Making a Video, Part 3: Planning & Shooting (Again)

Last month, I challenged myself to plan, direct and shoot my very own video. I took on the herculean task of documenting a pretty complicated DIY project for the handmade Christmas gifts we crafted for our family.

wooden candle holder
Behind this candleholder was a lot of cutting, sanding, staining and painting.

The footage is pretty much all shot; however, editing is on hold while I wait for my computer to be upgraded with additional storage.

In the meantime, I had a lot of good learnings from the shooting days and some ideas of how I could streamline and simplify the process for my next video. So, never one to waste an opportunity, I shot another video!

This video centered around the other main topic I’m really interested in creating content around – food! I’ve had this idea for a food series that features a lot of my favorite, but perhaps lesser-known, food destinations.

You always need to start with a plan

The first step was nailing down the concept. I had to think of the audience I’m trying to reach and what would be appealing to them, as well as what might make me stand out from other food-related videos. And of course, I had to think of the logistics of shooting the actual video, and how I could make the process pretty simple and feasibe with a small crew (essentially just me and Ryan).

When I first thought about producing videos about my favorite Bay Area food spots, I had these grandiose plans to create listicle-type videos. Think something like, “My top 10 favorite desserts in the Bay Area.” But after shooting the DIY video, I realized that sometimes less is more, so I shifted my attention to just featuring one food place per video.

For the audience, I mainly wanted to focus on tourists and other visitors to the area that might be looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations, while still appealing to locals who may not have explored the area very extensively. So, if I’m recommending places a little further afield than most tourists would go, I knew I needed to make sure to include clear information about how to get there and other activities or destinations in the area.

I had my concept:

  • Begin with a quick introduction to the neighborhood and how to get there
  • Feature the food destination and my recommended dishes
  • End with a quick blurb about other things to do in the area

With the concept in place, I was able to write my script and plan my shot list. I wanted the videos to include both scripted content and on-the-spot commentary; and the script would be a mix of on-camera speaking and voiceover.

Shot list
Initial shot list, going into the shoot. I actually ended up simplifying some of these once we got on location.

A simpler shoot

Thinking back on my learnings from shooting the DIY project, one of the first ways I was able to simplify this second video shoot is by planning fewer shots. We were also able to optimize the day toward shooting the video, unlike the DIY project video, where we planned our time around completing the actual DIY project (and there were ten pieces we had to make!).

We knew the restaurant didn’t open until 11 am, so we got to the area early to shoot the introduction, as well as all the B-roll footage.

Man holding camera
Ryan acting as my camera man and sound guy.

Here is where I simplified even more on the spot. I had planned this long shot of me speaking to the camera for the whole introduction part of the script. However, between the street noise (which was a lot louder than I expected) and complications around grabbing that kind of shot (essentially, Ryan would need to walk backwards for quite a stretch), I realized that most of the introduction would work better as a voiceover with cuts of the B-roll footage of the neighborhood. It was good to have this type of flexibility and willingness to adjust once we were on location.

When we got to the food place, we kept the shots pretty simple. We captured footage of the menu and food. And then we went with a single set-up as I ate the food and gave unscripted commentary.

Woman being filmed
The best part of the shoot – eating!

We hadn’t coordinated with the restaurant to film, so we chose a table outside, where we wouldn’t be in the way.

The final bit of the video was the quick summary of other things to do in the area; for this video, we are featuring a nearby board game cafe. I knew that this part of the video would just be voiceover, with simple shots of the cafe: signage, shelves of board games, us playing a game.

Thoughts and additional learnings

This style of video was a lot quicker and simpler to shoot. We were able to capture all the footage in a few hours.

As with the DIY video, for this food video, we recorded the video and audio on separate devices. This time around, we were a lot better about writing notes, identifying which video file is associated with which audio file. And we made sure to include a large clap or sound at the start of each take, which will make it easier to synch the video and audio during post-production.

As I go into the editing process, I have a feeling that I will opt for having most of the scripted content be voiceover (which I’ll need to record at home), given the level of street noise we encountered. Then, I’ll reserve most of the on-camera speaking to the unscripted commentary.

I also think there is more opportunity for me to bring out my genuine personality in these videos, which will probably just take more practice in front of the camera, as well as leaving more space for unscripted commentary.

Overall, this shoot was a lot more streamlined and fun. I can’t wait to get the final product together. I should be able to start editing next week, so look out for an update on that soon!

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