Answer: … As many as possible
A video project is a partnership between you and the production company. So the more you can bring to the table, the faster and smoother the process will go.
A comprehensive video company like Hencar offers a wide range of support, from location scouting to casting to craft services. But ultimately this is your video, and any help you can bring in securing assets will not only be appreciated, it will be instrumental in making the final project exactly what you want. If you’re doing a corporate or marketing video for your company, you can ask the production team to scout out a good location. Or, you can line up the location yourself. If you have contacts within your industry who can help set you up in a perfect location, by all means use them.
If you require testimonials from satisfied customers, you’re pretty much on your own for lining up those customers. After all, you’ve already worked with them. They’ll be more likely to respond positively to a request from you, as opposed to having a production company give them a cold call. (“Hello sir, you have no idea who I am, but this company you just did business with handed me your personal contact information!” Yeah, that always goes over well.)
The most important assets you can bring to the table are:
Have the project outlined as clearly as possible, and if you can do it on paper, all the better. The production company not only needs to know what you want it to look like, but what you want it to accomplish. If the video(s) falls into a specific tier of a larger business plan, give as much of that information as possible to the production team. It helps us get a clear idea of the big picture, and will also help us catch any areas where there might be a misalignment with the overall plan. Sometimes having an extra set of eyes on the big picture will help you bring everything into focus before you make a mistake. No offense to Bob Ross, but you can’t always turn a mistake into an extra tree and pretend it was your intent all along. We can certainly help you refine and flesh out your ideas, but the clearer the final outcome is in your mind when the pre-production process starts, the easier it will be for us to deliver just what you want.
We really, really need to know when you want the finished product. If you give a vague deadline (“Sometime around the middle of March”) then don’t call us on March 10th demanding to know where the video is. Tied closely to this is…
Where You Need The Video
We need to know how you want the video delivered, and what outlets it will be featured on, before we can agree to a completion date. Do you just need it uploaded to Vimeo/YouTube or will you expect to host the video on your own website? If the latter, do you expect people to view the video on a variety of devices like smart phones and tablets as well as laptops/desktops? (And if not, why not? This is one of the appeals of video: people on the go can research your products anywhere by watching your videos).
Who’s Going To Be In Your Video
You should know coming in to the first production meeting who will be on camera. Or, whether there won’t be anyone on camera at all. There’s nothing wrong with a good voiceover. While companies like Hencar can help you with casting if you need actors, if you need specific people (i.e. from your workplace, from your industry, from your home town) it may be easier for you to line them up. Strong hint here: do this legwork before approaching a video company, so that we know exactly who will and won’t be on board with being in the video when we do our concept development and storyboarding phase. Don’t wait until a week before the shoot to contact the on-camera principles. If you do, you may get an unpleasant surprise when one says: “But I’m going to be at my husband’s funeral that day!” Actually that counts as two unpleasant surprises, because not only will she not be available to the shoot, she’s apparently planning ahead for her husband to be dead on a certain date.
The production company probably won’t have a budget or even a rough cost estimate done for your first face-to-face meeting, unless you’ve already done a large part of the discovery process by phone or email ahead of time. Even then, it will likely be just a rough estimate, which will be refined over time as you have successive meetings and pin down exactly what you need for the video. You should, at least in your mind, have a very firm and realistic idea of what you upper limit is. But, do not agree to hitting that upper limit unless absolutely necessary. While we don’t advise penny-pinching if you want a decent video, there’s also no reason to break the bank. Work with the production company, ask what areas can be trimmed, and offer suggestions for rethinking some of the project’s aspects. If an item is an absolute must then you’ll have to find other areas to cut, but a production company should be willing to work with you to make you feel good about the final cost. Also, make sure you ask a lot of questions, such as whether delivery options are included in the estimate, and whether the estimate includes the costs of potential delays. Also make sure to ask how many revisions you can make during various steps of the process and with various aspects of production (graphics, rough editing, sound, etc.) Typically companies will offer you at least one complementary revision for each major aspect/step, but after that you’ll be charged. Get those guarantees and policies in writing up front before committing to working with a specific company.
A List Of Requirements/Restrictions
This is especially true if you’re doing a corporate or marketing video for your company. You have to work closely with other members of your marketing team to ensure you’re fully compliant with your company’s branding guide. For example, some companies don’t want their logo incorporated with text, but require it to stand alone. Many require specific colors for text, graphics, etc. If you can get the RGB/Pantone codes, make sure to hand them over to the video company. Otherwise there could be extensive revisions on the horizon rather than the smiling faces of happy corporate bigwigs. Revisions mean delays. Delays do not make bigwigs smile.
Try to cover as many bases as possible before meeting with the production company, but don’t sweat it if you can’t think of everything. One of the production company’s jobs is to ask the right questions to get you thinking about how various parts of the project will be handled. No worries if you need time to think about the answers. Haste makes waste in video production, so be sure you have both feet on the ground instead of giving a knee-jerk response that leaves you hanging in the end.