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Before you hit record, planning is everything Add to ...

You run a restaurant that specializes in gourmet hamburgers. You’ve got an iPhone, so, you figure, why not grab some footage of the cute kid eating fries or the friendly staff flipping burgers to post on your website.

You may have thought recording video was easy, until days later, when you’re sifting through shaky images, wondering why you shot all that footage, and what you can do with it.

In this series, we’re looking at how small businesses can use video as part of their Web strategy to gain new customers and better serve those already there.

The secret to successful video production is as much about what you do before shooting as it is about hitting ‘record.’

Plan, plan, plan

Susan Murphy, a former television producer who now runs Jester Creative Inc. a Web video, training and marketing company in Ottawa, breaks the planning phase into three steps:

1. Understand the purpose of your video strategy

“If you’re going to take the plunge into video, you need to decide why you’re doing it,” Ms. Murphy says.

You should consider video’s place in your business’s overall Web plan: Is it meant to drive more sales? Educate customers about how to better use your product?

Before anything else, figure out why you need video.

2. Brainstorm

What do you want to produce? The best way to start to help figure that out is by looking at videos created by other companies in your industry.

Watch what your business rivals are doing and decide what you like and dislike. Figure out why the things you like are working for you, and how you can improve upon them.

3. Pre-production: everything you do before the cameras start rolling

It’s a term from the television and film industry. Production is the shooting, and post-production is the editing.

Pre-production is where you answer all the crucial questions, like where you’re going to shoot, who you’re going to talk to, and what’s in your script.

Figure out the logistics now so you don’t have to later.

Pre-production tips

Want to save yourself headaches and heartache in the editing suite? Do your due diligence early on.

Ms. Murphy’s No. 1 tip is to be as organized as possible in pre-production. The earlier you solve problems, the more smoothly everything else will go.

If you do it right, about 80 per cent of your time making a video will go into pre-production, she says.

Even if you’re doing most of the video work yourself, it can be helpful to rely on professionals for more specialized tasks. Ms. Murphy says she had one client, a professional photographer, who was able to handle the video recording himself but needed assistance when it came time to edit and distribute the content.

First, script out what you’re going to do. It can be helpful to write up a “shot list” of every image your video will need. (More on shooting will come in Part Three)

Figure out what locations you’ll need, and when you’ll need them. Make sure you have all the crew and on-camera people you’ll need.

In pre-production, there is no such thing as over-preparation – though don’t be afraid of improvising when the time comes.


The tools you’ll need will depend on what kind of video you’re producing, says Justin Brennon Smith, co-founder and chief operating officer of production house BizMedia in Toronto.

Many people now have smartphones that can take high-definition video, but they have drawbacks that may make them unsuitable for a business trying to put its best foot forward. Settings can be difficult to adjust, most built-in microphones are poor and there’s the notorious shakiness that comes from an unsteady hand.

Smartphones do have their place for spontaneous shooting, where you’re on location and don’t have anything else. Viewers may forgive lower-quality video if there’s a reason for it.

If the focus of your video is the visuals, Mr. Smith suggests using a DSLR camera. These take high-quality still photos, as well as HD video, but they may not record sound well. It’s best to outfit these with a tripod and external microphone.

For the really high end, there are professional camcorders, such as the Canon XA10 – though this, too, will need accessories.

Getting all the right gear can run you from $1,000 to $3,000. If you’ve been meticulous in your pre-production, Mr. Smith says, you can save a lot by renting equipment and getting all of your shooting done in one day or on a weekend.

Now that you’re ready, it’s time to actually make your video.

Next: Tips and tricks of production and post-production

Special to The Globe and Mail

Other stories can be found on the Web Strategy section of the Report on Small Business website .

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