Mar 24, 2010
Posted by Mike Conaty in Marketing,Video Production

Save Money: Avoid the Creep

Ivy-Covered Building in Salem by fuzzcat

We’ve all had those kinds of projects: what starts out as a “simple” defined project with a quick turnaround turns into a 8-month monster that covers all bases for everybody.

Scope creep, project creep, requirement creep, whatever you call it, it’s always a budget and timeline buster. Videos are no exception to creep; in fact, they’re probably more susceptible to it than other projects. Maybe it’s the novelty of seeing a camera crew on-site, but as soon as the lights go on, it seems like everyone in the office suddenly gets another great idea for the video, and just as suddenly, the 5-minute employee orientation video becomes a 45-minute epic rivaling Cleopatra in both running time and cost.

So if it’s such a common problem, it must be the way to do it, right? Wrong. While it’s always tempting to add “just one more thing” to the video (or web site, or brochure, or postcard, or…) managing project creep will save you time, money, and a whole lot of frustration. So here are a few tips for managing scope creep on your next video (with us):

  1. Committees plan, Producers implement – Ok, let’s start with the toughest one: I’ve worked for a number of companies, I understand that the idea for doing a video usually pops up in a committee or staff meeting, you’re put “in charge” of it, but the rest of the committee all want their input into the project, the boss wants the final OK, and her/his boss wants to put her/his stamp on it. As soon as the idea arises (or as soon as you’re able to do it) define the role of the committee as a planning and advisory group. Be firm, stand your ground.

    There is nothing worse for a video (or your sanity, or the editor’s sanity for that matter) than to have a room-full of people making edits, additions, and “creative choices” to a project once it’s been shot and is in the middle of editing; it adds time to the editing process, usually requires reshoots, and costs money. Be the Executive Producer, and manage the flow of edits/changes between your company and the video producers. There’s nothing more time consuming than a set of 6 or 10 edit lists, each contradicting each other. Manage the flow, combine the edits into a master list, save time and money.

    What this will save: Time, Sanity, Money

    How Much: It’s hard to put a price on sanity, but it could be big bucks in the end.

    Harness the creativity of the committee at the beginning of the process. Pour everyone’s ideas and energy at the front end of the project into the most important parts of the video: the Treatment and the Script.

  2. Have a Treatment – A script treatment is a planning document used to gather your ideas for a script into one place. While there are any number of ways to write a treatment, I’ve found it easiest to have clients develop a numbered outline of everything they (and the committee) want in the video. You and the committee members are probably pretty familiar with putting together an outline, and there’s no reason to have to let formatting the document get in the way of producing it.

    An outline (treatment) allows you to get everyone’s thinking down on paper, and see where some ideas meet, and can be combined, or logically placed together. It also focuses the committee members’ attention on “the big picture” (pun intended) giving them an overview of just how much everyone wants to put into the video.

    What this will save: Time & Money

    How Much: Countless hours time-wise, could-be thousands money-wise.

  3. Have a script BEFORE the Shoot – My fellow video folks just cringed a little, because we’ve all fallen victim to this on one project or another. The shoot day(s) are scheduled, the cast and crew are booked, equipment is checked and loaded… ahhh we just need a little more time with the script. The shoot is done, footage is captured, the editor is chomping at the bit… ahhh we just need a little more time with the script.

    The script is the roadmap of the project, without it, well… without a script there is no video, that is unless you’re going for that Andy Warhol shoot-and-see vibe. If you’re working with actors, there really is no sense in shooting until the script is finalized.

    A video script also focuses the producer’s and director’s work on set. A script gives them the tool they need to plan the shoot, and make style, design, equipment, and crew choices before they arrive. A script guides the editor as they pull the footage into an intelligible video. If your video includes a voice-over actor, it tells them what to say. Until the script is finished, polished, and thoroughly edited, it really makes no sense to even start the rest of the process. Scripts are kind-of ├╝ber-important.

    What this will save: Time & Money

    How Much: It could be thousands if you have to reschedule or reshoot

  4. Stay On-Message – The added benefit to all of this up-front planning is that it allows you to see just how much everyone wants to put into the video. This is a blessing in disguise: Let’s say you’re putting together a treatment for a safety training video for the manufacturing facility, but the HR representative keeps adding in office-related material. Sure you could double the length of the video, and make everyone watch the whole thing, but with this little treatment thing you’re doing, it’s a snap to plan separate videos; one for the manufacturing floor employees, and one for the office employees. Plan the shoot day(s) with the video producers, repeat the common parts of the script, and for a little extra planning and editing time, you have two custom videos for a little more.

    Repeat the process for as many videos as you’d like. Keep the message, or story in each video as tight and succinct as possible, and re-purpose the common elements. This keeps your story focused, improves message retention, and decreases the time needed for training.

    What this will save: Time & Money

    How Much: (Number of employees x amount of time in training x employee salaries for that time) + (lots of $$ on reshoots) = Quite a bit.

  5. Keep Your Ducks in a Row – Sometimes projects, usually videos are held up over small details. You know, legal clearances, the plant manager not knowing the crew is shooting that day, the union rep not knowing… We’ve run into this kind of delay before. While it’s generally OK to tape in a workplace, consult your legal department well before the video crew arrives. If legal wants to be extra-sure about it, ask your producer for sample release language, and have each employee sign a release stating that they may be taped, and that the footage will be used for internal training purposes. That keeps everyone informed, and avoids delays. How does this save you money? Delays waiting for legal approvals open the process up to “just a few more tweaks” from someone. Unsigned releases have also been know to cause the scrapping of entire segments of video, requiring reshoots, or less than graceful video edits to cover the footage that has to be dropped.

    As far as the plant manager and/or union reps go, make sure they are part of the committee planning the video, and know exactly when the shoot day(s) are, what needs to be running on those days. It also gives them a chance to spruce up the place before it’s all caught on video.

    What this will save: Time & Money

    How Much: Several hundred to several thousands of dollars.

  6. Clean Up Your Act – Producing an on-site video has a curious side-effect: it focuses attention on each part of your facility instead of as people normally see it, as a whole. We’ve done videos before, shot on-site for a couple of days, edited the footage into a first cut, and had to scrap it all because the plant manager/VP/President didn’t like the way the facility looked on the video. We call it the site-survey effect. Bring in the maintenance department, paint what should be painted, sweep what should be swept, change burned-out light bulbs, repair holes in walls, and generally tidy up the place in anticipation of the video crew arriving.

    What this will save: Time & Money

    How Much: Several hundred to several thousands of dollars.

So there are a few ideas for free, for your next (or current) video project. While these focus on producing an industrial safety or training video, hopefully you’ll find something you can use.

Image Credit: Ivy-Covered Building in Salem by fuzzcat

About Mike Conaty