Director

The beret. The funny pants. The riding boots. And most importantly, the gigantic megaphone.

This comical image of the director is still with us. Nowadays we usually tell them to leave the beret and funny pants at home. (But everything’s negotiable, and if you really want it as part of your video production experience…) Regardless of how they’re dressed, a solid director makes the difference between a good video and a great video.

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Like cinematographers, directors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some go to school specifically for this job, others, like Penny Marshall, start off as actors and then get into directing. Many have worked their way up in television, starting out as shooters, editors, or other technical personnel. There are differences in directing a film, a video, and a television show. Most television shows are produced in studios, although many non-fiction shows are shot either totally on location or in a mix of location and studio settings. Overall, it’s usually more challenging to direct a shoot on location. Shooting in a studio means just about every aspect from the lighting to the ambient sound can be controlled. Out in the field, you never know what might happen. A rainy day or a fire truck going by can set you back time-wise. That doesn’t happen in a studio.

While practical considerations such as location scouting and scheduling the crew (and cast, if actors are used) are handled by the field producer, the director has a strong hand in setting up other aspects of the shoots. They may be tasked with determining how the video shoot will unfold. Directors may also play a key role in the concept development and storyboarding process, and certainly need to be consulted about decisions such as finding an appropriate location for the shoot.

As the project comes together ahead of the shoot date(s), the field producer handles the practical aspects and the director makes the major artistic decisions. Working together with the director of photography, the director decides how to set up shots for maximum impact, whether to add special touches like slow zooms, and, once the shoot begins, whether any scenes need to be reshot. This is often done by reviewing the footage, much as film makers use rushes or dailies to decide whether to redo a scene. Of course, along with the field producer, the director has an obligation to ensure nothing happens that would make the shoot go over budget.

After the shoot wraps, the director will play a strong role in the post-production process including sitting in on the editing and determining whether any special effects are needed. They may make the call as to how transitions between scenes are handled. They also might decide to strike out some shots in order to keep the overall video moving at an appropriate pace.

In smaller productions, it’s possible for the field producer and the main camera operator to split a director’s duties. But in larger, more complex shoots, it’s imperative to have someone whose main focus is to turn your dream into a reality.

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