Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

Pre-Production and Planning Tips for Making Better Family Videos


Flickr photo:Vanessa van Dyck

Part 3 of a series about capturing the joy of family events on video

Last week we covered the first of four phases used in creating multimedia productions to capture the joy of family events – concepting / scriptwriting. This week, I we will talk about phase two – pre-production and planning.

As Hal Landen puts it in his book titled Marketing With Digital Video, “Murphy’s Law works overtime in video production. If something can go wrong, it will. Your only defense is planning. Planning will help you to anticipate potential problems and solve them before that big day when your script is transformed into videotape.”

So plan, plan, plan and then plan some more to make thorough preparations before the event. This saves time and money, eliminates surprises and makes things go so much smoother during the shoot. List everything you will need in detail and allow for travel, weather and other contingencies as much as possible.

If you can, also scout the location or locations where you will be shooting your video in advance to check on a variety of factors. Check for available light, possible backdrops that could enhance your scenes, camera angles, and advantageous points of view. Also look for electrical outlets, adequate clearance for vehicles, space for safely storing equipment, and a staging area for any props or other items that will need to be prepped and assembled.

Although most personal video projects don’t have a budget for things like makeup, hair and wardrobe, you should still think about those things too. You might be surprised what a difference a little hairspray, powder and touch of color in a necktie or scarf can make in a scene – particularly for close-ups and lengthy interviews with key subjects. So if you, a family member or a friend have any experience in these areas, use it to make your production even more polished and professional. The same goes for floral arrangements and other nice touches that can fill out a frame composition and really bring a scene to life.

Speaking of recruiting people with extra skills, a good production manager knows that it pays to have additional help on hand for things like moving and setting up equipment, for “set decoration” and whatever else might be required. Think of them as your “crew” and assign tasks ahead of time to avoid confusion before and during the shoot. If you’re planning a big scene with lots of “extras” and a complicated camera move, do a dry run with your crew. Use some of them as stand-ins and rehearse the scene so it’s a coordinated effort that assures you get the best footage with the least amount of disruption to the actual honorees and guests.

Next, do a sound check and listen for anything that could interfere with the quality of your audio track. This could be something as common as a noisy air conditioner, refrigerator or nearby construction site. Remember, your microphones will pick up this kind of background noise and sometimes it can ruin an otherwise great scene. So think about possible solutions like moving to a quieter interview area or temporarily turning off some equipment while the live shoot is happening. Do be careful though as electrical items can be dangerous and disabling certain systems like HVAC or computers can cause other problems.

Lastly, If you are going to conduct formal interviews, warn people in advance and let them know what kind of questions you’ll be asking. Get their input on other family members and guests too. You never know when someone might decide to relate an obscure but interesting story or make a keen observation that could serve as a wonderful addition to your presentation. If you would like more in-depth information about this topic, read my article on Effective Interviewing Techniques.

Well, that’s all we have time to cover for the pre-production stage, but there are many other considerations depending on the size and scope of your production. So one final reminder to heed Murphy’s Law and plan, plan, plan.

Be sure to check back next week for part four of this series, which will cover production / filming.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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