Digital Video Production: Preparing the Solo Creator

By Alvin Motilla

A solo video creator can be anyone. And that person can be you.


How do you see digital video production?

If you're someone who wants to make meaningful things for your audience, read on...

You may be researching, “digital video production”, on the Web. You really care about understanding its fundamentals, and its principles. For you, knowing them first is important. Because…

You’re one of the very few, who decided not to jump, on the bandwagon of “gear lust”. The process and act of making videos, are more important to you, than the equipment.

--

But many of the search results you get from the Web are… schools, who won’t give you info about digital video production, unless… you enroll first in their course, and pay for it. ;-(

And perhaps, you happen to visit other related sites. But they talk about the latest video production gear, camera specs and features, or rumors about upcoming digital technology...

… NOT exactly the kind of education you’re looking for! Right? You’re not interested in putting up a video equipment rental, or sales outlet. Instead,…

You want to see the means of production, in the context of, making meaningful videos for your audience.

So, it can be disheartening, especially if you have friends, who care more about tools and hardware.

--

But don’t be sad! There are still people in this world, who are like you. Otherwise, you won’t be here on this website, hearing what I’m saying. ;-)

So, here’s some introductory info about digital video production, in relation to what we do, as solo video creators.

I hope that when you…

  • understand its fundamentals, and
  • gain a healthy perspective of its “big picture”,

… you’ll be able to face the challenges, advantages, and pitfalls, of using digital technology, in making videos.


What is “digital video production”?



You know what? I really feel that, this is a bit hard to define. Imagine, it’s a three word-phrase! ;-)

So why not break it down? Let’s define each of these three words.

First, have you ever wondered, what is the meaning of…

“Video”

See?… It’s one word. Yet enough to make you think. Perhaps, what comes to your mind, when you hear that word is…

  • a video camera, or
  • a recorded footage, or
  • a TV show, or
  • a Vimeo or YouTube file, or
  • a movie projected on a wide screen.

Although it’s common to have these impressions about “video”, I’d like to suggest you, something different to think about:

Instead of looking at video as an object, or a product of technology (like those impressions that you may have)…

… think of video as the subject, or the content of “that thing”, that you see on TV, on the Internet, or on a wide screen.

“Do you mean, the story?”

Not exactly. The story is very good example of content. But I think, “content” covers so much more.

To me…

Video is anything, that is worth communicating, through images and sound.

Why do I see it this way?

Because, for a video creator like you, having this mindset is far more beneficial!

It reminds you, of what you really have to create… which happens to be, what your audience really cares about--content that speaks to them.

--

Okay, how about…

“Digital”

Now, we’re talking about technology. And technology is something that, helps us do our jobs easier and faster.

And when we say “digital”, it refers to…

… a kind of technology, that enables us to create raw materials, which we can directly process, using computers.

For example, in your case as a video creator, you can use a "digital” video camera, or a “digital” cinema camera, to create moving pictures… And you can use a “digital” audio recorder to capture sound.

Later, you can directly import, those image and sound files, onto a computer, where you can assemble and edit them.

Finally, you can export them as one video file,… and save it on your computer’s hard drive,… or, upload it to your chosen video hosting site.

--

In other words, digital technology is both:

  • a way to create images and sound, and
  • a carrier, or media, for your content.

--

Now, what about…

“Production”

It is the easiest to define.

“Production” came from the root word “produce”, which means, “to make”, or “to create”.

Need I say more? ;-)

All of them together

Now that we’ve defined each of those words, from that three word phrase, what do they mean altogether?

“Digital video production” isyour act of creating content, in the form of images and sounds, using digital technology.

The “reality” it represents

Just as food has ingredients, digital video production has components. And they are:

  • the content
  • digital technology
  • you, the solo creator, and
  • the audience

And these components are both, the “reality”, and the “big picture”, of digital video production.

For more info about these components, see this article.


What “kind” of a process is digital video production?



We already know that, what makes this process “digital”, is the exciting use of computers.

But, digital video production is a process that is focused on...

creating experiences for the audience, both visual and auditory, using digital technology, only as tools.

It is NOT a process that is lost in…

  • endless search for the best digital gear, or
  • endless comparison of specs and features, from different manufacturers. (You know, “this-gear-from-X-company-VERSUS-this-gear-from-Y-company”, talk.)

Even though you get the “best” or “coolest” digital gear today, it won’t remain the “best” or “coolest” after some time. Why?

Because manufacturers will always hold back, certain features that they think, you will crave after… and reserve them for future products. Why?


Because they want you to always chase their “latest” offers!

Think about it…

… If you’re lost in that kind of preoccupation, are you still involved in digital video production?

This point is crucial because, solo video creators--especially beginners--tend to be “easily” distracted by technology.

But it is more practical if you…

  • Own the kind of gear that can do the job, and not worry about whether it is the “best”, or the “coolest”. And then…

  • Focus on creating worthwhile experiences for your audience, in the form of images and sounds.

In this way, you know, you are truly involved in the process of digital video production.


What are the stages of digital video production?



This is about your work flow as a solo creator.

But I won’t talk about the detailed steps you’ll take. And I won’t go into complicated technical stuff.

Why?

Because it is beyond the scope and purpose of this article, which is… to give you a primer of digital video production.

But here’s the thing:

In my experience, whether a video is…

  • for fun, or for something serious, or…
  • for my personal use, or for somebody who pays for it,

I realized that, I’m going through some crucial stages, when I’m in the process of making it…

Stages of digital video production.


Stage 1 - Being aware of what you’ll create

Before I get too excited to use any of my digital gear, I want… first… to be aware of what it is, that I will create. So, I ask myself questions like:

  • “Who is this video for?”
  • “What is it about?”
  • “What is that for?”

I know, others don’t bother to do this at all. They just pick up their cameras and start shooting. And it is very tempting to do the same, when almost everyone is doing it.

But I resist the urge, because, when I’m doing a video, I don’t want to hit a wall, and then say to myself,...

"
What. Am. I. Doing?!”

And I can’t afford to waste so much time and energy making a video… and correcting things that could have been done properly from the start. So,…

I have to be aware, first, of the nature of that video project I’m taking on.

I think, of all the stages of digital video production that you’ll go through, “Being aware of what you’ll create” is the most important.

Why?

Because, without this awareness, you are lost!

No matter how creative--or artistic--you are in the succeeding stages of production, if you don’t have any idea of what’s important in the first place, you’ll find it hard to give your audience, a more meaningful and engaging experience with your presentations.

I’m not saying that everything in your video has to be pre-planned. No! I don’t believe that!

But realize that every video presentation is unique. Every video is specific. So don’t wing it!


At least, be aware of it.

Stage 2 - Gathering materials

Now, all the raw materials that, I think and feel, would help me make that video, I will gather.

Visuals and sounds.

Right? ;-)

This is the right time I’ll start to get excited, to use my digital equipment! To shoot. To record. To film. To capture.

But… I want to make sure, that I am the master of my gear… that it serves me and the purpose of what I’ll create.

Because gear should not “possess” me… I am the one who should “possess” my gear… if you know what I mean… ;-)

Stage 3 - Putting them together

If I can see, that I have all the necessary materials, the next thing I do is… to put them together.

I am combining my raw materials, to create a whole video presentation.

And it’s like joining the pieces of a “jigsaw puzzle”… until you can see the final picture… That beautiful picture!

Stage 4 - Sharing it with your audience

The final thing I do, is to make sure that the “concerned” person, will receive and watch my video.

Who is that “concerned” person? My intended viewer! The one who will consume the content of my video presentation.

You see, if I won’t be able to share my work with my target audience, I’ve just wasted my time and energy! What is the use of my work?

And that is why… I also need to pay quality attention, to this final stage of production… especially, when it comes to…

  • producing my work in a file format, that my audience can use, and

  • placing the video where she can get it. (Is it online? Or, on a digital storage, that she can take home and watch?)

You know what, it would have been easier for me, if I just told you that, the stages of digital video production are… “pre-production”, “production”, and “post-production”.

And these are correct!

But the information I’ve given you about, “the 4 stages of production”, feels more intuitive to me.

And it feels more concrete! Because, you have a clearer idea, of “what you’re getting yourself into”, when you want to make a meaningful video. ;-)


What are the tasks of a solo creator, who is involved in digital video production?



Do you know that, a solo creator, like you, is essentially a “total video creator”? :-)

A “total video creator”, is someone who is involved, in all aspects, of making a worthwhile video presentation.

In a way, you’re like an “independent filmmaker”, who performs more than one function. For example, as writer and director. And he or she may be working in a setup, where many are involved in the production.

But, in your case, you’ll often see yourself working…  alone… for different reasons. For example, because of low budget… or, you simply enjoy, the rewards of doing it by yourself.

So, you’re operating in what I call, “one-person video production setup”, where you’re facing all the tasks of making a video.

And don’t be intimidated by it.

Why?

Because…

- You’re not trying to produce, “highly commercial blockbuster films”! (Are you? ;-) )

- You only want to create videos, that you’re happy with :-)… and that your audience love. :-)

- Also…

… There’s so many improvements already in technology. We are now “blessed” with digital tools and media, that help us make videos with…

  • ease
  • comfort, and
  • speed.

In other words, you may be alone… but digital technology is your assistant. She will help you do…

Your tasks :-)

Speaking of which, here are some that you will do, as a “total video creator”:

  1. Keep an overview of your video… at all stages.

  2. Be clear about every step you’ll take. And take it easy.

  3. Choose and use the kind of tools, that you really need… and that you can keep for a long time.

  4. Shoot great pictures. Motion… and even stills.

  5. Capture clear sounds.

  6. Secure your digital files. Better yet, make back up files of your materials.

  7. Make a unified video presentation.

  8. Edit to improve and enhance.

  9. Produce your “final cut”, in a format, that your audience can use.

  10. Archive your work for future use.

  11. Take good care of your gear. You’ll use them for your next project.

  12. Be a good person, to people and subjects, that you work with.

  13. Avoid becoming an a**hole. Always remember # 12. ;-)


As a solo creator, what competencies in digital video production, do I need to have?



That’s a great question! :-)

But before I answer that, I have some…

Helpful hints for you about these “competencies”

First…

See them as personal traits, not as validations.

Instead of viewing “competencies” as validations, or recognitions from society, in the form of diploma, certificates, or awards…

… look at “competencies” in digital video production, as personal traits, which you can decide to acquire for yourself.

Why?

Because, your capacity to make videos, should not depend on what society thinks of you… but on your desire or will to do so.

And of course, you can make great videos! :-)

Another hint is that…

These “personal traits” will help you avoid, “pitfalls” of using digital technology.

What pitfalls?

  • Not getting over the equipment: Software, hardware, complicated features, and so on. It will blind you from seeing the “real” needs of your project, because your attention is focused elsewhere.

  • Making videos but mostly about gear: Unboxing, tests, more tests, “gear versus gear” videos. It will leave you less time, or no time at all, to make videos about “real” subjects… about “life”.

  • Enjoying so much comfort of relying too much on technology: For example, using so many “automatic” settings when shooting. Or, depending too much on editing, or post-production software, to fix errors that you can avoid from the start… If you’re like this, you seem to forget, what it’s like to think, feel, and decide for your work… Yes, technology helps, but should not replace you—the “real” video creator.

"Personal traits" that are worth-having

So, to avoid those pitfalls, and to do your role as a “total video creator”, here are some personal traits—or “competencies”—that you may want to have:
Personality traits that help you become competent in making digital videos.


...Beyond mechanical...

First is the capacity to go beyond the mechanical aspect of video production.

Remember, you are a “solo creator”.

Your job is not only technical. It’s is creative as well. Using technology is only a part of your job.

So, go beyond being…

  • a tech buff,
  • a gadget lover, and
  • a technician.

Be a communicator as well.

...At peace...

Second is the willingness to be at peace with yourself, about your equipment, and its limitations.

It is a quality of having a sound mind.

As long as your digital gear can serve the “needs” of your usual video projects, be happy with it… even with its limitations.

As I said before, manufacturers will not put all the features that you “want”, in a particular gear model, because of their insatiable hunger to earn money. They are very good at making you lust after their latest offers, even when you don’t need it… and making you want “more”, even when you have “more than enough” already, for your production needs.


And even their expensive “high-end” models are still “limited” in some ways.

What we don’t realize is that--limitations are advantages too.

Yes, they are!

Because, limitations train us to…

  • become disciplined,
  • get past our own clouds of insecurities,
  • look into our own potentials,
  • produce so much with so little, and
  • make something great, out of something humble.

We don’t realize that, even with what we have now, we are fine!

We just lack contentment.

...For humans...

Third is the knowledge of--what it’s like to make videos for human beings.

As we get more and more preoccupied with technology, this trait is becoming easier to overlook… and harder to acquire.

I don’t know… but I have this feeling that many are acting more like machines, than like human beings. And many are treating others as machines, instead as humans.

But then again…

We are supposed to make videos for fellow humans, not for machines!

We are supposed to represent “life” on videos.


What are the basics of digital video production?



If you immerse yourself in making your own videos, and you aim for good results, you may notice that your efforts fall under the following…

Categories of video creation

  1. strategic
  2. creative
  3. technical
  4. evaluative, and
  5. progressive

You’re asking for the basics of digital video production, right? :-)

Those basics are actually principles, that guide us in facing our main challenge of using digital tools, when making videos—that is, creating meaningful and engaging presentations… for our audience.

And there are basics, or guiding principles, for those categories of video creation.

For the sake of brevity, and to encourage you to do some reflection :-), I decided to express those…

Basics or principles in the form of quotations

On Strategy

The first basic principle of making videos concerns strategy.


“What is the purpose of your video? If it’s not clear to you, do not start creating... Still want to create, without knowing your purpose? Okay, it’s up to you. But I told you…”

On Creativity

The second basic principle of making videos is about creativity.


“Relax. Be open… open mind… open heart… open eyes…. But be sure, that your creative energies, have worthwhile direction.”

On Technicality

The third basic principle of making videos has to do with technicality.


“You need enough know-how, to bring your cinematic vision to life. But, don’t get caught up in too many techniques. Because sometimes, lesser is better. And I love simple and clear methods.”

On Evaluation

The fourth basic principle of making videos is about evaluation.


“Okay, be honest. How’s your video? Do you like it? Does she like it?”

On Progression

The fifth basic principle in making videos is about progression or improvement.


“There’s always room for improvement and learning. It’s better to be a fresh green mango, than a ripe yellow mango. Because the green mango still has a way to go. But the yellow mango will rot sooner or later.”

--

By taking these capsules of thoughts… and earlier points about, “digital video production”, that we talked about…

… we begin to…

  • see some clarity, and
  • feel a sense of conviction,

… to make our own videos, like this…


Sample short video: “Samantha XVIII”


 


This is about Samantha’s 18th birthday. It’s a sneak preview of a short film that I made for her, about her birthday.

So, this video is only a small part of that short film. But you get a sense of, how the story goes, in the final cut.

The problem that I had when I was shooting her video was… there’s no formal program that I could cover—no traditional stuff like, 18 roses, 18 treasures, or 18 dances.

The only thing that happened that night was… a simple dinner at a classy restaurant, with Samantha’s family, and her closest friends.

And I didn’t want to make a video that simply shows that dinner!

So… I decided to have a different approach, where Samantha played a more active part.

I wanted to make a video that… I felt… Samantha and her family, would find more interesting and touching.


Final words



So there you go! :-)

Fundamental info for the solo creator… about using digital technology… in making worthwhile videos… for human audience.


 


› Digital Video Production