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BEGINNING THE JOURNEY

To call the production process a ‘journey’ may seem like an exaggeration, but be warned, making a quality video (even one that lasts 30 seconds) can be an immense undertaking.

There’s a very harsh reality in our profession: it’s easy to make rubbish that no one watches. (Or in more professional jargon: a video that isn’t ‘engaging.’) Fortunately we can guide you every step of the way, regardless of your familiarity and experience with video production, through every stage of your video.

What does ‘Full Service’ actually mean?

Alucinor provides full-service video production solutions for our clients. This means we can assist you with your project from the very beginning all the way to the very end. If you want to make a video but aren’t sure what it will look like (or where to begin) we can help. If you need us to come up with all of the content for your video, produce it completely, and release it to your desired audience, we can do it. Basically anything that you need for your video project, we can help.

(N.B: It’s worth pointing out that not all of our work is as labour intensive as what follows. Some of our jobs are much simpler than others, or may not require all the stages in the process. What follows below is a basic outline of our process on a larger-scale video project.)

Alucinor’s 7 Stage Video Production Process:

1) Video planning: developing strategies for solving problems.

Every time a client comes to us wanting a video it’s essentially because they have a problem that needs solving, and they see video as part of that solution. Video is a highly cost-effective communication solution when used properly. Need to train staff in a very specific and particular way? A well-made training video can solve that problem. Need to communicate a certain message to a specific area of the public? Advertising and/or online video resources may be the solution. Every video project is an opportunity to solve a problem for a business, brand, or group; and this is usually only possible if the video itself has a clear purpose.

A video without a clear purpose rarely achieves it.

The best way to begin a project is to be clear on what the purpose of the video is – i.e. what problem is it trying to solve? The most efficient way to do this is to identify and agree upon all of the important details in a Video Brief. In this brief we outline the most important things such as the purpose, timeframe, budget, format/platform, duration, and audience. This allows us to set key objectives (that are later used to evaluate the success of the project) and start off on the right track.

Also highly beneficial at this stage is to begin planning the Release Strategy. Your Release Strategy has two main considerations: Distribution and Promotion.

Distribution requires thinking about and planning exactly how you will get your video in front of your audience. This can involve elements such as copying DVDs, video uploads, advertising approvals & dispatch to networks, or even planning events where the video content will be used. Usually, if your strategy is just ‘uploading the video to a website,’ then there is a great deal of work that lies ahead – especially in terms of Promotion.

Promotion is about getting your audience interested in your video, and actively seeking it out or sharing it. In a cluttered communication landscape (particularly online) this is never as easy as one hopes or imagines.

Often the Release Strategy is the difference between a video that achieves its purpose and one that doesn’t (regardless of its quality). Therefore it’s vital to be planning the Release Strategy at the beginning at the process, not at the end. Unfortunately in many cases the Release Strategy is an afterthought at the end of the production process. This is a bad idea. A video must be seen to be successful, and many aren’t.

2) Creative: developing ideas into potential solutions.

Once we have a clear understanding of what problem needs solving we start thinking about how we will use video to achieve this – specifically. What will it actually look like?

Great videos begin in life as great ideas. There’s a saying in theatre, ‘If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.’ Chances are your video will not solve the problem it’s supposed to if there is not a strong idea behind it. Why? Because it has too much noise (or ‘clutter’) to compete with. In the Information Age clutter abounds, and that clutter is your first (and often most significant) obstacle to communicating with your target audience.

The first step is to come up with some basic ideas and build them into a workable concept. Time spent on Concept Development is often the difference between ambitious, pie-in-the-sky ideas that never quite come to fruition, and videos with a strong idea behind them that actually work on screen. As video professionals, it’s our job to know the difference.

There is a very real, and sometimes painful, difference between what looks good in your
head and what actually works on camera. Many have to learn this the hard way.

Once we have a strong idea that’s been fleshed out into a workable and realistic concept, we then have to get it down on paper. Scriptwriting is one of those things that anyone can claim to do, but few can actually do well. Like many of the elements of filmmaking, scriptwriting is a craft – and one we take seriously.

Generally the scriptwriting process begins with a brief Synopsis (which is a simple statement capturing the main essence of what the video is about). This Synopsis is fleshed out in more detail in the form of a Treatment that details further how the ‘narrative’ will unfold. The Treatment is then put into greater specificity in the form of a Narrative Outline (often very useful for potentially ambiguous documentary-style narratives) and then, in some cases, finally takes the form of a drafted script (especially for drama-style narratives).

Once we know what we are actually shooting, then we need to make sure we prepare for the film shoot itself.

3) Pre-production: properly preparing for the shoot.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Amen. Shoots are the trickiest (and most expensive) part of any project. The reason for this is simple: on any shoot there is a significant number of factors that can either make or break the entire project. It really pays to be prepared.

Pre-production planning refers to the ‘logistics planning’ for the actual shoot(s). This can mean anything from scheduling, casting, rehearsals, location scouting, set design, props, costumes, makeup, block-testing, etc.

As always, The Devil is in the details.

Leaving too much to chance on a shoot can be very risky. Pre-production planning allows us an opportunity to go through the logistical details of the shoot and minimise chances of stuff-ups (which unfortunately, due to the complexity of shoots, are always a threat) and maximise our chances of getting great footage.

Pre-production is the unsung hero in the production process, but unfortunately it is vastly underrated and therefore undervalued. This is a serious mistake. The difference between a brilliant video and a mediocre, or even poor, one can be time and effort placed into pre-production – which for clients means budgets. It can be difficult to justify on paper, but it’s important to remember that time invested here often results in more cost-efficient shoots, and more cost-efficient post-production. Without thorough preparation there is a tendency to over-shoot, which makes editing take longer (costing more) because we don’t have a clear idea of what we’re working towards. We’ve been fortunate to have had some wise clients that have understood this.

4) Production: Lights, camera, action!

The production (or shoot) is about getting great footage and getting the necessary coverage. Great footage is what we want, coverage is what we need. The quality of footage is often the difference between an engaging video and one that’s mediocre (or worse). But getting great footage isn’t easy.

Getting great footage doesn’t just happen.

On any shoot there is a barrage of decisions to make. Which spot is best to film? How should the lights be set up? What’s the best way to frame this shot? (Will it work well with the other shots in post-production?) Is the exposure ok? What’s the appropriate depth-of-field to use? Are we using the best lens for this shot? Should we better arrange the set design? Do we need to worry about audio interferences? How should I best direct the talent to get their best performance (and not shut them down)? Do we have enough takes? When should we finish at this location and move onto the next? And on and on it goes, ad infinitum.

Film shoots are by far the trickiest, costliest, and craziest part of any project. There is never enough time (and just like everything in life) things rarely go perfectly to plan. Pre-production sets you up for an efficient and productive shoot, rather than a chaotic, scramble on set where quite a bit is left to chance.

The success of any shoot will depend on the competencies of the cast and crew, and the degree of preparation. At Alucinor we pride ourselves on pushing for the best possible footage we can capture within the constraints of any project. It’s a vital part of continuously developing ourselves as filmmakers and, most importantly, delivering value to our clients. It’s what we call, the Alucinor Edge.

5) Post-production: putting your video together, with polish.

Post-production (or ‘post’) is where everything really starts coming together. The first part of post is locking in the edit. This involves putting together the most coherent and compelling sequence of footage obtained (mostly) from the shoot. Usually we put together a draft sequence for our clients to look at and critique and from there we can make necessary changes as needed.

Once the edit is locked in, we can begin polishing the final video through working on the Colour Grade, adding in any basic Special Effects, as well as polishing the final Sound Mix (which may include music and voice-over).

Post isn’t just mechanically assembling the final video,
it’s a chance to apply some final finesse.

Post is the final stage that we have a chance to add some polish to the final production, and one that can make a significant difference enhancing the quality of any video. Post is a stage that we take pride in pushing videos to a higher level of quality, but each different part of post is its own unique craft with its own field of expertise (e.g. colour correction, colour grading, special effects, sound effects, sound mixing, etc.). We don’t claim to be master experts in any of these domains, we cannot compete with specialists whose sole focus is one domain of expertise. What we do claim is that we can offer these services at a high level of quality and part of the full-services package.

Success in post-production is largely at the mercy of the shoot, which is at the mercy of pre-production (and, all of which, depend on the strength of the creative). Each of these steps is highly interdependent for the final quality of your video, and also the success of your video to achieve its purpose (and solve its problem – see Stage 1).

6) Release: getting your video in front of the right people.

How you release your video matters. If you make an amazing video and no one sees it, was there any point in making it at all? This is the basic marketing problem.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant your video is,
if it is to achieve its purpose
it must actually be seen by the right people.

Realistically, you need to be planning your release Strategy from the very beginning. As mentioned in Stage 1, you need to be planning your release strategy from the start of your project specifically regarding the issues of Distribution and Promotion.

Alucinor is able to assist in developing a Release Strategy with our clients in order to give each video the maximum chance of achieving its purpose. Our experience has taught us that it’s important to be realistic about how it will get in front of people (and how much clutter it has to contend with).

If you have properly planned for this stage from the beginning of your project, then not only have you given your video the best chance to achieve its purpose, you’ve also made things easier on yourself. Adjusting plans as necessary during implementation is always much easier (not-to-mention less stressful) than throwing something together from scratch at the last minute. At the end of the day, you want your video to be effective.

7) Evaluation: measuring the success of the project, and reflecting on the process.

It’s easy to underestimate the value of spending time evaluating the success of a project. But if a video has a definitive purpose, then it’s worth knowing if it has succeeded. This is where we come back to the original brief and see how we did. Did it meet specific objectives? Did it surpass them? What’s been the consistent feedback? Overall, did it achieve its purpose?

We have always found it vital to make time for evaluation and reflection. Ultimately no project we do is ever perfect, there is always something that can be improved. It could be the script, it could be a certain shot or take, it could be part of the release strategy, it could be anything. We are always trying to learn from every video we make so that we can do even better the next time. It’s what keeps our clients coming back to us.

Ongoing reflection is what fuels the Alucinor Edge.

One of the most satisfying parts of our job is when our clients express how genuinely happy they are with the final product and how it’s been received. Fortunately we’ve had some wonderful clients who’ve been terrific to work with, and have spoken on camera about their experiences working with us. Visit our Testimonials page to see the full selection of client feedback videos.

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