I think we all know someone who has lost years of family memories when their computer or hard drive containing countless photos and videos decided to die. It happens. Hard drives are not very reliable. Years of research (this is a literal statement) led to a post-production workflow and archiving system that we are truly proud of, and we can state with confidence that we are ahead of the rest of the state in this area. Our clients invest their money into our work, and the idea of footage they paid for being lost due to a hard drive failure or accidental deletion is unacceptable. Once our projects are complete, we archive them using the same technologies used by major motion picture and television studios. We also have backups in two different physical locations. If our office burns down, your footage survives. If you ever need to return to a project for additional revisions, you can rest assured that we won’t have to go searching for your footage and we won’t have to apologize to you for deleting the footage or failing to get it backed up. We’re proud of our security.
This was not a nut-shell explination, but it’s still the most concise way we can tell the story of our workflow without overlooking major areas of what we do. Hopefully it sheds some light on our process and the oder of operations that exists in the video and film creation process. Keep in mind, too, that some projects require a few more or less steps than what is detailed here. With every new job we consider our process and determine if anything needs to change to fit the needs of that project. And it is this flexibility and our devotion to our active projects (we do not tend to have many projects happening at once for quality control purposes) that allows us to proudly proclaim that, to date, we’ve always been able to deliver videos that our clients are happy with. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t still evolving, though. We are committed to constant reevaluations of our practices and the goal of always making ourselves better however we can. Client feedback is vital for that, and every job we do helps us hone our skills that much more. So to our past, present, and future clients… thank you for helping make us into better filmmakers and businessmen.
Here’s to the next one!