Pre-Production: Making Sure Your Set is Set
Mar 11, 2014
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— Abraham Lincoln
While we aren’t cutting down trees, this sentiment rings true in the production world as well.
Perhaps not the most glamorous part of the production process, pre-production’s (pre-pro’s) potential to elevate the overall quality of a final product is massive. The ability to think outside the box and employ new techniques plays a crucial role in the success of a production. Using innovative approaches to assess the clients’ needs and offer new ideas is extremely valuable. This value often relates directly to the amount of time spent in pre-production.
When allotted an adequate amount of time for pre-pro, a project can receive input from other departments (animators, editors, etc). Getting multiple, talented people from different disciplines eyes on a project in its early stages is certainly a good thing, as it allows a vast array of ideas to be put on the table.
“It allows us to meet and exceed the ideas pitched to the client on the front end because the ‘how’ was decided long before an editor/animator sees the final footage.”
— David Hyatt, Editor
More Eyes for More Concept Innovation:
A recent example of pre-pro success can be seen in a project for Lowe’s Home Improvement that involved bathtub repair. Typically this type of production would be shot on location in a practical environment, which can be limiting given the size of a typical bathroom. Bringing together different roles within the pre-production process allowed collaboration on the best options for overcoming cramped quarters and, perhaps, literally widened the possibilities for post-shoot effects. It was decided that the product would be shot on a green screen and the environment added in post.
“Having done the work ahead of time, I’m freed up to live in the moment”
— Hannah Sink, Director.
Without seeking input from other creatives (and eventually building a custom tub enclosure in the studio), this project would not have pushed the envelope like it did by showing the process from angles unimaginable in a real-world environment.
More Time for a More Polished Result:
The value of pre-pro isn’t lost on those who don’t spend a lot of time on set.
“From an account standpoint, relationships are always enhanced and grown when expectations are exceeded; I see no better way to accomplish that goal than through focused attention to preproduction”
— Erin Craft, Senior Account Executive.
Additional time in pre-production creates the opportunity to polish ideas, and figure out how to turn them into the best client deliverable possible.
Developing ideas gives multiple departments the chance to work together and become more collaborative, which allows each department to have a voice before the execution method is decided upon.
On another recent Lowe’s shoot, we were tasked with filming showerheads. Instead of going the regular route of filming in a shower, the idea was developed further. By filming in-studio with a slow motion camera, the water itself became a primary star in the video instead of solely the shower head, and thus showed off more of the features that the client and vendor wanted to see. The time spent thinking through the process allowed for the end product to exceed client expectations. When time is taken to develop ideas, the quality of the product is elevated.
More Focus Prior to Production Allows for Pre-Trouble Shooting:
With extensive pre-production, the possibility of identifying potential problems on set and formulating a plan is much greater. While you can’t anticipate everything, thinking through the process at length is very beneficial.
When you have a backup plan in place, this allows for a smoother time on set, thus cutting down on overtime, missed shots, and a variety of other situations.
Time spent on pre-production can easily become the most efficient use of time in the entire production process. When all hands are on deck before a single frame is shot or a single light struck, it provides everyone involved with a clear picture of what the goal is and how it is going to be executed.
When issues are sorted out before hand and there are no surprises after the shoot, time is saved.
“The biggest benefit of pre-production on a project is the savings of time and labor in the post phase of the work. Animators and editors can focus on pulling together the best product rather than having to spend their time trying, often in vain, to compensate for problems that could have been prevented with proper pre-production.”
— Tyler Jackson, Art Director
When time and money are analogous, the value is obvious.