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Video Production ProcessLibrarians learn that research is a process -- following a series of steps to achieve a goal keeps us moving forward and gives us a track to run on. Video production can be frustrating if one begins shooting video without a clear idea of what they want to achieve, what available equipment and technology will produce, what the essential content is, and what the final product should look like.

Step 1: Planning

This needs to be no more involved than necessary to document a plan and communicate with all collaborators and stakeholders. Start planning by:

  1. Reflecting on what has worked in PREVIOUS projects. Plan for success by planning around what works. Think about what has not worked too, find ways to plan to avoid problems.
  2. Begin plan by thinking about audio (remember, radio with pictures!). How will you get clear, clean audio with what you have access to.
  3. Think about lighting. In most cases, supplemental lighting is not an option. Be sure plan takes advantage of appropriate and available lighting.
    • Avoid “backlit” scenes.  Do not shoot with windows and bright light sources directly behind your subject
    • Use natural light when possible. Be aware of the types of artificial lights present. Sometimes cameras will need to be adjusted to accommodated differences between what we see and what a camera sees. Some lights (i.e. halogen or LED) may create a flicker.
    • Let experience be your guide.  Keep track of places that have worked for previous productions where lighting has been adequate.
    • Use reflectors to bounce available light back onto your subject. (Tip: Carry white “gator board” and hold if off-camera, reflecting light back onto faces or other subjects, providing highlights)

Think about what worksThink of planning as creating a track to run on. The process is valuable in-and-of itself. More importantly, it more-fully ensures success because we have thought out what we are going to achieve, how we are going to achieve it, and we have identified potential problems while proactively identifying ways to avoid or solve them.

  1. Do not expect people to be able to fully-articulate their “vision” for a video. Most of us have little or no experience sharing ideas for videos/multimedia. It is difficult to describe in words the visual impact we want to create and the style through which we will achieve this.
  2. Scripts are not necessary; however, this writer rarely produces anything without scripting dialog.
  3. A written outline can work, it can be short and need only be as detailed as the situation demands.
  4. Those more artistically-inclined can create storyboards (Note: Popular software like MS Word has an enriched clip-art gallery. Many storyboards could be created with clip-art).

The process of planning should include how the video will be produced and edited. Time spent here saves you time everywhere else.

Step 2: Production

The Production ProcessNothing is worse than being responsible for producing multimedia and suddenly realizing that the project cannot be adequately captured with the technology at hand! All planning needs to be done based on prior experience in production. Always note any production problems, issues, and glitches that they can be avoided in future planning.

Keep 3 things in mind during production:

  1. Video is “radio with pictures”. It is not possible to meet our standard “fit for purpose” if the audio is inadequate. Unless you have experience in post-production fixing a problem that occurs at a given “shoot”, DO NOT assume you can “fix it in post.” (Hint: With quality video-editing software, it is actually not that difficult to redo video, even lip-syncing it to previously shot footage. The biggest challenge will be to make studio-produced audio sound like audio shot in the field).
  2. The camera sees EVERYTHING, even when we are not paying attention. Experienced camera operators learn that framing their shots and keeping action in the “hot spot” is not enough. Pay attention to what is happening around the action of prime interest, especially when working with HD.
  3. Professional video/multimedia is done with A/B roll. This is what makes editing possible and allows a story to “move” and maintain visual interest.
    • The primary video, called "A-roll," defines most of the story and lets the audience get to know the characters.
    • Secondary video, called "B-roll," and includes all types of footage that you put over the “A-Roll” or used as “cut-aways” between A-clips. A-roll video may tell the story, but B-roll video defines the quality of a presentation, giving shape and dimension to the story.

When working with one camera, always think in terms of A and B roll, shooting the different types of video with one camera (Hint: If done carefully, this process actually saves considerable time, provides opportunity to “re-shoot” segments of a video as needed, and creates a framework to make post-production easier).

Let your plan guide your production. Let your production experience guide your plan. Working most-effectively with available technology means understanding what “works” and what does not. Big plans cannot be effective implemented unless they can be put in place. Save yourself a TON of time – learn what you have to work with, what it can do, and how you can use it while always keeping an open mind to new ideas.

For example, flipcams are popular in some circles, however, inherently have limited ability to capture narration. “Nose shots” work well (in terms of capturing images and audio). Other types of shots may work visually, but may fail to adequately capture audio, especially if an extended dialog is important. The “nose shot” can be the “A” roll and it will work if there is lots of good “B” roll (Hint: Still pictures also work great for “B” roll. As you watch TV, pay careful attention. Graphics, called CGs, are a major part of video production. If you like to work with PhotoShop, you will LOVE video editing).

Step 3: Post Production

This is where it all comes together. If steps one and two go well, “post” will be a dream. When getting started, accept that there are limitation to what can be “fixed” in post – professionals will go to great extremes in “post” to maintain quality. Remember this: It is always easier to capture to something properly in “production” than it is to fix in “post”. Know when to “fish and cut bait”.

Experienced professionals learn how to use a variety to digital tools to enhance video and audio; however, it can take more time to learn these techniques than it takes to capture audio/video right in the first place.

Windows Movie Maker and other “freeware” software is probably not going to meet experienced video producers objectives. If these programs meet your needs – use what them. Eventually, video producers will see limitations to low-end consumer grade “freeware”. Being able to work with multi-tracks, equalization, audio compression/limiting, and a variety of digital effects/enhancements is necessary to produce higher-quality videos.

On a PC, consider Sony Vegas Movie Studio or Adobe’s Premier. On a Mac, try the Final Cut Express if you can still find it -- this product has been revised (Final Cut Pro-X) and is somewhat controversial now (Note: Many consider Apple’s Final Cut Pro to be the industry’s standard, however, Sony is a major player in all media markets and largely pioneered digital audio technology).

Two approaches to video editing:

  1. Capture large segments of video/audio onto computer and “edit out” all the parts that you don’t want to use. This is analogous to starting with a huge block of stone to create a sculpture. Michelangelo's David, you say? Easy – just remove all the stone that don’t look like Dave!
  2. Break video footage into small clips, capturing on your computer only what you will use in post-production (called “batch capture”). Once a series of small clips are captured, simply string along the clips providing transitions, effects, adjustments, and enhancements as needed. (Hint: Try this approach, which is fully consistent with our 1-2-3 concept.

Most will find that organizing a batch capture provides an important framework to help plan, organize and produce good media segments to edit together in “post”).
When learning software, keep in mind: We must walk before we run. Start with simple projects where, if planning and production go well, post production involves little more than identifying clips, doing a “batch capture”, and then stringing the clips along the timeline per your plan. The book talk script (Titanic/Magic Treehouse) example here would work perfectly.

Get started by learning how to equalize and compress audio to make it sound great. Experiment with effects (plug-ins) that enhance or clean up audio – get a feel for how these work when you get started so you are ready to learn/use them when the situation demands. Less-than-great video works well if the audio sounds good and easy-to-listen to,

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