This is not an article of complicated video hacks. Instead, we only included actionable tips and tricks for easy ways to save time and money on video production that can be implemented on a regular basis. Also, we only selected ideas that are relevant to online hosted video – e.g. not a cinematic production. As they say, time is money, so read on for 8 of the best tips for producing videos efficiently.
1. How to Set A Budget – and Stick to It
When carving out a chunk of your marketing budget, or simply trying to get a ballpark figure, think of what you are trying to achieve with video. If you want your video to be displayed prominently on your site to attract new customers or introduce your company, you will want to invest more in the production of this video than if you are looking to produce a weekly video to post to your blog. If you are looking to start posting product videos, like an increasing number of fashion companies, you will likely need to produce very similar videos on an ongoing basis in rather high volume, so elements like live video capture, good lighting, and a plain background are key, while you may not need to capture audio. Your needs will vary greatly depending on your desired outcome for the video.
Once you have a clear picture in mind of the goal for your project, consider your existing resources. Do you need to hire talent, like a spokesperson or a model? Do you have any friends or someone inside your company willing to help, or know a local theater company who might have some connections? What about equipment – do you already own it, or do you need to make a purchase, or rent it? Outline your needs for every aspect of your production, including the camera, audio, lighting, editing software, talent, location, transportation, film crew, props, make-up, and any permits you may need. Be exhaustive – you do not want surprise expenses if you can avoid them.
Next, do your research and get quotes from any third party providers you may need. There will likely be a range of prices quoted for any single item on the list, and you can allocate budget according to the importance of the item. Be prepared to compromise, but going through the budget process diligently can pay dividends in the future. If you need a deeper dive, here is an in-depth guide to budgeting for your video production.
2. Plan Your Shots in a Logical Order
You can gain a lot of efficiency if you plan your shots carefully. If there are several scenes taking place in the same location, save travel and set up time by taking care of all of them in one day, if possible. It could also be that your location might not change, but certain shots entail specific lighting, costumes, or make-up, so you will save time between shots if you move through the scenes based on the look or lighting required in the shot. It will also be better for the editing process afterwards, because your footage will be more consistent from scene to scene. You can even go so far as creating what is known as a “shot list,” which is not a bar menu, but rather a chronological and detailed list of all the shots you will be doing on a given day or at a specific location. A similar way of planning your shots is storyboarding, which we covered in an earlier blog post.
3. Choose Your Location Wisely
You do not necessarily need a studio, rented space, or expensive permit. There are plenty of free options available that you can make use of for your video. Public parks, libraries (you will likely need to ask permission), or just somewhere in your neighborhood can make an interesting backdrop for your shots. If you know someone with a really nice home office, or have a great study room in your house, that might be just the place to film your interview or company intro video. Also, try to avoid filming in multiple locations as much as possible. This will save a lot of time by limiting the amount of shuttling back and forth, as well as equipment packing, set up, and breakdown.
4. Use Photos if Necessary
If you are trying to illustrate a point about a specific location, person, or event, there is no real need to have video rather than a photo. This can certainly be viewed as a trade-off since anyone who has watched the History Channel knows all too well that a zoom and pan effect on a still photo can become a little stale when used repeatedly, but this can be a real cost and time saver compared to obtaining actual video.
5. Rent, Borrow, Or Buy
There is a strong case for renting video equipment if you only want to do a one-off video. Technology changes rapidly, so buying an expensive camera can be a real commitment, as well as a technically difficult buying decision to make. Renting is easy, and most rental camera kits come with all the wires you could possibly need, and sometimes deals are offered for renting more than one item from the same place. Borrowing equipment from a friend is another great way to fill holes in your existing kit. Both borrowing and renting can be good ways to try before you buy.
If you are planning to make a purchase, obtain the highest quality gear possible for your budget. Some well-known audio/visual stores like B&H Photo, and possibly local stores in your area, have secondhand departments which can save a lot of money on lightly used or refurbished equipment. If you are ok with secondhand, garage sales, eBay, and Craigslist can be great resources too. Exercise caution and if possible, test any secondhand gear thoroughly before exchanging any money for it. If a deal seems too good to be true, you can always walk away. For bigger ticket items, retailers like eBay or Best Buy that offer purchase guarantees or have a return policy are a much smarter choice, especially for secondhand. When buying brand new equipment, shop around, look for sales, or try to negotiate for discounts if buying a lot of items from the same location.
6. Music for the Video
Licensing music can be very expensive. Luckily, there are a wealth of cheaper options out there. A cheap source for music from a wide variety of genres is Tunefruit. You can also try to DIY with a program like Garageband, or just do a general Google search for DRM-free music on the internet. If you are unsure if it is safe to use, you can refer to our handy blog post on the legalities of using music in your videos.
7. Make Sure You Get the Shot
This is on our list because going back for a redo can be extremely costly in terms of time and money, and might not even be possible depending on how or what you were filming. Going back for more can also cause your video to look inconsistent. There are a few tricks to making sure you have all the footage you want when you actually sit down to edit it. If possible, film from several different vantage points, either simultaneously, or in separate shots. You can use the different angles in the editing process to smooth over any clips you took out, or to just give more visual variety to the shot.
Also, do not start the action immediately after pressing record, or stop filming right at the end of the scene. You might need the extra time at either end, known as “handles,” for a transition in your video. Another trick is to film close ups of various items in a scene while the action is happening, but with the main figures out of focus. This helps to develop context, and can be a very useful type of b-roll for your film. B-roll is footage that complements your film and can fill in some gaps when needed. Here is a blog post with more ideas on where to get some great b-roll footage.
As a last resort, you can also search online for stock footage to supplement your film, but it can be hard to find quality stock footage at a low cost that will fit seamlessly into your project.
8. Streamline the Editing Process
When filming, think ahead. Take tons of notes about the action in each shot, or tie the different shots to sections of your script with the video timestamps. This can save you replaying the whole video to find that one specific clip during the editing process. As an alternative, review your shots frequently to memorize where the key scenes are, and to ensure you have what you need for the final product.
An even bigger time saver is to capture your video directly into your editing software. This is not that tricky to set up. For most computers and editing software, you will need a firewire cable and compatible camera, and to set up the capture window in your editing software. Live capture works best with a stationary camera, such as when you are using a tripod. This way you will not need to import your video to edit it, which usually takes as long as the footage is, if not longer. DSLR cameras or any video camera recording to a memory card can also be a great workaround if live capture is not possible, because they usually record to easily editable formats, and are therefore nearly as efficient as live capture.
As usual, cover the basics. Make sure your editing folders (or bins), including all footage, images, music, or graphics are highly organized and clearly labeled. Searching for clips, especially if you are reusing something weeks or months down the road can be really frustrating.