For over a decade our Boston video production team has produced videos at events for organizations of all sizes, creating everything from awards videos that we filmed, edited and delivered onsite to fast-paced sizzle reels to promote the next conference. We have learned a lot from our experiences, including plenty of what not to do.
Here are some important tips for video production companies and clients alike on potential mistakes to avoid during event video production:
Don’t wing it.
Never assume that the video crew will just show up and roll with the event. Without a clear run-of-show filming schedule, shot list, and list of essential contacts, the video crew is flying blind.
Pre-production is required for a video production to be truly professional, period. At a bare minimum, the crew should know when they need to be where, what specifically they need to film (including must-have moments), who they can contact with questions, and logistical requirements (bring two forms of identification, have enough battery power for the full day, take lunch in the staff room, don’t film alcohol at the reception, etc.).
If the video shoot involves on-camera interviews, have interview questions ready, along with a list of interviewees and/or a liaison on the client side to connect the video crew with the interview subjects.
If coordinating with other colleagues (like an AV team or a photographer) is important, work out the details before you arrive onsite. Everything goes a lot smoother when all the players are working together.
And always have a designated location to store and charge equipment; ideally this is a room that can be locked. A room for the video crew will keep the equipment tidy, safe, and in good working order.
Don’t bring more equipment than you can manage on the go.
Video crews can be over-enthusiastic when writing their packing lists. It makes sense - we have the equipment and we want to use it. But equipment can also be a burden, especially when you are rolling it through an airport (the rental car shuttle is the worst part of this), hauling it though an exhibition hall, or searching through cases for proprietary adapters.
Have a plan for which person will be in charge of which equipment, where you will store the equipment, how you will move the equipment throughout the event, and what you will do if you need to relocate the equipment in a hurry - this will happen at some point.
The flipside of this warning is that you should make sure you have enough equipment to cover all the action, especially if you need to run multiple setups at the same time. For example, if you are filming talks in one room, and need to film interviews immediately afterwards in another room, you need to bring two sets of cameras, and ideally have the interview camera setup in place in Room 2 before the talks begin in Room 1.
Don’t understaff your video crew.
It can be tempting for producers to hire a very small crew - or even try having one person do all the onsite video work - because it maximizes the profitability of the project and helps make the price competitive from the client’s perspective.
While staying “lean and mean” is often a feasible approach, you don’t want to be so lean that you can’t meet the project’s objectives, or have no backup if someone on the crew becomes unavailable at a critical moment during the project. For example (and this has happened to us), if a crew member gets sick during the project, the rest of the crew can pick up the slack to get through the day.
Challenges can be less dramatic too: a single camera operator may not be able to cover all the key moments at an event because locations are spread too far apart, or perhaps part of the event requires simultaneous coverage from two different camera angles.
Too few people means the crew is limited in how much equipment they can manage onsite, and essential production items like a portable LED lighting kit and a boom microphone may need to be left off the equipment list if there aren’t enough hands to manage them.
And of course exhaustion is a factor. To all of you videographers: racing around at an event and moving equipment as you go will wear you out and increase the likelihood of a production mishap.
Don’t risk losing your media.
This is essential advice for any project, and especially for event video projects where the action can’t be repeated if media is lost.
Use high quality memory cards, film redundant whenever possible (our standard C200 cameras have dual slot recording, which we always use), back up memory cards to SSD drives, and never erase any media onsite. If that means buying extra media, fine, do it. The cost of losing footage is much, much higher.
Don’t rely on good luck.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating because we all do it.
Time is always precious at events, and you can avoid a lot of potential problems by planning for bad luck that results in lost time.
Assume that traffic (on the road, in the hotel elevator, at security) will be bad, and try to be on your way early enough that you will have plenty of time to spare.
Assume something will break, and have a next-best-option backup tool onsite.
Assume that a room was not set up as directed, and check on it well in advance of when you plan to use it.
Assume your primary contact will go radio silent, and have another person in your contacts to call.
Assume the airline will lose your equipment. At some point, they will. Find a local video equipment rental house in advance, just in case.
To summarize, plan for the worst and hope to be pleasantly surprised when things go smoothly. You can’t control bad luck, but you can take steps to preemptively mitigate it.
And with that said… good luck!