If there’s something I used to hate as much as audio, it was pretty much planning ahead. For like, anything. Ever.

I was always the kind of student that would write my term papers the day before they were due.

I took my ACT in December before I graduated high school in May of ’08. I think I started applying to colleges in like, April.

For the biggest, scariest interview of my life that won me the coolest job I’d ever even heard of, I showed up in a tank top and flip flops because I misunderstood what was going on.

One of my primary life success skills is actually “flying by my ass.” And it got me by pretty well–

Until I started working with video.

MacGyver vs empty toilet paper

…and also got tired of this happening.

Like toilet paper, you can always see the results of bad planning in video production. (What..?) I’ve gotten lucky a few times but generally you just lose huge parts of your story or impact because you missed your subject talking about something important in an interview or something is so wrong with the light or color or sound that it’s distracting. I ruined one of the best video ideas I had as Young & Free Spokester because I didn’t thoroughly plan our story, I forgot to white balance, AND I neglected our light and sound situation.

I was still winging it with video at this point, but that’s where things turned. I quickly corrected my wayward ways when seeing something that I was so excited about  with such great on-screen personalities come to exist only because of digital life support:

Blake and Kevin (founders of reviewstl.com) totally carried this whole train wreck. I still have such love for Blake’s meltdown at the end, it just ALMOST redeems the production quality of the whole thing! I’m so glad that I have friends that are willing to let me conduct horrible, horrible experiments on them consisting of stitching together some severely tortured audio and wrapping it all in grotesque filters to try to compensate my lighting problems…

Oh god, it’s like the Human Centipede of video…

ANYway,  thus my point. You have to think ahead about your entire production experience in order for it to come together well.

Here’s what to think about as we dig a little deeper into our LASS:

The one part of your LASS that needs to be COMPLETED rather than just thought about and planned before you start your shoot is the Story.

  • What IS it? I mean this in detail. Not the simple fact that you NEED a story that we touched on your LASS (dirty!), like, the actual, meaty logistics of that story.
  • Write it out. It helps me to write it all out in words first, at the VERY least an outline, at the BEST a script, and the more complicated you get with your videos the more I stress that you need to also storyboard the shots you need/want to get.

NOW you need to figure out the people, places and things you need for this story.

  1. People: Who will be the subject(s), specifically? Do you need someone who can act out a part or do you want to interview someone about their experience with something? Will you have your friend Chad play the part of Billy the Surfer Dude or do you need to interview Betty in Accounting? You should probably text Chad and Betty then and let them know, then.
  2. Places: Where is this video going to be shot? Indoors or outdoors? What kind of Lighting considerations do you need to make to pull it off? Again, the more you can do outdoors on a slightly overcast day during daylight hours the better. Not only does lighting become more of a bitch indoors but there can be all kinds of hangups filming in buildings and such that aren’t yours or your company’s or something. Permissions, permits, releases…it can get sticky so be aware!
  3. Things: Is Chad going to be coming after Betty with an authentic Ottoman Scimitar? Or driving a 1995 Lotus Elise at 90 miles an hour down a Pacific highway? Or maybe just eating a delicious ice cream sandwich on a park bench? This may seem like a duh point but YOU WILL NEED THESE THINGS TO SHOOT THESE THINGS! If you just can’t get an Elise on such short notice you may just have to write in your 2002 Honda Civic. And then also make sure that you plan to have that damn Civic there that day. Nothing worse than getting all your crap together and trekking out to shoot something awesome, your mind just swimming through the details but somehow…you still manage to forget the main one…

I highly recommend writing all of this down. On a napkin, on your phone, tattooed on your friends’ back, summon your scribe to carve it into a tablet, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you catalog what’s going on and run through the list before you embark which becomes exponentially more important the more complicated your shoots become!

THEN FINALLY, after all of this planning and writing and brain hemorrhaging as you consider your goals and challenges, when blood trickles out of your left nostril ask yourself “now, what can I remove to simplify the process?”

Get used to killing your darlings. Sometimes mercilessly hacking your favorite parts or concepts to complete what you actually can in the constraints you actually have to achieve the story arc that’s actually best. Simplicity and efficiency are always super important because there are a lot of unpredictable and human elements that go into video production.

Here are a couple of other articles I liked that go a bit more in depth with this for higher level 0r corporate video production:

Video Pre-Production Planning Check-list – 11 Steps to a Successful Project
Video Production Checklist by Red Pine Studios

Okay, so: toilet paper, Human Centipede of video, touch your LASS, Chad has a scimitar, kill your darlings.

Got it? Good.

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For those about to [REC.], we salute you!