Video Production Process: Our Guide to Business Video
An in-depth guide to how we approach the in-house business video production process at Wistia.
April 18, 2023
Looking to make compelling, high-quality marketing videos for your business? You’ve come to the right place! Our Head of Video Production, Chris Lavigne, recommends establishing a video production process to achieve your video strategy goals and effectively communicate with your audience.
In this article, we’ll walk you through our tried-and-true video production process at Wistia, from planning and pre-production to post-production and distribution. We like to think of it as the video lifecycle, if you will!
Whether you’re a small business just getting started with video or you’re looking to scale your corporate video production, our in-depth guide will help you bring your ideas to life.
Here's the 5 stages of video production:
Strategy: define your goals
To kick off the video production process, define your strategy and goals. Ask yourself: “Will video help solve our problem?” Whether it’s for your website, marketing campaign, or messaging, take a moment to consider if video is the best medium to achieve your goals.
Here are some questions for you to answer that’ll help you get clear on your strategy:
- What is the goal?
- What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
- Will the video provide information on a web page?
- Will the video be part of a larger campaign?
- Will the video support the product?
- Will the video be used to communicate a message?
- Will the video accompany a blog post or piece of content?
- Will the video be used as a design asset?
- Is video the right execution for the strategy?
For example, a project stakeholder asked our video team to create a short welcome video for new Wistia customers who sign in to their account for the first time. The video would appear in a Pendo modal, showcasing our human brand while helping customers realize the value of their new Wistia plan. To achieve this objective and to give our brand a more personal touch, we chose to use video as our medium.
Creative brief: set your vision
Once you have your strategy in place, it’s time to craft a creative brief to guide your video vision.
A solid brief should include your target audience, video specs (horizontal, portrait, landscape, or square), ideal length, and key message. Most importantly, it sets the deadline and helps determine the scope of your project.
We at Wistia use Google Docs to create and refine our creative briefs. Its collaborative functionality helps keep everyone on the same page.
Here are the questions you should answer in your creative brief:
- Who is the audience?
- Where will the video live?
- What is the ideal length?
- What is the rough message you’re trying to get across?
- What are the desired video specs?
- What’s the deadline?
As we mentioned, nailing down your deadline is super important because your entire production revolves around it. For example, if your deadline is only a day away, it’s unrealistic to plan a shoot from the Grand Canyon. But if you have a month, it could be doable with the right budget and coordination!
While this example may be extreme, it demonstrates how a well-crafted creative brief can drive tactical and strategic video marketing efforts to grow your business. For this particular project, we needed seven iterations of the video to welcome users to their Wistia accounts and cater to their specific plans (we have seven plan types for different video needs).
With this approach, the use of video could have a real impact on the first impression new customers have when they enter our software for the first time.
Brainstorm: Generate ideas
Before brainstorming ideas, consider your video project budget and timeline. These factors determine the scope of ideas you can execute and the level of creativity you can bring to the table.
When brainstorming, look at other videos you’ve done or ones that’ve caught your eye to serve as a starting point. Take into account your audience, the level of production value you’re aiming for, and whether you’re competing for your audience’s attention or if you have it already. When you land on your top ideas, continue refining them until they align with your vision.
Here’s what you should consider while brainstorming and what you can do to stay on track:
- What’s your budget for this project?
- How much time do you have for this project?
- How much gloss and production value does this video need?
- Do you have the viewer’s attention, or are you competing for their attention?
- Should this be a bespoke, out-of-the-box video concept?
- Should you reuse a concept you’ve done before?
- Find other videos that you’ve done or seen to serve as inspiration.
- Land on your top ideas and continue to refine them.
Going back to our Welcome to Wistia example, here’s how we thought about these videos while brainstorming:
- We decided these videos needed to be pretty glossy.
- We also knew that we didn’t have the audience’s attention.
- Since they just signed up at Wistia, they probably wanted to get right into their Wistia account. So we had to respect their time.
- We wanted to frontload the video with as much information and brand personality as possible.
- We wanted to be as quick and concise as possible in the video script.
- We had seven videos to make, so we couldn’t be too bespoke or out-of-the-box. We needed to be able to reuse some time-intensive shots.
While brainstorming, you should feel comfortable throwing out a bunch of bad ideas before arriving at the right one. We sure did!
Scripting: Find your voice
Next up in the video production process: scripting.
We highly recommend using Google Docs to script your video. It’s simply the best tool for collaborating in real time with your creative partners or stakeholders, whether you’re in the same room or not.
A well-crafted script sets the tone for your video. Be sure to specify moments that are voice-over or on camera, illustrate visuals, and revise as necessary. Multiple iterations and stakeholder reviews will help you fine-tune your script before moving into the next steps of pre-production.
Here’s how to make your script the best it can be:
- Get your team set up in Google Docs.
- Determine the appropriate voice and tone for your video.
- Mark up moments that are voice-over and on camera.
- Illustrate your visuals.
- Go through multiple iterations.
- Hold a stakeholder review and get them to sign off on the script.
- Lock down your script.
When creating our Welcome to Wistia videos, we involved many stakeholders in the script-writing process. Since these videos would benefit different teams across Wistia, we wanted to ensure the messaging and features were spot on. We used Slack, Zoom, and emails to discuss and refine the script, making sure every word was perfect.
Don’t be afraid to have multiple iterations and get input from various stakeholders before locking down your script!
Planning the production
As Chris would say, don’t sleep on pre-production! Instead of rolling right into production after you have your script locked down, take the time to plan for your project.
During pre-production, you’ll want to determine your crew, establish project milestones, and schedule production. This is the time to scout locations, design the set, and coordinate with any freelancers or animators. You should also hold a stakeholder check-in before moving into production.
Here are some things to consider and do during pre-production:
- Who is the crew?
- Do you need to hire freelancers, animators, or musicians?
- Establish project milestones with your team to help you stay on track.
- Schedule your production and any talent extras.
- Scout your location and design your set.
- Give your freelancers the assets needed to get started.
- Create placeholder Wistia embeds (if needed) for your design and engineering teams to implement and test in their workflows.
- We highly recommend bringing your script to life with a rough animatic or mockup version of your video.
- Check in with project stakeholders.
We knew our Welcome to Wistia videos were going to lean heavily on motion graphics, but we didn’t have any in-house talent for that. So we hired freelancers who could meet our timeline and budget. To get them started, we worked with some of our product designers to provide the assets they needed.
Additionally, we created placeholder Wistia embeds, or mockups, that our engineering team and designers could use to implement into their workflows for testing. So by the time we had the final video, all we had to do was replace the mockup.
Make a mockup or animatic
We highly recommend bringing your script to life with an animatic or a mockup version of your video so that you can get stakeholder check-in. A mockup can help give you a sense for how long your video is going to be and how it’s going to feel.
Here’s the animatic that Chris made for the Welcome to Wistia video:
As you can see, the example in the video above doesn’t look or sound great. But that’s okay! All you need to do to create a substantial mockup is read your script out loud, even if it’s just a voice-over and scratch vocals, and add some still images. Doing this will help ensure your script matches your vision for the final video, and it will bring the video to life for stakeholders, ultimately ensuring there’s no confusion.
After you’ve nailed down your pre-production work, it’s time to get down to business and start producing that video!
Capture your vision
You’ll be tackling set design, prop selection, and shot framing: all key elements that will shape the overall look and feel of your video. Don’t forget to block shots with your talent, which basically means figuring out where they should stand and move during each shot.
It’s also important to focus on scene setup and breakdown, proper lighting, and high-quality audio. And of course, record multiple takes with your director giving guidance to your talent so you’ll have plenty of footage to work with in the editing phase later on.
Here’s a production checklist for you:
- Design the set for each scene.
- Select all the props you need.
- Frame each shot carefully to capture the desired look and feel.
- Block each shot with your talent to determine their movement and placement.
- Set up and break down each shot efficiently.
- Ensure proper lighting for both the scene and talent.
- Check and adjust audio quality for optimal sound.
- Record multiple takes with a director guiding your talent.
- Ensure you have enough coverage and multiple good takes of each line.
When it comes to production, nailing your shots is key. You don’t want to be stuck having to reshoot because you didn’t get enough good takes of each line. So make sure your director or producer gets plenty of solid takes before moving on to editing.
As a director, Chris likes to get at least two really good takes of every single line before going into the edit. When we worked on the Welcome to Wistia project, we set aside three days for production, but only two for actually shooting around the office.
Why two days, you ask? Well, our office wasn’t exactly camera-ready. We had a bunch of desks, a lot of empty space, and less-than-perfect lighting. You simply couldn’t throw up a camera and start shooting. Remember, we wanted our videos to be glossy, so we had to be super intentional with our set design, props, lighting, and everything that made up the shot.
Giving yourself enough time during production is crucial to ensuring your shots are spot on.
Feeling confident about all of the footage you’ve captured? Well, you’re ready to move onto post-production, otherwise known as editing!
Refine your story
The editing stage is where you’re laying out your full story. This is the time to adjust the pacing and flow of the video, add motion graphics, music, and sound effects, and collaborate on video feedback.
Be sure to keep track of your media to avoid headaches when working with freelancers. Don’t forget to get stakeholder reviews and be prepared for reshoots or voice-over pickups if needed. You can also perfect your video with color grading, audio mixing, and mastering.
At Wistia, we’re fans of Adobe Premiere Pro for editing and we require our freelancers to use it too. But there are other editing programs out there, so choose what works best for you. When it comes to media management, we love Frame.io for transferring video project files because the upload and download speed on their desktop app is fantastic. And for feedback, we use a combination of Frame.io and Slack threads.
Here’s a post-production checklist for you:
- Choose your editing software and make sure your freelancers use the same.
- Get your media management under control.
- Lay out your story and adjust the pacing and flow.
- Lay in motion graphics, music, and sound effects.
- Use your method of choice for video feedback.
- Get stakeholder review sooner rather than later.
- Plan for reshoots or voice-over pickups.
- Finalize your video with color grading, audio mixing, and mastering.
When we made our Welcome to Wistia videos, we thought we had everything under control with our pre-production, planning, and stakeholder reviews. But, as luck would have it, we missed one tiny little line! Thankfully, it was just an off-camera line, so it wasn’t a total disaster.
To fix it, we had to do some voice-over reshoots, but it wasn’t too bad since Chris was the original voice-over talent. And the best part? It didn’t cost us a dime!
In terms of stakeholder reviews, we used a combination of tools. First, Chris did a round of feedback with the video team. After feeling good about the proof, he uploaded it to Wistia to make it easy to share a video link with the marketing team and other stakeholders.
We’ve found that asking for feedback in a Slack thread is an easy and more public way to organize feedback. It decreases the chances of receiving the same feedback twice.
We aggregated our feedback in Frame.io as a video team, but we didn’t need that level of granularity when we shared it with our stakeholders.
You’re almost at the finish line of the video production process for your business videos! Once you get stakeholder approval, you’ll have the final version of your video in your hands.
Share your video
At this stage, you can customize your video, create a custom thumbnail, order captions, and make multiple versions for different platforms if needed. When that’s all said and done, you can share your video with stakeholders once again to ensure a seamless viewing experience.
Here’s your final checklist before sharing your video with the world:
- Get final stakeholder sign-off.
- Upload your final video to Wistia and rename it so you can easily find it in the future.
- Create a custom thumbnail.
- Apply customizations.
- Order captions.
- Create multiple versions if needed.
- Share your video with stakeholders once again and test the viewing experience.
At Wistia, we typically won’t pull a frame from the video and tack it on as the video thumbnail. We’ll ask our design team to create a custom thumbnail because doing so can help increase video play rate.
After we apply customizations, order captions, and create multiple versions if we need to, we share the Wistia video links to stakeholders so they can implement it into design and engineering.
Finally, we go through a quality control process to make sure the video looks great and all the important bits are working. That means checking the thumbnail, making sure the captions are on point, and giving the video a final once-over to make sure it’s perfect.
We also use Asana to keep track of everything in the final stages and share the final link with the team as a source of record.
Bring your ideas to life
At Wistia, we’re all about teamwork, imagination, and sweating the details. We believe that by following our in-depth video production process, you’ll be able to make marketing videos that captivate your audience and hit your objectives. So go ahead and give it a try! We can’t wait to see what you’ll create.