Note: I am republishing this from my LinkedIn Newsletter, the Instructional Media Insider
The Problem with Video Production
To access a template for the Instructional Video Planning Tool discussed in this article, open the template and click File —> Make a Copy. You must be signed in to your Google Account to make a copy of the template. From there, you can export to Excel if you prefer it to Google Sheets.
I know firsthand how time-consuming and expensive video production can be. It seems like there are a million things to keep track of, and when things go wrong, it can be a real headache. That's why I'm excited to share a planning tool with you that can cut your production time and costs by 50%.
Without proper planning and organization, we can find ourselves floundering and wasting precious resources. Have you ever found yourself scratching your head, trying to figure out what needs to be done next or redoing work that wasn't done correctly the first time? It's frustrating, and it can cause major delays and increased costs.
But fear not, my friend! With the right planning tool, we can streamline workflows, improve communication, and reduce production time and costs. Imagine having a clear plan of action, assigning tasks to team members, and tracking progress in real-time. It's a game-changer!
So, if you're tired of headaches and want to save time and money, give this planning tool a try. I promise you won't regret it!
The Tool: Instructional Video Planning Document
I'm a huge proponent of spending time in the preproduction process. A thorough process you reuse every time will provide several efficiencies once you adopt it.
Every hour you spend in the preproduction process can save you two hours — or more — of expensive production time.
Remember that the most expensive part of the production process is production and post-production— so spending time in the relatively inexpensive pre-production process makes sense if it saves time in the expensive later stages of production.
Pre-production is often given short-shrift because it's not sexy. Pre-production is planning, spreadsheets, and writing. These activities are not why we became video producers, but they make us good video producers.
I like to think of my production process as follows:
Pre-Production: Plan the production process scene by scene using the instructional video planning document.
Production: Shoot the video and create the assets according to the document created.
Post-Production: Assemble the video and assets according to the document created.
If the process seems over-simplistic: Good!
Processes bogged down in lots of minute detail tend to move slower, be more expensive, and don't often yield a better result.
Step 1: Plan Your Scene Inventory
When using the instructional video planning document, the very first thing I do is create an inventory of shots that I'm going to use in production. You can think of these scenes as "screen layouts" that we will use in the video series.
To keep viewers engaged, I recommend changing your shot every 15 seconds or so. At first, this may seem like a lot, but this is critical to keep viewers from fatiguing and zoning out when watching your video.
Check out the average network tv show and observe how often they change shots. You'll find that the big network producers change shots or perspectives every 3-5 seconds. They do this because it engages audiences. Much instructional video is shot with a single shot of the instructor and/or slides. How do you think this engages as compared to the media that viewers are watching on HBO?
I placed a sample inventory of 10 shots in the instructional video planning document template.
You might have different types of shots or a different number of shots depending on the type of video you're shooting. The sample provided is for an eight-video-long WordPress course with a live instructor and screencast videos.
If you're creating a video about workplace safety, you'd likely include B-roll shots and more infographic shots in your inventory.
The thing to keep in mind is that your shot selection during this stage of pre-production planning is not arbitrary. Your shot selection is closely related to the training topic and video resources you have available. (This is where you put on your instructional designer hat!)
I recommend creating obvious, descriptive titles for each shot when producing your shot inventory. I use an abbreviated version of the shot title for the image assets corresponding to each shot. If your video is complex and contains many different types of shots, it will prove helpful to identify your shot templates by their filename.
Step 2: Plan Your Video Sequence
When my Scene Inventory is completed, it's time to move on to planning my video sequence. While unnecessary for a stand-alone video, for a series of videos, this is an essential process. This planning process essentially yields my course outline.
For each video in the series, I first develop a title and a learning objective. I'm a huge proponent of having only one learning objective per video, which keeps videos more focused and shorter. (I won't have the video length debate here, but let's say I think shorter videos are, in general, better.)
The video description column is completed with a user-facing description of the video. This is not the same thing as the learning objective, although it may be similar. In the video description, I'm writing instructional marketing copy — text encouraging the user to watch the video. This text often appears in LMS systems or sales sites where your video series is offered.
If I plan to include any external resources with the video, like a PDF tipsheet or lab exercise, I note that in the column labeled Resources included.
Finally, the filename prefix is created automatically by joining the course prefix from the document header and the video number. In a busy studio like mine, where we create up to 10 videos daily, this is a critical organizational element and prevents us from losing video and other important assets. Every file associated with a video is named with the respective file prefix. For example, an infographic might be named WP_02_infographic_01.png, meaning it's the first infographic associated with the second video in the series.
Step 3: Plan Your Individual Videos
This is the giant meatball and where you'll find most of your time efficiencies realized.
Every video can be broken down into a sequence of shots. Your planning process for invidiual videos in your series will amount to a shot-by-shot plan of what you intend to compile.
In the first column, you can label each shot (known as blocks). I assign a letter identifying each shot in the video. The next column, populated for you, provides a filename prefix for all assets associated with the individual video and shot. We use this religiously, and it almost makes our file assets self-organizing. We can search globally because, as long as your series prefix is unique, each asset filename will be unique.
The dropdown in the next column is populated from our first spreadsheet. Each of the shot types defined in the Shot Inventory Tab appears. You'll choose the type of shot you want, and the following two columns displaying the shot thumbnail and the template filename will populate automatically.
We use the following two columns to insert either our scripts or outlines if sections are being voiced extemporaneously. (Our on-camera instructors don't script the meat of lessons word-for-word and instead depend on outlines to seem more natural.)
Finally, we have a column to link to relevant assets, such as individual infographics developed from the templates. The final two columns provide a space for production notes and editor notes.
Step 4: Shoot Your Videos Shot by Shot
I shoot each video in sequence, shot by shot. My producer has the completed instructional video planning document open during the shoot, marks off each shot as completed, and makes any relevant notes for the editor right in the document itself.
This shot-by-shot strategy has several advantages. First, because each section is short, we have fewer on-camera errors. In fact, we don't "edit out" errors but, instead, reshoot any short sections where the presenter (or producer) makes an error. This is much less time-consuming than having an editor attempt to edit out individual errors during the post-production process. We can also avoid discontinuities that lead to jump cuts.
Jump cuts might work on YouTube, but we're creating professional education here!
I've also found that people who are new on camera find this approach much less intimidating because they have a minimal amount of material to get through in any section. The producer does have to keep things moving, but, in the end, avoiding long reshoots and edits is a huge time saver.
As we go, we're naming our file assets according to the document. We have separate audio and video files, so we would name assets we shoot for a section like this:
Step 5: Put it All Together in Post-Production
Once we've shot everything, the document and all the assets go to our video editors, who work remotely.
The Instructional Video Planning document provides them with everything they need to assemble high-quality videos according to my plan. There's no question about how any screen should look, and due to our strict naming convention defined in the document, no lost or mislabeled assets to track down.
I hope you find this process and my Instructional Video Planning Document helpful. Please feel free to modify it works with your own studio workflow! Good luck!
This is the video resulting from the workflow in the template:
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