When you’re creating video content for your company, the process can sometimes feel daunting—especially if you’re new to the production game. Thankfully, having a plan to stick to can help. A big part of your overall plan is your video production calendar or timeline, which will help keep your project on track and allow you to map out the various stages you’ll need to complete.
Having a timeline from the very beginning can help ease the stress that comes with countless to-do’s, hectic schedules, unforeseen changes, and tons of touchpoints. Getting it all down on paper is crucial and should be one of the first steps you take when you creating your video strategy.
Don’t know where to begin? Let’s take a look at four main elements of the production process and how long you should plan to allocate for each. Keep this rough schedule in mind before beginning any video project. If you’re working with a production company (like Lemonlight!), use this schedule as a starting point but make sure to ask about the specific timeline you can expect for your project. Let’s dive in!
1. Creative Planning
The creative planning phase is often roped into the pre-production phase of the process, but it can be helpful to view it separately for the most accurate timeline. The creative planning phase is where the idea for your video first comes to life.
Hopefully, before you decide you need a video, you have an idea of who your target audience is, you’ll research all the different types of videos that are out there, and you’ll think about how video can help you accomplish your marketing goals.
Once that’s done, you can start the creative process! You’ll want to talk to all the decision-makers you work with—anyone who holds a stake in the success of this video—and brainstorm ideas. Should your video be a narrative or a mini-doc? Should it follow a hero character? Will there be voice-over or dialogue?
You don’t need to have all these answers right away, but the more you know before you begin, the easier the rest of production will be. If you’re consulting with a video production agency or freelancers, they can help you figure all this out. But, you should have an idea of the story you want to tell and how you’ll clearly communicate your brand’s message or mission. The more specifics you can give, the easier (and faster) the process will be.
TL;DR: Schedule around two weeks for creative planning. If you know your team’s brainstorming phase typically takes longer, adjust as needed. If you already know exactly what you need out of your video, this part is already done and you can move to the next phase to begin your timeline.
Pre-production is the first concrete step in actually creating a video. This is where your production calendar is officially created, where your script is written and edited, where your talent is hired, and where your location is scouted and booked.
Luckily, if you’ve hired a production team or agency, they should handle all these steps without too much work on your part. But pre-production can be a complex and sometimes cumbersome process since things like adverse weather or cancellations can occur without warning, affecting your big-picture plans. So, whether you work on pre-production yourself or you’ve hired a team, be generous and understanding with your timeline at this stage.
TL;DR: Schedule around three weeks for pre-production. This includes time to gather feedback and make revisions, so adjust as needed if you know your team is slow with sharing edits. Keep in mind that this also includes a slight buffer for unforeseen circumstances, so you may be able to wrap pre-production in less than three weeks if everything goes according to plan.
It’s film day! Realistically, production will only last a day or two, but you want to give yourself enough cushion time to not fall behind. Production includes filming shots, recording voiceover or dialogue, and getting any background footage or b-roll.
Longer and more in-depth videos will require more than a day or two on set. If you’ve got interviews to do, your filming schedule will depend on your interviewee’s availability. Extra days in the schedule also account for any possible issues with your location, licensing, or even a malfunctioning product.
Save time by creating a checklist. Have everything you need on hand, including props, makeup, wardrobe changes, and any specific notes about lighting, camera shots, and more.
TL;DR: Schedule a few days for production. If your project is especially elaborate, you may need more time.
Now, you’ve got your footage and you’re ready to create your final video! Post-production includes everything from color corrections to sound editing, and it helps create the overall feel and messaging of your video. Editing itself can often take more time than you might think because the editors are tweaking tiny details that you may not even know to look out for. Additions like graphics and animations also lengthen the timeline for post-production.
Once that’s all completed and you get the first cut of your video, your team or agency should expect edits or notes from you. You may not think the music is right or you may want to change the on-screen text, for example. Watch the video and show it to your entire team to gather feedback. Share your notes with the video team and they’ll make further edits.
This process can go on a few times over, so schedule plenty of time for back and forth and keep your video team’s other priorities in mind.
TL;DR: Schedule at least two weeks for post-production, and if your project is complicated or involves a lot of stakeholders with feedback, extend your expectations from there. You can help keep post-production timelines manageable by providing your editor with clear, timely feedback.
You may not need to schedule time for distribution, since you can distribute your video anytime once you have it, but if you want your video to reach the masses, planning out your distribution calendar is also a necessity.
This part of the timeline will depend on your goals. If you’re targeting social media distribution, a few days may be plenty. If you want to pitch your video to news outlets or PR firms, you may need longer. Give your web development, social media, and paid advertising teams plenty of time to schedule and execute your video content publication.
But, remember, don’t just distribute your video once and be done with it! Republish and repost your video periodically to keep your brand top of mind. That’s the beauty of video: It doesn’t get old as fast as other types of content. You’ll want heavy distribution on the outset and continued distribution well after your first post.
TL;DR: If you’re accounting for distribution in your timeline, schedule around one week for initial distribution.
Total Time Required
So, how much time do you need total from ideation to distribution? If you’ve done the math, you know you should plan around 8-9 weeks (or just over two months) ahead of time for any major video project.
Keep in mind that extenuating circumstances can shift this estimate quite a bit. If you’re on an extreme deadline and don’t mind paying rush fees to get your project out the door faster, many production companies may be able to wrap your project in just a few weeks. If you’re not in a rush and your project is especially complicated, you may find that your project spans multiple months. Finally, keep in mind that taking your sweet time sharing feedback can really derail the schedule. When your production team is waiting on your feedback, often times, the project is essentially halted until they hear back from you. Keep your progress on track by reviewing any deliverables right away!
While this may feel like a longer project than many other marketing initiatives, remember that the time will fly by as it’s happening and video content can be repurposed over and over again. Investing a few weeks of your time and energy is well worth it for an asset that lives on for years! For a more specific timeline for your next video project, give our team a call and we’ll walk you through a specific schedule tailored to your needs.