Tips for An Effective Video Production Pipeline
The need for an efficient and effective production pipeline is huge for any video production company looking to maximize profitability and quality. The question is, how do you get one?
While the answer to this question depends a lot on the needs and workflows of the company or individual asking it, there are many common ideas that will help everyone develop better pipelines. In this article, I wanted to share some pipeline implementations that we at Blueprint consider must-haves.
At Blueprint, we work in many different facets of media production, including animation (2D and 3D), video production, voiceovers, event filming, music production, and more. But no matter what type of project we are faced with, we always start with a script. Whatever the idea, a script is paramount as the primary facilitator of an effective pipeline. A script is a great tool, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be exhaustive. You want it to be a tool, not a hinderance. Try to use first drafts to get ideas down quickly, and then present it to the team for review and brainstorming.
If you’re working by yourself, leave the script alone for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. These techniques are super helpful for creating a great script that guides the project well and keeps things fresh and organized.
If you’re working with a team and before production begins, it’s important that the script has been discussed and everyone involved in the project is familiar with it on some level. This will act as the foundation for the project and everyone’s involvement in it.
While not as essential as a script, a storyboard can serve as great way to guide the visuals of the project. Unless you work with a team of robots, your crew’s sense of what constitutes good creative mojo will contain some variety. This is good! It’s a healthy sign. But it can also be a source of frustration as production gets underway, as things can end up lacking continuity.
A storyboard is a great way to combat this, and guide everyone visually. Moreover, it can also help iron out the timing of edits and transitions, and provide an avenue for everyone to get excited and upbeat about the project.
Previz & Concept Art
Similar to a storyboard, pre-visualization (previz) is most often used with animation projects. It provides the team (or individual) with a rough visual representation of what the final product will look like, including camera movement and placement. This, in combination with concept art, is almost like making the video before you make the video. It is an invaluable tool for animation projects in terms of facilitating efficient production and keeping up with deadlines.
Remember, the goal here is to provide a rough concept for the final product. Depending on the requirements of your specific project, you may have to spend a lot of time on this stage of the process, or only an hour or two. Either way, this is the time to make sure you are properly prepared for production.
This stage differs greatly depending on what type of video you are creating, and which mediums you are making use of (i.e. shooting video, animation, graphics, etc.). In general, it’s a good idea to designate a specific amount of time for each medium.
For example, if you are creating a corporate interview video, but need to include an intro graphic, an outro graphic, and have time for mastering audio, it’s a good idea to designate a rough time limit for each of these tasks. Especially in animation, it’s very important to divide your time appropriately. In our experience, any part of the pipeline for an animation video can easily blow out of proportion if each of them aren’t well monitored.
Determining the function of specific elements within the video is also important. For example, determining which elements are in focus, which ones tell the story, which ones provide support, which ones establish setting and time, etc., will in turn determine how good the quality of those individual elements are, and how much time and effort (and money) should be spent on each of them.
Getting this done during the script/storyboard phase is ideal, but often difficult and sometimes impossible due to how design and animation can affect and even change how the elements are conceived and implemented.
The most important thing here is to think through the specific requirements of the video you are producing, take into account the tools and knowledge you (and your crew) have at hand, and determine the best way to marry the ideas and concepts with their implementation.
I have a love/hate relationship with compositing and post-production. It is often both the most fun, yet stressful stage. It’s the stage where you watch all the hard work culminate into the exciting final product, and also where you notice all the glaring mistakes and things that went wrong during production.This stage is also the most difficult to optimize, as its efficiency depends a lot on how efficient the stages were before it.
Below are are a few rules of thumb that can help ease the post-production process:
- Relax! It’s easy to get stressed and panic about every small mistake. I’ve seen more than a few cases of stressed producers verging on PPTSD (Post-Production Traumatic Stress Disorder). In all seriousness, no amount of anxiety will make your video better. Try to take a deep breath and recognize that at the end of the day, you did the best you could with the tools you were given in the circumstances you found yourself in.
- Keep things simple! Getting carried away with color correction, gradients, vignettes, stylizing, and a thousand other small details can take a big bite out of efficiency. Keeping a good handle on the time spent on these things will bring a noticeable increase in the effectiveness of your pipeline.
- Learn the %50 rule. I once heard someone describe a good rule of thumb called the %50 rule. When you know what you want to do in terms of special effects during post, scale the time and effort designated to it back by half. While not a perfect solution, it can be a helpful way to keep things tight. This is especially great when you are working with an inexperienced crew.
- Focus on what matters! Every video tells a story. Even instructional videos have climaxes and points of focus. Maintaining a good grasp on the elements that move the story along is essential for guiding the efficiency of post-production. Using this focus to determine the “how” of post (i.e. how to color grade, how to composite, how to edit, how to master, ect.) can work wonders for efficiency and producing videos that have a professional edge.
An Ongoing Process
All in all, refining and optimizing your production pipeline is an ongoing process. With technology constantly changing, and client expectations in terms of bang-for-their-buck always rising, the search for the best, most profitable pipeline will likely never end.
However, when it comes to production, nothing could be a more worthwhile endeavor.