• Anthony Knoss

Any occupation providing services to society typically implements a clear set of standards, beyond common business ethics. Doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, journalists, law enforcement, and fire fighters; they all have a clear set of standards or best practices to promote professionalism. In its most basic interpretation, it’s about being in service to the public and offering a sense of duty to do good work.

Video and media production services should be no different. Considering the depth of business and preproduction related best practices, from billing practices to acquiring permits, continuity in production, to on-set etiquette and respecting copyright; each should be their own articles. For now, we’ll focus on postproduction.

In the past decade, rapidly evolving technology has made high quality production tools easier to use, while being available at lower price points to more people. Incentivized by free access to instantly publish content around the world via social media, content creation has become the wild west for anyone with a smart phone.

Anyone with a phone can now record, edit, and upload a video. To differentiate professional production services from Social Media “Spielbergs,” following a common set of standards can help elevate content quality, and consumer confidence. In addition, common challenges can be efficiently resolved in the day to day effort to provide quality professional productions.

Production applies many disciplines to create a final project. Understanding and mastering each discipline will elevate the final project.

Technical Standards

With a growing list of technical options; including 1080p, 4k, 8k, HDR, bt2020, and 10-bit, understanding how content will be distributed and viewed becomes essential. From frame sizes and rates, to audio levels, video brightness, and color balance, failure to meet these exacting guidelines can result in productions being rejected. Distorted audio, poor color balance, blown out or crushed video levels; can lead to a miserable viewing experience and lack of confidence in your professional abilities.

Every distribution path has its own set of technical standards. From the most basic guidelines of YouTube or Facebook, to the exhaustive standards of producing for a broadcast television network or subscription streaming service.

Before releasing a completed project for eventual distribution, it should go through a peer review quality check. Having a fresh set of eyes and ears to review:

  1. Legal video levels and accurate color balance

  2. Clean and clear audio with consistent volume levels

  3. Accurate spelling for all text

  4. Accurate placement of graphics

  5. Proper application of brand standards

  6. Consistent tone, style and message

  7. And the overall edit for pacing and accuracy

Creative and Design Standards

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and creative style is no different. Understanding how the eye views content and how our minds process images, provides insight for basic design standards.

Even when dealing with this subjective aspect of production, there are several basic best practices to streamline the creative process and keep everyone speaking the same language.

Here are a few of the key rules and standards, with links offering detailed instruction:

  1. The three S’s rule - Straight, Steady, and Smooth

  2. The 180 rule – Maintaining an imaginary left/right line for visual perspective

  3. Rule of Thirds – Dividing the frame from top to bottom, left to right, in thirds

  4. The Golden Ratio – Applying the Fibonacci Spiral to frame shots

  5. Headroom – Provide space above the subject in medium and wide shots

  6. Wide, medium, tight – Variety offers options for editing and tone

  7. Leading space – Framing a shot to anticipate the motion of a subject

  8. Negative space – Framing the space around and between the subject

  9. Eyeline level – Adjusting the lens height to equal the eye level of a subject

  10. Action and Reaction – Highlighting the impact of an event by emphasizing its effect

  11. Motivated movement – Any movement of the subject or camera should have purpose

Additional Best Practices:

  1. Shoot pad on every shot, capture 5 seconds before and after the primary action.

  2. Words are cheap, production is not – Keep scripting clear and concise.

  3. Continuity in framing, position, and shot size

  4. Don’t let a beautifully shot scene distract or overpower the message.

  5. Never get too attached to any specific element of production, be willing to cut anything.

  6. Only capture and use clean, clear audio

  7. Use effects only when needed to support tone and style

  8. The quality of your production is determined by the weakest link in the workflow.

  9. Apply complimentary color harmony utilizing various color wheel styles.

  10. Respect copyright and fair use laws when using third-party images, sound, and b-roll.

The most important rule… it’s ok to break the rules when properly motivated. Developing new creative approaches or styles of production may require breaking one or all rules. In some cases, deliberate effort to break them is essential to elevate impact. However, one can’t break the rules until they know the basics of what they’re breaking.

Learning, understanding and abiding by a clear set of technical, creative and design standards will ensure every project created will rise to the highest level, while maintaining consistent best practices from production to production.