Jonny Harper20/01/2020

Your crew are there for a limited time, plan in advance to make the most of them!

Making a video is about so much more than the day(s) RV appear to film it. You can do a lot of preparation to make the day run smoothly and make the most of the time you have with the crew.  “What prep?” I hear you cry! There are a lot of tips here, so I’ve broken it down into three sections: 



Plan the schedule for the day of the shoot

At RV, we will spend time discussing with you exactly what you are trying to achieve with your video. During this process, we will provide you with a creative treatment. This provides an outline of what should be captured, who any potential video participants are, and how we plan to do this. The next step is to create a shoot schedule which shows the plan for our time with you. This is a collaborative document and it’s really important to ensure that this schedule is accurate before we come onto site. 

Things to consider during this process include:

  • Availability of contributors (students and staff) – are the people involved in the filming available at the time that is proposed in the schedule?
  • Availability and suitability of rooms – are the rooms booked and suitable for the filming requirements (sound, timetable etc)?
  • Travel time between locations – is the time outlined to move and set up between locations accurate to ensure delays don’t occur during the day?
  • Sensible schedule – is it possible to group all the activities in similar locations together to limit moving around? This is something we will help with.
  • Time and personnel to set up – do you have enough resource to ensure that rooms and locations are set up in advance of the filming and that any contributors have arrived and are prepared before meeting with the film crew?
  • Weather conditions (time for sunrise and sunset) – is there a certain time of day that the shot needs to happen? This will be factored into the schedule.

Set up locations for each scene

The best way of making the most of the time allocated at each location is to ensure that everywhere scheduled to be filmed is looking its best and is representative of what you would like to show on screen. You don’t usually need to do much in open spaces like parks and courtyards, or in relatively uncluttered rooms like lecture theatres. The real work will take place in offices, classrooms and laboratories where clutter naturally accumulates. If it feels like hard work then remember that London Met once featured a super lab in a branding video. Whatever you’re tidying must be easier than that!

Obviously, I’m exaggerating to prove a point but it’s clear which of these would be a winning backdrop to an interview with one of your esteemed professors… A tidy up is really worth it!

As part of your de-clutter, make sure any branding is up to date. It is also important that any props or equipment you need are available. If you are planning to use a particular item of equipment, you will also need to make sure that on the day, there will be someone present who knows how to operate it. We had to delay a shoot in a laboratory once when we realised that there were no lab coats available for the students to wear. Don’t let small niggles like that eat into your filming time.

Make the most of any footage captured by repurposing where possible

Before the shoot, think about exactly what footage will be captured and whether there are any other potential uses for it. That way we can make sure it, or some of it, will be suitable for both uses.  Knowing a university’s plans in advance allows us to keep options open for the future and reduce the need for additional filming or content duplication.


Get to know your participants

Most people’s happy place is not in front of a camera, and being interviewed for a promotional video can be a daunting prospect. This is particularly true for academics. Your students will have chosen to take part but often academics are involved by virtue of their role in the university rather than their natural ability on camera. It’s important to help your academics buy into the project and understand how participating will benefit them. A strong academic interview can make all the difference in a course video. In this video we made for Brunel University, Benjamin Zephaniah talks about setting his students’ creativity alight. It is a powerful message to someone considering studying creative writing.

University departments and subjects involve a large number of stakeholders. It really helps if you take the time to meet anyone who will feature in advance, to explain what filming will be like and what you are trying to achieve. This way, you will know the most appropriate person to select for filming and will have already built up a rapport for the day. It also helps to put a face to a name, so you aren’t playing ‘Guess Who’ on the day of the shoot.

Share your key messages in advance

Meeting your participants before expecting them to take part can help to put them at ease. It is also good opportunity to share key marketing messages so your academics can familiarise themselves with those. Some people like to rehearse before they feature in a promotional video, so they’ll appreciate the time to prepare. They might also have some subject-specific insight that they can add to your marketing to support what you are saying, or ideas about related activities to film.

Organise a willing group of students

Your academics may not have much choice about their involvement in your video, but your students do and many will be keen to take part. For some shoots, such as point-of-view, it’s helpful to have a group of students that will stay with us for the day, rather than a number of different groups. That means we only need to deliver a briefing once. Students will also start to understand what’s expected with the filming after the first few scenes, and will become more relaxed in front of the camera. This will lead to time savings, as students will be able to engage in the process, naturally starting to come up with their own ideas and standing in the correct locations which will reduce the need for re-shooting. 

When you are arranging to brief your students, bear in mind that you need to have a representative group of your student population. A couple of notes on appearance are to ask students not to wear anything with an offensive slogan, a large logo or thin stripes (which cause a strange effect on camera). And while a natural glow looks great on camera, we’d encourage our participants to go easy on the spray tan the night before, to avoid the ‘you’ve been tango’d’ look!

If there are multiple shoot dates with the same contributors, ask students not to book any haircuts midway through and ask them to wear the same clothing. This is to avoid continuity issues. 

Don’t be an email warrior!

All of the above are intended to be done in person. Building rapport and getting people to fully ‘buy in’ to projects are the single most important things you can do in laying the groundwork for a successful video. It’s much easier to achieve that face-to-face than sitting behind a desk. 

Don’t do it! It will be a better video if you’ve met the participants and briefed them in person rather than by sending an email. (Image by Stokpic from Pixabay)

Make the most of the people involved in your shoot

Think about the time you have with the crew and your contributors, and what else you could achieve while they are there. For example, your academics are busy people. If you have agreed to spend an hour with them but the video interview is only likely to take 45 minutes, think about how you could maximise the last 15. This might be by asking them more interview questions, possibly relating to other marketing objectives. 


Make sure that everyone involved knows their role

We are aiming for top efficiency on the day or days that we are filming – we want you to get your money’s worth! In advance, we will have planned the schedule together and we will both be working from the Video Management Sheet, so we know we are on the same page.

It is important that anyone present on the shoot day(s) knows what will happen and what their role is. In addition to your participants, who we have already covered, you may have asked some colleagues for help with logistics or signing off on footage. Make sure that anyone involved understands the project and the part they play in it.

So, you’re not just a marketer any more – you’re also a location scout, a casting director and an assistant producer! 

And you know what you need to know to make a great promotional video. We look forward to seeing you on set!

I just have one final note based on some requests we’ve had in the past. We are all for being as efficient as possible, but we can’t combine a day of shooting video and photography stills. The set-up and lighting for photography is different to film. It sounds like a good idea but actually it would result in conflicting schedules with either the crew or the photographer waiting around for each other to finish before they could capture what they needed. Just in case that was springing to your mind as the next time saving initiative! 

RV staff regularly blog on topics such as industry news, top tips in creating or using rich media content and tech reviews – click the link below to head to our blog page and find out more. If you’re particularly interested in video, you might like our 7 tips for producing top course videos.