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What I Learned From My First Live Video Shoot

Theresa - Live Video Project Manager

Shortly after starting with Demo Duck as a project manager early this past summer, I was handed my first live video project to manage.

As a project manager, my duties include finding out what the client wants, facilitating multiple script and storyboard revisions, as well as working with the video production company to make sure we’ll be able to realize the client’s vision.

Now, this particular project wasn’t like any of our usual live video shoots which usually take place in one or two locations…only take a day of filming…and only have one or two main characters. This shoot consisted of six locations, four main actors (plus extras), and would be four days long.

What a way to get my duck feet wet!  And to make things even more stressful, Heave-Ho, the production company we work with to film and edit, had an extremely busy schedule that month that we had to work around.

<Spoiler alert> Thankfully we worked hard, kept our ducks in a row, and came out with a great looking video!  But like with all projects, there’s always something you can learn. Since this was a first for me, I learned a lot! Not only during those four days of filming, but also in the months leading up to and following the shoot.

Here’s what I took away from managing the live action video. Hopefully these notes will help you through your first shoot (or at least give you a little behind the scenes glimpse into what goes on that you may have never thought about before!).


  • Get approval from the client on locations and actors – what you think is a typical office building may not be what your client has been envisioning for the last six months.

  • Map out as much as you possibly can to make the day of the shoot smooth; where the camera and lights are going, cell numbers for all cast and crew, where to park, which shots you have to get in which locations, etc.

  • Ask, you never know what will be possible – that location you assume will be unobtainable or out of your budget just might be cheap and easy (but not in that way)

  • By the same token, don’t assume that the old abandoned warehouse will be obtainable in your time frame or budget.

  • Cross your fingers for good weather and have contingencies in place, just in case.

  • Schedule as far in advance as possible, but be flexible for last minute changes.

  • Check the city for special events that might interfere with your shoot.  Not being avid long distance runners around here, we didn’t think about the Chicago Marathon until a couple weeks beforehand. Thankfully it was only a minor wrench in our plans.

Live Video Shoot with CTA

CTA said they were too busy the day of the marathon to have us film on the el so it pushed us to a four day shoot instead of three.  The crew made some sacrifices to make this work.

On the Shoot

  • Be prepared for every possible thing to go wrong – brand new equipment malfunctions, wifi you were counting on doesn’t work, shoots take longer than expected and more!

  • Have paper backups of the storyboard and shot list and keep it in an easy to find binder.

  • Bring a phone/laptop charger (and extras for others on the crew).

  • Make a schedule and do everything you can to keep to it.  At the very least, start and finish on time.

  • Keep the crew well fed

Live Video Shoot with the Crew

Yes, that’s four guys on the crew for the one closeup of the actor.  It’s a lot of guys to get cranky when they’re hungry.

  • Have fun on the set so the talent is more likely to smile 😀
  • Wear many hats. Keep the shoot on schedule, lug gear, make sure no one gets a parking ticket, be friendly with the location personnel, even jump into the scene if need be.

  • Be prepared to hurry up and wait.  Bring your smart phone so you can work on your pile of other projects while you’re doing said waiting.

If you look really closely, behind those crazy guys with the beards, you can see me not only pitching in and making sure a light doesn’t fall over but also multi-tasking and getting work done on my phone while we wait for the next shot.  Booyah!

  • Channel your client and what they will want to see, or better yet, what your client’s clients will want to watch.

  • Take more footage rather than less.  If there’s any chance you could use that clip of your actor running across the screen instead of walking, spend the extra few minutes and grab it.

After the Shoot

  • If requested sit with the editor to find the best shots.

  • Work with the client to make sure everything is the best it can be.

  • If there’s something the client wants that’s not possible because it wasn’t shot, offer a suitable replacement.

  • Make sure if there are any screens in the rough cut that are blank that the client knows exactly why they are blank and what exactly will go there in future versions.

In the first cut of the video, not in the final cut.  Make sure the client knows this means that something will go here besides this placeholder screen.

There’s a lot going on during a live video shoot and it pays to be as organized as possible to make the best video possible.  If something goes wrong, just breathe deeply before panicking and there’s a good chance you’ll find an elegant solution.

Written by Theresa Brooks
Accused of being the nicest person in the world, Theresa’s job as project manager is to keep everyone happy. She answers to ‘Tree’ when called and refuses to use the cowardly oven mitt when making cupcakes. You can follow Theresa on Google+.