So…You’re looking to produce a commercial. Commercial video production is a huge step for small businesses and large corporations alike. Whether you’re introducing a product line, or building hype for a new campaign, commercials are essential to your company’s branding.
The detail-driven development process, the bustle of the shoot day and the pivotal adjustments of post-production are the constants of a commercial video. Between the budgetary means, the size and scope of the project, and the million other variables at play, every commercial production is going to be extremely different.
While there is no be-all end-all manual for orchestrating an effective commercial video, the best thing one can do is educate themselves thoroughly on the ins-and-outs of the process. Awareness and understanding of the production process can ensure clear channel of communication between company and producers.
Think of it like the auto shop. If you have a basic understanding of your car and what it needs, it’ll be easier to communicate what you want to the mechanic. The same goes for a commercial video production. Once you understand the moving pieces necessary to produce a great commercial video, you’re ready to start calling the shots to move forward. Here’s what you need to know before you go off and start calling those shots.
How to Concept a Commercial Video
Creative development is a crucial phase in production of a commercial. While you should have a good idea of your creative direction before you submit your budget, much of the creative process will take place during the pre-production phase.
Collaboration is vital here. On the low budget end, you’ll have an internal marketing team pitching the goals and concepts of the commercial. On the other hand, with larger productions, the production company, or agency, will be delivering copywriters, creative directions, and storyboard artists to flesh out the concept and help drive the idea into a reality. Of course, lower budget productions may have all this on a lighter scale, but the same collaborative idea is there.
When forming the commercial’s concept, you’re going to want to keep in mind where the final video will be played. Whether it’s airing on TV, online, in a movie theatre, or elsewhere will greatly impact the formatting decisions made. Your production company will guide you with the specifics in post but knowing your video’s format before you start shooting is essential to a well-run production.
Video Commercial Budget
Commercial budgets can vary widely. At the high end, you’re looking at spending seven figures on a shoot, while lower budget commercial shoots can cost you as low as 5K. There is an art in managing your options to get the most bang for your buck.
Before going into a shoot, you should have a pretty good idea of what you can spend on a commercial video. But just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you have to use it up. Coming prepared with drawn out concept, with realistic expectations is a good start. From there, most companies will seek out estimates from various production companies to get a range of what their commercial will cost them.
In the end, budgeting your commercial is all about what you value. If big name talent, or set design matters to you, your budget is going to weigh heavy in those categories. So, when you’re budgeting a commercial, focus on what matters to you so that you can deliver a well-balanced budget and avoid overspending.
Finding Locations For Your Video
For those unfamiliar with production terminology, project development is the first stage in video production. It’s where the preliminary budget is created, scripts drafted, and talent and crew chosen. Development is also where the planning and scouting of the filming locations takes place.
Commercial video filming locations can literally be anywhere, as long as you have the proper permits. For lower budget commercials, you’ll often see companies opt to film in their office, in a public space, or somewhere owned by a friend. It’s a different story for larger budget commercials that require various locations, studio spaces, sound stages, and sometimes even sets to be constructed.
If you do opt to rent a studio for the duration of the shoot, take the time to find the right studio for your budget. Usually, studio rentals range from $1,500 to $5,000 per day. Be careful with timing though, because in some cases, you may not need an entire day in the studio. While locations are important, it’s all about balance. So, if you manage to save money on a location, that bit of the budget can be repurposed for creative direction, crew, and talent!
Securing proper shooting locations cannot be underestimated. In larger markets like Los Angeles and NYC, permits and freight usage are essential to a smooth commercial shoot day. Though it may not be the sexiest of production phases, development requires thoughtful planning and an experienced production company savvy enough to secure what is needed for the shoot.
How to Cast Your Commercial
Technology has changed the way we think about casting. No longer are agents absolutely necessary to provide acting talent for your shoot. Backstage.com and similar websites have enabled small budget productions to reach out directly to talent and secure them for their shoots. There really has been no better time to pull off a great production at a reasonable cost.
On the higher end though, casting agencies pave an easy path for you to nail the casting process. Whether you need models, actors, presenters or extras, casting agents are experts at laying out different options to suit any casting inquiry.
It’s important to note that, generally, more experienced actors are found via casting agencies and hiring actors from a website like backstage.com can come as more of a risk. Of course, there are always exceptions. However, for commercial videos with dialogue or a direct-to-camera script, casting actors through your production company or an agent is the recommended course of action. Agencies also can be helpful in guiding actors through the requirements of their role. In the casting phase, good agents will make sure the actors have a full grasp of what the production company expects out of them.
Prices vary for both agencies, and talent, so it’s helpful to keep in mind who you’re dealing with and what price points they work on, before you dive too deep into casting your project.
Commercial Video Directors
A common question when producing commercials is whether or not a director is needed to pull off a successful shoot. The answer is that it really depends on the sort of commercial video you’re producing. Certain industries, such as fashion, technology, food and retail require an experienced hand to guide stylistic choices that are pivotal in those sets of commercials.
In production, like any other business, relationships are important. Often when you work with a director you’ve worked with in the past, they’ll bring their own crew members that they work well with.
Directors can however be an expensive line to include in your budget. Because of this, many smaller budget productions will bypass their services for a team-centered approach. On these shoots, internal marketing teams will work alongside the crew and producers to create a shoot on their own.
If you bypass hiring a director, it’s likely that your Producer or internal Creative Director will spearhead creative effort before, during, and after the shoot. It is important that one person is directing the video crew. While certain directorial decisions can be made by a group of people on set, sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen. Luckily, most of the major creative decisions will probably have already been made before the shoot day. However, to keep the shoot moving and the crew focused, it’s best to have one voice dictating the decisions on set.
For corporate and small business commercials, letting your marketing team take creative charge can a great way to meet the company’s vision. Meanwhile, the professional guidance of the crew will ensure that all technicalities are in place.
Assembling a Commercial Video Crew
Those unfamiliar with production often overlook the specs of the video crew. Projects can certainly be done with very small, nimble crews at a low cost. But, the scope of the shots needed for the commercial directly influence the size and makeup of the video crew that you’ll need.
The aforementioned “nimble crew” will likely consist of some variation of one or two camera operators, an audio technician, and a production assistant. You’ll more often see this setup on an office shoot featuring interviews and B-roll. Nothing’s wrong with keeping it simple. Some of the most innovative, intriguing commercials have been done on shoestring budgets that have featured nothing more than a single camera and a sharp editing job.
Oftentimes, though, quantity is going to equal quality. Larger multi-camera productions come with a much higher production value and bode well for your final video. Camera packages can become quite extensive on big budget projects. Directors and top camera ops may ask for gimbals, dollies, drones, and any other tech or personnel to allow them to get the specialty shots that they require.
Larger packages will also include a gaffer (head electrician), grip (set and lighting support), audio operator, set designers, field producers, and other specialists dedicated to putting on a swift, beautiful production.
When it comes to crewing a production, production companies have a wide network of diverse talent to make sure the client receives the right package for their needs. Having a base knowledge of the crew needed for a commercial video production is a great start in ensuring that you have what you need to make your vision come to life.
Now Your Commercial Shoot is Wrapped
Well, the shoot’s over. Now what? Yes, every phase of production is “crucial”, but without post-production, you’d just have hours and hours of uncut footage. Suffice it to say, post-production is key. A good production company and marketing team will be able to get ahead of the post production in the preproduction process. While the specific shots are chosen in the edit, the aesthetic and flow of the commercial video should be mapped out ahead of time so both client and editor have a clear vision going in to the edit.
Post-production technically begins on the shoot day with the DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) transferring over the data safely to a storage space. With that taken care of, clients can rest easy knowing that their footage is backed-up. From there, the production company will store it in in their system and in the cloud just to make sure that the footage isn’t going anywhere.
The meat of post-production really takes place during the editing process. Luckily, for commercial video production, the client’s input doesn’t end on shoot day. Throughout post, the editor will send versions of the final over to the client, for notes, until the commercial is 100% approved. Editors work closely with the client to make sure that effects, titles, graphics, and music all fit in well with the client’s branding.
It’s often slept on how much music contributes to a commercial. Aside from setting a narrative tone, it reflects the company’s image and energy. Music for commercials isn’t free, however, and budgeting for music should be taken into consideration so your commercial hits all the right notes.
In addition to music, other pieces essential to post-production include subtitles, file formatting, motion graphics, and animation. These elements are added in post and will add tremendously to your commercial’s overall production value.
When all is said and done, the effort put into post-production is where the collaboration between the client and the production company really blossoms. Coming in with knowledge of what’s expected in this process can go a long way in making the project fruitful for all parties.
Getting Your Commercial Video Out There
By project’s end, the client will be delivered multiple cuts of their final commercial. Post production formatting is more important than ever, with social media playing a major role in how commercials are viewed nowadays.
No longer is TV the prime spot for commercials to air. Mobile ads, pop-ups, website-oriented commercials, and social media cuts all play a factor in today’s commercial video landscape. So instead of rushing through post-production to get their one polished final cut, companies should make their best effort to get the most of their commercial! Repurposing your video through edits for Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat can give your commercial a longer lifespan, not to mention a vastly wider reach.
While this may seem like a lot to take in, it all comes back to having a focused and organized goal in mind. From there, the producers, crew members, and editors will do what it takes to make sure that all your effort was put to good use and you’re left with a phenomenal commercial marketing campaign.