Production team working against the sun
Production team working against the sun
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Video + Content

Video production’s secret weapon: Time

Aline Mayerhoffer
Oct, 2023
7 mins

When heading out into the field to capture your content, lots of different factors will determine your ability to return with exactly what you needed and planned for. The expertise of the crew you’ve assembled, the quality of the gear you bring along, the location you have scouted, and the creativity of the concept  or story you are going for will all play an important part in your success. There is, however, one factor that so few people plan for: TIME.

Time is the producer’s secret weapon, and is the single-biggest contributor to the success of a production. More importantly, not enough of it can wipe out the quality of all the other factors I’ve described above.

Insert crowd protesting: “We’re running out of time!” -“We need to make this deadline!”- “Hurry, we’re losing light”- “We can’t wait any longer!” - “It’s a super quick turnaround!”

I get it, I know. As marketers we’re constantly working under time constraints, but I want to talk about how valuable time is in all phases of production, and even when you have little of it, how key it is to allocate the right time to the right things. Here’s just a few examples of how a little bit of time, provided at the right moment, saved the day.

Nature waits for no one.

Weather, snow pack, water levels, migratory patterns, and park permits…oh my. While we may all be used to checking the forecast for our productions, Mother Nature always has more than sun or rain up her sleeve.

It’s June and we’re setting out to capture exhilarating FPV drone footage of river kayaking. We have confirmed a weather window, secured a professional kayaker and some extras for background, and our FPV pilot is on standby. As I’m finalizing the filming authorization with BC Parks, a stint of a really dry early summer weather has the river looking kind of mellow. We decide to wait for some forecasted rain to make the water levels high enough to safely be able to drop into the waterfall as we had planned. (Told you, really exhilarating stuff). So we keep things on hold with a close eye on the weather. A week later, instead of rain, a huge high rolls through, bringing record temperatures that cause a massive melt up in the mountains and the river turns into a raging wild chaos: too much water now! We pause and replan again, waiting for it to settle. When the water was finally right, I updated BC Parks on our new shooting plans only to find out that since our initial authorization, the wildlife department has discovered some elevated activity from an endangered owl species in the area. Pause again.

While we eventually got Mother Nature on our side, this example points to the need for flexibility in your timing. If you have a shoot that requires the natural elements to look and perform at their best, give yourself multiple windows. Be ready for the inevitable stop/start, and ensure your crew, talent and team are too. Without our approach of taking the time to perfect the conditions, we would not have been able to get the super cool shot that you now can see here:

Talent with unfortunate timing.

Talent is tough. In our line of business, we don’t just ask our talent to stand around smiling. These people have skills that we need them to perform at a moment’s notice. So if they don’t show up “on” or don’t show up at all. Time becomes critical.

Our team is headed to the Canadian Rockies, for a five day shoot involving lots of amazing local talent. At 8pm on the eve of the shoot, conditions are looking great, we have clear skies in the forecast and our early-ups are dialed with the resorts to beat the crowds and get the untouched snow and groomers. And then the notification arrives that the whole family we planned to shoot with have come down with the flu and won’t be able to make it. Time is of the essence, and with so little of it, we need all hands on deck to find replacements. Our local Production Coordinator, our clients, our crew, everyone is spreading the word quickly and we luckily manage to gather a few options over the course of the late night. The next morning we stand on glittering groomers with the sun coming over the mountains and two new kids grinning at us.
Being prepared for last minute snafus is a good producer’s skill. Anticipate that nothing will go perfectly, especially with kids and animals, and leave time in your schedule to react. Arrive on set with plenty of time, have a plan B whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help…even if it is at 11pm. Sometimes, we all need a little help from our friends!

Complex situations and deadlines: When you need to use your time wisely

While last minute time constraints are inevitable, their made less likely or at least less impactful when you invest in your pre-production time. Pre-pro is the discovery, planning and logistics management phase of your project and taking the time to analyze both the needs and risks of the project is time well spent.

Earlier this year we were tasked with filming a campaign video for Hydrapak, for a campaign called: We Sweat The Details. Naturally, a campaign shoot by this name required us to have enough time in advance to answer a bunch of questions: How do we make these highly engineered water reservoirs shine? How do we emphasize the attention to detail that went into perfecting those? How do we meet the standard of a product of such detail in the actual filming?  Our team needed the time to familiarize themselves with the technical aspects of the product. We needed time for our Director to test and come up with the right lighting and rigging that would allow 360 degree shots. Time for a prelight in the studio on day zero. Time for our Art Director to play around with propping the reservoirs up the perfect way and letting the client chime in with their expertise. We knew we had an ambitious and complex shot list to execute, and with limited studio time, taking the time in prep was extra important to mitigate hiccups on the day of the shoot. Finally, it also meant taking the time in post production. Our VFX magician Lou knows what she is doing, yet was also only able to make it happen on the tight delivery deadline because we had taken the time even prior to the shoot to consult with her, making sure she got the shots the way she needed, for it to all get polished up and brought to life in post. The result was the sexiest reservoir video on the face of the www, but I might be biased. I’ll let you form your own opinion:

The lesson: Time is gold

Time really is your most valuable asset, if used the right way. Allow time to dig into the best approach. Allow time for trial and error, if things are complex. Allow time to perfect the details that really matter. Allow time to think about everything early and anticipate challenges. Look at how much time you need and if you have a set amount of time to work with, how to divide it up the smartest way to get work done and leave more time for risky aspects or phases. Last but not least: don’t forget to leave time for having some fun doing it all!