Workshopping Your Way Out of Video Production Problems with a Small Budget

Lisa Marinelli


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At Wistia, we’re no strangers to working within the constraints of a small budget to make our videos come to life. For small and medium-sized businesses like us, we think knowing how to creatively solve video production problems will give you the confidence you need to start making more videos yourself!

In our original series One, Ten, One Hundred, we challenged Sandwich Video, a production agency in Los Angeles, California, to create three ads for Soapbox with three very different budgets: one for $1,000, one for $10,000, and one for $100,000. During the $1,000 video shoot, we saw firsthand how Sandwich’s team workshopped their way out of multiple production problems with a small budget, which is what inspired us to write this post.

Keep reading to learn creative ways you can overcome some tricky budgetary constraints that pop up while producing videos for your business.

Use non-actors and the power of crowdsourcing

When you’re working with a small budget, hiring real professional actors for your business video may be a big waste of money. If you’re planning to shoot a video that requires humans, take a moment to look around your own office. Among your coworkers and friends are individuals who can be the stars of your production.

“If you’re planning to shoot a video that requires humans, take a moment to look around your own office.”

At Wistia, we feature our coworkers in videos all the time. However, this doesn’t always mean these folks are naturals in front of a camera. In order to capture their authenticity, the key is to never make non-actors act. Instead, try to write lines that allow people to be themselves or a slightly exaggerated version of themselves. For example, check out this video we shot a few years back with a bunch of our lovely, non-acting Wistians:

In this instance, we realized our candidates would be better fitted acting in a video with lower stakes, as opposed to being given a speaking role. By scripting a video with minimal acting and a clear voiceover, we were able to make people feel comfortable on camera and feature real folks from our company.

Aside from picking non-actors to be in your video, crowdsourcing also comes in handy for showcasing your company’s culture, especially if your business has a remote work culture. To crowdsource footage, all you need to do is send out an email that contains a mockup of what you’d like people to submit, provide a Dropbox link, and wait for the submissions to come trickling in. Once you have a solid assortment of clips from your coworkers, most of the hard work is already over. The final step is just putting the puzzle pieces together to form one final video that feels authentic and personal. Need some inspiration? Look no further than this completely crowdsourced video we made for our jobs page, highlighting the unique individuals of Wistia!

Access resources by networking

Are you familiar with the saying, “You never know until you ask?” Well, this rings true when you’re trying to find resources for your video, too. You just might know someone among your connections who owns a guitar shop you can use as the shoot location, as was the case when we were planning our Channels product launch video. Instantly, we had a beautiful location to use with minimal setup.

We filmed our entire Channels launch video inside a guitar shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it was only possible because we reached out to the store owner and asked for permission to shoot in their space. We ended up paying a nominal fee, but it was worth every penny when you consider the costs associated with building a similar set like that on our own. The lesson here is simple–don’t be bashful! Ask people in your network to share their resources with you–whether it be using their apartment as a set, borrowing their dog for an extra cute shot, or even shooting with their Canon 5D Mark IV. Using your network to your advantage could help you save that precious budget for other important video production needs, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Furthermore, if someone in your network is a videographer who is willing to help you film for three hours, but you only need them for one, think about additional footage you may need in the future and plan accordingly to take advantage of their time.

Script your locations wisely

Location, location, location. When you’re writing your script and picking locations for your video shoot, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild and dream a little too big. Try to think critically and creatively when it comes to choosing your set by constraining yourself to the resources and surroundings that are already available to you.

Is it absolutely crucial to shoot from inside a coffee shop? The coffee shop might not help enhance the main message you’re trying to communicate to your audience. Remember to take a step back and remind yourself of your objective. Having a clear idea of what you want your viewers to take away from your video will help you write for the resources that you have available.

“Try to think critically and creatively when it comes to choosing your set by constraining yourself to the resources and surroundings that are already available to you.”

Write for the gear you have, too

During the scripting process, it’s also possible to get carried away choosing various shots to tell your story. By this, we mean some ideas you brainstorm could require three cameras, but you only have one. We suggest you write for the least amount of gear you need. If you only have one camera to spare, B-roll and jump cuts will be your best friends.

On the other hand, if you want to dip into your budget a little bit to get more gear, consider renting and returning your production equipment. From lenses to lighting and audio to other accessories, we recommend checking out LensProtoGo for all of your video production needs. We went there recently to check out the ARRI Amira camera that Sandwich Video used to shoot our $100,000 Soapbox ad.

Solve problems with voice-overs

One common problem people face on production day is getting good audio in the field or on location. If you know in advance the location you’ll be shooting has external factors that will impact your ability to capture clear audio, using voice-overs (VOs) in your script is a smart move.

For example, we recently interviewed ezCater, the largest online catering marketplace based in Boston, who created their own original series Restaurant Roots. To share unique stories from restaurant founders, their team strategically shot during restaurant downtimes and used VOs to get crisp audio. Not only is the audio crystal clear in their episode featuring SA PA, a Vietnamese-style restaurant, but the story being told is also easy to follow. Had they not chosen to write VOs in their script, shooting a good video may have been incredibly difficult and time-consuming in a restaurant and city setting with minimal sound control. Check out their episode featuring SA PA below:

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

Our final piece of advice for workshopping your way out of problems is to not assume something won’t look good. Whether you’re producing your first video or your fiftieth, trying to ensure everything is perfect throughout your production will only give you creative tunnel vision. From our experience, being able to bend on your concepts if you run into roadblocks will allow you to think of creative solutions on the fly. Without brushing off a new suggestion, mock it up and then be the judge. As our video producers will say, “Shoot the rubbish version, then decide it’s not usable.”

Put these problem-solving techniques to work

Working with a small budget may make you feel limited, but the truth is, you can still be creative and produce a video that carries your idea across the finish line without a huge budget. To all the small and medium-sized businesses out there, we hope you use some of these strategies to create more videos for your company without breaking the bank.

We’d love to hear about the challenges you faced during the production process and how you creatively overcame those obstacles, so be sure to share your stories and tips with us in the comments below!

Lisa Marinelli


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