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16 min read

17 Essential Video Production Questions to Ask Before Creating a Video

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We spend a lot of time sitting down with clients discussing how we can tell their best stories using video. And while it's true that every organization would like their unique story told differently, there are a few common questions that are universally useful for those looking to produce a video. Here's a comprehensive list of the essential video production questions you should answer before your next shoot.

Click one of the questions below to jump straight to that section:

1. What's the purpose of the video?
2. Who is your target audience?
3. What are your 3 key messages?
4. What is your ideal timeline?
5. What is your project budget?
6. Is your video part of a strategy or campaign?
7. How will you measure results & ROI?
8. What emotion are you trying to evoke?
9. What specific visuals should be captured?
10. Who will speak on behalf of the organization?
11. What questions should you ask the interview subjects?
12. Should you script the answers to the questions?
13. What happens if they don't get the answer right the first time?
14. Should you correct someone if they say the wrong thing?
15. Who needs to approve the final video?
16. Where will the video be shot?
17. How will the final video be hosted, distributed, and repackaged?
18. Bonus: The one question you shouldn't ask
19. Conclusion

1. What is the purpose of the video?

So often, we speak with companies who want to "create a video to put on their website." Sure, producing a video for your website is essential because videos can communicate the most amount of information in the shortest amount of time. But investing in a video isn't just about checking a box. This approach to video production not only results in a confusing message, but it makes measuring success really difficult. 

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Create a well-thought-out vision for your video that's written down and successfully answers the question "What exactly are we trying to achieve by producing this video?"

Instead of...

"We want a video to put on social."

Try:

"We want to produce a video that communicates our organization's values and lends a sense of credibility to the work that we do."

You'll find that knowing the "why" behind your video will help you create a better, truer, more versatile piece of great video content.

2. Who is your target audience?

We talk a lot about audience because, well, it's really important! A lot of organizations get caught up in who they are, and what they're all about. Those things are really crucial, but they have to be communicated in a way that resonates with the audience they're trying to reach.

Otherwise, you're just pounding your chest and talking about yourself.

Know who you want to be watching your video and make that your starting point. Answering the "who" first will help you line up all the other pieces of your video project, like messaging, graphics, visuals, editing, and even music selection. For example:

  • If you know you're creating a video for moms-to-be, you might use messages about "taking care of what matters," gentle editing, and light, joyful music.
  • If you’re producing a video targeting mechanical engineers looking for tools and gadgets, you could be a little more direct with hi-res product video, quick cuts, and energetic rock or electronic music.

When deciding what messages and video styles to use for your audience, ask these questions:

  • "What are the viewer's pain points?"
  • "Is my audience a decision maker, influencer, or neither?"
  • "What is my audience's motivation for watching this video?"

These types of questions will help you better understand what type of video to create and how to craft your message in a way that resonates with your target audience. We create buyer personas for our clients – fictional, generalized representations of ideal customers – specifically to know who their video will be for before we ever begin the video production process.

3. What are your 3 key messages?

In order to ask the right question during the video interviews, start with some research and understanding of what you’re trying to communicate.

Many companies try to say everything in one video and end up failing to say anything valuable at all. Figure out the most important aspects of your message – the ones that must be communicated to successfully pass on the information to your target audience.

We've found the easiest way to avoid information overload is to come up with 3 key messages that you want to communicate in your video. Make them clear, concise, and influential or inspiring. Then write them down and run every interview question through them as a filter.New Call-to-action

Let's say these are your three key messages for a particular video:

  • There's a specific problem with the way things are done.
  • Our product/service fixes that problem better than any on the market.
  • Our representatives make it easy to implement our solution.

Make sure every interview question you come up with can be answered with one of those three key messages.

  • "Why is your product necessary?" Because there's a specific problem with the way things are done.
  • "Why should people choose you?" Because we fix that problem better than anyone else.
  • "How do people start using your service?" Our representatives make it easy.

Behind every good video is a strategy. Our human brains can only process so much information at one time. Showing up one day with a camera in one hand and microphone in the other probably won’t set you up to produce an amazing video. You have to go in with a plan – including clear messages.

4. What's your ideal timeline?

It would be great if it only took 30 seconds to produce a 30-second video. Alas, it doesn’t quite work that way. That's why it's important to communicate your ideal timeline with your video team while you are in the planning phase. This will help avoid missing deadlines as you move forward with the project. 

Every internal video team or video production company has a standard timeline for video turnaround. However, if you need your video done sooner, there are ways to accomplish that goal: By simplifying the scope of the project, you can get a faster turnaround time. Conversely, if you have a really complex and in-depth vision in mind, it might take some time to make that vision come to life.

5. What's your project budget?

Just like the video timeline, the simplicity or complexity of your video project will affect the final budget. If you have a specific budget in mind, be sure to communicate that with your video team. 

Yes, producing a video can be expensive. However, not all video is created equal. The important thing to remember is time, people, and gear tend to drive the cost of video production. If you want to produce a video with underwater footage, mountaintop vistas, and five different locations, it can be done – just be prepared to spend more. Likewise, maybe a few shorter, high-level videos on your landing pages are the perfect use of video for you. Lowering use of those resources helps to keep costs down.

Ultimately, the cost of your video directly reflects the number of professionals that are needed to help execute the vision. If your story is best told using multiple cameras, an audio technician, and a field producer over multiple shoot dates, it will likely cost  more. If the best way to tell your story can be captured with one camera during one half-day shoot, the budget will likely be a little less.

Check out this handy guide to help you identify which type of video production company will best fit within your budget.

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6. Is your video part of a strategy or campaign?

Video can be a great way to round out a goal-oriented campaign. But if you're planning a video as part of a bigger initiative or strategy, make sure to communicate your plan with your video team. With a solid understanding of the larger vision, a smart video company can help you maximize your efforts for efficiency.

By creating a clear blueprint of the information you are trying to capture, you can often extend your video shoot time by just a few hours to get more bang for your buck (and who doesn't want that?).

7. How will you measure results and ROI?

Are you looking to drive video views? Product demos? Sales? Donations? Each metric requires a different video strategy. We get that in marketing, it's often about the bottom line – and knowing your metrics of success can shape the vision of the video to hit it.

Get your whole team to think through what it would take to make the video a success. Maybe the metric is leads generated, views on YouTube, or dollars donated, or all of the above. (Not only does clarification on this help your video production team aim to meet that same goal, it also gets buy-in from your internal team when it works.)

If your organization is looking simply for more exposure, views or social media shares might be what you're after. If you want more leads, you may want to add a call-to-action button at the end of your video that leads to a page where the viewer can fill out a form in exchange for more content or a preliminary service (an eBook, a free consultation/assessment, etc.). 

For every video, we recommend setting SMART goals, which are goals that are: 

  • Smart
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Repeatable
  • Time-bound

Setting smart goals ahead of time will not only provide a framework for ROI, but it'll also give the whole project direction, from planning through execution.

8. What emotion are you trying to evoke?

Once you've determined who the audience is, the next step is to decide what you want that audience to feel after they're done watching. The reason people engage with content is because it makes them feel something, which is the job of the person creating the video and its messaging. 

When that specific audience is watching your video on your website, through an email campaign, or at an event, what do you want their action to be after the video fades to black? Whether you want someone digging into their pockets for a tissue and checkbook or feeling motivated to click the “buy now” button, that overriding feeling you want to create needs to be reflected in the messaging, the visuals, and the overall tone.

According to a study by OkDork (a popular marketing blog) which looked at the 10,000 most shared pieces of online content, the most common emotions evoked were:

  • Awe (25%)‘Popular
  • Laughter (17%)
  • Amusement (15%) 
  • Joy (14%)
  • Anger (6%)
  • Empathy (6%) 
  • Surprise (2%)
  • Sadness (1%)
  • Other (15%)

Having your video shared online won't necessarily be your ultimate goal, but the study does illustrate that different kinds of emotions resonate with people on different levels. Keep this in mind as you create your video storyboard.

9. What specific visuals should be captured?

Though identifying specific shots and visuals to capture comes a bit later in the pre-production process, it’s important to consider any key events, scenarios, or people that would need to be scheduled during the video shoot. For instance, if your manufacturing facility is busiest right before the holidays, it may be wise to schedule the video shoot during that time to show the breadth of your work.

10. Who will speak on behalf of the organization?

It's the tendency of many companies to automatically turn to the C-suite when characters and spokespeople are needed for a company video. No matter how photogenic or enthusiastic they are, we often recommend not using the boss as the voice of a video. A CEO speaking into the lens can really feel stuffy, as they often get caught up in trying to communicate too much in the time you have.

Your CEO may give the audience the "wow factor," but if you're in the business of generating revenue, the "trust factor" is really what you're after. You want to capture the heart and soul of your organization, which can usually be better communicated by the people on the ground floor of your company. They've witnessed the ways in which your organization has actually helped improve someone's life, so when they talk about how great the work you do is, they speak from direct experience.

Remember that your speaker doesn't necessarily need to be from your company. A well-spoken client or paid on-camera talent might be the best choice for your video content.

11. What questions should you ask the interview subjects?

Creating interview questions is an important part of the video production process. If you're working with a video producer, lean on them to help you create interview questions. If you're creating the video on your own, take some time to craft a handful of questions for your subject.

Send a list of five sharp, open-ended questions to your interviewee ahead of time. Consider their perspective on the topic – what could they say about it that nobody else could? Try to avoid closed-ended questions (ones that could be answered with a simple "yes" or "no"). Listen for opportunities to drop a follow-up question – your next great sound bite could be hiding in the next answer.

Be sure to ask your interview subject to not memorize the questions – just to get a feeling for them and consider how they might answer. Let them know you might go a little off-script with follow-up questions or anything else that comes to mind during your conversation.

12. Should you script answers to the questions?

Probably not. You're looking for genuine, thoughtful answers, not robotic responses. Unless your interview subject is ineloquent or uncomfortable with impromptu answers, fresh, off-the-cuff answers usually lead to natural reactions and compelling sound bites.

13. What happens if they don't get the answer right the first time?

Most of your video interviews will not be live, so if the interview subject misspeaks or stumbles, always provide them the opportunity to try again. If your subject doesn't get it right the first time, ask the question again so they can respond naturally. 

Being on camera is hard for some people. If your interview subjects are struggling to get comfortable, try asking some warm-up questions: rather than get right down to business, toss some off-topic ice-breakers their way. A good video producer will be able to help the interviewee forget that they are in front of the camera and make them feel more like they are talking to a friend.

14. Should you correct someone if they say the wrong thing?

Give your interview subject some time to finish the question. Try not to jump in while your interviewee is talking, even if they're a little off-course, because you'll risk stepping on a great sound bite. It's only natural to react to the words we hear, and that's terrific — even preferred — just try really hard to not speak!

If they finish answering and you feel like it missed the mark, you can take a moment before the next question to explain what you'd like to talk about before asking the question again or moving on.

15. Who needs to approve the final video?

Before you get started with a video project, it's important to know who will be the key stakeholders involved in reviews and revisions. In our experience, signoff could come from a small group from marketing or it could go all the way to the CEO. If your company has lots of layers of approval, it might be helpful to add a few extra days to your project timeline to make sure you don't get behind.

If possible, try to elect a primary point person who will be responsible for all the edits so you don't have conflicting feedback. Streamlining this process can help minimize confusion about which revisions are most important.

16. Where will the video be shot?

Shoot locations often depend on the story you are telling. Many of our shoots are on location, whether it's at your company headquarters or industrial factories and beautiful outdoor scenes. On the other hand, your shoot may require studio space where you can control lighting, use a green screen, or eliminate noise.

Many organizations have limited options of where their video can be shot, especially if the goal of the video is to communicate company culture. But with that said, keep a few things in mind as you decide where to shoot your video

  • Be careful with noise. Even something as subtle as the buzz of a fan can be picked up and can ruin a sound bite. 
  • Keep your backgrounds simple. Your primary characters should be the focus of the story. Sometimes, it's okay to show work being done in the background – but it quickly gets distracting. Use background action minimally for effect rather than as your landscape.
  • Err on the side of more space than less. Most video shoots require a video producer, a shooter, multiple characters, a camera, lights and audio equipment. All of these things can crowd a room quicker than you may think, so avoid tight-quartered conference rooms and offices.

The overarching advice we give to clients is to choose a location that represents your organization most accurately, but try to keep it simple!

17. How will the final video be hosted, distributed, and repackaged?

Keep the end product in the back of your mind during the video planning process. Are you going to host it on YouTube? Will you want to link it to another video? Is it going on Instagram or in an email? All of the above? You'll want to tell the audience that either through the audio or graphics within the piece.

The use cases for a great video can vary widely, but you can assume a few things based on what you already know:

  • If your video is specifically for an event, you have a captured and interested audience.
  • If you're planning to launch on social media, your goal is to capture your audience's attention. Try producing and publishing a short, high-energy teaser of the full video on social media which links to the full video.
  • If you're creating a video for an email campaign, you'll have to use a hosting platform that allows for embed codes to be seamlessly copied and pasted into your organization's emails.

A video will be produced and edited differently based on where you'll be using it. Along the way, think through the strategy to know what kind of end product(s) you're working toward. What you don't want is for your video investment to be partly wasted because you didn't plan how it was going to be used ahead of time.  

BONUS: Don't ask, "How long should we make the video?"

Sure, you don't want to bore your audience with a 20-minute video about your culture. You also don't want to try cramming your organization's history and mission into an 8-second blitz. But setting a specific runtime for your video ahead of time is not the right approach. Instead, let the content of the video drive the length of the video.

The bottom line is, if your content is good, people will stick around and watch. If it's not, they won't!

Conclusion

Every video project is different, but these universal video production questions should give you a framework for both what you want your video to look like and what you want it to achieve. 

By taking these steps before hiring a video production company, you’re sure to save time, decrease confusion, and create a video you and your team can be proud of. If you have more questions or you are not sure how to get started, consult your video production team to help think through these strategies, come up with key takeaways, and set plans to produce your video.

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Editor's note: This article was updated on June 8, 2021.