Shooting video? Here's a handy 11-point checklist for a smooth video shoot

This article explains each of the stages of video production, then breaks the production process down even further into a handy 11-point checklist you can use to plan your next video project — and end up with a great video to show for it.
August 15, 2023
Amy Romer
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Like a lot of things in life, the quality of your video project relies on the effort you’re willing to put in. That can mean a ton of effort, since the videography and filmmaking process involves everything from brainstorming and story development to gathering gear to actually shooting the thing to video editing to choosing which platforms to use for distribution. That can feel like a lot, and it is. But just like a book is divided into chapters, it can be helpful to break down the project into stages. 

In this article, I’ll explain each of the stages of video production, then break the production process down even further into a handy 11-point checklist you can use to plan your next video project — and end up with a great video to show for it.

5 stages of video production

Development

The first step is to define the video's purpose and target audience. This is big-picture stuff. Outline the project, focusing on the video's main goal and the specific audience you want to captivate.

Pre-production

Once you have the essential questions answered, you’ll move onto some more practical and creative decisions like storyboarding, location scouting, and casting the right talent for critical roles. You’ll also need to gather all the necessary production equipment — microphones, tripods, cameras, gimbals, and studio lighting.

Production

This is the big moment! Ideally, you’ll have everything planned out via this handy checklist, ready for a super smooth production with a clear vision. 

Post-production

This involves everything to do with the editing process. Here, you’ll use meticulous video editing to go from dozens of memory cards of raw footage to a refined final video. This may include cutting unnecessary parts, adding background music, or incorporating voiceovers. This stage is also where you’d add any animations or graphics elements.

Distribution

With the project complete, it's time to distribute the video content across the platforms you planned for in the earlier development stage, whether that’s YouTube, social media platforms, or a specific channel requested by a client. Don’t let your video just sit on your hard drive unloved!  

It feels a lot more manageable when it’s broken down nicely like that. (Things often do!) 

Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

11-point checklist for a successful video shoot

Now you’ve got a sense of the big picture, and assuming you have a story or concept you’re looking to make a video about, you can begin tackling this 11-point checklist that will take you all the way through development and pre-production — and make your production, post-production, and distribution stages a whole lot smoother.

1. Set your goals

Define what you want to achieve with your video. Are you a budding director with a story to tell? A marketer with a product or service to offer? Or an influencer whose goal is simply to entertain? 

2. Know your audience

Now you understand your goals, try to pin down what kind of people are most likely to watch your content. Consider age, sex, interests, and other demographics of your intended audience. This is going to make it much easier to create a video that speaks to their taste, humor, values, and concerns. 

3. Craft a message

With your goals and audience figured out, establish a message that speaks directly to your audience while achieving the goal of the video. 

4. Select a genre

By crafting your message, it should feel easier to determine what genre your video should be. Is it a five-minute documentary for a YouTube channel? A 15-second Tik-Tok ad? By taking everything into consideration that you’ve identified thus far, you’ll be well equipped to choose the best genre for your film.

5. Plan for distribution

Where will your content be shown, and on which platforms? It’s possible you, or your client, will want to share your content on multiple platforms, each of which will have its own technical specifications and best practices for success. It’s worth taking the time to plan this out.  How much additional time will it take you to adapt your content for Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok? This will be important to grasp for the next step.

6. Build a budget

This is the scary part. Calculate the cost of making the video. Make sure to include things like your time, props, rental space, rental equipment, travel, catering, insurance. Always cover yourself by rounding up the numbers, allowing for some wiggle room should any unexpected surprises pop up. (As a personal rule, I always add 10% on top of the budget for “miscellaneous” hiccups.) 

7. Write your script

Depending on what kind of video you’re creating, you’ll need to write a script, whether it’s a full voiceover or just a list of interview questions. For a video that runs for less than five minutes, one to two pages of script copy should be plenty. To check for time, read it out loud (slowly!) while timing yourself.

Storyboards from The Empire Strikes Back, designed by artist Joe Johnston. Image by Matt Popovich on Unsplash.

8. Create a storyboard

This is the fun part. Create a rough storyboard that details your script in visual form. Where is the video taking place? What are the camera angles? Any B-roll? Stage directions? You can plan out frame by frame, or if that feels too regimented, just sketch out the look and feel you want your video to have, using inspiration from other sources to guide you. This is also where you’d plan out your shot list.

9. Location scout

Through your storyboard, you should have identified the kind of location you’d like to shoot. Do you need to rent a studio? Find a park with a particular tree, or a street with a specific architecture? What about the weather and time of day for appropriate lighting? Allow some time to locate your perfect spaces, and be sure to check out if any permits are required. 

10. Equipment

Make a list of gear you’ll need and divide it into gear you already have, gear to rent, and gear to buy. You can divide it into categories including camera, lighting, audio, props, and software. Hot tip: I’ve made a semi-permanent list of things I might need for video shoots to make this step that much easier. Here’s your chance to start one! 

11. Call sheet

A call sheet is like a schedule that you’ll share with everyone involved in the video production — crew, talent, yourself. It’ll tell everyone how to get hold of each other (i.e. phone numbers), where to be, what time, with what gear, and the order of the day. It’s crucial for everybody to keep on track as the shoot(s) unfold. 

Once the call sheet is complete, you can take a giant sigh of relief and have a nice long sleep knowing that everything is in place for you to have a successful shoot, post-production, and distribution of your video. 

Amy Romer
Amy Romer is a visual journalist producing stories with words, photography, video and audio. She's a National Geographic Explorer and Global Reporting Centre fellow.
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Shooting video? Here's a handy 11-point checklist for a smooth video shoot

Like a lot of things in life, the quality of your video project relies on the effort you’re willing to put in. That can mean a ton of effort, since the videography and filmmaking process involves everything from brainstorming and story development to gathering gear to actually shooting the thing to video editing to choosing which platforms to use for distribution. That can feel like a lot, and it is. But just like a book is divided into chapters, it can be helpful to break down the project into stages. 

In this article, I’ll explain each of the stages of video production, then break the production process down even further into a handy 11-point checklist you can use to plan your next video project — and end up with a great video to show for it.

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5 stages of video production

Development

The first step is to define the video's purpose and target audience. This is big-picture stuff. Outline the project, focusing on the video's main goal and the specific audience you want to captivate.

Pre-production

Once you have the essential questions answered, you’ll move onto some more practical and creative decisions like storyboarding, location scouting, and casting the right talent for critical roles. You’ll also need to gather all the necessary production equipment — microphones, tripods, cameras, gimbals, and studio lighting.

Production

This is the big moment! Ideally, you’ll have everything planned out via this handy checklist, ready for a super smooth production with a clear vision. 

Post-production

This involves everything to do with the editing process. Here, you’ll use meticulous video editing to go from dozens of memory cards of raw footage to a refined final video. This may include cutting unnecessary parts, adding background music, or incorporating voiceovers. This stage is also where you’d add any animations or graphics elements.

Distribution

With the project complete, it's time to distribute the video content across the platforms you planned for in the earlier development stage, whether that’s YouTube, social media platforms, or a specific channel requested by a client. Don’t let your video just sit on your hard drive unloved!  

It feels a lot more manageable when it’s broken down nicely like that. (Things often do!) 

Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

11-point checklist for a successful video shoot

Now you’ve got a sense of the big picture, and assuming you have a story or concept you’re looking to make a video about, you can begin tackling this 11-point checklist that will take you all the way through development and pre-production — and make your production, post-production, and distribution stages a whole lot smoother.

1. Set your goals

Define what you want to achieve with your video. Are you a budding director with a story to tell? A marketer with a product or service to offer? Or an influencer whose goal is simply to entertain? 

2. Know your audience

Now you understand your goals, try to pin down what kind of people are most likely to watch your content. Consider age, sex, interests, and other demographics of your intended audience. This is going to make it much easier to create a video that speaks to their taste, humor, values, and concerns. 

3. Craft a message

With your goals and audience figured out, establish a message that speaks directly to your audience while achieving the goal of the video. 

4. Select a genre

By crafting your message, it should feel easier to determine what genre your video should be. Is it a five-minute documentary for a YouTube channel? A 15-second Tik-Tok ad? By taking everything into consideration that you’ve identified thus far, you’ll be well equipped to choose the best genre for your film.

5. Plan for distribution

Where will your content be shown, and on which platforms? It’s possible you, or your client, will want to share your content on multiple platforms, each of which will have its own technical specifications and best practices for success. It’s worth taking the time to plan this out.  How much additional time will it take you to adapt your content for Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok? This will be important to grasp for the next step.

6. Build a budget

This is the scary part. Calculate the cost of making the video. Make sure to include things like your time, props, rental space, rental equipment, travel, catering, insurance. Always cover yourself by rounding up the numbers, allowing for some wiggle room should any unexpected surprises pop up. (As a personal rule, I always add 10% on top of the budget for “miscellaneous” hiccups.) 

7. Write your script

Depending on what kind of video you’re creating, you’ll need to write a script, whether it’s a full voiceover or just a list of interview questions. For a video that runs for less than five minutes, one to two pages of script copy should be plenty. To check for time, read it out loud (slowly!) while timing yourself.

Storyboards from The Empire Strikes Back, designed by artist Joe Johnston. Image by Matt Popovich on Unsplash.

8. Create a storyboard

This is the fun part. Create a rough storyboard that details your script in visual form. Where is the video taking place? What are the camera angles? Any B-roll? Stage directions? You can plan out frame by frame, or if that feels too regimented, just sketch out the look and feel you want your video to have, using inspiration from other sources to guide you. This is also where you’d plan out your shot list.

9. Location scout

Through your storyboard, you should have identified the kind of location you’d like to shoot. Do you need to rent a studio? Find a park with a particular tree, or a street with a specific architecture? What about the weather and time of day for appropriate lighting? Allow some time to locate your perfect spaces, and be sure to check out if any permits are required. 

10. Equipment

Make a list of gear you’ll need and divide it into gear you already have, gear to rent, and gear to buy. You can divide it into categories including camera, lighting, audio, props, and software. Hot tip: I’ve made a semi-permanent list of things I might need for video shoots to make this step that much easier. Here’s your chance to start one! 

11. Call sheet

A call sheet is like a schedule that you’ll share with everyone involved in the video production — crew, talent, yourself. It’ll tell everyone how to get hold of each other (i.e. phone numbers), where to be, what time, with what gear, and the order of the day. It’s crucial for everybody to keep on track as the shoot(s) unfold. 

Once the call sheet is complete, you can take a giant sigh of relief and have a nice long sleep knowing that everything is in place for you to have a successful shoot, post-production, and distribution of your video. 

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