Would you trust the crucial play in a high-stakes game to a group of well-intentioned and capable people – or to a group of well-intentioned, capable and cohesive people each trained to perform their function? Think a bit about high-performance teams. Each person knows their role, understands the overall game plan and goals, and feels ownership towards the success of the team. It doesn’t really matter if it is football, product development, restaurant kitchens or video production.
One crucial thing to remember: the purpose of a video is to communicate a single message. All of the roles, activities and focus of the team need to be on the achievement of that goal. Let’s start by outlining the general roles and responsibilities within a video production team. Of course, sometimes people in a video production team within a house of worship and other applications must hold more than one role – generally because of budget, timeframe or lack of experienced participants. If the roles are similar and need similar skill sets, this can work well. However, if the blended roles are for two divergent areas of responsibility and the person is more suited for one role in particular, the additional role’s performance could be compromised. While several roles can be met with general success when combined, it is also possible that one person is doing all these roles by themselves- a challenge, but do-able. In this situation a team approach will help to make a better communication with the video sponsors and resources lined up to support the video.
Let’s start with the ‘captain’ of the video ship, the Producer. The Producer is responsible for determining the vision and goals of a production and gathering all of the resources including team members, talent, props, equipment, scripts, locations, etc. that will be used within the production. The producer determines people to fill each of the areas of responsibility and ensures those people understand all aspects of their role, how it fits within the production, and important things about the production – such as schedules, budgets and other key pieces of information. They are the ones who will be called upon by the ‘client’ or person for whom the presentation is being created to create an informative and successful presentation. All people in the team are to work with the producer to effectively execute the producer’s vision of the communication. The producer ultimately is responsible for everything, including fitting into the budget.
The director controls all activities during through preproduction, the actual production and post-production. He or she also takes the producer’s vision and turns it into a finished piece. Directors work with all the technical and creative team members to sort out all details that will happen in front of the camera: the lighting, the look, the performance. The director will be most successful when they are working with team members that they have experience with, and most importantly when they enact a ‘team approach’. The ‘team approach’ is that everyone is working towards the same goal – creating a video that gives the most effective communication possible. It is key that everyone in the team know that their input is important, and if they have an idea that may help to communicate the message better they need to bring it up. It is the director’s responsibility to foster an open atmosphere for sharing creative ideas.
The technical director (TD) is the person who operates the video switcher and other technical equipment in a live or live to tape production. This role is very similar to the role of the editor in a post house-produced presentation. They are both responsible for the overall technical execution of the message. The TD changes the camera shots at the correct time, and adds graphics and other special effects as needed.
The editor takes all of the raw footage, audio, graphics, special effects, supers, etc. and combines them into a finished piece for distribution. The TD will assemble these items in a live fashion, where the editor will assemble these items after the shoot. It is important that the TD and editor be involved in the pre-production stages in order to make sure that the shots and items required to obtain the shots are available during the shoot.
When they change shots or add an effect, it is important that the TD or editor always makes a conscious evaluation that this decision will help in strengthening the communication of the message. These roles require an in-depth knowledge of video and audio equipment and final distribution methods. With this knowledge they can make decisions as to which technology or technique would be most effective to strengthen the message.
The videographer shoots the production with the camera. If there is more than one camera the videographer may act as lead camera person while others may run secondary cameras. The videographer works with the director to help compose and execute different shots and angles. They will ensure that the cameras are technically making good pictures, and that camera moves such as zooms, tilt, pans, dollies, and jib movements are executed smoothly and effectively.
The lighting director stages the lighting beforehand with the producer, director, and cameraperson to ensure that all lighting equipment needed for the production is in place and runs the lights during the production. They are ‘painting’ with light to create the correct mood and emotion as well as providing the technical amount of light required to make good pictures with the camera technology used in the production. The lighting director will either determine the lighting requirements of the production, or determine the potential look of the pictures by what equipment is available to the production. It is quite possible that even an outdoor production could utilize a lighting director to accentuate or improve on the lighting outdoors. They may use additional lighting, reflectors, masks and filtration to create the director’s and producer’s vision.
Often the lighting director and videographer are the same person, especially on a single camera location shoot. It is important that both roles understand the disciplines and technologies used in the production. Both roles are extremely important to ensure that the emotion and message are captured correctly.
The audio director is responsible for planning all audio capabilities needed, acquiring and positioning equipment and capturing audio in a format usable by the editor. They are responsible to make sure the correct microphones are available, and that they are used effectively during the production. They should be involved in site surveys to be sure that the shooting sites are conducive to obtaining good sound. They will be listening during the production to be sure that the vocal parts are clear and easy to understand and not interrupted by extraneous noises or disruptions that would impede communication of the message. The audio director may also be involved in selecting music and sound effects that could be used for more effective and dramatic execution of the message. In a live production they will be operating the audio console and playback equipment. During a shoot and post-produced piece, they will ensure that the audio is recorded at proper levels and that the performances are good and do not include grammatical or technical errors- such as wind noise, pops or a truck driving by.
The talent are the actors or people in front of the camera or microphone in the production. They are the presenters of the message, whether they are actors or real people giving testimony or telling a story. If you are selecting actors, it is important that you have your talent practice executing your script in front of a camera. This will help to ensure that they don’t freeze up or become nervous during the actual production when you will have the demands of time and additional people causing more stress to them. If you are going to direct the talent during the shoot, you may want to try directing them a little during the tryouts to be sure they can take your direction effectively.
One item that you want to consider with talent is the ‘talent release’. A talent release is often a printed document that gives the producer and the client the talent’s permission to use their voice and picture. This is important whether the talent is being paid or is not being paid. You need to keep this release on file with other important documents of the production. If a situation ever arises where the talent does not want their performance used, this document can save lots of heart ache and pain. You should also consider the people who are in the audience or background. Sometimes during a live event this can be handled with an easily visible sign at all the doors of the facility stating that this performance may be videotaped for promotional or other uses of the producer or facility. These signs should be videotaped or photographed as part of the raw footage and retained with other important documents.
Using a team approach certainly will help to provide a more effective message, and working with the same team members multiple times is certainly helpful and more efficient. But it is important to understand that not all productions have numerous people involved during the production. Even if you only have one person doing the entire production, they need to fill all of these roles and responsibilities to some degree. When you have more than one person working on a video, it is very helpful that all members of a team understand other member’s roles, responsibilities and capabilities. This will help everyone (or the one person) to utilize the appropriate tools to more effectively communicate the message. It is the message that is most important. The productions that effectively communicate and strengthen the message will be successful – and the client or audience will know this when they view your masterpiece.