Here’s a snippet of a conversation that we’ve been having a lot recently:
“We don’t want to skimp on the creativity or quality but….”
[Demo Duck team holds breath]
“…we need this video done in a month.”
Now, a month for a video for your business isn’t an unrealistic request. In fact, we’ve created many videos within this timeframe. The issue is that it often means having a relatively lengthy conversation with the client, to talk about how everyone will need to operate to get this done.
Quality takes time…there is no doubt. But we’ve found that if we work effectively, communicate openly, and everyone lives up to their promises, quality can come quickly. Before we talk about some best practices for completing a video on a tight timeline, let’s define what a rush project is so we’re all on the same page.
What is a typical rush video production timeline?
For a typical video, we tend to categorize a rush project as a video that needs to be finished in 6 weeks (this is without the time needed for feedback and revisions). For a live action explainer video, this time frame is closer to 7-8 weeks.
In our normal production schedule, pre-production (discovery, concept pitch, script, storyboards, and style frames) takes roughly 3-4 weeks. Production (voiceover recording, asset creation, animation) is another 3-4 weeks and post-production (music and sound design) is 2-4 days. As you can see, a rush video projects crams a lot of work into a short amount of time — so it’s key to stick to these tips to meet your deadline.
Get it started right
The most successful rush projects I’ve worked on (low in stress, high in creativity, clear in the message) had one thing in common: they got off on the right foot. This usually occurs when we have our initial video project kickoff call and the scripting phase that follows it. If we’re able to go from kickoff to approved script within a week, the ball is rolling, the teams are aligned, and that initial trust is embedded in the process throughout the rest of the video production process.
Client’s are given 24 hours or less to provide feedback, and while everyone says that’s easy during initial discussions, it’s more difficult than it sounds. Vacations, conventions, other projects, picky bosses, sick kids, power outages, discovery of a subterranean reptilian empire — there are countless ways in which feedback can get delayed but our best rush clients are the ones that find a way to get us feedback quickly, and that often means going above and beyond to get that done.
A tip for guaranteeing quick feedback is to assign a second-in-command. This is a co-worker that you trust and someone that is well informed on the project. So, if something calls you out of the office, you have a partner that can respond on your behalf. It’s also helpful to have someone who has veto power or who can make the final decision. You don’t want your project to stall because you have to run it up the flagpole or have a committee review everything.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the responsibilities on the shoulders of Demo Duck during a rush video project. We need to loop our clients into when they can expect certain deliverables, specifying morning or afternoon even. We also need to make sure that we meet those times.
One of the ways we keep on top of everything is through Basecamp, a project management tool (and local Chicago company). There you will find a place that you can track conversations, see what tasks are assigned to who, and access important files. It’s also a great place to check-in if you ever feel amiss about where the project is.
We pride ourselves on our discipline and project management skills to be a great video partner. When you’re working on a tight deadline, this isn’t just us bragging, it’s extremely important in order to stay on track for a quick turnaround. Plus, it helps reduce stress on your end and allow you to focus on your business goals. And this isn’t just between us and the client, this also means we’re staying on top of creative work.
Speaking of which…
Creativity at a clip
None of this matters if the creative (scripting, animating, etc.) is majorly delayed and the client doesn’t have anything to look at. Creatives need to be smart with their scheduling and clear their calendar between expected feedback and the next deliverable. This often means taking on fewer other projects during the time this project is in full swing. It’s not ideal, but some level of fluidity will help make a solid video.
Additionally, this could also require the designer or animator to make some tough decisions about their creative strategy. When a video has a quick deadline, they may decide to stick to a simple, flatter design so they can produce it faster. Understanding this limitation at the start of the project also helps to keep the ball rolling. We’re not talking about picking speed over quality (Simpler designs done well can look great!), we’re talking about being okay with a two-dimensional look or having fewer characters in your story.
Want to get into the mind of a designer? Check out our interview with Aaron MacWilliam, a motion designer from The Speakeasy Collective.
Trust the team
When you get stuck on picking out every color of every single image on the screen, you’re not focusing on the message. Those colors were all selected by the designer for a specific reason, the motion was crafted by the animator with intent, and as the client, you should be worried about the content of what’s being said. Don’t send it to your nephew who is taking design classes in college. Don’t get married to a specific visual in your head. And, don’t get too nitpicky. Have fun and let it flow.
When you’re moving quickly, everyone on the production team needs to be willing to compromise and accept or reject feedback accordingly. It’s important to remind yourself and your video partners that criticism needs to be constructive so it stays on point and doesn’t hurt the team’s trust. You hired the video production company based on their credentials and their expertise, which means you should let them do what they do best: make videos that tell your company’s story, educate your customers, or humanize your brand.
We do have one hard truth to share. Sometimes, when you need a high-quality video done in a short amount of time, you may need to rethink your budget and pony up a little more cash. If we’re going to dedicate resources and focus to your project (and forgo others), we need to make it worth it. We don’t want to the “starving artist” stereotype to ring too true.
Well, there you have it: your quick and dirty guide for making a video on a tight deadline. Now, hurry up! The clock’s ticking.
Have other tips on managing rush projects? Mention them in the comments below or mention us on Twitter.