Pre-production key to a successful shoot

pre-planningWe recently had the privilege to work with Georgia HOPE on an initiative to put permanent, licensed therapists into local schools in order to address mental and behavioral health issues on a more timely and effective basis. We had to interview almost two dozen individuals at multiple locations in order to capture the entire story and provide a clear and concise summation of HOPE in school for Georgia HOPE to use to encourage other school systems to implement the program in their own schools.

Invariably, every shoot has its own challenges. Sometimes it comes down to equipment failures, weather chooses not to cooperate, guests/actors provide unusable footage or the venues turn out to have terrible aesthetics. However, this most recent project was by far one of the easiest and least stressful in recent memory and it all came down to one thing — a clear focus on pre-production.

For those who may have never been involved in coordinating a video shoot, there are many moving parts and several key skill-sets are brought to bear in order to provide a high quality production. And each of these resources generally bill on a day-rate. (In terms of filmmaking, a typical half-day shoot is 6 hours or less, while a full-day is generally 12 hours.) We jokingly let people know we will not be providing a 2-KC production: two kids and a camcorder. At a minimum, you need an experienced camera operator, sound operator and lighting person. Depending on the locations, you may need to bring extra crew to move equipment, stage the areas to be filmed, make-up/hair stylists, wardrobe, food and catering services and an on-set medical person. And, once it’s all done, you move to editing the footage, followed by color correction and sound editing before delivering the final product.

This helps explain why video shoots can become an expensive endeavor. However, as was the case in the Georgia HOPE shoot, our contact took the concept of pre-production to heart. We always advise our clients about the importance of this phase of a video shoot because it costs almost nothing to think through each and every element of a production. Our client took time to figure out how many people needed to be filmed and then made sure the maximum number of them would be available at the same time for each location. She also prepared everyone ahead of time with sample questions so they would be better able to speak succinctly on camera.

It takes a lot of time to setup and breakdown all of the equipment used in a shoot. If we can prevent unnecessary setups and breakdowns, we can spend more time getting the shots we need, which translates into a huge cost savings for the client. Getting everything filmed in one day versus three can effectively cut the budget by anywhere from 40%-70%.

Of course, you never want to sacrifice the quality of the shoot just to save a few dollars. But, spending the hours necessary to maximize what can be done on any given shoot-day will payback huge dividends, not only in terms or budget, but also in terms of avoiding problems. This is why most film shoots are never shot in chronological order. It would be cost-prohibitive to do so. Instead, we try to maximize everything we can get in one location before moving to another and is why pre-production is key to a successful shoot.

At AJS Productions, whether you want to film a commercial, a training video, a documentary, a short movie or a full-blown film, we can help make it come to life. We will sit down with you and make sure you understand all of the elements that need to be considered and lend you our expertise to keep both your budget and your vision in mind. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation.



Whether training or selling, video works

RedDragonVideoProductionAt AJS Productions, we continue to see an up-swing in clients interested in shooting custom video for their business. In some cases, it is to create training to insure the methodologies being used for new employees (or new processes) are consistent, while in others it is to advertise their goods and services. Lately, an additional area of video business has been in putting together short, pseudo-documentaries where we need to summarize the events of a program or movement to aid in both providing its history and how it has evolved to where it is today. Oftentimes, these documentary-style shorts are used to make a presentation to the next group who may benefit.

There are costs associated with any video production, but as in almost everything in life (certainly in business), you get what you pay for in terms of quality and creativity. From the most complex to the very basic, every shoot is broken into three phases:

  • Pre-production
  • Production
  • Post-production.

Time and money is saved during the pre-production phase, where careful planning and open communication with the client is extremely important. The easiest and cleanest shoots are the ones with the most focus on pre-production. And, there is very little cost in this phase, consisting more of meetings, email exchanges, storyboards and location scouting.

The costs associated with the production phase are easy to lock down because of the roles of those involved. There is a need for lights, sound, a camera operator and a director at a minimum, followed by additional crew positions to help with hair, makeup, wardrobe, props, set decoration and production assistance. Depending on the size and scope of the project, each of those roles have fixed costs, calculated in shooting days. Pre-production, done well, will give an exact number of days needed during production. Obviously there are factors that can skew this phase — bad weather, equipment failure and bad pre-production are factors that can cause overruns.

The post-production phase is where all the magic takes place. It’s also the last of the dominoes to fall and the better the first phases go, the easier it is to deliver a superb product. However, the more egregious the early errors, the harder they are to fix in post-production and can cause the budget to bloat. In this phase, all of the video is compiled and logged, audio is synced and the editing begins. It takes a keen eye and a skilled editor to make it all fit together like a puzzle of a thousand pieces. Once an edit has been agreed upon with the client, it can be cleaned up further with color correction, sound enhancement and design and then delivered in any of a number of mediums, from website delivery, all the way to the highest level of broadcast quality, including 4K Ultra HD.

Nothing can beat a well-done and delivered video to tell a story. That story might be the history of an organization, why a product is needed or how a change in ideology led to drastic improvements for a community at-large. Logo IsolatedA video can properly demonstrate how to operate machinery, follow a company process or provide examples of what not to do when interacting within a culturally diverse workforce. Taking the time to talk with a firm who has been involved in the industry for years can help give you an even better understanding of the process and why you should be looking to schedule your own video shoot.


Video production is just one of our core competencies

A growing area of our business has been in video production. Small-to-medium businesses are finding they can better connect to their customers through the use of adding videos to their website. Sometimes these videos will reveal a behind-the-scenes look at how products are made and delivered. In others, we show how to properly use or install products. The law firms we have worked with have created their own frequently asked questions video series to make a potential client feel as though they are already getting legal help even before they walk through the door. And, in a handful of instances, we’ve written, directed and produced stand-alone film productions to be used in conjunction with fund-raising, promotional and marketing activities

One of our most recent examples of a stand-alone was shot to benefit Advocates for Children, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, dedicated to helping children who are living in terrible conditions. Rather than create the typical informational piece, filled with dry facts, boring figures and screens filled with text, the organization asked us to create something creative and emotional to better affect the viewing audience. We needed to illustrate the deplorable conditions many children face and then find a way to turn it around and show how a child’s life can benefit due to the many programs existing under the umbrella of Advocates forChildren.

(Click here to watch it.)


Partnering with the post-production services of MBE, we continue to add more and more video work to our overall portfolio. We have created a sampling of our capabilities for you to watch and if you find you might benefit from our video production team, we’d be happy to meet with you to discuss your ideas and how we might be able to bring them to life.

Whether it’s adding video to your existing website, building a brand new site for your business or shooting a stand-alone commercial, training or promotional video, AJS Productions has the ability to bring you the highest quality deliverables, while keeping your overall budget in mind.

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We Can Make a Difference – video for Advocates for Children

A couple months back, AJS Productions was approached to help a local non-profit create a video for their annual Spring Benefit. The runway was short and the assignment was daunting — create a short video showing the plight of those abused children in the community and how programs like the ones managed by Advocates for Children are vital for not just their safety but as a means of putting them back on the road to success. As challenging as it was, the mission of Advocates is near and dear to our own hearts and we began in earnest to carve out a script for the video shoot. During that time, we also had to lock down shooting locations, props, actors and other production elements. Even the smallest video shoot needs weeks of pre-production to make sure its many moving parts are working together.

MonsterBusterHeaderAs with our prior video projects, we pulled in Torey Haas, owner-operator of MonsterBuster Entertainment, who would be responsible for gathering the appropriate crew for the shoot. He was also hired to be the lead editor once the shoot wrapped and moved into post-production.  Our two companies have excellent working relationships and we took to the challenge of not just meeting the deadline, but coming in under budget and ahead of schedule.

And we did!

We are happy to be able to share that video with you now and hope you keep the subject matter in mind wherever you may live. These stories happen everyday and there are so many non-profits who rely on the goodness and generosity of those in the community to be able to continue in the service of their mission. We would love for anyone seeking any kind of video production to reach out to us here at AJS Productions, but, more importantly, regardless of your needs, we would hope you would make it a point to donate something to those groups that serve your community, often unsung and without praise.

Please feel free to share and leave comment, not just here on our blog, but on the YouTube channel itself to let Advocates for Children know your thoughts and whether or not this short video affected you in some way.

Thank you!