Video production is anything but simple.
As video content explodes more and more people realize: getting the video you want is anything but easy.
Everyone has expectations. And when it comes to video production even the person who can’t express what they want still wants something.
In this article: we’re going to learn how to uncover those hidden wants. Specifically
- Best practices for working as a team both internal and external
- Which tools can help streamline conversation & process
- Common issues which video producers face and what to do about them
- How to handle communication when it comes to video production
- Why deadlines are often extended (and how to avoid it)
With that being said, let’s talk about…
The video production process at a high-level: lots of people involved.
Expectations. Thoughts. Ideas.
All of these play into the video production process because no one person has all the answers.
- The client: knows the business objectives & what they want to do
- The creatives: know the medium and how to express within it
- The script writer: knows how to make words “sound” right
- The creative director: knows how to unify the visuals
- The sound designer: how to make the sound sound sound.
- And so on…
The point that you need to understand it’s rarely one person. It’s rarely a one man team. It’s usually a mix of people doing a variety of jobs. And in there lies the problem.
Interpretation: it’s a slippery slope
I say this. You interpret that.
That’s how miscommunication begins. And the video process is one full of mix communication. Because you’re not doing math - things are perfect numbers, they are visuals and interpretations… with that a world of hurt opens up.
The hardest part of the video process is staying grounded. Leading the client down the best path without forcing decisions on them.
And of course the “best path” is one which…
- Balances the budget with reality (what’s possible)
- Stays within the constraints of the deadline
- Maximizes the creativity available
- Hits the business objectives
And with this we can get a kind of Venn diagram of the best path.
These are the types of discussions best had at the beginning of a project: what are we trying to get out of it? What does success look like?
By aligning everyone early on it’s easier to discuss compromises and what can or can’t be done.
Our video production flow chart (it’s complex)
Just look at it. Look!
This is basically all the touchpoints in our average video project with a client. And some of these might have multiple rounds of revisions. Phew.
You can get a sense of the amount of decisions which must be made. And keep in mind that these are usually made by a group of 7-12 people over 4-5 weeks. So the amount of interaction and communication complexity is significant.
So let’s talk about that: how do you handle the communication?
Communication & video production: lots of little details
The hardest thing is keeping up with all the ideas. It literally takes a project manager to get the job done.
- Small details can’t be missed otherwise they can become big issues later on
- Certain feedback is appropriate early on in the process but not later
- Not all feedback is equal - some actually needs to be cut
- You can’t skip feedback or communication, so it has to be timely to avoid delays
I could go on but you get it: communication is a big deal.
Our favorite way to communicate? Verbally.
However we use a few different methods:
- Clickup is our video project management system, a central repository for everything project related including each step of the project
- Zoom is our verbal phone call system. We prefer this in most cases because you can brainstorm in real time with the team or client
- Slack is for emergencies. When something is on fire. Or when you want to double down on the importance of something.
Whenever possible: communicate verbally
You can hear more through the voice than through text. Everyone knows the text message issues of interpretation.
Voice makes it just that much easier to understand the other person. Their tone, rhythm, how it’s being said… plus how much easier it is to discuss instead of interpret & assume.
Whenever possible and not a waste of time try to hop on a voice call. It can make all the difference.
Always communicate the constraints of a project
Yes the timeline is important, but making a timeline that doesn’t get broken is unlikely.
So honestly you end up updating the timeline A LOT. And yet, you can never leave it without an update. Otherwise you risk going into the dark.
The dark meaning a zone where work is being done but not tracked. And this will often be the moment when a project adds an extra few days or weeks to it’s overall timeline. (not ideal).
To avoid this, try to always deliver constraints with any update:
“We need feedback on this animatic within 24-48hs in order to continue on track with our timeline”
You can also qualify what type of feedback is appropriate, what isn’t, and of course: why. Humans love the why. So make sure to include it.
“As we move beyond this step you won’t be able to make change to the script.”
“we will need the script to be 95% finalized in order to move onto the next step”
There’s a delicate balance here of setting the boundaries and being flexible. For example often we’ll move ahead with the project even if it’s not “perfectly” set in place.
That’s because we understand that time is money, and making people wait sometimes has an even higher impact than doing a simple revision later on.
This is the game you will constantly be playing with revisions, feedback and the timeline
Spelling of which, how will you be collecting feedback on your video?
The best software for collecting video feedback
Back in the day we used to use email and timestamps to collect feedback. Nowadays we use Syncsketch, it’s amazing because we can leave feedback at specific times, draw, highlight things, and make it easy for creatives to hit it all.
But the drawback is that as projects have more stakeholders it becomes harder to organize all the feedback. More on this in a bit.
However, always give the client guidelines on HOW to leave visual feedback. For us it’s something like:
Add visual references wherever possible
- Be as CLEAR as possible about details, what you want, etc
- Avoid being too wordy (as this can create interpretation confusion)
- Don’t go back on previous feedback
Getting incomplete feedback fast won’t do the job. You want feedback to be thought out, and properly articulated in order to be useful.
And most importantly is getting buy-in from ALL the key stakeholders. Otherwise you risk having to re-do everything later on. And yes, this has happened to use more times than we’d like to admit.
Some SyncSketch best practices for visual feedback
Lets talk Syncsketch a bit more. There’s a few cool tools available that we find ourself using often such as
- Document review
- Image review
- Being able to slow down clips or speed them up
- Drawing with different colours
- Leaving feedback & reference image with specific timestamps
- Tracking iterations of videos and even comparing them side by side
Syncsketch has a whole host of cool tools available for not just video review but also images, documents and 3d files, although we mainly utlize it for just video review, it allows us to keep track of each iteration of the video and its feedback.
Most important: it keeps a single source of truth. Instead of scattering it around a bunch of different places everyone has a clean record of wheres what, when it was posted, and what should be changed between versions.
But, we don’t give creatives access to client projects
Mainly because: they have feelings!
Clients can sometimes be blunt. They might say things without thinking them through.
And there’s nothing which can hurt the creative spirit more than feedback which just … doesn’t… quite make sense.
So it’s a great idea to have a barrier between clients and creatives. Something to help soften the blow.
In fact, we even have a specific person who REWRITES the client feedback to make it more palatable to creatives. This means softening it up, shortening the content and making it more clear.
This also helps to keep conversations segmented
- Clients have their own concerns and need to be talked through them
- Creatives have solutions, and sometimes want more elaboration
- Creatives also avoid having to sift through MOUNTAINS of text
Highly suggest that everyone (internal and external) does something like this when possible. It will keep creatives in higher spirit and that means better quality all around.
When feedback is vague, ask more questions!
Some clients love to give minimal feedback:
- I love it
- This isn’t what we expected
- This is off
These are the types of comments that you need to dig into. Drill down.
Get more specifics before proceeding. Otherwise again you get into the interpretation game.
And that’s a game of hedging bets and doing your best attempt at mind-reading. Not exactly what you want to get into.
And if they really are minimalists in feedback and just love what you’re doing - tell them about what changes they can’t or cannot make moving on.
Sometimes this ultimatum will force them to consider aspects they previously ignored. This can be things like a transition or music track, etc.
Now also consider that saying this AFTER they feedback means you have lost one move. And since people can be located around the world, different timezones and whatnot - you risk pushing your deadline back even with SIMPLE clarifications like this.
Always best to ask for clear feedback, on time, and to explain what CANNOT be changed moving forward.
Multiple stakeholders (don’t worry it happens)
It happens that there’s no way around it: the client has a boss, and their boss has a boss, and they all need to approve the video before the CEO will take a look.
These are the cases where you MUST determine “who’s who” ahead of time. This means knowing the milestones BEFORE the project gets underway (and adding them to the timeline).
Multiple rounds of review = more time necessary for review. For some of our clients 12 hours is enough (smaller teams) for those who work in committee 24-48 hours might be necessary.
The biggest issue with multiple stakeholders is that you won’t have the entirety of feedback until the last person weighs in. And it also happens that this is the person with the least amount of time.
So what do we do in these situations?
- Limit the point of contact to 1 person from each team. So the main marketer and our project manager. This way there’s the onus of responsibility on one person for gathering all feedback.
- Ask the client to include all the necessary people in review: this means brand team for design changes, copywriters for messaging and so on. This allows us to get it from the “source” instead of ping ponging back and forth through opinions.
- Having everyone review BEFORE the call. So we don’t get a trickle of feedback.
Using these strategies we can keep feedback minimal and organized. And this alone can remove 20-30% of friction (and time) off a project.
Closing thoughts. Little notes. Small things.
Look, the main point we want to make: communication isn’t straight forward.
Not at work, not in a relationship, maybe only with your dog (and even that’s a big maybe).
However on creative projects they ARE going to be muddy.
It WILL be tough.
It will be frustrating.
Things will be misinterpreted.
And your success (and speed of project) depends on your ability to get through this feedback FAST and effectively. That means learning to manage MANY little conversations. Tying a lot of loose ends.
All while keeping all appropriate parties informed.
That isn’t easy. But it beats the alternative: drowning in feedback, slowing down the project and having people get mad with how poorly the project is coming along.
So there you have it. Some of our ideas, tips and tricks around managing your video project as smoothly as possible. Hope this saves you sometime in the future!