How to Plan a Realistic Schedule for Shooting a Marketing Video

When you watch a short scene in a marketing video, you may believe that creating the scene was a simple task. And if the video is no good, it probably was a simple task. Finding a unique and memorable way to shoot a scene takes time to prepare and pull off — even for simple scenes — and this amount of time has to be figured into your shooting schedule.

Two forces are at work in every film and video shoot: the creative need to make the production special and the technical need to complete the production as quickly and inexpensively as possible and still look good. If you can’t complete the shoot on schedule, you’ll have nothing to show, but if you rush to complete the video with no regard for creativity, what’s the point in even making it?

To come up with a realistic estimate of the time you need, consider these factors:

  • The number of shots your production needs

  • The length of each shot

  • The amount of time you need to realistically set up, shoot several takes, and break down the set

Shooting usually takes longer (often, much longer) than most people anticipate. The technical setup can be complex, and actors may need a few takes to nail their performances. If you’re working with non-actors, you may want to add an extra 30 to 60 minutes to their scenes, just in case it takes longer to get the performance you need.

These guidelines can help streamline the shoot:

  • Spend no more than five minutes setting up a shot. A five-minute limit keeps the setup process lean and mean. You should have enough time to adjust the lights and position the camera. Obviously, some shots require more time than others, but when you’re working on a deadline, time magically passes faster than normal.

  • Shoot scenes out of order. Few film productions shoot scenes in the exact order they’ll appear in the finished product. Usually, the shooting schedule is created by determining which resources (such as locations, actors, props, or lighting) can be reused in other scenes. Those scenes are then filmed consecutively.

    By shooting out of order, you can schedule certain actors’ scenes one after the other and then release the actors when they finish, leaving fewer people to manage as the day progresses.

  • Shoot “big” scenes first. If you’re shooting a crowd scene or another type of complicated shot, get it out of the way early in the day. Your cast and crew will be more energized, and you’ll have that worry out of the way as the day wears on and pressure grows to wrap up the shoot.

  • Experiment. Once, anyway. If you want (or a cast member wants) to try a radical idea, just to see whether it works, do it. But shoot the scene as specified in the script, too. Don’t get too creative at the expense of the clock.

  • Cut freely. If you find that your schedule is overstuffed, pull out your script and storyboard and cut some shots. Not scenes, mind you, just shots. You should shoot scenes with multiple shots (called coverage). If time is running out, be prepared to change the shot list.

  • The fewer people who are on the set, the faster you can shoot. The more people who watch a scene, the more your shoot can turn into a party rather than a production. When something strange or funny happens on the set, you have to play the role of benign dictator. Firmly, but with a friendly smile, ask all bystanders to clear out — pronto.

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