As a production manager, my main job was to bring my productions to completion on time and within budget. There is a multitude of variables that can cause a video production to veer off its track. Some of these factors are internal and some are external, but it’s up to the production manager to keep everything on track.I’ve worked for some of the biggest production companies in the world and I’m here to give you 7 tips for awesome video production.
A video production has the best chance to stay on track when it is planned carefully in the pre-production phase. This helps to minimize interruptions that might derail your production. Proper work before starting your production also helps ensure that you’ll be able to deal with unexpected bumps swiftly and efficiently. Here are my 7 tips to an awesome video production that will help you address any problems before they even become problems.
1. Ensure that you have full production details up front
You should always have a completely detailed project scope, with the approval from all stakeholders. The scope should include interim milestones, a detailed timeline, and a realistic budget that can cover all the necessary work.
Getting everything in writing in the beginning of your project gives you an excellent foundation to build on. Obviously, change is likely to happen, and it is up to us to adjust to these changes, but having this foundation lets you see when the project starts to morph into an entirely different project than originally discussed. This is most valuable if your client starts to “scope creep.” Scope creeping is when a client asks for “just one more little thing” over and over until the project has become either much larger or very different from the original conception.
2. Set realistic expectations
I knew a Head of Production who used to always say, “you can have two of the three: good, fast, cheap. You CANNOT have all three.”
There are some very real limitations to your video production and it is up to you to make sure that everyone on your team and the client understands the specific limitations. You can finish a project successfully, on time, and within budget, but only if your expectations are realistic and reasonable. You cannot hope to work miracles on projects with unreasonable expectations, accepting such a project only sets you up for failure. Don’t start your project off on the wrong foot destined for disaster, just set realistic expectations!
3. Establish measurable and reportable criteria for success
How do you know if your video production is a success? You need to establish clear and measurable metrics that will let you and the client see how the project is stacking up. One of the easiest ways to do this is with interim milestones, especially for long-term projects. Interim milestones help determine if you’re staying on track or straying from the original foundation of the project. It is equally as important to incorporate client feedback as you go instead of leaving it to the end. This helps limit the amount of re-working, saving you time and money and keeping your client happy.
4. Select team members and responsibilities carefully
Everyone on your team should have a special set of skills necessary to the success of your video production. It is important that you actually utilize those skills in the most effective roles in order to have a smooth production. If you assign the wrong person to a task you are severely reducing your probability of success before you’ve even started.
It is also important to make sure that each team member is clear on what is expected of them. You should encourage your team to ask questions and come to you with any concerns they may have. Clear and open communication is key to a smooth video production.
5. Embrace your leadership role
As a production manager you are the director of the project, so act like it! Don’t let other team members assert dominance over your position, you should welcome team members ideas but do not sacrifice your role. You are a coach, mentor and motivator; which means it's your job to cultivate a team atmosphere. This can easily be done with some basic and quick team-building activities. Another large part of your role is to liaison with the client, so it’s crucial you are accurate in communications internally and externally. Remember to keep your cool in times of stress, this is the time when your team needs you to be a strong and calm leader the most.
6. Manage production risks
You’ve already identified the more probable risks up front during your pre-production planning, so you should have already created contingency plans. If you can predict when a risk in imminent then you can take preventive action to avoid it or quickly correct it. You should be ready to halt a production if the risk becomes unacceptable. As part of your role on the video production, you have to be able to identify when things are moving inexorably toward a failure point and take the necessary actions, which may include halting the production.
7. Evaluate the production when complete
Once your video production has been completed it’s up to you to do a “post-mortem” report. This report may remain internal, but it is important for future growth and projects. It will allow you to pinpoint what went right and what went wrong. When you are able to identify your strengths and weaknesses you can determine what changes you could have made and establish best practices for projects moving forward.
With these 7 tips, your video production is sure to be as successful as possible. Just remember above all else that your team needs you to guide them to complete the project, so be the leader they need!
About the Writer
Markus Ramlau has 15 years of experience in the TV industry as a production manager before starting the video production management software company ProductionHero.co.