How to craft a video production brief that will get the video watched

What is a video production brief anyway?

A creative brief is a roadmap for your project. The destination should be your business goals, for example reach a target audience and get them to know or appreciate your brand.
To reach an audience and get the video watched organically is not easy. In fact only 3% of YouTube videos will reach a 1,000 views. Yet you can consistently stand above the competition and that starts with the the video production brief.
A properly optimized video and a distribution plan play a crucial part in the process but creating the right video is the most important factor!

Following the simple methodology below won’t make the video viral nor deliver instant success but it will make your content more watchable and if applied consistently it will ensure that your audience will grow and drive traffic to your brand.

Below we talk about what we named the C.R.O.F.S. methodology for video production:

  • Content
  • Research
  • Objectives
  • Format
  • Style

Content: making the right choices

Sometimes you have a very clear plan from the start, sometimes the video idea is more tenuous. In both cases it is likely that you still have to choose between different topics or keywords for your video title. Making the right choices could make your content a lot more shareable.

Think of the platform first

This often comes as an afterthought but it really should come first. You now have many possible avenues to post your videos as all social media platforms can host videos and to integrate them early in your production process.

Here is the advice from Phil Nottingham, video strategist at Distilled:

“Don’t start with the content idea.

Content First video approach

Start with the platform.”

Platform First

Whether you choose a video platform like YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, a social media or self hosting platform the content should be targeted to this platform. If you use one shoot to distribute your content across multiple platform like we do, then you should plan various edits specific for each platform.

Research: Data driven creativity

This should be driven by your audience. For example, through our research in the gastronomic word we have found that for foodies, Desserts are 2.1x times as popular as a main. A chef doing a recipe will be on average 1.4x more popular than a chef interview.
With a data driven approach marketers can navigate through content and make choices that will increase the likelihood to make it popular. For regular content that doesn’t mean that you should only focus on the crowd pleasers (e.g. only desserts in your cooking channel) but knowing the data will allow you to segment and customize your video marketing plan.

Once your main content is defined, you should transform it into actionable objectives for your video.

Define Objectives

If you are working with a script, then this objective-driven approach can be used to make sure you are not getting carried away in the creative process.

It is even more relevant when filming a documentary style video, without a script. Interviews or a product demonstration would fall in that category. You’d be surprised to see how quickly the clearly goals define for your 2-minute video can become blurry after a few hours of shoot. We make sure they can’t be ignored, so we like to include them as a check-list in the call sheet for the video crew, and remind them before and during each shoot.

Visual Objectives

They include your hero shots, as well as all the key elements that you wouldn’t want to miss in the edit.

You may also indicate a specific object or a type of shot, here are the ones we used in a recent video production at Soho House Berlin: The Store.

  • Hand shots: Close-ups of the artisan process in action

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 23.39.09

  • Portraits: A longer shot of the main “characters” looking at the camera or smiling

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 23.40.08

  • Finished product

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 23.39.47

But those objectives can also be very specific, for example:

  • Brand signage outside the building
  • Capture informal interaction between colleagues
  • Product unboxing

Added to your brief those key shot will be a handy reminder of what you can’t live without, even though your video production crew is under time constraints.

Audio Objectives / Key Messages

In a scripted video, the objective is to deliver the script. For interviews or unscripted dialog, you should have a list of questions (you do, don’t you?) but that doesn’t mean you will get the answers you hope for. In general it helps to frame the question so that interviewess can express “feelings” rather than facts and to allow the conversation to flow.

But what if you don’t get the responses you hope for or what if the speaker digresses or gives long answers that don’t work in the edit.
You need to be able to refer to a list of the messages you really want to hear, and that you shouldn’t leave without.

We also like to include those objectives in the callsheet or to have a list handy.

Find a format that resonates with your audience

An “event video”, or a “testimonial video” is not a format.

To define the video format think of it as a TV game show. Are candidates standing on both side of the presenter? Or are they in the middle of the action. Are there intervals? Is there one compere or many?

TV has been developing and honing formats for decades. For digital video production, the format is too often neglected or just standardised.
Hollywood has mastered the art of the blockbuster and some YouTube creators are just as good at creating successful content.

The Film Theorists has perfected a video format mixing animation with real footage

One video format with enduring success “Will it Blend?”

If you are developing a series of content then the format should apply to each episode. This particular one feels a bit dated but is still going strong after 10 years!

Without defining a format, there is a risk that your content will look like a “corporate video”. No one ever asked us for that look, but it isn’t necessarily bad or avoidable! When filming a conference for example you may not have many options.

(TIP: spice things up a bit when filming a conference, by adding a portrait of the speaker in the like we did for the UX Cafe.)
Format is where your video production company should be able to add the most value by suggesting the right choice for elements such as:

  • Duration: Should the videos last 30 seconds or 30 minutes?
  • Pace
  • Interview set up: Is the main character speaking directly to camera or to someone?
  • Use of animation, titles, etc
  • Video sequence

Define your brand style

Sometimes it can be hard to separate format and style. However doing so will allow you to think clearly about each of them and define their attributes.
Style can be hard to define. This is the right time to refer to your brand guidelines or bible. The style could be interpreted as your video branding. Here are some of the elements that can typically be considered:

  • Music: key for the mood
  • Colour grading and lighting
  • Camera movements

The style may also come from the creative team you choose. In fact you could choose a video production company based on their perceived style. For example Sandwich Studios are well known for the crisp look of their videos, enhanced by clever animation. This comes at a price ($100,00 on average per video) that many brands are willing to pay.
sandwich videos
On our YouTube channel the main style we are using is a very simple onw that we call “Flow”. It relies on slow motion and handheld camera movements and aims at a choreographed approach to artisans work.

Casey Neistat, a popular YouTuber uses many different formats but they all show his personal style.

Once you have included Content, Objectives, Format and Style in your video production brief you just need to expect a smooth execution to get a video that will organically generate views.

What are the costs?

The creative choices you make in your video production brief will have a direct impact on the production cost. Production costs can vary tenfold depending on the choices you make, so you can either work with a bottoms up approach where you define the creative and then assess the budget or a top-down approach where you set a limit budget that will guide your creative choices
To estimate the production cost we have prepared a handy form you can fill in a few minutes to get an estimate.