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Pre-Production Tips for a Killer Company Culture Video

Lauren Hill is Video Production Specialist at Volusion, an ecommerce platform that helps empower online business. Her background includes film, social media and marketing. She also really likes assorted jellybeans and balloon hats shaped like animals. You can check out more of her work on The Ecommerce Authority or send her a tweet at @lmhill.

I'm of the opinion that, regardless of your size, every business can benefit from a culture video. It's the fastest and easiest way for people to gain a sense of who you are, what you do and how you work as an organization.

I recently went through the process of creating a new culture video for the Volusion team and, as a result, gathered a few nuggets of wisdom that I believe are helpful for any company looking to foray into this kind of video. While making a culture video is no easy feat, there are a couple of things you can do to help make the process as smooth (and fun!) as possible.

Pre-Production and Planning

From an organizational standpoint, there are a number of key ideas that you'll want to define. These can vary by company, but the following are absolutely essential throughout this process:

Define your audience

Is this a recruiting video or an advertisement for your company? It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that a potential employee is very different from a potential customer. Defining your audience will help to better determine your needs throughout production. Hopefully, by this stage you’ve already identified why you want to make a video that’s representative of your company’s culture (in case you haven’t, here’s a little help), so defining your audience should be relatively easy.

Based on the feedback I received from my teammates, it was clear that the Volusion culture video would be targeting prospective employees, so it was important that I find a way to visually articulate our core values. In a nutshell, we’re all about working hard, playing hard and kicking butt. Once I understood my audience and what they needed to see, it made the later steps of the process much easier.

It may seem like a small task, but understanding who you’ll be catering your video to will help to save you time and money at the finish line.

Construct a shot list

This is as simple as opening up an Excel document, creating three columns titled Scene/Shot Number, Location, and Description, and defining each of them. Here’s an example from my shot list used on the Volusion culture video shoot:

My shot list basically worked as a quick reference sheet where, in this example, I was reminded of important details that needed to be captured, such as the large grey couches, size of the room, and volume of employees caught on camera. The most important thing to have here is a strong description of what you’re trying to accomplish with each shot. Having this list fleshed out properly now will allow you to focus more on actual production later.

Here's a snapshot of how the shot mentioned above turned out:

Depending on how complicated or detailed your culture video is going to be, you might also consider adding the following information to your spreadsheet:

  • Shot type: wide shot, close up, point of view shot, etc.
  • Additional notes: props, makeup, special requirements
  • Time: "This will take approximately 40 minutes to complete"

It's as a simple as that! Lucky for us, we're not working on a Spielberg picture here, so it doesn't have to be overly complicated. You just need to make sure that you have your ideas down on paper so you'll stay organized throughout the production stage of your video project.

Create a production schedule

This one seems kind of obvious, right? But I cannot stress to you just how important it is have a shoot schedule in place. This nifty little document saved me about a million times from steering the production process off course.

It might seem very similar to the shot list, and you can always combine them if you'd prefer, but this document includes more details, such as scheduling and contact information. Creating a production schedule will allow you to manage time expectations, involved participants, and overall production workflow.

I'd suggest including the following items in your shoot schedule:

  • Location
  • Scene or shot
  • Equipment needed
  • People in shot
  • Contact information
  • Date and time of shoot

Because I know that seeing is believing, here's a glimpse at a portion of my production schedule for this shoot:

Something I tried to stay conscious of was my coworkers' schedules. It’s important to secure your talent’s time, no matter how small of a role they play in your shoot. If you’re working in a busy office that doesn’t revolve around video, chances are that everyone else is busy working on other important projects, so be flexible. Also, be sensitive to the fact that many people are initially a little uncomfortable on camera.

Well, there you have it! It’s important to remember that the pre-production process will scale with your video. If you have an overarching storyline that you’re trying to convey throughout your video, it might be necessary to create a storyboard or video treatment. But, in the end, it’s all really just about capturing those special moments that set you apart from the competition. If you get all of your thoughts and scheduling down on paper during this phase, you’ll be just fine.

And, in case you're interested, here’s the Volusion culture video that I worked on.