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How to Direct a Marketing Video

You’re ready for the first take of your marketing video. Your camera is set up, your actors are in place, and eyes are on you. What do you say and when do you say it? You can actually set up a smooth productive workflow by using a series of commands to move through each shot within a scene.

Draw from this handy list of words and phrases to communicate with your cast and crew — and to help them to communicate with you:

  • “Quiet on the set.” When you let everyone know that you’re about to “roll camera,” the only audible sound should come from whatever is happening in front of the camera. Side conversations, coughing, and mobile phones can all spoil a take, and you should have zero tolerance for them.

  • “Roll camera.” When your actors and crew are set, cue the camera person to start shooting.

  • “Camera rolling.” The camera person should reply to “Roll camera” with this phrase after shooting begins. If you’re doing the shooting, just say “Camera rolling.”

  • “Sound rolling.” Someone who is listening to sound separately on headphones says this phrase to indicate that the audio sounds good.

  • “Action.” Finally! This famous cue tells actors to start the scene and lets everyone else know to remain quiet. Wait a few seconds after the camera and sound are rolling to say it.

  • “Hold.” If a sudden event (such as a passing police siren) interrupts a shot, call “Hold” to let everyone know to stop what they’re doing until the interruption ends. Then call “Action” again.

  • “Cut.” After a scene ends, wait a few seconds to say this famous cue so that the crew continues shooting video and recording sound until the moment you say it.

After a few tries, your cast and crew will have the order and rhythm of these cues down pat, and your set will quickly sound professional.

On a clean and orderly shoot that moves along smartly, the director is the only person to call “Action” and “Cut.” As in any other business, a movie shoot requires someone to be in charge and call the shots. If everyone starts chiming in, the production slows to a crawl.

Every take of a shot should have handles on it — a waiting period of a few seconds before you say “Action” and after you say “Cut.” This way, an editor (who may be you) who works on the scene in postproduction has a clearly defined segment of video to work with. “Action” and “Cut” are also cues for them.

Don’t press the Record button immediately after calling “Action” or “Cut” (a mistake typically made by novice filmmakers). This bad habit leaves the editor with a scene that is potentially missing its first and last seconds — a huge amount of editing time. (Applying a cool transition effect, such as a dissolve or a fade-in, during the editing process is then impossible.)

Also, actors shouldn’t break character until you say “Cut.” As they finish their lines, they should remain in place until you stop shooting.

Shooting for at least three full seconds before and after a scene is generally a good standard. Your video will benefit from it, and your editor may even send you flowers!

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