Video Production 101 – Part 1: Planning Successful Video Projects

-By Sue O’Hora

Video content is becoming more and more popular. It can increase click-throughs when used in email campaigns, increase engagement on blogs and drive organic web traffic by improving SEO value. Many businesses, organizations and individuals are just beginning to use video to accomplish their goals and that means there are a lot of first-time video producers out there. This two-part series introduces first-time producers to the three phases of production (pre-production, production, and post production) while providing a road map for pre-production, the most crucial planning stage of any video production project. It also provides a preview of the questions that will drive the production and post production phases. Our goal is to give first-time producers the tools to plan a successful video project.

Part One: Getting Started

Whether you’ve just been tasked with producing a video for your organization or business or you have a personal video project you’d like to undertake, it can be hard to know exactly where to start. This series is designed to help guide you through pre-production, the most crucial planning stage in any video project. Pre-production is all about asking and answering questions. It is the process of thinking through the entire project from beginning to end. If you approach a production company or an experienced producer about your project, they’re likely to ask you many of the same questions that are listed in this guide. At the end of pre-production, you should have a very good sense of the creative direction you’d like to take with your project and a good overview of the work it will take in the production and post production phases to bring your project to fruition.

Whether you’re going to work with a trusted video production partner, write an RFP and solicit bids from companies you haven’t worked with before, or are planning to produce your entire project using in-house resources or your friends and family, answering these questions will help you determine the time, money and resources needed for your project.


Producers think long and hard about the three stages of production.

Pre-production – the conceptualizing and logistical planning needed to get the project off the ground

Production – the shooting and gathering of images and sound

Post-production – the editing, polishing and delivery of the final video

This series is primarily focused on pre-production because that is the stage in which so much crucial planning takes place. Thorough pre-production planning will force you to think through the entire production process since the decisions you make in pre-production can greatly affect your approach to production and your options in post-production.


First and foremost, think about your content.

  • What is the goal of your video?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What story are you trying to tell?
  • How do you want to tell it?

You don’t have the have the answers to all of these questions from the very beginning of pre-production planning. In particular, developing the story you want to tell and how you’re going to tell it is something that often happens over the course of pre-production.

The cost of stock footage and music can be affected by where the video will ultimately be shown or made available for viewing. Having a plan for the distribution of the finished video makes it easier to license everything appropriately from the very beginning. Final distribution plans can also affect production and post production workflows.

You may have multiple creative ideas in mind for your video at first. Spend time brainstorming and reviewing your ideas against the questions above. Once you have an idea that stands out, write it down in detail. This will become your creative approach.

Production companies and experienced Producers can be extremely helpful with this process. If you are going to enlist professional help with your project, doing so while you are still developing your creative approach can be invaluable. They can give you ideas for how best to appeal to your audience and tell your story effectively and can help guide your pre-production process by letting you know how certain ideas and approaches will affect your deadline and your budget before you’ve invested a lot of time in the planning process. Keep in mind that you can re-tool your creative approach in countless different ways and still remain true to your original goal and primary audience as well.

Content Questions

  • What is the primary goal of the video? Are you hoping to educate, drive website traffic, change outside parties’ perceptions of your organization etc.?
  • What is the primary audience for this video?
  • Will the video be interview-driven or will it feature general footage (b-roll) and an off-screen narrator? Will you film everything yourself or rely on stock footage? Will the video contain a mix of these elements?
  • Will you need actors or a polished on-camera presenter?
  • Do you have a specific look and feel in mind (news, corporate, slick and polished or gritty and realistic)?
  • Will there be a need for graphics and/or animation in the video (an opening logo sequence, on-screen identifiers, on-screen maps, graphs or charts)?
  • Will there be a need for music in the video? Will you be searching for/providing the music or will your production company be supplying music?
  • Where will the final video be seen (on the web, on TV, in a presentation)?


Once your creative approach has started to take shape, you’ll want to ask yourself a few crucial questions.

  • When is the final, finished video due?
  • How long should the finished video be?
  • What is the budget for this project?

Every decision you make regarding your creative direction, production logistics and post production workflow will affect your ability to meet your deadline and stay within your budget. For instance, the length of your video will affect how much footage you need and how long post production will take, and both of these factors will impact your timeline and your budget. If one or more of these basics is unknown when you start your project, a Producer or production company can help you weigh your options so that you can make informed decisions.

Once you have a solid creative approach and know the basics about when your project is due, the length of the piece and the budget you have to spend, you’re ready to move on to planning the production itself.

In part two of this series, we’ll cover production planning, post production and the approval process.

Sue O’Hora is a Producer for Henninger Media Services. When not busy working on production projects, she can be found reading about television, writing about it or discussing it with friends. You can learn more about Sue at or follow her on Twitter @SueOHora.