TAKE 2: The Proof is in the Pre-Production

Posted by Thomas Hartmann & Sean Nabors - April 07, 2020


Your boss peeks over your cubicle, “Meet me in my office. I have an opportunity for you.” Alarm bells go off in your head. The word “opportunity” has a strangely ominous tone. You walk into their office and they begin to explain that the budget for your training video was just reduced to peanuts… (Ahhh…THERE’s the challenge). They go on to say that they thought you, “would be a great candidate for the job, considering your awesome social media posts.” You politely thank them for the “opportunity” and race back to your desk to avoid showing your panic.

As everybody knows, training videos are a great addition to your learning library as they are scalable and accessible, making it easy to share and access on mobile devices. But all the steps of creating one can seem absolutely overwhelming. The good news is, we’re here to help! We have some key pre-production strategies to make you look like a planning, execution, and budget master.

So, what’s the first step? March right back into your boss’s office and declare, “Challenge accepted!”

Focus on the story

The first thing you need to do is develop your concept and think about the narrative you want to attach to the piece. Then, write it out in script format. Flesh out all scripted lines to be spoken, as well as any relevant direction for camera, talent, editorial or additional images or text.

Just like any successful training material creation, the more detail the better! For example, simply writing “The dog will bark” sets the idea. However, writing in a way that creates a vivid mental image, such as, “The dog, wearing a red collar with FIDO on his tag, barks towards the treat, being given to him by a hand from off-camera.” See the difference? The more detail outlined will support you, your actors, and your crew in knowing what is going on.

You’ll find as you are adding the details to the script, it will start to inform ideas you need to put into action during the next phase. Pre-Production! Pre-production is the critical legwork that happens before you say “action.” If you invest some energy in these early steps, you can save a lot of time and money in production. So, let’s dive into some of these factors.

Time is money

One of the most important pre-productions skills you can hone is your scheduling ability. You should plan which parts of the script will be filmed when, down to the quarter hour. There are opportunities to shave time off of filming with every planning decision you make. For every segment of time, think about:

  • Who is in the scene?
  • What are they doing? Wearing? Will any of that require extra time to get ready?
  • Where are they located? Are they standing still or will they be moving to another spot?
  • What props or additional items do I need to have in this scene?
  • Keeping locations to a minimum. Setting up for a bunch of different locations can take up a lot of your shooting time.
  • Keeping filming to one day. This is not the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Try to schedule everyone to participate in one, longer shooting day. This will help in keeping your resets low, as well as keeping your talent and crew time to one day.
  • Staggering your talent. If your script is conducive to it, you can plan to have your talent arrive throughout the day, so that people aren’t waiting around, doing nothing.
  • Building in some buffer segments of time, to account for unforeseen issues.

If you plan your schedule to the letter and keep to that schedule, you’ll get through your entire script. No problem.

Now that we have that sorted out…

Location, location, location

Based on your delightful script, you have to decide on an equally delightful place to film. Seems like a no-brainer but the truth is, if you take an analytical approach to scouting your location before your shoot date, you’ll be a giant step ahead of the game. Look for these site-specific discoveries:

  • How is the lighting at the location?
  • Are there any windows with natural light coming in?
  • Where are the outlets?
  • Where are entrances and exits?
  • Is the location busy with people? Loud or quiet?
  • Are there any fun features about the location you can take advantage of?

Another big tip we found helpful is that some locations will allow you to film when they are closed at night. While filming an all-nighter may not sound ideal, having a location that is clear of people and quiet can be a huge bonus.

Star power

We’ve talked about talent before. Pre-production communication to get talent prepared is just as important as your work with them on your shoot day. You also have the opportunity to set the tone with the talent and get them pumped up to do their best work, by valuing how much you value THEM with your exceptional planning. Some simple ways to prep your talent:

  • Send the script to your talent (and pertinent crew members, come to think of it) well in advance of your filming day. Give the talent time to memorize lines and think about choices and the crew time to get familiar with your vision.
  • Discuss wardrobe options and plan to have them bring a few different looks.
  • Ask them to bring any products they like (or need to use, in case of allergies or skin sensitivities).
  • Let them know you’ll have a kit on hand with the essentials like a brush, hairspray and concealer or powder to help ensure everyone is looking their best. (Pro-tip: notebook paper works great as blotting paper!)


The truth is, pre-production is a lot of work, but by taking everything step-by-step and planning your script and shoot in as detailed a way as humanly possible, you’ve created the opportunity for success on your shoot day. Well done!

Topics: Video Tips & Tricks

Recent Posts