Creating a video for YouTube can be a ton of fun. It can also be a disaster. The following will explore a few key steps you might want to take to help ensure that your video, and the process of creating it, are pleasant for everyone involved.
Script The Whole Thing
When you’re first making films and videos, it’s common to simply show up and start filming, trusting that you can put everything together in editing and end up with a finished product. This is incredibly difficult to do and is probably the most common approach that ends with an unfinished, abandoned film. It’s better to do all your brainstorming up front and script the entire video. It’s important to understand that, when using traditional script formatting, each page averages out to be one minute on the screen.
Once the video is scripted, you’re going to want to create a shot list. This is a shot-by-shot breakdown of the images you need to capture. For each entry on the list, you’re going to want to include the following:
- The scene number (go in the order of the script)
- The location where the shot takes place
- A description of what happens during the shot
- A framing (wide shot, medium shot, close-up, etc.)
- The type of shot (eye-level, over the shoulder, from above, from below, etc.)
- If any camera movement like zooming, panning, or tilting is needed
- The equipment required to capture the shot, including the lens, filters, and camera accessories needed
- Lighting and audio notes
- Anything extra that the shot needs to be complete
- You may also want to include a reference image (a storyboard sketch, for instance) as this can help speed up the setting up of a shot as everyone on set will know roughly what you’re aiming to get
Your shot list will guide your filming and ensure that you don’t miss any shots you need. Once the list is complete, you can organize your shot by location. This will help you better understand how much time you’ll need in each location and which people and props are needed in each location. You might think there’s no way you’re going to forget to get shots, but filming can quickly get hectic. People also get bored of doing the same thing again and again, and so easily lose focus on a long film day.
Schedule Out Your Shoots
Scheduling can be one of the trickier parts of an independent film. This is because many of the people involved will have jobs and responsibilities beyond filming, and so won’t be able to promise the time that a group of people whose primary work is filmmaking will be able to promise. A good rule of thumb is to assume that you can comfortably shoot three to five pages of script in a full film day (a full film day is often ten to fifteen hours). It’s a good idea to book a few extra days for reshoots or over spill, letting everyone involved know that you’re keeping those days free in case you get behind schedule. Since filming requires the cooperation of technology, nature, and human creativity, most shoots will have a day or two that go awry. This is normal.
This stage will probably involve lots of back and forth as you find dates that work for everyone involved and the venues you want to shoot at. If someone seems really hesitant to get involved, either sharing a location with you or performing a certain role, it’s usually best not to encourage them to join in. Filmmaking is a grueling activity, and if someone starts out less than thrilled to be there, there’s a big chance they’re going to quit before the project is complete. This sounds harsh, but if you speak to anyone that has completed more than three projects, they’ll tell you that people quit indie film shoots at an absurd rate.
Edit While You Shoot
At the end of each filming day, you want to back up the footage and cut together a loose edit. This will let you know if any reshoots are needed. Editing can be done with a lot of different software, but editing with Adobe Premiere Pro is probably the most common choice. If you don’t edit while you’re shooting, you run the risk of hating the final product and feeling like you need to reshoot the entire thing. If you edit as you go, you can quickly notice when things aren’t working and pivot so that your remaining shooting days aren’t a waste.
If you’re shooting something for fun with friends or with volunteers, you need to know that it’s industry standard to provide free food on set. Filming is a complicated process. If everyone’s hangry, it’s going to get messy pretty quickly. Given how much effort it takes to get everyone and all the gear into one place for a nice chunk of time, it’s also helpful to feed everyone on set because this reduces the time everyone spends getting lunch on their own. Provide hot meals every few hours, unlimited coffee, water, and juice, and constant finger food options. Make sure that you have enough napkins, utensils, and cups.
One of the easiest ways to get behind schedule while filming is moving between locations. People get lost. People get left behind. The batteries that were charging in the back room are forgotten about. Make sure that there are enough rides for everyone and all the gear, and that everyone has a checklist of what they’re required to bring between locations. Finally, ensure that everyone has clear directions.
Polish, Polish, Polish
Once shooting is done, you can revisit your edits and tweak them, polishing the project to a gleaming shine. Make sure to give the video to other people for feedback. It’s easy to miss teeny things while editing, as you’re looking at the same thing for several hours. Take people’s notes graciously and complete another edit to reflect the notes you like or agree with.
The above information should have given you a clear sense of the basic steps involved in filming a YouTube video. When you’re ready to upload, take the time to write a strong video caption that is filled with keywords. You also want to get a nice YouTube thumbnail made that encourages clicks.