Lessons from the Desert

By Bob West

I recently spent a day in a cotton field 50 miles west of Phoenix for a client’s video shoot. The project went well and the collected footage will give the client some good tools for introducing a new product offering to cotton growers in 2014.

A video shoot is not a simple project. Each one includes its own host of obstacles to overcome and potential pitfalls, but this one went fairly smoothly, thanks in large part to thorough planning. Standing there appreciating a cool Gatorade in the desert on an unseasonably hot day, the thought occurred to me that a video shoot checklist focusing on ‘the little things’ in a video shoot would make a good Meister Interactive blog post, so here we go:

Prep the products

Once the script has been developed or the general outline of the video established, think about the product visuals you want to have accompanying the audio. What products do you need to tell your story? What products do you want to illustrate? What key benefits / features absolutely have to be included?

Having all of the necessary products on site when you start will save you time and money later. And make sure they’re the right product, they’re clean, they’re functioning correctly, and someone on site is qualified to operate them correctly.

Scout the location

If you’re filming in a spot that is new to you, such as on a customer’s property, you and the videographer should arrive at least 30 to 60 minutes early. This gives you time to pick the best spot for filming and get set up. You don’t want to waste everyone else’s time by having them stand around waiting for you to make decisions or put up lights.

Plan for your models

If your video will focus on customer testimonials or sales reps extolling a product’s benefits, you’re likely to be filming people who are not used to being on camera. Prep them as much as possible without making them nervous. Make sure they know exactly what you want them to talk about, and confirm they’re comfortable doing so.  Also, guide them ahead of time on what to wear, or provide them with the clothes you want to see them in.

And, if you’re filming in the afternoon, keep in mind that your ‘talent’ will likely work at their jobs all morning. For many growers, that means wearing an old, weathered hat of some type, sweating and getting dirty — perhaps not the visual for which you’re aiming. So, either bring clean clothes and hats you’re okay seeing in the video or cover this ahead of time with your on-camera personnel.

Prepare for the elements

As noted above, temperatures climbed much higher than expected on the day of our shoot in Arizona, pushing the mercury into the mid-90s. The heat took a toll on us, especially one of the growers we were filming. Had the client not been prepared by bringing a cooler filled with ice and beverages, we might not have captured some of the most important footage.

Shoot Extra of Everything

The big challenge for producing video often lies in getting the right people to the right spot with the right equipment. You’ve got all of this whenever you are filming, so take advantage of it and shoot whatever you think you might one day use. Shoot the crop. Shoot your sales personnel talking to a customer (or someone who can pretend to be a customer). Shoot the product in operation. Shoot the product not doing anything.

There’s no guarantee this footage will ever get used, but there’s a good chance that an unexpected opportunity will arise one day and you’ll be glad you spent an extra 15 or 30 minutes getting it.

Be Prepared to be Flexible

Videos shoots include so many variables that inevitably something does not go according to plan. The key to ending up with the desired finished product is not letting any hiccups get in the way. That means being flexible and not getting upset.

For example, if you want to film and record audio of two customers talking to each other but the videographer only brings one lavaliere microphone … be flexible! Put the mic on one customer and record his or her audio, and then switch the mic to the other grower and do it all over again.

The author is the Director of Interactive Sales for Meister Media. You can contact him at 440-602-9129 or bwest@meistermedia.com to talk about any upcoming video projects with which you might need help.