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Video: The Art of the 30 Second Ad

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Plan out your video!

Ultimately that is what this post is about.

I come from the world of film and broadcast. Both have strict parameters. In film, wasted feet (of unusable film) equals wasted money. In broadcast, you are bound by the airtime you have purchased.

In my opinion, these restrictions have actually helped strengthen the content that has been released. We have been required to do a considerable amount of pre-production (all of the planning, etc., that happens before shooting and editing) to ensure that within our given parameters, we are as succinct and meaningful as possible with our message.

This is contrasted with the web, where content is typically free to distribute and consume with no or relatively little restriction. I think this is a fantastic step forward. Today, we are also permitted to shoot on reusable media without the fear of running out of film or tape stock. I spoke with a professional photographer recently who told me she would shoot hundreds of photos in hopes of getting one or two she liked. It is really nice to have that much disposable data! Unfortunately with that freedom comes hours wasted in editing and organizing content that may not be used, as well as often turning out a diluted message. One outstanding shot could be cannibalized by several similar but less appealing shots.

I think it is as important today to follow guidelines similar to those in the past. It challenges us to have a stronger message.

Here are some of those rules that I would urge you to consider:

1. Obey “shooting ratio” guidelines.

In the days of film (lol, as if it were an extinct practice), studios needed to determine how much film a movie would take. This would include the takes used in the final cut, all of the out-takes, the lead in and out (film used in loading and unloading), and the film used prior to and after the usable action (which is called heads and tails).

The ratio is: The duration of film shot to the duration used in the final cut.

A standard scripted film would hope to have a ratio less than 4:1. An action film is often higher. Reality TV shows and nature documentary films are the highest, sometimes up to 25-45:1! That means for every half hour shot, you would only use a minute!

Without the worry of film costs, why is this still important?

When we consider a shooting ratio, we are more sensitive to the shots that will have the largest impact. This will also make the editor’s job much easier, and allow her to turn out a video much more quickly. Sometimes it is necessary to overshoot, but getting in that habit will be crippling.

2. Obey a strict “shooting schedule”

When we plan out our shoot, we optimize our productivity. This makes both the crew and the talent very happy. We would all love to accomplish our job in a fraction of the time expected. While not always possible, this is what a shooting schedule would facilitate. Pre-produce your video!

3. Establish your “TRT” during Pre-Production

This wouldn’t be a second thought in broadcast. Your Total-Run-Time is your Total-Run-Time. Period. You have a narrow window of 15, 30, 60, 90 or 120 seconds to air a spot on television, and that is it. 30 seconds is the standard, by the way. That may not seem like much time, but over the years, sharing a message within this window has become a very finely tuned skill for broadcast producers and editors. It can actually be very challenging. Making a 30 second commercial, in my opinion, is much more difficult to create than even a 60.

You may convince yourself that 10-20 additional seconds is necessary in your particular message, and you may be right. But remember that we have been conditioned for these types of shorter messages. Typically any longer, and we’ll stop paying attention. For more information on this, check out these interesting facts.

Remember to plan your video out!





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