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Top 10 Military Strategies for Video Production

military strategies for video production

I’ve never served in the military and I’m no Sun Tzu. You might consider me more of an ‘armchair General’.  I grew up playing with GI Joe action figures. I’ve spent countless hours reading about military strategy, playing games like Chess & Risk, my favorite video games all have lots o’ explosions like Call of Duty and I’ve watched oodles of war movies. You get the idea: I’m a strategy geek and have somehow soaked up a good bit of strategic wisdom that’s worked for militaries throughout history. One thing I have learned is that in many ways, war never changes and history is a great teacher.

Video production is obviously far safer than war but there are many similarities: achieving objetives, leading a team, logistics, deploying equipment tactically, facing a variety of unknown challenges and (if you’re lucky and prepared), victory. I can’t help you with the luck part, but here’s my top 10 strategies for video production that I learned by studying military strategy. Lock & load!

No Battle Plan Survives the First Shot: Planning is important, frequently critical to success, but you can’t plan everything. As the saying goes: “Shit happens” and you’ll have to deal with it in real time, adapt. Your plan should account for chaos, control is an illusion. Just ask Darwin: Adapt to survive.

Reconnaissance: *Recon!: Do your homework, try and do some location scouting. * It’s not always practical but if you can, visit locations, maybe just get a couple a photos sent to you of the subjects you’re shooting. Pre-interview your subjects, get a sneak peek at any assets you might be considering using. Once you show up for a shoot, it’s probably too late to learn about any big obvious problems that could have been avoided.*

Camouflage: *Sometimes you’ll get better footage when people don’t know you’re shooting. Depending on what you are etrying to get, people in public places, in offices, frequently they get very self conscious when they know they are being watched and that the video can go out to the world. You may need permission and/or release forms, but you can shoot first, ask questions later. It’s easy to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Ambush: *If time is short, you may need to plan to ambush a person you need to interview, a shot you need to get. Being ready and standing nearby where you need to be can make the difference between getting the shot or having to find something else to use. It’s also sometimes more ‘authentic’ to just start shooting and then explain, people might not like it but they’ll forget soon enough.

Use the Environment: Sometimes environments present challenges and sometimes they provide solutions. I frequently stand on a table to get a higher shot, a doorway to steady a camera, a rolling chair as a dolly. Think “Jason Borne” what con you use to help you make the footage better or easier to get.*

One shot, One kill: *This is all about planning. It’s easy to just shoot everything but then you end up using lots of time getting footage that might not get used. It can really help to plan out what you want to get and shoot what you need. If you cant plan, at least conserve ammo and try and not overshoot.

Strategic Reserves: *Many times a budget gets allocated to a project to get it started and in the middle, it becomes clear that something else might help make the project even better. If you are able to build in budget to plan for a re-shoot of additional footage or additional graphics, editing, etc. then you can provide a buffer between you and chaos. You can react. If your time and budget is all spoken for, you may be stuck. Remember strategy #1? Things change, be preparred to react in the pivitol moment of battle.

Force Concentration: *In some situations, it can make sense to double down and deploy more than the minimum resources required. You might be able to push the envelope of your video by using 2 cameras for a higher engagement video that gives you more options in the edit. You might want to skew your budget towards a higher quality camera, better graphics, whatever you think will be the key to success of your project, that’s where you can focus resources to make a bigger impact.

Force Multipliers: *Some production techniques can be used in conjunction with others to have a result that is stronger than the sum of it’s parts. A great example is using time-lapse or slow motion footage with music, when reviewed alone they might be strong, but put them together and you can get explosive results.

Hearts and Minds: When producing content, you want to have the maximum amount of control and options, which means that you want the local populace on your side, not against you. It’s helpful to stay positive, respectful and to make everyone around or in your production comfortable, happy and supportive. I find that by being friendly and asking for favors like ‘can you move out of the shot’ or ‘could you try and keep it down for 5 mins while I record audio’ then people are generally pretty excited and helpful. Food, beer and money also help grease the wheels of commerce as well so don;t be afraid to bribe and coerce to get what you need. It works.**

I know these military stratiges will help you draft your own winning battle plan. One of my favoritve military quotes was from General Tommy Franks I believe who said “Never mistake hubris for capability” and for video production that’s fantastic advice. When its time to engage the enemy just remember to stay focused on your objectives and react as the situation evolves.  It’s the adaptive soldier that survives.**

I hope these tips help you win with your video content. If you want some ideas other tactics check out our complimentary downloadable guide outlining 5 ways you can use video to help your business grow, complete with case studies and examples!

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Also, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help answer them.

Good luck, soldier!


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