Manager's Guide to Production@ Video Arizona, David Jon Devoucoux Productions... video, video production, filmmaker, independent filmmaker, videographer, marketing videos, training videos, marketing video, training video, sales presentations


by BARRY J. FULLER MediaWorks

Edited by David Jon Devoucoux

Copyright 2000 MediaWorks


The following are the steps involved in developing video and any other media productions. Depending on the individual production, some of these steps may be completed out-of-order or concurrently with other steps.

(Note: The BUDGET should be based on these steps.)






















A Needs Assessment should answer at least some of the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of the video? Single or multi-purpose? What corporate or organizational application(s) will it have?

- Employee Training - Morale Builder - Sales/Marketing Tool - Employee Communications/News - Corporate Image - Investor/Stockholder Prospectus - Recruitment

2. What specific situation(s) will the video change? Or, are there problem(s) that the video will solve? - How long have these situations or problems existed? - In what ways do they, or could they, hurt the company? - What, if any, attempts have been made to solve them? - Why is a video presentation more likely to be successful?

3. Who is the Audience? - Can you reach them with a video? - What language? - How sophisticated? What reading level? - What approach to the audience might work best? Serious? humorous? dramatic? news-style?, etc.

4. How will the program be delivered? - Presenter? - Self-paced? Interactive? - Any supplementary materials - Combination of the above?

5. Behavioral Objectives? - What do you want the viewer to do, feel or think after seeing the video? - If changes do not involve observable behavior, are there any ways to document changes in thinking or attitude? Interviews? Questionnaires? Is such documentation necessary?

6. What equipment system and software will be used? - What hardware works best with available software? - What hardware or software changes may be necessary? - Can the hardware and software be integrated with the Internet? - How can the greatest amount of information be gathered in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort on the part of the user?


Basically, a Needs Assessment should explain why a video & presentation system is needed, what will be done with it, and how to determine if it will work - before spending a lot of money to produce it.


In the Organization step, discuss objectives, approach, and audience for the video are discussed. It's a good idea to invite someone from management, public information, and operations to sit in on this meeting. Operating procedures are determined and responsibilities are designated in this meeting. One of the single most important things to do is to decide who will be involved in decision making and in the approval procedure. Try to choose people who are confident and decisive. It doesn't work in video production to make decisions by successive approximation. It costs more and its frustrating. Methods of communication should be established, and turnaround time on decisions and approvals should be discussed. If further research is needed, someone should be given the responsibility to finish that research by a certain date. The research person, or someone who can work closely with him or her, should be chosen to be Production Manager. Hopefully, the Production Manager will be given decision-making authority as well. There are certain steps which require consensus in decision making, but after the Visualized Script step, value judgments regarding shooting and editing should, ideally, be in the hands of one person. This makes the Video Producer's life much easier and avoids costly delays in production.


By the end of this meeting, everyone should understand and agree with the following: the purpose of the video, who will manage the production, who will be involved in decision-making and approvals, and how, and on what schedule, all of this will operate. Right from the very start, someone should take responsibility for summarizing what was decided and circulating it to those involved. At this point, a written summary containing the decisions arrived at in the organizational meeting should be prepared and distributed. Those involved should review the organizational summary noting any revisions and return the document to the designated Production Manager. Revisions should be made and the finished document should be returned to the pertinent people. Doing this at each Production Step will minimize misunderstandings and reduce the likelihood of costly changes at a later date.


The Research step should be accomplished before the second meeting. By now, objectives are defined, the audience is identified, and an organizational strategy has been selected. The person responsible for research has been designated. The responsibilities of the research person may include all or part of the following: assembling research information, visiting potential shooting locations, consulting with people at those locations, taping conversations, etc. The research person should become the authority on the subject matter of the video. The idea here is that the research person should gather all possible information about the subject of the video and develop a rough idea of how it can be visualized.


A research summary will be prepared and sent to those involved. It will contain a list of topics that might be included in the video and any suggestions concerning visualization. This summary should be distributed and to the pertinent people and their comments should be requested by a certain date. When that time comes, the researcher should incorporate their comments into a revised research summary. Again, this is only a general statement about the information that needs to be included in the video and how it might be visualized. When this is done, the date of the second meeting is set to determine what part of the information contained in the research summary is pertinent and most important -- i.e. what part of the research should actually be included in the video. The video will probably change somewhat from what is suggested in the research summary to what ends up on the screen. The summary is just an educated guess at what the video should be about and how it should look. It is a way to get people thinking in terms of words and images.


The Outline & Approach Step begins to give form and direction to the video. By this time, the person responsible for research should be able to address any questions on content. The objective of the participants in this meeting should be to decide what content will be presented in the video, in what order, and in what way. The best way to do this is to develop an outline.

You may find that, after the first draft, the outline needs to be adjusted because some ideas are awkward, repetitive or don't flow well. You may also find out that many sections of the outline are fine. When you've developed an outline and one or more approaches which seem to have promise, it's time to move on to the next step.


The outline and a description of the intended approach(es) will be circulated to everyone involved. Everyone should review the outline and approach(es), make any last suggestions, and return them to the researcher for incorporation into the outline. This process should be repeated several times until everyone is happy with the results. The idea is to give everyone several opportunities to think about the outline, and one or more approaches, before spending a lot of time developing a Narrative Script.


The Narrative Script is derived from the outline and approach(es) developed in the last step. It is the text that will be used in the narration. It also specifies any interviews or on-camera appearances planned as part of the production. The Narrative Script for an eight to ten minute production will usually be only two to three single-spaced pages in length - depending upon how much time is set aside for things like on-camera interviews or documentary-style coverage.


The Narrative Script should be submitted to everyone involved for review. They should note suggestions or changes and return it to the researcher or project manager for revisions. Some writers will include one round of revisions in their quote. The finished Narrative Script will then be returned to those involved for approval.


The Visualized Script is a two-column version of the Narrative Script. The left side of the page contains numbered shot descriptions; the right side has the words which are being read as the shot is seen. If the shot description is too complicated to be easily understood (like the description of a pie chart or a complex graphic), a thumbnail sketch is included. The Visualized Script also includes names of interviewees, shot directions, graphic descriptions, character generation (titles) and shooting locations. Sometimes shots are included without narration. In that case, there will be shot descriptions with music or field sound indicated in the Audio column rather than words.


After the first draft of the Visualized Script is written, a meeting should be called to go over every shot and the associated narrative in detail. This detail orientation is what video production is all about. It can sometimes feel like drudgery, but it's all part of the creative process. If any changes need to be made, make them and then submit the final Visualized Script to those involved for final approval. I cannot stress the words "final approval" enough. I have seen three-month projects take a year to finish and cost much more because of indecision and constant changes on the part of project leaders and management. Video Producers won't resist changes if their quote is based on the Visualized Script. If you change the Visualized Script, you have to pay for the changes. So make decisions and stand by them.

The approved Visualized Script is the blueprint of production.


A good Video Producer will review your script, note any questions or suggestions, and give you a fairly detailed cost breakdown free of charge. In order to standardize the cost breakdown for easier comparison, give the Video Producer the list of Production Steps at the beginning of this manual. You should make it clear that you intend to provide part of the services yourself. If the Video Producer doesn't want to share the work with you, you should hire someone else. From the responses you get, you will be able to find out who wants the job and who doesn't - as well as determine whether or not the person has the desire to work with you on a cooperative basis.

Be sure to ask for a sample reel. Be aware that there are a few unethical people out there who will use "borrowed" sample reel work to make themselves look better. Be sure to get a list of references connected with the work on the reel so that you can call the references and make sure that the work was done by the Video Producer who sent the reel.

When you compare the work on sample reels, it's really not a question of good or bad; it's a question of what you prefer. I've seen work I thought was terrible, and the Video Producer of that work was chosen over another Video Producer whose work I respected. What does that say about the "good" Video Producer? Nothing! Maybe the Video Producer doing the "bad" work struck a cord with the client or his bid was lower. There's no way to tell. At any rate, the video reels should be reviewed by more than one person in your organization. The Producer whose work best suits your needs should be chosen to do the work.

Once the Video Producer is on board, he or she may come to you with a detailed list of suggestions regarding script and shot selection. You may want to schedule a meeting to introduce the Video Producer and go over these changes with the group. The Video Producer will probably be able to cover small changes in the original quote. Changes made at a later date will probably cost money. (A house builder will most likely charge extra money to move a wall after approval of the blueprints.)

Now it's time to set up the production schedule. But first, let's look into selecting talent for your video.


If you plan to use an on-camera spokesperson, or do any kind of humorous or dramatic vignettes in your video, you and the Video Producer will have to select the proper people. Doing a good job of talent selection can greatly improve your video.

Let's start with the on-camera spokesperson. Usually, someone in your organization is going to suggest using a company Director, CEO, or other manager somewhere in the video. If this person turns out to be uneasy on camera, the whole video can be negatively affected. Unless you're absolutely sure that the person has experience on camera and is relaxed and personable, steer clear of using them. It can be very uncomfortable for a person to be confronted by a camera lens for the first time. Many people who perform wonderfully in front of crowds, or on a one-to-one basis with other people, come completely undone when they stare into the "glass abyss." If it's absolutely necessary from a political standpoint to give them a try, stage it as a screen test. Let them see themselves on tape and let them decide whether they should appear in the video or not. At least that way the decision is theirs. If they decide that they are not right for the part, use a professional. Using a professional actor will save time and money in production. They will usually be able to do the work in fewer takes (less time) with better results. Hiring a professional will also endear you to the Producer. Producers hate being put in the position of having to tell one of their employers that they are inadequate on camera.

The same is true in selecting people for humorous or dramatic vignettes. Company people may save you a few dollars in talent fees, but almost always cost a lot more in field production time (retakes) - and they seldom can do as good a job as professionals.

On-camera actors frequently belong to either of two Unions: SAG (Screen Actors Guild) or AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). A third Union, EQUITY, represents stage actors. All of these actors are often represented by a Talent Agency. The advantage of using a Talent Agency is that they have a broad selection of people to choose from. The Talent Agency usually has a VCR and camera, and will often provide video tape if you intend to use their talent. SAG and AFTRA rates and talent agency percentages are set by the respective unions. SAG-franchised Talent Agencies using SAG actors on a Union production can charge no more than ten percent above the actor's rate for the agency fee. Some agencies have creative ways of computing their fees! If you have questions about the agency fee, call your local SAG or AFTRA union to verify the correct fee. If they are charging too much, the union will be more than happy to assist you.

Talent Agencies also represent non-union people. These people may be seasoned actors who simply don't belong to a union. If you are using non-union talent in a non-union production, the agency fee should be no more than 15-20 percent above the actor's fee. This makes sense because union actors cost more money. Ten percent of SAG rate for an actor will probably be the same as 15-20 percent of the rate for a non-union actor. It takes the agency the same amount of work to schedule a union actor as it does a non-union actor.

Usually, a union actor has been working longer and is probably more experienced than a non-union actor.

Sometimes, you may need people for non-speaking roles to provide "atmosphere." These people are referred to as Extras. The most cost-effective way to get aspiring actors for these roles is to call an Acting School. The Acting School is always happy to supply people to you. It makes them look good to their students, and it gives their students some real-life, on-camera experience.


It really helps Talent Agencies and schools if you write up a list of characters and character descriptions to fax or e-mail to them. The character description should contain a physical description of the person you have in mind, as well as a short description of the character's role. Example: An overweight, sixty year-old woman with a Puerto Rican accent, a tattoo and the ability to sing arias. If the character has to be able to cry, scream, or throw a tantrum convincingly, write it down. Be as specific as you can. This will help the Agent to send you the proper people and not just do a "cattle call." A "cattle call" is the agency's way to cover all possible alternatives if you're not specific about the type of person you're looking for. The best way to find the appropriate actor is to write good descriptions, and limit the Agency to sending the "best 3-5 people" they have. At a minimum, you should look at people from three different agencies. It is absolutely imperative to record the audition on video tape. There is no way to remember and compare screen tests of people who have not been taped!! When you tape people, try to tape all the people trying out for a given role back-to-back on the video tape. Sometimes, due to scheduling, this is impossible. But it really helps to see everyone trying out for a given role in the same group. It makes it a lot easier to compare performances later.


After selecting talent, make sure that the agency knows that you intend to have them complete a Talent Release. If the Agency is supplying union talent, there will be union limits on the terms of the Talent Release. There will be no limits on the terms of the release for non-union people.

Get a signed Talent Release from everyone, whose "likeness" (face) can be seen in the shot. Minors will need their parent's signature. A signed Talent Release gives you the right to use the footage of the talent for whatever purpose you want, for as long as you want (within union terms if talent is union.) I cannot stress enough that everyone should sign a release - even narrators who do not appear on-camera.

The best time to get a Release signed is after talent selection, and before the shoot. In practical terms, if more than a few people are involved, it's difficult to contact them all and get this done before the shoot. But on the day of the shoot, it should be someone's responsibility to make sure that everyone fills out a Release before shooting. If you spend time taping someone, you have invested several hundred dollars in that person. If they refuse to sign a Release after their on-camera appearance, you cannot use their footage. If they appear with others, you greatly compound the loss, because you will have to call everyone back to re-shoot the scene. Get an understanding with the agency in advance and get the release signed first!

Most releases state that the talent is working for you "for valuable consideration." That means you have to give everyone something for their work - even "extras." It is good practice to pay extras for gas money or give everyone lunch - or make sure that they get a video tape of their appearance. Whatever you give, make sure you get a signed receipt. It is necessary for taxes, and it could be important in a challenge to the Talent Release.


Union actors' rates increase over time. Call your local SAG or AFTRA office to get current rates.

Non-union rates vary as well. The Talent Agency decides what fee will be charged for non-union actors.

Actors from an Acting school will cost little or no money. It is considered courteous to at least offer gas money and a copy of the tape to aspiring actors. They can use the tape as part of their portfolio. The representative from the Acting School should be paid a few dollars if more than a few people are involved. He or she will have to spend some time making decisions about whom to send you and make a lot of calls to schedule people. Don't expect Acting School people to have a great deal of ability. Some are unexpectedly good, but many are quite inexperienced.

You most often get what you pay for when hiring talent!!!


Shooting locations, graphics, on-camera interviews, etc. are identified in the Visualized Script. Keeping track of each shot is absolutely necessary, because it is very costly to return to a location just to shoot one missed shot. All shots are sorted by computer and then saved to disk. The sorted file can then be called up in any word processor and detailed specifications for each shot can be added. The added details might be props, equipment, the number of extras you need, etc. Now, you can e-mail or fax each shot group to a contact person at each location. This helps the contact person assist you in scheduling the shots. He or she will have everything necessary to know what and whom has to be where at what time. Talent Releases should be sent to the contact person so that all people to be recorded will be cleared before the day of the shoot. Take extra copies of the Talent Release on the day of the shoot in case you need to clear a person at the last minute.

After sending the shot list and Releases, it's a good idea to call or visit the contact person. Many times it will be apparent from speaking to the location contact person that they're not sure what to do, or they're having problems getting people to commit to a schedule. These things must be worked out before the day of the shoot.

People who have no video scheduling experience probably won't know how much time to allocate for each shot. It varies dramatically by activity and by crew. If an on-going activity is being shot with a hand-held camera, the camera operator can shoot a lot of shots in ten minutes. If a shot or interview requires complex lighting, good audio, or multiple takes to get it right, that one shot could take several hours or more. A good rule is to allow about twenty minutes for shots requiring little or no lighting and audio setup, and forty minutes for interviews. Stay flexible. Sometimes the production crew will get behind or ahead of schedule. You must know which shots must be shot at a given time and which shots can be done at any time, or on a more flexible schedule. If possible, cluster your shots by location - that means schedule all the shots needed at one location in the same time frame. (Sounds sensible but frequently can't be done.)

Many times it's necessary to put as many shots as you can on a fixed schedule, and then come up with alternatives for getting the rest of the shots. This is especially the case when trying to shoot in environments where daily schedules are in constant flux or depend on external events. For example, trying to put medical personnel and patients on a shooting schedule is very difficult. Medical personnel get called away to meetings or to treat in-coming patients. Patients get discharged, transferred, their conditions change, or they don't want to be photographed. In this situation, you must stay flexible, be ready to shoot shots out of order, and plan for alternates. The job almost always gets done and sometimes serendipity plays to your advantage. You may get better, more realistic shots than those originally planned.

Even though you may not be able to set everything in concrete, you must prepare at least a tentative shooting schedule (Appendix E.) The shooting schedule is a shorthand summary of dates, times, shot numbers and locations for every shot. Some people use a "production board" for this step. I find the production board to be unnecessarily complicated. The only entries needed on the schedule are dates, times, shot numbers and locations. You have already prepared a sorted shot list by location, and then added equipment, props, people etc. That list, sorted by AV Scripter, also has the words associated with each shot. The Video Producer or camera operator will be referring to that or the Visualized Script constantly to figure out the best way to illustrate the narration when shooting.

Even though you've worked with the location contact person to establish the shooting schedule, it's still a good idea to send a copy of it to him or her for one last review before shooting. After the field contact person has had time to review the shooting schedule, that person should be contacted again to check that everything is understood and on schedule. This ensures that there are no major surprises (as few as possible) on the shooting day(s). As you've probably gathered, a competent field contact person is very important. If the contact person is "scattered," you have a problem. Sometimes people simply do not understand how important it is to be detail-oriented in video production. If the contact person can't do it, find someone who can or do it yourself.


The field production schedule described above will be submitted to the appropriate field contact person(s). If there are any changes in schedule or personnel, the Production Manager should revise the schedule. The revised schedule will then be returned to the appropriate people.


You should know something about field production. The description of the crew and equipment that follows is fairly standard for many kinds of non-theatrical work.


After a schedule has been completed and approved, it's time to shoot. The crew recommended for many kinds of non-theatrical production will consist of a Producer/Director of Photography (D.P.), Assistant Camera Operator/ Video Engineer, and a Production Assistant/Gaffer/Grip. One person assumes several titles on smaller productions to keep costs in line.

The Producer/D.P. will oversee the entire production and will be ultimately responsible for planning, coordination, scheduling, personnel selection, purchasing, bookkeeping, direction, and all post-production activities. Generally, this person will also function as D.P. The Director of Photography has overall responsibility for camera operation and creative camera angles and composition.

The Assistant Camera Operator (A.C.) and/or Video Engineer checks the Director of Photography's camera settings, adjusts camera focus during complicated shots ("pulls focus"), connects microphones, monitors sound levels, loads and unloads tape, and sometimes keeps a rough field footage log by roll number, scene and take including notes on suggested takes.

The Production Assistant/Gaffer/Grip has three sets of responsibilities. He or she packs and unpacks equipment, assists in the setup of equipment, and moves equipment for location changes during production. Production Assistants are the "whirling dervishes" of the production, helping everyone who needs assistance. The P.A. does everything from grip work and traffic control to getting coffee and doughnuts.

If the budget is sufficient, a seasoned audio professional is a good addition to any production crew. The feeling in the audio business is that video people, for the most part, are not qualified to do the best audio work. I have worked on film and video crews for many years, and have yet to see great audio from video people. Adequate audio, yes - flawless, no! Field production audio recording is a particularly daunting task. Getting good clean audio in environments where there is no control over ambient sound takes a lot of experience.

On a comparatively small crew, there is always a sharing of responsibilities. The advantage of having an experienced, small crew is that everyone is familiar with all jobs and can step forward when extra help is needed at a given position.


Most professional video production work is done using a broadcast Betacam SP (or better) camera systems - the standard of the industry. While there are always exceptions for special conditions and applications, a full equipment list for many kinds of non- theatrical production should include the following (or similar) items: (NOTE: It is the type of equipment that is important--not the brand name.)


Script, extra photo releases, director's viewfinder

1 Betacam SP Camera which consists of: (Fujinon 1:18 2X broadcast lens, Ikegami HL43 body, Sony BVV5 VCR)

1 Camera Mounting Plate

1 Betacam 35SP field recording VCR (for field playback in color)

1 Color monitor & Batteries

1 Broadcast tripod, fluid head, pan arm and spreaders

1 Broadcast headphones

3 cases of 30 min. Beta SP metal tapes

1 Battery belt & Cable

1 Camera-mounted battery light & spare bulb

1 Battery pack for VCR playback (or more)

1 Audio Technica lapel mike

1 Vega wireless microphone system

1 Boom and Zeppelin setup

4 Anton Bauer Camera batteries & Quick Charger

2 Kangaroo cases with cables and misc. adapters

1 roll of duct tape to tape down AC cables for safety purposes

1 Lowel lighting kit

2 4x4 ft reflectors and stands

1 Track and dolly system

6 Sand bags (for light stands, reflectors, and track & dolly)

1 First Aid Kit

1 Fire Extinguisher

1 Igloo cooler


1 short BNC/BNC from VCR to monitor

1 long BNC for camera to monitor

2 Battery belt to camera - battery power to camera

2 XLR to XLR for lapel mike

4 AC cables for lighting kit


Field production is intense and expensive. Only those involved should be welcome to accompany the shooting crew during field production. When practical, they should be allowed to preview shots before recording. If not practical, such as in a continuous follow- action situation, footage can be played back in batches at slow times in the shooting schedule. The intent is that the appropriate person view what is being shot on location and request any necessary re-shoots right away. This eliminates the need for returning to the location at a later date - a very time-consuming and expensive proposition - most likely not included in the initial quote.


A log is used to make decisions on what shots to use, and where to find shots during editing. "logging" shots is listing each shot's location, and writing that shot's description. Ideally, the shot description should be complete enough so that anyone reading the log can get a mental picture of the shot without having to refer to the tape. (In practice, if a Video Producer will be the only one concerned with the log, he or she may use shorthand descriptions which probably won't mean a great deal to someone else.)

The advantage of using a computer to log shots is that, as a scene is viewed, the ascending SMPTE time code numbers are sent into the computer. By pressing a control on the computer, the SMPTE code number for a specific location on the tape can be instantaneously recorded on the computer. Since each SMPTE number is eight digits long (hours, minutes, seconds, frames), it's easy to make mistakes when manually writing them down or retyping them. A mistake in one digit can cause you to look on the wrong tape or at the wrong shot on the tape. Not being able to locate a shot can be very frustrating and time-consuming (costly) if it happens during an edit session.

Once a final decision is regarding the shot to be used at a given location in the script, the SMPTE number is written or typed on the script itself beneath the shot number. This is done so that the editor can find the correct tape and the correct shot as he or she follows the script during editing. The best idea is to carefully type each number on the script. That should avoid problems finding shots caused by illegible handwriting.


Tape Indexing is the next step after logging. Once logging is finished, anyone should be able to find any shot on a tape. But if more than a few tapes are shot, it's a very good idea to set up a tape indexing system. Tapes should be indexed by tape number and shooting location. If you're trying to find a shot, you may not remember the tape number, but you will almost always remember where the shot was recorded. By putting together a tape index, you will immediately be able to narrow your search to the tapes shot at a given location. Then, you can look through the tape logs to find the shot. The tape index should be put in a loose-leaf notebook before the tape log pages.

Logging also serves another useful function both to the Videographer/producer but to the company as well. That is as a database of all shots. A .DBF file can be assembled that lists each shot on each reel. This file serves as a reference for the producer and as a library reference for the company. We've had a number of compliments from clients whom we've presented the database file list to. Anytime they've needed specific footage for other uses, the database file has been worth its weight in gold.


A copy of the log, index and an updated copy of the two-column Visualized Script with SMPTE numbers should be supplied to the appropriate person(s).


Graphic production can begin as soon as the Visualized Script is approved. Graphics for video will be of three general types - composites, illustrations and/or lettering (words). These may be combined to produce eye-catching graphics in many ways.

Composites and illustrations will be created by a graphic artist working on a computer with, most likely, video, character generator and paint system capabilities. This makes it possible for the artist to use video footage, custom-designed art, "clip" art (art libraries), and character-generated words & symbols in almost any combination. You have already thought about the graphics you want and produced thumb nail sketches in the Visualized Script step.

Since most graphics will be finalized on a computer, checking design, spelling, color, motion, etc. can be done on the computer screen before transfer to videotape.

Simple graphics like text on a field footage or graphic background are relatively fast and easy to prepare. More complex graphics such as graphs, pie charts and the like take more time. Animation sequences such as moving titles and objects can take a great deal of time and are quite expensive to produce. Bids can be received with quotes by the second (30 frames per second) or by the finished piece.


All graphics must be reviewed, revised (if necessary) and approved before transfer to video tape.


Once all graphics are finished and approved, they are transferred to videotape either in real time (one edit) or frame-by-frame (30 edits for each second.) Still graphics are transferred to tape in real time. Motion graphics and animation may be transferred in real time or one frame at a time from computer to editing recorder. Graphics transfer can take from a few hours to a few days, depending on how complex the graphics are. After transfer to tape, graphic footage is logged, either manually or by computer, and entered on the Visualized Script in the same manner as the field footage. This makes it easy for the editor to find it.


Clients approve graphics before transfer to videotape, but may view and check transferred graphics as well. Changing graphics after video editing is very expensive.

Still graphics are usually transferred by the hour at the editing rate, since the editing system has to be tied up to do the transfer. If everything goes smoothly, it shouldn't take more than a four hours or so to transfer the graphics.

Animated graphics cost about $1 per frame to transfer frame-by- frame. Each second of video equals 30 frames. A ten-second opening will cost about $300, plus tape cost, to transfer frame-by-frame.

Some devices transfer computer files to videotape in real time. This type of transfer is significantly less costly. There are some trade-offs that must be considered when doing the transfer in real time. Some systems introduce a slight degradation in quality as a result of file compression. Finding someone who has the necessary equipment and experience can also be a challenge. All else being equal, transferring a short animation in real time should cost about one-half to two-thirds of what it would cost frame-by-frame.


If your video doesn't require On-Camera Talent or Extras, you will most likely hire a professional Narrator to read your script. The reason that I didn't include this section in SELECTING TALENT & EXTRAS is that talent selection has to be done before FIELD PRODUCTION, but Narrator selection can be done later - unless the narrator also appears on-camera. There is an advantage to waiting. Why? The script almost always changes slightly during field production. For example, the script may mention how to set controls on a machine. But, while working with the machine operator during shooting, you may discover that the procedure has been altered slightly. If that happens, the relevant part of the script will have to be changed. If the narrator has already been chosen and has recorded the script, a lot of time and money may be lost. It's best to get a quote from a narrator on a finalized script.

Again, I advise against using an inexperienced person to read the script. You will probably spend a lot more time (money) in the recording studio with less-than-adequate results.

The narrator you select can have a significant impact on the message you want conveyed in the video. Should the voice be male or female? Comforting or authoritative? Serious or light? The type of voice required will have been decided in the OUTLINE & APPROACH step.

Choosing a Narrator is usually easier than selecting talent and extras. Call three talent agencies and describe the type of voice you want. They will send you many male and female voices on an audio cassette with names high-lighted for your review. All you need is an audio cassette player to listen to the voices. It can be a time-consuming activity - especially if the agency hasn't put stop pulses on their tape between readers. The stop pulses will allow you to find given voices a lot faster (if your audio player has "automatic search".) If not, I advise you to set the counter on your player to zero at the beginning of the tape and make a quick log of tape counter locations of the voices. This will save you a lot of time when you have to go back and forth between voices to compare them.


The audio tapes will be reviewed and one or more will be approved. (More than one is a good idea in order to have an approved alternate in cast of a scheduling conflict with the preferred narrator.) Clients will make the final selection.


After the appropriate narrator is chosen, he or she should be contacted and sent a script to read and review. The narrator often has suggestions for small changes in the script to make it read better. Sometimes script wording seems fine in writing, but sounds stilted, awkward, repetitive, etc. when read aloud. Professional narrators are proud of their language skills and will frequently suggest changes before or during recording. The Production Manager should attend the narrator recording session so that suggested changes in the script can be reviewed and approved right away.


Audio recording takes place in an audio recording studio. Some larger video production companies have audio recording facilities in the same building. Many have at least an audio recording booth. While some facilities may record narration on reel-to-reel tape, many newer studios record directly to a computer hard drive.

The Narrative Script should be double spaced and printed in bold type for easy reading. Paragraphs should start and end on the same page - not extend over page breaks. Narrators prefer to complete paragraphs before having to change pages. It is difficult to change pages without causing "paper rustle" noises to be recorded. Some narrators are so skilled, and so quiet, that they can change pages while reading. Most prefer to catch their breath at the end of a page, and then continue reading on the next page.

Use paper clips to hold the narrator's copy of the script together. Do NOT staple the script pages together. Most narrators stand during recording and use a music stand to hold their script. This allows them to breath easier and read "hands free" so that they can express themselves more dramatically.

During reading, all narrators make some mistakes in pronunciation, intonation or phrasing. When mistakes occur, the narrator has to record that section over again - record additional "takes". Usually the narrator hears the mistake and will correct it, but there are times when the narrator will continue after reading a passage that does not sound the way you want it. If that happens, you must interrupt the narrator immediately, and explain the way you want to hear it. It's best to interrupt the narrator as soon as possible when you want a change. If you wait until the end of the paragraph or page, the narrator's level, intonation, and expression may change. The audio engineer will seat the Production Manager close to a "talk back" switch. The switch is pushed when the Production Manager wants to communicate with the narrator. Whenever the Production Manager wants a change, he should mark the location of the change on his/her script.

When speaking to the narrator, you will need to tell him or her two things: specifically what you want changed and where to start over. I find it helpful to read what I want changed for the narrator just the way I want to hear it. Most narrators will be able to mimic what you read for them. Reading a change to the narrator, exactly the way you want to hear it, is a lot easier than describing what you want the change to sound like. It saves time and time is money.

It's fairly standard to ask the Narrator to start a second take at the beginning of the paragraph where the change occurred - unless the paragraph is extremely long. Edits made in the middle of a sentence or paragraph may sound strange. When the narrator stops to discuss a change with you, his voice and delivery may change when he resumes recording. If this change is at the beginning of a paragraph or at some other transition in the script, the change in reading style may seem natural. If it is in the middle of a sentence, the change in style will seem unnatural.

After the narrator is done reading the entire script, the recording should be played back while the Narrator waits. Make sure that there is at least one good take of every paragraph in the script. If any additional changes are needed, the Narrator will be available to record them.


Most recording studios are large enough to accommodate three or four people in the client area. Any more than that can be a distraction for the audio engineer. The Production Manager, along with one or two appropriate people should attend the recording session.

Evaluating the way a script is read can be very subjective. A few appropriate people should attend the recording session to help the Production Manager decide what sounds best. If there is a difference of opinion about the way something should be read, the Production Manager should have the authority to make the final decision. Narration Recording shouldn't take longer than an hour or so for a ten minute script. If it takes longer, too many cooks are spoiling the broth!


Once recording is finished, the Narrator can be released. If the recording was done on audio tape, it should now be transferred onto a digital audio system for editing on a computer. The advantage to editing on a digital computer system is that editing is faster than physically cutting audio tape, and there is no quality loss during editing. While recording the Narrator, the audio engineer made notations on the location of all changes. His notations should match those made by the Production Manager. The audio engineer will now proceed to each point where a change was made, and remove the unwanted takes. Per your instructions, the engineer may also remove unwanted pauses, or may add pauses at certain points in the script. Usually the audio editing doesn't take more than a few hours.


Once the narration is edited on the computer, it will have to be transferred to audio or video tape for use in video editing. It's important to ask your Producer what format of audio tape he uses in video editing. Most newer video editing facilities will want the edited narration on DAT (Digital Audio Tape), or on a conventional audio cassette. DAT is the format du'jour. Other formats are emerging.


The Production Manager and those in attendance should listen to and approve the edited narration before continuing to Music & Effects Selection.

WHAT THIS STEP SHOULD COST: Recording studios differ in capabilities and equipment. Figure on paying $75-$100 per hour for recording, editing and transfer plus tape costs. The entire process should take no longer than five to eight hours. Remember, a professional voice talent will often be able to read a script in only a few "takes", thus saving you money in the recording studio while doing a better job!


Prerecorded music and effects libraries can be obtained in two practical ways: purchased outright or licensed. Another way to obtain music and effects is to have someone compose them for your production. Unless the composer is professional, custom composition will take too much time and money and result in substandard work. However, if your budget allows for customized music, hire a professional and do it! Keep in mind that professional composition will cost $300 or more per minute.

Most audio recording studios offer all three services: use of "buyout" libraries, use of "licensed" libraries and custom composition. Generally, "buyout" libraries do not have the quality and selection of licensed collections. (I must add that many Buyout collections are extremely good deals for the price.) Buyout libraries are sold for one initial fee. Licensed libraries get paid for the use of each piece of music ("needle drop") or by licensing a "production" over and over again.

The problem with selecting music at recording studios is that you will have to pay for studio time. Music libraries cannot, by licensing agreement, be removed from the studio. If you are looking for more than a few pieces of music, it can get prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, the advantage of working with a studio is that most studio people know their music collections. They may be able to help you locate the kind of music you need fairly quickly. Short samples of the music you select may then be transferred to a cassette or DAT tape and taken back to the office for approval.

If you're planning a long presentation, which requires a lot of different music selections, I recommend working directly with a music library. Many music libraries advertise regularly in the back pages of video production periodicals like Post, Videography, Video Systems, AV Video, etc. "post" prints a booklet of music library companies, among other helpful things, every year. The idea is to get in touch with the music libraries, discuss your music needs, get a bottom line price from the library(ies), and have them send their CDs on approval. This way you can spend all the time you need selecting music and avoid studio charges. Most libraries will allow you to return the CDs you can't use in exchange for others that may work. Since the people you work with at the music libraries will definitely know their product, you should be able to locate what you want very quickly. When you're done, you simply make a list of the selections you used, and return that list and the CDs to the library. Another thing you should know is that some libraries have guidelines for "package" charges, but you can negotiate price. Working with libraries is really a great way to go. You don't have to buy an entire library and worry about the music going out of style - and you don't have to pay exorbitant amounts to find the music you want.


Interested parties should review and approve (samples of) the music and effects which will be used in the production.

The CD name (or number) and the selection name (or number) for each piece of music and effect should then be noted at the appropriate location on the Visualized Script. Leave space for a SMPTE number to be written down after the music and effects are transferred to video tape for editing.


Once you locate and select the music and effects you want, you may have to transfer them from music CDs to audio or video tape for video editing. Some video editing facilities edit directly from CD or DAT (Digital Audio Tape). If this is the case, you can skip the Music & Effects Transfer step. But, if extreme accuracy is required in adding the music and effects to the video presentation, most video facilities will transfer the music and effects to video tape or a computerized audio edit system with SMPTE chase lock before editing.

Any good video facility will have a CD player, a conventional audio cassette player and a DAT player to transfer audio to video tape.

If it is decided to transfer everything to video tape for editing, be sure to make indexes and logs of the video tapes and then write the SMPTE starting points on the Visualized Script.





Video editing is ordering visual, graphic and sound elements of a video presentation into a desired progression with a desired effect. This is an extremely involved and detail-oriented task which requires very expensive facilities and equipment. The tape indexes and SMPTE time code numbers on the Visualized Script are used to locate the field production shots, interviews, graphics, music and effects. On a linear A/B Roll editing system, each presentation element is transferred to a master video tape - one element at a time. For example, we might start by transferring a few sentences of narration to the master tape. Then we would transfer the appropriate video shots to the master tape using the narration to determine the start (IN) and end (OUT) points for each shot. Once recorded on the master tape, the recorded element (edit) is fixed in place relative to other elements (edits). In order to change the progression, the edit or edits have to be re-recorded.

On a non-linear editing system, each element is independent and can be arranged in different progressions without re-recording.

Both systems, linear and non-linear, have their advantages. Your Producer will know which system to use. As more and more non-linear systems become available, the trends associated with editing is changing as well. The non-linear edit takes more preparation time, or so it seems. The upside to this is that you, as the client, can request "what if" changes, "let's see what that looks like" type changes with little difficulty. Its much easier in a non-linear environment to re-arrange bits and pieces or even whole concepts to see what's going to work best for you. The reason being is all these changes are accomplished on the edit system's "timeline" and not on tape. Only when you, the client is happy, is the final result laid back to video tape. But please don't go overboard with your "what if changes", you can loose sight of the overall program's objectives and end up with a poorly organized production that doesn't deliver your message as well as it was originally designed to!

One word of caution here. Editing is where we "tell the story". So as the edit progresses, periodically go back and review what you've done. Make sure every element used has a "purpose", a reason, to move the story forward. If it doesn't, its time to "stop" and find out what's wrong.

The same thought process is true for special effects. Use them sparingly. Use them to enhance or "move" the story along. If you're not sure about this point, go watch any movie, from any era. Almost every effect is a "cut". The second most popular effect is the dissolve, to show time passing or change of scene or a romantic bridge. Rarely will you find any other effect used.

In video production, we still try to adhere to this rule during the main "body" of the video. We save our effects for building an open or close.


Clients are welcome to sit in on video editing. It takes approximately one full week to edit a ten-minute production. Once completed, the edited master is reviewed and approved by Clients.


If you will need more than a few copies of your master tape, you will want to have a copy of the master made for duplicating purposes. This is called the "dub master." After the dub master is made, the original master (sometimes called "grand master") is placed in a vault or other climatically-controlled safe place. Duplicating is usually done at a facility outside the editing facility. Never use the master itself for duplicating. It could get mislaid, lost or damaged by equipment at the duplicating facility.

If you plan to design packaging for your copies, do not have the tapes shrink-wrapped at the duplicating facility.

It is best to hand deliver the Dub Master to the duplicating facility. However, if you have to mail it, make sure you pack the Dub Master in bubble wrap or foam rubber to prevent impact damage to the tape. Be sure to send the tape by traceable means. (i.e., Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.)


When copies are returned to you, check them immediately. Select one or two randomly, and play them back. Check the sound and image quality and stability of the tapes. If something is wrong, notify the duplicating facility immediately. Expect them to fix it quickly without charge. In some instances, the dubbing problem is the result of a flaw in the Dub Master or Grand Master. However, if this is the case, the duplicating facility should have notified you of the problem before duplicating. If the problem is their fault, they will often make a few extra copies, at no charge, to cover any delay or aggravation.


Computer graphics packages and color printers have made packaging small quantities of video cassettes a much easier and less expensive task than it was a few years ago.

To package a video cassette, you need spine labels, face labels, a cassette library case, and an insert for the library case. Die cut spine and face labels are available from Avery (#5199). One box contains 300 face and spine labels. They can be run through a laser printer or Xerox machine. Some laser printing facilities refuse to run sheets of labels through their printers because the heat generated by the printer causes the labels to detach from the sheet and gum up the inside of the printer. If that is the case, you will need to have a copy of the label design made on a full sheet of laser printer paper in proper registration with the label stock. You will then use that "master" to duplicate the labels, one sheet at a time, on a color Xerox machine. Color Xerox copies look very nice but not as good as copies printed on a color laser printer. Another alternative is printing the labels on an ink-jet printer. This works fairly well but the quality isn't quite as good as using the laser printer or color Xerox machine.

The library case you want is the one with a "full window." Full window means that a transparent piece of plastic is wrapped around the entire length of the library case. When you open the library case, the plastic window relaxes enough to that you can slip your packaging insert, face out, between the transparent plastic and the cover of the library case. When you close the library case, the plastic window tightens up and holds the packaging sleeve in place. The insert can be printed on a color laser printer or ink jet printer. You will have to trim an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet to fit in the window.

You also have to choose how the cassette will be positioned (held in place) inside the library case. There are plastic "wells" inside the library case which fit into the hubs of the video cassette. The wells may be on the right or left inside the case. Before you buy the library cases, make sure you like where the wells are positioned and how the library case opens.


Place your tape in the library case, close it, and then open it. The cassette's face label should be facing you in a readable position when the case is opened. The spine label should be exposed and readable as well. If it's not the way you want it, ask for a different manufacturer's library case.

The case should close and stay closed, not pop open. Another factor to consider is the alignment of the library case. Some cases close and stay closed but not all the plastic "catches" engage. This shouldn't happen. It should be an easy one-step procedure to close the library case.


By now we hope you have a better understanding of the video production process. We also hope you are more aware of your responsibility in the production process. Producing an effective video is a team effort. Every step must be checked and re-checked for its purpose and accuracy with regard to the goals and audience you've previously defined.

If we could close with one word of advice. That word would be "stop".

If you have any doubts about anything during the production process....STOP...and ask questions. Satisfy those doubts up front! Waiting till after the video is produced can be an expensive mistake.

Our best wishes for a successful production!

Barry J. Fuller - MediaWorks 843 West Elna Rae Rd. Tempe, AZ 85281 Voice 602-968-4392 Fax 602-968-4679 Web

David Jon Devoucoux - David Jon Devoucoux Productions 7041 North 13th Street Phoenix, AZ 85020 Voice 602-395-1686 Fax 1-602-395-1687 E-Mail: Web