Think Before You Film: What You Need to Know When Planning a Video


For B2B marketers, video offers an opportunity to engage your audience and bring your message to life in ways that other media can’t match. Here at The Mx Group, we create high-impact videos for our clients — but we also recommend that clients develop videos on their own, since a regular stream of video content is important to supporting a robust content marketing initiative.

We’ve developed some recommendations that will help you successfully plan and execute your video projects. Follow these guidelines and you’ll find yourself with high-quality content that helps you tell your story and feeds your audience’s appetite for video.

The 3 Components of Video

Planning a video can seem daunting if you don’t know much about the medium. It’s often helpful to think about video in terms of its three basic components: story, characters and shot list. Whether you’re working with an outside source to develop a sophisticated brand video or preparing to record an event with your phone, here’s what you need to think about before you shoot:

Shaping Your Story

Even the simplest video needs a storyline of some kind to give it structure. You’ll devote most of your planning time to the development of your story. As you work, keep the following points in mind:

To tell a good story, you first have to ask good questions.

Specifically, you should ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I want them to feel or do?
  • How will I use the video?

Your answers will help you decide what story to tell.

Your story needs a clear focus.

Your story should center around one specific topic. For example, if you’re going to shoot a video about cowboys, you could focus on what cowboys do, how they speak or where they live. Your focus will determine the tone — whether you want the video to be lighthearted, dark or somewhere in between.

The terms “script” and “storyboard” are not interchangeable.

And you usually need both when planning a video. The script outlines the flow of your story through voiceover and / or on-screen text. The storyboard takes the form of sketches (digital or analog) and shows how the story will come to life on-screen through footage, graphics and / or animation. Together, the script and storyboard serve as a map for navigating through your story from beginning to end.

Casting Your Characters

A character is anyone who appears on-screen in your video. Casting the right characters and thoroughly preparing them for the shoot will help you bring your video to life.

You don’t need professional actors.
In fact, sometimes it’s better — not to mention cheaper — to use “real” people in your video. For example, your audience might appreciate hearing your employees tell your brand story. Just recognize that they’ll need extra time to rehearse and feel comfortable on camera.

Preparation makes perfect.
Regardless of their experience level, your characters will need to practice — but you can help by prepping them as much as possible. For example, if you’re going to interview one of your characters on camera, write questions that will give you the answers you want. Anticipate how you’ll react to different answers. And give your characters the questions — or at least the topic — well in advance.

Building Your Shot List

A shot list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of what you need to shoot for your video. While your storyboard outlines the flow of your story, the shot list outlines an itinerary for your filming day.

A solid shot list will help you stick to your budget.
Thinking through your shot list ahead of time will help you or your film crew get all the necessary footage in the most efficient way possible. For example, if your story begins and ends with a cowboy riding a horse, you’ll probably want to shoot the clips around the same time, rather than making the cowboy saddle up twice.

Weather and daylight hours will impact your shot list.
A quick check of the radar map and sunrise / sunset times will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your shot list. You don’t want to schedule your cowboy’s horseback ride during a storm or after sunset — unless that’s key to your story. If you do want to shoot under adverse conditions, you and your film crew will need to know in advance so you can bring the right equipment.

Planning your story, characters and shot list ahead of time will make your big video project much more manageable. Once you’ve got a plan in place, you’ll be ready to film!