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From Pitch to Production
By Greg Vass, Executive Producer
SolidLine Media

Being in the video business I get asked quite often about my job. There is something intriguing about the cameras, the lights, the glamour. It’s Hollywood, right? Well, not exactly. Most of the time when people ask me about being a Producer, they usually harp on how ‘cool’ it must be to be out filming all the time and going to all these great locations. After I calm them down and explain this is corporate video production and, in fact, not Hollywood, I do actually end up agreeing with them…my job does rock; it is great to be out on location, travelling the country and meeting a ton of truly great people along the way. But being out on location is only just a fraction of what it takes to complete a successful and high end video production. After all, by the time the crew gets to the location for filming, a bulk of the hard work is already complete…

The SolidLine Media production offices in downtown Chicago, IL are always busy with the ‘fun’ stuff…editing videos, creating motion graphics and 3d animations. But the office is also always busy in a stage we call Pre-Production. This is the intense development stage that every video production must go through…where a concept is hammered out, designed on paper, presented to the client, turned into a script…and finally (emphasis on ‘finally’), approved by the client. For this post, I am going to use a recent production we completed for Onboard Systems, a worldwide supplier of helicopter cargo hooks and components, as I walk through our unique and very successful Pre-Production process.

The first step in the process is the Pitch. The Pitch is where every production begins. Our pitches start with a detailed review of the SolidLine Creative Brief.  The Creative Brief is a document of important information we put together during the sales process with details from the client regarding project goals, audience, timelines, etc.  After this review, it’s off to the whiteboard with a dry erase marker and a few creative SolidLine minds. After a couple hours of hashing out new ideas, we finally agree (or agree to disagree) on a couple ideas to present to the client. For this presentation we write up each idea as a Treatment. A Treatment is a simple few paragraph explanation of the project. In this document we highlight how we intend to structure the production, key messages in each section, and the art direction (including ideas about narration talent). Below you will see a copy of the SolidLine Media Creative Brief.

SolidLine Media Creative Brief – Click here to view the Brief

Once the client is satisfied with the Pitch, the next step is to develop a detailed Production Outline and Style Sheet. The Production Outline is really a skeleton of the final video. It includes details on the opening, what each section throughout the video production will entail (footage, interviews, graphics, 3d animation, etc.), and what information will be included in the final call-to-action or closing. The Style Sheet is a 6 frame overview of the graphic ‘look and feel’ of the production…sort of like a mini storyboard. As you will see below, the DHL Ocean Freight Services Promo Video graphic concept was very complex and included a mix of text key points, container imagery, combined with HD footage. The DHL Global Forwarding branding was, of course, implemented throughout.

This is the initial style sheet for the DHL Ocean Freight Services Promo

This is the initial style sheet for the DHL Ocean Freight Services Promo

So, now we have the both the organization of the production and the art direction approved. It’s time to start writing the script. This extremely time intensive and detailed process begins with a complete review of all research materials sent by the client as well as all production meeting notes. The script is written based on the Production Outline and overall goals of the project. Once a first draft is complete it is sent to the client for review. Detailed feedback is compiled and sent back to the SolidLine Media team and a new draft is worked up. This process continues until the client is completely satisfied with the script. On the DHL Ocean production we had 4 script drafts before we were ready to move forward on the next step. The script is the most important part of any video production, so it is necessary for all parties to be completely satisfied with the script at this point before we move forward with any creative work. The final draft of the DHL Ocean Freight Services script is below.

DHL Ocean Freight Final Script – Click here to view the PDF

The fun stuff is on the horizon…Production. We are getting there, but one integral step is still left to complete. This is the development of the SolidLine Media 2-column script, sometimes referred to as the ‘shooting script’ or the ‘visual script.’ The 2-column script has, well you guessed it, 2-columns. These columns consist of the Video side on the left and the Audio side on the right. The audio includes the narrator, on-camera spokesperson, actors, interviews, and/or testimonials. The purpose of the 2-column script is to completely plan the video out on paper. The right side will feature all of the audio while the left side will highlight the associated visual imagery. We separate the visual imagery into 3 categories: “V” = Video Footage, “G” = Motion Graphics, and “A” = 3d Animation. As we move through the script audio on the right side we will indicate on the left side what the viewer will be seeing. The visual imagery is written out in detail on the left utilizing a reference number and a “V”, “G”, or an “A” depending on the type of imagery. This same reference number is then placed on the right side in the narration audio to indicate where that visual sequence starts and stops. You can see this demonstrated in detail below by looking at the DHL Ocean 2-column script. Once this process is complete, a client can essentially view their entire video just by reading this 2-column script as this is exactly what the SolidLine Media Production Team will use during on-location filming, graphic development, and editing.

DHL Ocean Freight Services 2-Column Script – Click here to view the PDF

The Pitch is complete, Production Outline approved, Style Sheet designed, Script is locked, and the 2-column Script is printed and in the hands of the SolidLine Production Team. Now its time to finish the production planning, hop onboard the SolidLine rig, and head to Hollywood…or, more than likely, Cleveland…

Below is the completed DHL Global Forwarding Ocean Freight Services Promo Video, entitled “Beyond Port to Port,” currently being distributed by DHL sales teams across North America. Enjoy the show!

You can contact Greg at gvass@solidlinemedia.com.

For more information about SolidLine Media, visit us online at www.solidlinemedia.com.  Or call 312-939-8600.

Copyright 2009 SolidLine Media, a division of KV Media Group, Inc.