Commissioning Guide
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Commissioning Guide

A Guide to Commissioning a Video

Use the index below to find out more about digital video production

Proven power to persuade
It is also proven that out of the five senses, sight and sound account for 85% of the information we take in. This shows just how much power and potential video content has. Film and TV are so dominant in our culture; largely because of video’s power to persuade. There is nothing more prestigious and respected than a quality video. The right kind of production can glamorise and increase interest in even the most ordinary of subjects.

Demonstrations made interesting
Running video displays is an effective method to increase the interest in your exhibition stand. Rather than pay for a person to train staff or sell a product globally you can send a video that is equally effective and more affordable. Every time you develop new strategies, these can be communicated with a video streamed from your website.

Unlimited potential
The possibilities of video are endless and well produced video can have an impact on the way we see the world. Video can help to create an impression, influence a mood, make an impact and show life in a way that helps a viewer gain a fresh understanding.

Reduce distribution costs
It is often cheaper to distribute DVDs than it is to send brochures by post.

Now that you have decided that video can be useful for your business, how do you go about commissioning one? Contacting a production company will result in discussions about the treatment and production standards required to put your ideas in front of an audience. At this point you may find it helpful to invite ideas from credible production companies. Asking the best production company to brainstorm and develop ideas tends to be the usual route taken by those from an advertising or design-centred background. This can help you to achieve a video which is creative, startling and tailor-made to target your audience effectively. In any of these cases, you need to best establish the best company to produce excellent standards of work on your behalf. To make best use of the skills and abilities that you are paying for, you’ll want to brief your production company comprehensively and take on board their expertise and advice.

You will find many video production companies. Just look in the yellow pages or online. The tricky thing is choosing the right one from the multitude. So, how do you choose?

Make comparisons
Pre-select the production companies you are going to invite to tender, whether this is by recommendation from a colleague, or because you like the look of their advertising, or you like their website. If your company or organisation already has a relationship with a promotional video company it is always worth requesting quotes and proposals from other companies. Having a selection of quotes and proposals to choose from will give you more information about the film production industry, and this will better prepare you for making a decision.

Style and substance
Try to find production companies with examples of previous work that are similar to the video you want. If they’ve done it once, they can do it again. Remember to take note of each company’s style and communication. Stylish companies tend to produce stylish videos. And if a production company struggles to communicate with you, how can they hope to communicate with your audience?

Thoroughly briefed
Once you invite a few production companies to present their ideas, you should give each of them a full brief and be prepared to answer questions. Involve the people you may employ to promote your business and show them what you do. The more they know the more likely they are to have ‘Big Ideas’. Big Ideas can make an impact and engage your viewers.

  • Pre-Production – includes scriptwriting and storyboarding. The budget will also be agreed at this stage between the Production Company & the client.
  • The Shoot – includes location filming with a camera crew and director. This may also include other elements, such as actors and presenters.
  • Post-Production and Video Editing – the filmed footage is edited together. This may include recording a voice-over, adding graphics, composing a music score or soundtrack, and including animation sequences with the finished video.
  • Duplication and Delivery – copying the video as DVD or converting to any digital format (such as QuickTime) streaming over the web or encoding for use on mobile devices, plus cover design, packaging and distribution.

A brief should tell the production company what your video is for and the kind of production you would like. The brief needs to contain:

  • what you want to achieve
  • who you will want to see it
  • how you will portray the theme
  • the timescale and deadlines

Corporate video briefs tend to be circulated within an organisation before the production is approved. This allows all interested parties to agree that every important point is covered. The more detailed the brief is the more cost-effective the project will be as the production company will have a clear guide to what you want and how it should be delivered.

You can expect the production company to come back to you with a full proposal for your video production. This should contain:

  • A full explanation of the creative ideas, probably in the form of an outline
  • A detailed breakdown of the budget
  • A schedule of the production according to your deadlines
  • Examples of work of a similar style and quality to what you want to buy, and produced by the same team that will be working on your project (many large production companies subcontract extensively)
  • A face-to-face meeting with the producer, not just the salesman.

Don’t be tempted to take one production company’s idea and then ask someone else to make it. As well as breaching copyright, the video will never be as effective. Trust whoever has the best idea to make the film they propose.

Agreeing a production schedule and the video content in the initial meeting helps to ensure the future stages go smoothly. Ask the producers for a worded proposal of the type of video they would recommend, including the content, style and price. In this initial meeting your own team and the producer and scriptwriter from your chosen production company sit down and agree a plan of action. It always pays to involve your own users or internal customers in these discussions. By the end of this meeting you should have agreed:

  • a detailed schedule for the production
  • the key points for the script
  • where, when and how the scriptwriter will find information within your organisation

Everybody always wants to get value for money, but you don’t want to compromise production values. Suppliers can vary enormously from companies that offer advert broadcast-quality material through to wobbly wedding videos. There should always be in the final mark up a little capital allowance should things not entirely go to plan. Ask your producer for a fixed quote. A reputable corporate film producer will agree to fix a price based on an agreed scope. Only if the scope changes will the price change, and not without prior agreement.

The main factor that determines the quality of your film is the experience of the crew and the quality of the equipment. Equipment costs are usually incorporated in the costs of the camera crew or editors that use the equipment. Camera equipment and editing suites (or studio hire) is usually hired at a day rate, even if it’s required for only a few hours. Music is another area to take account of. Many video producers use agencies to source music;music libraries sell copyright-free material, although it may be less ideally suited to your production, and therefore a little weak. Voiceovers and actors again come through agencies that have dealt with auditioning and provide a list of possible candidates who suit your job. The bigger your budget, the more you can spend on music, talent, location, design, graphics and animation. Of course, it is obvious that a video with better music, talent, locations, design and animation stands a better chance of being effective, so unless your budget is huge you will need to be creative. A more expensive production can be slicker and have more impact, so it is worth considering carefully how much you can spend. At the same time, a tight budget does not mean a bad video. It just means everyone will have to be more creative.

When the project starts there should be a script and some initial research to back it up. The script tells the story and ties the scenes together. Usually the script is mostly words – such as voiceover narration, a presenter, and dialogue for any actors – with only a sketchy idea of the visual content. You should run through the script provided by the producer to gauge that no resource is being expended on unnecessary areas or discussion in the video. While it is wise to run the script past all the relevant people in your organisation, be careful that too many voices don’t dilute the final script. If there are any legal concerns these should be addressed with your solicitor at this stage.

Dragonfly only shoot in high-definition (HD) format. It is easy to transfer HD footage to standard quality but it’s impossible to turn standard footage into HD, so it makes sense to record everything in the best possible quality, regardless of how the video will eventually be used.

Having outlined the film, the producer must now organise the right elements at the right time. Anything required of you will have been clearly defined. You may also need to be available to answer questions that may arise during filming. A good producer will continue to think about your video’s objectives as it develops, and more questions are likely to arise as the video comes to life. When questions arise during filming it is important that decisions are made promptly as an expensive film crew can be left idle. Poor communication can extend the duration of a corporate production and rapidly increase the cost. High-end corporate video production takes time and energy. There is always the possibility that the shoot may inconvenience and those in the workplace. Sometimes the camera can simply observe work in progress with minimal disruption, but sometimes a certain amount of direction may need to be given. It is worth considering the impact a film crew will have on staff or locations. Filming can be scheduled for less busy periods, when the crew’s presence will be more welcome. The production will benefit greatly from a friendly and helpful workforce, as their full cooperation will be needed. Access to interviewees and sensitive areas should be agreed in advance to ensure no surprises on the day of the video shoot. Read more about our location filming service here.

It takes up to an hour to move a video crew from one location to another, even within the same building. Time is needed to dismantle, shift, set up and relight at the new location. You want your crew to spend more time filming and less time travelling, so more footage will be available at the editing stage. It’s important that locations are prepared for filming. Either you or the production company will need to liaise with the manager or owner of each location, so that they are clean, tidy and safe, that all the processes are working, staff or cast are appropriately dressed, and there are no distractions like a scheduled fire drill.

Computer animation is now used extensively in corporate video, often to show something which it is not possible to capture with the video camera. Animation can show:

    • the inner workings of a machine or process
    • physical events which are invisible, such as microwaves, germs or particles
    • a building which has yet to be built
    • a product which has yet to be made
    • something which is too small, too distant or too dangerous to film

    An animated logo can make your corporate image stand out and add to the production value of your video. Animation can also bring refreshing variety to the production, enhancing the viewing experience. Read more about our animation production service here.

Voiceover narration can be done on location by the presenter. More often it is recorded by a professional voiceover artist in a recording studio. It is a good idea to record the voiceover only when the script is finally approved, to save the cost of re-recording. It is also a good idea to think carefully about the voice you choose. Is it compatible with the message and audience you are trying to reach? Dragonfly Productions now have a section of their website dedicated to helping cleints choose voiceover artists for their project.

Music can be used in intros for increased impact and as background throughout the video. You must remember that copyright has to be considered if the music is taken from an outside source like a signed rock band or classical orchestra. If this is the case it may lead to problems at public performances or video streaming from your company website. Music comes in four types:

  • commercial recordings of contemporary or classical music, which will be very expensive – literally thousands of pounds even for a corporate training video
  • music which is written to order for your production, which can come at a reasonable cost depending on your supplier
  • library music, which can come at a very low cost but is usually generic and doesn’t have a great impact
  • buy-out music, ready made music where you buy the track and then have unlimited use

Any existing still image, video or film footage will be someone’s intellectual property. In some situations, a particular production company may have been chosen because their own in-house library of footage is precisely what you need. Some producers offer their stock footage at a very low cost. For example, Dragonfly Productions has an extensive library of classic London footage. What about your own footage? Who owns the licence? The answer lies in the contract that was signed with the original producer. You may find that your company is only “licensed” to use the video and not the raw footage, even though you provided the facilities and paid for a production which would not have been made otherwise.

It is best and most efficient to observe and edit periodically during the production process. The producer should run through a couple of rough cuts from the placing together of the raw footage to the final polished video. At the rough cut viewing you can suggest amendments, though again if all has gone to plan, none of these amends will be significant. When viewing it should be remembered that the video may not be the same thing that was on the original script. Often the initial plan changes because what worked well on paper does not work well on film. If there are difficulties these can usually be put right as long as there is good dialogue and co-operation between you and your producer. Never feel as though the edit is finalised and it is too late to mention your doubts. It is never too late to mention concerns you have. Once you have agreed any changes, a final cut will take place, incorporating your suggestions. The final cut leaves you with the finished film. You should expect to pay extra if you ask for changes after this, unless the producer has made an error. Read more about our post production services here.

Presenting the completed video in the chosen format. There is an ever-increasing choice of formats, such as:

  • DVD, Blu-Ray or CD – ideal for posting to prospective clients
  • Video transferred to branded USB keys
  • PC based (i.e. mpg, avi) – suitable for presentations
  • Web – to reach large audiences around the world
  • Digital video tape – for submission to TV stations
  • Video phone compatible format

The distribution of a video should almost always be considered at the pre-production process. If the video is being seen by individuals that matter more copies may be required than if it is being shown to groups. Is it a sales tool or an in-house training video? Is the video a one-off to add substance to a presentation at an annual conference? If it’s going to be used as a sales tool then the packaging will be more important, and should be considered as part of the film. Graphic design and printing may be another aspect that you may need to consider for the DVD cover and notes. Designs should fit in with the general subject and focus of the video. If the video is going abroad it’s important that the right colour system is used and that the format is compatible. Subtitles can help overcome language barriers.

“People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they hear and see.” Wiman and Mierhenry research, published in 1969.”