5 points to consider when commissioning short form video content

  Posted by: FreshCut

Having worked in video production in Oxford for nearly a decade now, we know a good deal about creating short form content. We’ve worked with Comms Officers, Social Media Managers, academics, Public Relations teams, and Marketing Managers from all sorts of organisations, and there are dozens upon dozens of our videos being used, seen, and shared all over Youtube and beyond. Many of these projects have been a pleasure to work on — smooth sailing, strong communication, and great content as a result. Others have been… well, a little bit rockier, let’s say.

Even if we do everything right on our end, the success of a project still depends a lot on the person commissioning the video. So we’ve compiled some simple steps for anyone on the commissioning end of the video production pipeline, which will help you get the best out of your chosen video production company. Following these pointers will make the commissioning process a whole lot smoother and happier for everyone involved. After all, better processes mean better content, and better content means more views, more shares, and more goal-scoring for your video!

Know your audience (and ask them if you’re not sure!)

The first question to ask when commissioning is: who is this video for? Creating a promotional film for your company or brand is great, but if you don’t have a clear idea of your audience, the video will suffer for it; at best, you’ll end up with content that is a bit too general, and at worst, you could create something that’s off-putting to your core demographic.

Having a clear idea of who your video is for and the style that will appeal to that demographic is a recipe for success. What age are they? What sort of background do they have? Would they be more interested in content that is casual or formal? Fast-paced or slow? A broad focus or a deep-dive? If you’re unsure, find someone from the demographic that you’re targeting and ask them what they’d like to see!

Allow plenty of time (more haste = less speed!)

Easy to say, harder to do! Creating video content can take some time, especially when it involves scheduling shoots with lots of participants. We, the video company, can pull out all the stops to get you the content on time, but creating a video involves more than just us! It’s much harder to ask the participants to be speedy and available, especially if they’re unpaid.

There are many stages to video production, and each one takes time — first we schedule the shoots, often involving booking locations and scheduling participants, then do the filming, then create the edit, then get your feedback on the first draft, then implement your feedback. Each of these stages requires time, dedication, and frequent communication back and forth — so make sure to contact us ideally 4-5 weeks before you want the video online.

A real-life example:

A large company once asked us to create a video involving remote interviews with international participants, and lots of complex animation — for a hard deadline that was just two weeks away. We rose to the challenge, working weekend shifts and rearranging our schedules to fit it in, but for all our efforts, the project still suffered for having such a tight deadline. Why? Because you can’t rush the unpaid participants!

Scheduling interviews across time zones is always a challenge, and more so when you’re asking in a hurry. We wanted to interview ten people, and then choose the best five or six of those to feature in the film. However, in the end, we only managed to interview four people, because only four people replied in time and had availability within the small window of time that we had. Whatsmore, we had to charge extra to the company because of the rush. We were still happy with the final output — and so were they! — so all in all, the project was still a success. But if they’d thought to ask us just a few weeks earlier, we could have pushed the content from ‘great’ to ‘awesome’.

Decide your budget (the bigger the better, of course!)

Sometimes a Comms person will ask us, “How much would it cost to create a video?” and we’re often tempted to reply, “How long is a piece of string?” We restrain ourselves from saying it aloud, mostly for fear of turning into our mothers.

In reality, costs will of course vary from project to project, but as a general rule of thumb, video production companies can adjust their processes based on your budget. It can sometimes be easier, therefore, to say “I have £3,000, what sort of film can I get for that amount?” rather than asking how much something costs. The more time we spend on a project, the more love and attention we can give it, and the more content we can capture in the first place (so the standard of the content we end up using improves because we have more choice in the edit). So if you have £5,000, the film will probably be more beautiful, wittier, and more impactful than a similar film that we would make for a £3,000 budget.

Of course, if you have very specific requirements, then the costs will be more absolute — e.g. if you are sure that you want to do eight interviews, the amount of time that we dedicate to scheduling, filming and editing will have to reflect that. But if you come to us saying something more general like “I want to create an access film”, we might say “Great! For £X we could include 4 interviewees, and for £Y we could include more.”

In general, the more budget you can allocate to the project, the better the output will be. That said, it’s also often worth keeping some budget aside for distribution. Once the video has been produced, if you don’t have a good platform to share it on where your followers can see, then putting money behind adverts can be the best way of getting eyes on your content. 

Consolidate feedback (don’t get stuck in a feedback loop!)

Videos famously get stuck in the feedback stage, making endless rounds of the commissioning company’s building while everyone tries to figure out who has and hasn’t given their opinion and exactly which version they’re looking at. Good software helps with this, and at Fresh Cut we use Frame.io, which is a great platform for sharing comments. However, to make this part of the process flow smoothly and quickly, it’s also important that one person on the commissioning end is put in charge of consolidating feedback.

This essentially means making sure there are no contradictions, and making a call on any issues that are up in the air. For instance, when a video gets sent around many people, quite often it receives comments like “Is it okay to show this person’s name?” or “Are we sure that this is the best way to phrase this title?” Sometimes a whole conversation can spiral off, with multiple voices offering their input on a topic.

For the editor, this is a nightmare! We’re not in a position to make a call on these issues, and we need someone on the commissioning end to quickly go through and turn those discussions into a feedback points – e.g. “Please hide this person’s name,” or “Rephrase this title to…” The feedback consolidator can still ask questions, of course — “Do we have a better take of this answer?” or “Do you have any ideas about how to phrase this title more smoothly?” — but having a single point of contact for these issues will make everyone’s life much easier, and jumpstart your project out of feedback limbo!

Listen to your video professionals (we know what we’re doing!)

If you’re unsure about something — ask us! We’ve been doing this job a while, and while we’re not experts on your particular company / college / charity, we have probably made similar videos for other people in the past, and we’ve seen what works and doesn’t work. We can be a font of knowledge, not just for all things video, but also for many things marketing, distribution, social media, etc. Let us make your job easier!

Sometimes we’ll push back on feedback that you’ve given us — and if so, it’ll be for good reason. We can often see things from an editing perspective that are harder to see from the outside. On the other hand, the same applies in reverse, so feel free to challenge our decisions too! Video production is a collaborative process, and we love working with our clients to produce content that reflects the many diverse talents of everyone involved!
If you’d like to work with us on your next video project, do get in touch using the form above, or by contacting suzy@freshcutvideo.co.uk, who wrote this article.