Before you slate and record

Before You Slate and Record: 7 Pre-Production Tips

Before You Slate and Record: 7 Pre-Production Tips

In the world of cinematography and visual effects, much can be said about solid pre-production. Whether you are part of a big studio or running a one-man-show production, it is important to not overlook the planning stage. Here is a list of seven practical things to remember before you get on set, press record, then slate.

1. Determine Your Audience

There is no telling who exactly will see your movie, but that should not stop you from determining your target audience. Making a movie for everyone sounds like a great idea, but trying to please everyone can lead to pleasing no one at all. Do research. 

What does your desired audience watch? What do they like or not like? What can you make that would be fresh entertainment for them? By determining who your audience is, you will have a better idea of how to approach the rest of the production.

2. Set a Desired Time Length

Knowing the length of your project is one of the most important parts of pre-production but is often overlooked in the creative process. Time length should be determined before you get on set. Setting a time length for your project will help you plan for every second of action that takes place. 

Few things are worse than too much time or not enough time given to a shot or scene. If you are doing a short film or just shooting a scene to add VFX to later, make sure you have carefully planned for how long you want that final project to be.

3. Storyboard

Storyboard, and storyboard some more. Storyboarding comes really naturally to some people, but, if you are like me, you probably get tired of putting ink to the page trying to sketch out the vision you have bottled in your head. 

It can be tedious and feel unimportant at times. However, there is a reason studios dedicate entire departments to storyboarding before they ever even shoot or animate a sequence. 

Laying out pictures in script form gives you a visual representation of where to put the camera, how a prop should be placed, or what a character’s action will be. Storyboarding is not just for the production team but is also useful for your actors in knowing what the action should look like. 

I say all of this with a major caveat, and that is: feel free to completely trash your storyboards when need be. Sometimes you get on set the day of shooting, and what you have drawn should be tossed to the way side in favor of a new brilliant idea that popped into your head. So storyboard, but don’t stay married to those sketches.

4. Block

Right along with the storyboard process, blocking seems like an obvious step, but overlook this and your entire shot falls apart. Stage the action first. Rehearse it again and again so everyone knows exactly what is going to happen. 

Knowing the timing of the camera or when a visual effect is going to take place is key to a successful shoot. Blocking leads right into the next point: location.

5. Location Scout

Before you ever get to the point of pressing record, make sure you have scouted out all of the best locations for your shot, scene, and movie. Don’t leave it up to your memory of places you have seen that you think will work. 

Go to the place, take pictures, and, if possible, do your blocking while there to see if what you’ve planned during the storyboard and scripting process will work.

6. Schedule

Having a shooting schedule will help you and your entire team stay on track. If you are a one-man band, keep a detailed schedule of when you are going where for a shoot or when you plan to have your effects shots done in post. 

Making a schedule and sticking to it not only helps you keep your sanity, but it will help drive your project to completion.

7. Browse the ActionVFX Library

If you are reading this blog, chances are your next project will involve visual effects of some kind. We are here to help! Pre-production is all about ideas and creativity. Browsing our library of stock footage assets will give you an excellent idea of what is possible and it may be just what you need to jump start that next shot.

First time here? ActionVFX creates action stock footage for VFX and filmmaking. (We also have some great free stuff!)

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