When you first start collaborating with a video production studio, you may wonder exactly how long this process takes.
This essentially depends on the video production schedule, which is split into three parts — pre-production, production and post-production. The length of each of these production stages varies based on the video length and type, which will be explained in more detail below.
What Goes into a Production Timeline?
Pre-production is, the planning stage of a video production. This step ensures that both you and the production group know what the goals of the video are and what the production team can achieve before the shoot gets underway. The amount of time it takes to shoot a video depends a great deal on the pre-production stage, because planning streamlines the process and reduces the incidence of reshoots.
Generally speaking, this stage lasts anywhere from two to six weeks. The length of time it takes to complete this stage will primarily depend on how quickly the client communicates with the production team and how large the production is going to be.
The pre-production stage includes the following steps, each of which contributes to the video production timeline:
The first step is to establish the people who will have the biggest roles in the production to start the pre-production phase. An account manager will typically be the go-between for the client and the production company, selecting and introducing the client to the members of the crew. These include the director, who is the creative lead of the project, the producer, who prepares and supervises, the production manager, who manages practical aspects of the production, and the camera and sound directors. Depending on the size of the production, one individual may take on several of these roles.
Selecting the talent is the next step in the planning stages. You might decide to use a professional talent, or you might like to use someone you know for the video (perhaps even yourself!). Whichever you choose, each option presents different benefits. In the end, the client selects the best choice for their vision of the video.
The concept of the video is the idea that you want to get across, which is the most important part of the project to establish early on. If you don’t already have the concept nailed down, the writer has to determine this with you before starting on the script. This can take time, so if expediency is a big concern, you should determine your video concept before reaching out to a video production company.
After learning the concept of the video, the writer may need to do research to flesh out the script. Depending on the nature of the project, this may require consulting with subject matter experts, getting acquainted with a company or subject’s personality and biggest selling points, or finding resources that give more information about a topic presented in the video. Research is especially necessary if the video is going to cover a more technical subject.
After they've finished the research stage, the writer settles in to work on the shooting script. The completed script should provide both you and the production crew with a basic feel for the video tone. This is also the first stage at which you can review the production company's work and make any changes.
The next step of the process is to storyboard the script. A storyboard is a visual mock-up of the shoot, which looks similar to a cartoon strip when it is finished. The piece outlines everything scene by scene, creating a visual representation of the video before shooting starts, so the crew knows what they need to set up.
Some scripts include a “visuals” column, which will include some basic visual ideas, especially for videos that are simpler and don’t necessarily require a full storyboard. However, more complex videos may require a storyboard to help you and the crew understand the full concept. This is the next pre-production stage where you can review the work and request changes.
If you request a video that either is fully animated or features a large amount of animation, including supplementary graphics or transitions, there may be an art team available to develop initial ideas for these animations based on your ideas. You might have clear ideas on specifics, like color palette or animation styles. You might also have company logos or characters that are already being used in branding. As with the scripting stage, the more material that is provided upfront, the faster this stage can be completed.
This is the final pre-production step, where the producer sets everything in motion for the shoot. Once the storyboard is finalized and everyone is happy with the result, they prepare for the shoot by obtaining filming permissions at off-site locations, acquiring equipment, and contacting the cast and crew for film dates and times.
This stage is the actual filming stage of the production, where the cast and crew collect the segments to be used in the final production. Depending on the complexity of the project, this can take as little as half a day, but can also take several months to complete. It depends entirely on the type of production.
For example, when you consider how long it takes to shoot a minute of video for a talking head versus a documentary, you get two very different answers. The minute of a talking head video can take as little as a minute to shoot, since there are few cuts in the video, and it's usually a continuous shot of the film. For a documentary, a single minute of video may include shots from multiple sets and locations, each of which may take hours to collect.
In the final stage of production, the footage collected from the production stage is edited together and (if desired) enhanced with animation, culminating in the final video. This is often the most time-intensive part of the process, depending on your responsiveness to questions and reviews, the video editing time ratio, and the amount of video shot and animation fidelity you have requested.
The Rough Cut
The first edit will typically arrive within a week or so, depending on the project complexity. This will be immediately sent to you for review, with any placeholders clearly indicated. This is the first chance you have to request any edits or changes before all the graphics and animations are added. Some production companies may include initial versions of the graphics or animations so that you can view these in the context of the whole video.
The Approval Cut
After receiving your feedback, the production company takes the video and revises it to fit your expectations more closely. In this version, the graphics and animations will also be added if they weren’t already. Again, depending on the extent of graphics and animations, this may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to accomplish. Once finished, this approval cut is sent to you for feedback.
Once the next round of comments comes in, the production company completes final edits, resulting in a picture lock. This version is then sent to you for a final review to ensure there are no errors, typos or glaring problems with the production.
Sound mix & color correction
Once the picture is finished, the audio components of the video are adjusted and the colors fine-tuned. This will usually include mixing music and voice levels to an ideal combination and correcting saturation levels and lighting to make the visuals pop. This will often take up to a week, depending on how much video needs to be edited. Some companies may complete this step during the rough cut stage, especially if the video is short or part of a series of shorts.
Once everything is developed and finalized, the video is delivered to you in high resolution and ready for distribution.
This general overview of all the steps of the production process can give you a general sense of how long it takes to shoot a corporate video, but the timeline may vary widely depending on a few key factors.
What Factors Affect a Production Timeline?
Though most videos will typically require a few weeks of production time, some may run a little longer or a little shorter than what you expect. Your production timeline primarily depends on the following three factors:
Does your video include animation, live video or a green screen? The more effects and post-production processing your production needs, the longer it's typically going to take. Live videos, for example, require little post processing and therefore need only a short time to accomplish. Animations, on the other hand, require extensive pre-production in the form of storyboarding and character design, and even short animations can take weeks to develop.
It should be a no-brainer that a longer video may need more time to shoot and edit than a short video – an hour-long training video will require more extensive editing and may need a reshoot or two to make it acceptable, while a shorter video will require much less time to process at each stage.
The style of the video will also tend to be a factor in your final timeline. A talking head video, for example, requires a few continuous shots, while a documentary will need multiple shots from different locations and areas. The more shots needed, the more production time your project will probably take.
While it may seem pretty straight-forward, the video production process can be complicated, requiring a great deal of preparation, as well as a strong improvisational mindset for when things inevitably don’t work out as planned. Internal production teams can become over-taxed when a video production begins to absorb more resources than expected.
NextThought creates more than 1,000 videos per year for clients like Amazon, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Chegg. We have the expertise to map out a successful video production from start to finish, and the experience to manage a project at scale and handle the unexpected. If you are looking for a team of video experts, contact NextThought today to ask about the production process and how we can help you accomplish your goals.
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