How to Plan a Video Production

Written by
Brandon Copple
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8
min read

Video production is complicated. Even a simple vlog involves writing, scheduling, filming, editing, publishing, promotion, and other stuff. 

It’s important to make managing all that stuff as simple and efficient as possible, so it doesn’t break down and kill your burgeoning video channel. And, just as importantly, because you want to make room for the creative parts – writing, storytelling, editing — to be inefficient. 

You need to be able to spend hours on an idea, decide it sucks, then scrap it and start over. That’s how you get to something good. 

Editing in Descript helps — you can let our AI do a lot of the tedious, technical post-production stuff. But you also need a production plan to tame the complexity, keep all the process components running smoothly, and help you stick to a production schedule. 

Here’s some advice from a few experienced creators.

Plan backwards 

We’ve written before about the importance of setting a standard for yourself, and letting that dictate when and how often you want to upload content. The best way to start building a plan is to work backwards from there. 

Let’s say you want to upload to YouTube (or your hosting service, or TikTok, or wherever) on the 15th of every month. Maybe that means completing all edits by the 14th, so you have plenty of time to create your thumbnails and metadata, maybe write some social posts — all of that. If it takes you five days to edit, you’ll need to have all your video shot and other assets assembled by the ninth. Keep going like that, working backwards through your workflow until you get to the point where you start writing, or planning your shoot, or whatever Day 1 entails.

Work in batches

Batch filming is when you film multiple episodes a day and release those episodes over time. It’s a great solution for creators who aren’t beholden to current events or other real-time content. Or if you need to hire a crew but can’t afford to pay a day rate for a single video. 

Many creators will schedule a full day’s worth of shoots, bring several outfits, even move locations through the day, then shoot a months’ (or whatever) worth of videos. Plus, it helps on-camera talent — i.e., you — get in the zone for a whole day of filming, instead of regularly switching in and out of character. 

Similarly, it’s often helpful to schedule dedicated editing days when you can crank out a bunch of videos. That doesn’t mean you have to edit them all, beginning to end. One good tactic is to break up your workflow into parts that can be tackled in batches on separate days. So, you might do all your rough cuts on Monday, all your sound editing or mixing on Wednesday, all your graphics on Thursday, and all your color correction on Friday. 

The advantage of this approach is, again, you can get in a zone and be more efficient at each stage. It can also help ensure continuity in your content and consistency in the look and sound of your videos. Plus there’s a good chance you’ll be using different tools at different post-production stages — even if you use the almighty Descript — so batch editing will cut down on time switching between your editing app (Descript, for sure) and your motion-graphics tool, and so on.     

Use project management apps 

This may not be what you want to hear, but making video involves some degree of project management. We know, you’re a creator, not a process jockey, but if you don’t keep track of who’s doing what when, you’ll soon be entering a world of madness and frustration.

Fortunately there are a bunch of good apps for this. We’ll break down some of the ways you can use them to streamline your workflow and keep things organized. 

For the idea capturing and writing stages, apps like Evernote and Simplenote can be helpful. For visual folks, tools like Pinterest or Milanote can help find a home for images or half-baked ideas. A dedicated Google doc works fine for capturing ideas, as does a notebook you keep in your pocket or bag.

I send all on-the-go ideas to my email, then label them. Do Stuff is one of those rare YouTube channels that uses a narrator, meaning a lot of writing, and a lot of ideas flying around for creators Leigh Cooper and Soo Zee Kim. They use Simplenote.

“Ideas for future videos wind up as a list,” Leigh says. “Scripts wind up in Simplenote. Email drafts. Instagram captions. Video metadata. Everything starts in Simplenote, and goes other places as and when it needs to.”

My colleague Lara Unnerstall, a video producer at Descript, uses the workflow and project management platform Asana for all of her video work. She likes it because it’s so conducive to collaboration — the essence of any video production.

“Regardless of whether it’s just you or one or two people, just having one place where everyone can see everything will make your life a lot easier,” Lara says. “Especially if there’s an actual shoot involved.”

Asana
, Simplenote, Notion, and other project management platforms are as useful as you want them to be. The benefit of Asana, Lara’s go-to, is that it’s easy to scale up for multiple projects and invite collaborators. Simplenote is more pared down and text-based, giving it a low barrier to entry for folks who are starting solo or just want to keep it simple. Notion is a great middle ground –– a powerful platform that can work for just about any project, with simple, easy-to-follow graphics and user flows. 

Finally, use your calendar app. Create calendar events for every stage of your workflow and set them to repeat every month (or week or whatever). 

Name your files in a useful way

If you thought project management was boring, now we’re gonna talk about file naming conventions. But like process, it’s critical to keeping yourself organized, efficient, and sane. When you’re shooting multiple takes, working with b-roll, or have different shots, you’ll have a lot of video files flying around. Using a standardized naming system is the only way to keep track of everything and be able to find it quickly when you need it.   

Unfortunately, naming any version of your video “.final” is just begging to be jinxed. 

Lara and her team follow the same basic format for naming all of their files: TITLE>DATE>VERSION. Each project has a specific title, date, and multiple versions if more than one are produced in a day. So it might look like DescripTip-07-15-2022-v1. Don’t overlook the v1 or v2 — they’ll save you from ending up with “FinalFinalDefinitelyTheLastOne.mov” (it’s happened). 

Some teams might add other elements to file names, like the client’s name or the editor’s initials. Whatever works for you. Free applications like Posthaste can be a lifesaver and make it so that every episode has the exact same file organization structure, and will make it easy for others to hop in and out of your project files. 

You can also create a blank template folder that you duplicate and customize for every episode. Just remember to be consistent and stick to a system that works for you. 

Systematize everything 

Setting up production documents in a consistent way goes beyond keeping you organized. “It also helps with your own confidence to know you’re not forgetting something,” says Lara. 

At the very least, make recurring calendar notifications for brainstorming sessions, whether it’s once a week, twice a month, or quarterly. If you’re interviewing an author, break down the number of pages you have to read per day to finish their book and plot it out. If you’re doing a weekly day-in-the-life vlog that goes up every Friday at 9 a.m., set your calendar to remind you to upload your video every Wednesday at noon. Same for creating social posts.All of these things may sound like no-brainers, or things you don’t want to deal with. But making video comes with some annoyances. The goal should be to systematize everything — except for the parts that can’t be systemized. That’s the creative work — the hard, fun work of making something great.

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

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Written by
Written by
Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

Descript is a collaborative audio/video editor that works like a doc. It includes transcription, a screen recorder, publishing, and some mind-bendingly useful AI tools.
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Brandon Copple

Head of Content at Descript. Former Editor at Groupon, Chicago Sun-Times, and a bunch of other places. Dad. Book reader. Friend to many Matts.

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