Since the pivot to working from home, you may be hearing the word “workflow” more often. Although in the past the word tended to be associated with big cross-functional business processes, the concept scales—from work done by individual contributors all the way up to massive projects. In this article, I will introduce the idea in one specific L&D context that can live at either end of that scale: video production. I will offer a link to generic workflow outlines for that context that you can tailor, and some recommendations to complement the outlines.
Basically, the answer is: Workflow pays. The reason for developing workflows of any kind is to find the one best way to do work. No matter what kinds of instructional design and development you do, having a defined workflow will lead to more success at lower cost, and eliminate communication snarls between clients, stakeholders, key decision makers, project managers, and production staff. With the changes to the character of work brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home, and other related changes, workflows for many organizations and teams within them have changed, or at least should be reviewed.
In the case of instructional design and development, one area of practice that has changed and that will change more in the coming months is the use of recorded video to deliver instruction, coaching, and similar activity. There are three phases in video production (pre-production, production, and post-production). I will outline a basic video production workflow that addresses all three phases and provide a pretty comprehensive set of sub tasks. This workflow will need to be modified to fit your situation and the scale of a given project. Some considerations might be: Are you working alone or as part of a team? Does your organization require clearances or approvals for video topics and treatments? How does the budgeting process affect the work? And so on.
Video production workflow
Video projects can be very simple, or they can be complex. In either case, defining a production workflow gives you a strategy for being successful. Keep your team focused (even if it’s only you), manage your resources (equipment, software, time, money), ensure that communication does not go astray, and stay on schedule.
There is an excellent outline of the entire workflow in a blog post by Max Benz. Anything I have not addressed here or terms I have not defined in this article (to keep the length down) is in there. You should refer to that post since he provides templates and other aids that you will find useful or can modify. I have added some suggestions here where it seemed they would complement your understanding. I provided some initial thoughts in a previous article, which I also recommend.
- In pre-production, clear communication with all parties is essential and you should not rush through it.
- Begin by developing what Max Benz refers to as a “creative brief". This is the first document for any video project, although each one will be different depending on your organization, the size of the project, and its budget. It specifies the essential elements of the outcome.
- Get approval from the key decision-makers for the creative brief and the script. This is not optional!
- Put together a draft storyboard. This is the basis for your shot list and for your A-Roll and B-Roll plan. Again, this is not optional.
- You will need to make a refined timeline to identify and organize the key items and to put together a call sheet that supports execution of the shot list.
- Make a list of all the equipment that will be required. Don’t overlook any equipment—all the way down to extra batteries for the cameras, the lighting and stands, memory cards, hard drives, headphones, and props.
- Name the cast (based on the script).
- As needed, budget and get approval for the cost of any of the equipment that will have to be rented or purchased. Include costume costs, location scouting costs, and catering (a well-fed cast and crew is a happy cast and crew). Remember that you have to pay the cast. This is not an afterthought. Union or employee costs should be included, according to company accounting requirements and union guidelines. Remember to include studio and editing suite costs, voice over talent costs, and fees for use of copyrighted music, media, and content.
This is when the raw video gets made. There will be paperwork, releases, and approvals (legal, marketing, and possibly others) to include in the workflow if they were not dealt with in pre-production, but you will need to add them at the right places to fit your local situation.
Create custom workflows for location prep, lighting and sound checks, and the recording process. The software in the Tools section of this article will help you create these. Some items will not be needed for every production—you might not have costumes, you may be the camera person and the focus puller, you might be the one to monitor the audio.
Remember that studio space is booked for a full day but keep an eye on the clock. Time flies when you are having fun!
See Max Benz' blog post. Add the following items to his list:
- An early arrival on production day(s) gives you an ideal time to instruct some assistants.
- Where is the clipboard or the laptop with the shot list?
- Before the cast arrives, get the cameras, lights, and audio equipment (mics, boom) set up for the first scene and to shoot B-roll as appropriate. Remember headphones for the boom operator. If you have a focus puller on your crew, he or she can begin setting up and placing marks on the floor for the cast.
- Welcome the actors.
- Put lavalier mics on the cast during wardrobe.
- Do any sound and lighting checks that were not already done.
- Record "1 shots" (a shot with one character in the frame) and "2 shots" as part of your multiple takes, as well as other kinds of shots. Don't produce talking heads and camera angles that never change. You should plan these shots ahead of time and add to them as you (or the camera operators) see an opportunity. It makes sense to identify the shot types and add them to your storyboard as frames.
- Assign someone as sound engineer to monitor the audio, and make sure they have headphones.
Video post-production workflow
Post-production is where the final video comes together. It is time consuming and exacting. Again, Max has an excellent guide. Communication is the key to success here.
- Remember the headphones for the video and audio editors when you plan the equipment.
- When you decide on the objectives and the timeline (see the list in Max' blog post), refer back to the creative brief in the pre-production documentation, in consultation with the client and stakeholders.
- If you will be recording custom sound effects, go over the script and review the rough cut with the foley artist.
- Share the final cut with appropriate team members; collect and collate their feedback, and implement their requests; repeat as needed.
- Make sure every stakeholder has his or her say.
- Sign off and approval are needed on every video project.
- Be sure that you thank and congratulate every member of the team for their contributions. You could not have done this without them!
Workflow as a concept originated with Gantt charts. You may be familiar with Kanban and process maps as part of project management, and defining workflow is a subset of these concepts.
As with any workflow, the key idea is that you want to identify the exact job(s) being done, who is responsible for each job or task, and how long each job or task should take.
You may want to look at some tools that will help you as you chart your workflow process and organize it for use with a team. The process flowchart that you create is useful for you and for management to establish the very best way to do a job. Benjamin Brandall has a blog post that will show you how to create a workflow process chart and I recommend it.
However, your actual video production needs different tools from the process flowchart to assist in meeting deadlines and to guide you in your coordination. Remember the Gantt chart?
This list of software is not a recommendation from The Learning Guild, and I have no connection to any of the tools or their publishers. The purpose of the list is to give you an idea of the range of applications, the size of the teams they are intended to serve, and the cost. You will need to analyze and chart your workflow first in order to use any of these.
Trello converts your process into a project management tool. Instead of a flowchart or a checklist, it organizes the steps into a horizontal format. You may already be familiar with this tool.
Kanban is another method of visual management, especially useful for knowledge work. It is a framework, rather than one specific tool. Many development tools provide ways to apply Kanban.
Monday.com offers additional ways to view, organize, and manage workflow across multiple projects. It can be organized in a way similar to Trello and Kanban, as Gantt charts, and more.
Asana provides methods to map your workflow to your goals and to your teams.
Process Street is simple workflow software using templates, checklists, workflows, and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to structure and organize work.
InMotion Ignite is about collaboration within workflow management, particularly for creative teams. It supports Gantt charts, Kanban boards, time tracking, and other project management methods.
Prolio is hosted on GitHub. If your project is in software development, this means you can manage the project in the same place where you keep your code. A project board on GitHub can streamline and automate your workflow.
Filestage will help you obtain, manage, and coordinate feedback in post-production.
More on workflows for multimedia and graphics
You may also want to consider joining The Learning Guild on August 5 & 6 for the Multimedia for Learning Online Conference. You will find sessions that will show you how to:
- Tailor your video workflow to make it more efficient and targeted, and lead to the desired outcome. (Matt Pierce, “3,2,1 Action: Getting Started with Video Workflows”)
- Implement key techniques, time-saving tips and tricks, and creative priming and decision-making habits in your workflow. (Jessica Kohler & Stephanie Curry, “Visual Design Workflow Habits of Graphic Designers You Can Steal Today”)
Register now for this Online Conference and get ready to bring new energy and design ideas to your L&D projects! If you are interested in this Online Conference but are unable to attend on either August 5 or 6, register anyway and you’ll receive access to the recorded sessions and handouts after the event.
You can also get a Learning Guild Online Conference Subscription to access this and all online conferences for the next year, plus much more.