The 10 Secrets to a Successful Live-Action Video Shoot

I know we’re just meeting for the first time, but I’m going to ask you to close your eyes. Go ahead… close ’em. Trust me, this ain’t no digital trust fall – everything will be we alright. Ok, now open them (Did you really even close them if you got this far? Onward…). You’re in what looks like someone’s home. It’s a nice, historic four-bedroom home just a couple blocks up from Pasadena’s Colorado Ave. There are some 40 odd people all buzzing around, some inside and some out, working diligently on a variety of tasks foreign to you. You wonder what kind of gathering this is and quickly realize that this home has been commandeered for a very specific reason, and the people around you give it away:

One man is rigging something very heavy onto a large stand; it’s blindingly bright and you probably should have looked away when he said, “Striking!”

On the other side of the room, a young woman is pouring over pages from some thick binder that looks like a cookbook, speaking somewhat frazzled to her associate about how they’re going to “make their day.”

Then out of the corner of your eye you see someone swiftly move across the room, carefully carrying what looks like a camera lens the size of a cantaloupe.

You pieced it all together and have guessed correctly – you’re on what people in the film industry like to call “the set.” A commercial video production set. And it’s electric. There’s a synergy and cadence about they way in which everyone moves, all preparing for the the next shot. From behind you, someone yells, “Last looks!” and you are told that you’re moments away from knocking off the last shot from today’s commercial.

But let’s rewind back to before this day began and ask the question of what all went into preparing for this moment leading up to a successful production. Lucky for you, VeracityColab loves making great video, and in turn, sharing tips along the way to help you succeed. So for the marketer and producer alike, we’re pulling back the veil to share our 10 secrets to a successful live-action video shoot:

  1. Creative Prep
    Before stepping onto the set, one of the most crucial components to the success of a production is how “fleshed out” and “dialed in” the creative material is. This part of the process at VeracityColab usually starts just after our initial “Discovery Meeting” with the client, through the creative development, and ends the night before production starts. The key word here is preparedness. No mater the size of the project or at what level the video is being produced, one of the most important things you can do to feel confident going into a day (or three) of shooting is to know your material inside and out. And ultimately, know the reason why you are creating it. From there stem all the decisions you will make and they hinge on your confidence in through preparation.


  2. EQUIPment
    Know what your budget is and how to make the most of what’s set aside for equipment rentals. The key here is not to rent something because it’s “cool” or Hollywood-en-vogue. Everything lies in the balance and it will take discernment to properly equip your team and projects with the equipment.

  3. The Scout’s Scout
    A strong goal we emphasize throughout pre-production is understanding the physical space you will be working in. This may be a sound stage, a brand’s corporate office, or in the aforementioned location, rental located in Pasadena, CA. No matter the “where,” do your best to get eyes on the space. Scouting in person is best but if you can’t afford to get across the country before production starts, try to request a live video session with your contact on the other end to get a walkthrough.

  4. Crew Up
    Plain and simple: hire for character and then skill (in that order). Your project is only as strong as the people behind it, and how they show mutual respect and collaborate together on set makes a world of difference. Trust me, you will never regret a decision to bring on a mature department head or an even-tempered crew member. (Pro Tip: They tend to be the most exceptional and skilled people in their craft; win-win).

  5. Craft: Coffee
    I’d be lying if we didn’t consider the proximity of the set to a good coffee shop on every one of our projects. It may sound cliché, but a quality cup of coffee extends and transcends its way into the creative subconscious on set. And it boosts morale at first sip. Don’t underestimate the small things!

  6. Actors Are Your Friends
    Casting for your project can seem like a daunting task because, well, it is. The reality is that who you place in front of the camera carries the weight of a brand’s core message or that non-profit’s heart for the cause it serves. No matter the project, place a high importance on casting the right talent and then study them once they’re committed to the project. Get to know them and make meaningful human connections. Help break down the walls of so this doesn’t feel like “just another job” to them. In the end, you’ll have stronger performances to show for it and you’ll have a fun time along the way.

  7. Crafty, Lunch and the Sacredness of Short-Term Rest
    Think of the craft services table as the 5% refuel bar. At this refuel bar you’ll find everything from small snacks to rehydrating drinks. It’s open all day during production and can be that constant pick-me-up when energy starts to dip. Wedged somewhere into the 6th and 7th hour of the day you’ll find yourself in the lunch line for a hot meal. Done right (i.e. not cutting it short), lunch anchors the day with a block of time to physically and mentally replenish. It’s also a good time to brush shoulders with someone you don’t know; who knows, maybe offering up that napkin for them to clean the pasta sauce out of their beard will tun into your next job referral.

  8. Passion (Corazón)
    At VeracityColab our aim is to bring passion to everything we do. Passion sparks passion and we see that to be especially true in our creative endeavors. Whatever your role, do it with care, with heart and with strength – it rubs off on people in the best of ways and your work will be better for it.

  9. More Data Management, Please
    In a predominantly digital medium, the need for a Digital Imaging Technician (or DIT for short) has become a prerequisite in video production. In short, they work with the Director of Photography on workflow, image quality and data management. The latter of the three is arguably one of the most important responsibilities of their work and to make something complex simple: they ensure that all of the digital media files captured on set are securely stored across multiple hard drives. Data management will find it’s way into it’s own blog post here soon, but what you need to know is that multiple back-ups of your files is imperative. All that hard work and money that went into developing, planning, producing and shooting your project hinges on the successful transfer and secure backing-up of those precious files. Don’t treat this lightly; do your homework and don’t be caught in the sting of a corrupted media card or failed hard drive.

  10. Always Be a Student
    If you listen to the greats in filmmaking talk about their craft, you’ll often hear that they never stop learning. They are life-long students of what they do. They remain curiousand imaginative. And they admit that, even at their level of masterful creation, there is still something to be learned. It is with that same curiosity and vigor that we’re encouraged to remain students of our craft. Take this wherever you go and never allow yourself to be convinced that you’ve “learned it all.”

Still hungry for more great information? Check out our eBook at the bottom of the page or click here to download our PLAY List (30 different kinds of videos that your business might need)!

Casey Williams