In 2023, there's no slowing down for video production. Today, nearly 86% of businesses use video assets in their creative campaigns, and it’s easy to see why.
- According to MarketingSherpa, videos attract 300% more traffic than other types of content and are an effective tool for nurturing leads.
- A Conversion XL study found that video increases organic traffic on a website by 157%.
- Unbounce found that adding a video a landing page can increase conversions by up to 80%.
Among our own user base, video assets are the second most common asset type uploaded and reviewed by creative teams in our platform.
But video production involves multiple players on different teams, juggling deadlines, managing budgets, and ideally sticking to what are often tight turnaround schedules. With all of these elements in the mix, an efficient pre-production and post-production video workflow can keep all these moving parts together.
These same complexities also make building and enforcing a consistent production, editing and video post-production workflow across team members difficult.
Whether you're an agency specializing in video, an enterprise brand looking to create more in-house video assets or a freelance video producer, this guide will give you a video production workflow that will enable you to produce and approve quality video content faster, every time.
What we'll cover
Table of contents
Why creative teams need a well-defined video production workflow
Review and approval of video projects can get complicated fast without the right workflow in place. There are many moving parts involved, and if you're not careful, they can quickly become a tangled, expensive mess--especially when multiple revisions are required.
A video production workflow is a series of sequential steps carried out based on a set of pre-defined rules or conditions to execute this process.
Video production workflows combine video project documentation and planning, review and approval, and file and asset management under one umbrella. A well-defined workflow provides guardrails that ensure that certain production steps only begin after project criteria and approvals are met and provides a predictable flow from pre- to post- production.
Having an automated workflow in place is especially important during video post-production when video content goes through many different cuts and versions, requires review by many stakeholders, and often needs to simultaneously exported in many different formats, lengths, and codecs for distribution and marketing across social, YouTube, traditional broadcast, and many other channels. That’s a lot of content creation and versioning for a video team to keep track of and for marketing/advertising teams to launch simultaneously.
Furthermore, even though video production is complex, video production timelines are getting tighter as video campaigns require rapid distribution across social media and other on-demand content platforms.
To meet these challenges, brands and video production teams need a systematic, predictable workflow to manage resources and moving parts efficiently, keep projects on track with milestones and deadlines, and hold individual contributors accountable.
There’s a clear benefit to implementing workflow for video production.
When we analyzed the behavior of collaborators and video teams using our platform to review and approve video content, we found that automation provided key benefits to video teams:
- 43% of all video projects conducted in Ziflow utilize automated workflows.
- Furthermore, video projects using workflow have, on average, twice the number of versions and four times the number of approval decisions as projects that don’t use workflow. Yet, those video projects with workflow still see a 35% reduction in turnaround time.
- At high volume times of the year for video production, we saw that many projects that have a predefined video production review workflow save up to 60% of turnaround time during project review and approval.
- That equates to an average of 26 days worth of time saved in post-production just with the usage of workflow.
Why does workflow contribute to such a dramatic improvement in delivery timelines even when more contributors and decision steps are involved?
Ultimately, video production workflows can help video productions and marketing teams control who sees video content, and when. This means that collaboration can be more precise, timely, and relevant to each specific stage of production: the gold standard for busy video teams that need to get videos shot/created, edited, and delivered quickly.
Even if more people are involved in the process, workflow can eliminate the common collaboration roadblocks that delay production: reworking final videos based on late feedback or issues that should have been addressed in pre-production, demonstrating a history of approval across stakeholders, and ensuring that production steps or edits only begin once all campaign planning and assets have final sign-off.
Here are some examples of how workflows set the stage for success:
- Improve team collaboration
- Allocate resources efficiently
- Avoid miscommunication
- Clearly delineate roles and responsibilities among video production team members and outside stakeholders
- Clarify review and feedback from multiple stakeholders
- Organize versions and editing
- Maintain project deadlines between pre- and post-production
- Improve video distribution in multiple formats.
Additional, video production workflows are essential for maintaining consistency and brand compliance. Today’s audiences expect consistent storytelling and branding from companies, across all communication channels. Having a predefined video editing workflow provides brands with a set of standards in place to maintain a through-line between all videos, ensuring they fit in with the broader narrative of you or your client’s mission, values, and origin story.
How to define your video strategy in pre-production
Before you get started on pre-production, you’ll need to establish a plan. Having a clear strategy ensures ensure your video content aligns with overall business or project goals.
Set clear goals, understand your audience, and decide which formats and distribution channels to include in your video production campaign.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your video strategy and message and how does it align with overarching business goals?
- Who is your target audience?
- What kind and how much video content will you create?
- Which platforms will be used for video distribution?
- How will you measure success?
Every video you produce should link back to the big picture. Consider how each video will work for your business in the long term.
For example, producing an ongoing series might help position your brand as a go-to resource in your niche while creating video ad campaigns might help you drive more conversions, and thus generate more revenue.
Keep in mind, goals like “increasing brand awareness” or engagement can sometimes be difficult to measure, so you may need to take some time to consider what metrics will help you determine whether your video content is successful or not. This can include total video views and shares, brand reach, any sales or new customer acquisition attributed to a video campaign, and more.
Having a clear goal for each video campaign makes it easier to determine the messaging, visual assets, and budget required to produce the video.
4 stages of a video production workflow
The pre-production stage is critical. This is where you’ll lay the foundation for your video and create a reference point for project scope and deliverables to keep everyone on track.
- Creating and approving a creative brief. The first thing you’ll want to do is start with a creative brief. This should describe:
- The goal for the project and outline the narrative. What is the core objective? How does this video help achieve a specific goal?
- Budget and timeline: The creative brief should also provide a big-picture overview of the project’s budget and timeline. What kind of timeline are you looking at for this project? You’ll need to outline key milestones—when will you finalize the script? Start shooting? When will post-production begin? What is your target date for this project to be completed?
- Role and responsibilities: You’ll of course want to define the roles and responsibilities for all creative workers involved in the production and editing process, including writers, animators, illustrators, graphics designers, actors, creative directors, producers, sound engineers, video editors, and more, depending on the size and scale of your production.
- Stakeholders: You should also identify any stakeholders or reviewers that need to be involved on the business side of this project for pre- and post-production review—marketing, brand, legal, client management, accounting, the C-suite, etc. Who has the final sign-off? Who needs to approve content and planning at different points of the production?
- Creating and approving a storyboard or script. Once the creative brief is set, you’ll need to put together a storyboard that outlines the key “plot points” in your narrative. While the storyboard serves as a rough outline, the goal here is to give all stakeholders a better sense of what the final project will look like.
- Building the budget and equipment list. Based on your creative brief and storyboard, your next action item is to determine what, exactly, you’ll need to make this project happen and what it will cost. What are the costs of the camera, lighting, power, and accessories equipment you need to shoot the video? The costs of hiring talent and crew? Rental space? Build a detailed budget so there are no surprises or missed items when it comes time to turn on the camera.
- Outlining the production schedule and shot list. For live action video, production schedules are a detailed run-down of how filming will play out the day of your shoot. This is a scene-by-scene breakdown that aligns your storyboard or script with everyone’s day-of roles and responsibilities. If the video is not live action, the production schedule will outline the timeline designers, animators, and editors need to produce a first rough cut. Your production workflow should outline who is responsible for what during the shoot. The more direction you can provide your cast and crew, the better. Your production workflow should outline who is responsible for what during the shoot. The more direction you can provide your cast and crew, the better.
These requirements should be outlined in both the creative brief and production schedule. It’s critical that these details are reviewed and approved before work begins.
Leveraging intake forms can help start the pre-production brief process and keep video projects organized from the beginning. These forms can capture client or project requirements, transform them into a video brief, and automatically send it to both your video editing team and other internal stakeholders for review so everyone is on the page. This also creates one system of record for the project before any video files are created.
During the production stage, things start to come together. Here, you’ll create the raw footage for the video. You’ll want to make sure that everything is in place, or else you’ll end up having to schedule pick-up shoots or spend more time on re-editing and revisions in post-production because someone forgot a key element. Production should include:
- Set up and lighting. Before you begin shooting, you’ll need to confirm that everything you need is on-site and in working order. This includes going through the shot list, setting up cameras, and performing lighting and sound checks. Have a plan for hair and makeup and wardrobe for on-screen talent.
- Filming. This is where it all comes together. If you’ve created a detailed production schedule, your actual shoot should be organized and on-time.
- Collecting b-roll & voice-overs. Your production schedule should also include a plan and schedule for capturing any supplemental “B-roll” footage and voice-over recordings. Aim to coordinate these activities in pre-production to avoid delays in the editing and review process.
- Generate rough cut & behind-the-scenes promos: The post-production process can often start right on set. Often, your team or your clients will want to see a rough cut of work in progress quickly after. You might also want to engage your audience by sharing behind-the-scenes photos, clips, and rough cuts in real-time on your social or marketing channels to stoke interest in the project or campaign.
We recommend uploading and maintaining these related assets in one central repository and use automated notifications to inform your marketing and social media team that new promotional assets are available for review and use. You’ll want to store all of these promotional assets and short clips alongside the files of the finished product for a complete campaign portfolio.
Within creative campaigns, video projects only have an average of 2-3 versions before a final cut is done. Yet, these types of creative projects tend to have the longest turnaround time due to post-production editing.
Post-production takes all the raw film footage and sound recordings and brings everything together into a cohesive unit. At this stage, the video goes through a collaborative editing process and may involve a few rounds of editing. An efficient post-production workflow is an essential tool for ensuring that everyone communicates effectively, stays focused on project scope, and delivers the final video on time (or possibly even faster.)
Make sure editors and project managers have the right tools at their disposal, as it can make a huge difference when it comes to delivering the final project on time.
- Editing. Once all of your raw footage is organized and backed up, it’s time to start the editing process. At this stage, editors will identify A and B-roll footage, trim footage into a raw cut, and add transitions that shape the narrative. Editors will work on polishing that raw cut into the final product, and will perform tasks like applying color corrections, adding special effects, and lining up audio and video tracks.
- Iterative and collaborative review. Video teams that use collaborative feedback (mentions, comments, and smart markups) within video assets can complete video projects faster. Comments can be made on single frames or applied to a range of frames, so there’s no question when it comes to where changes need to be made.
- Version comparison. During the editing process, you need to be able to quickly compare versions to understand exactly where in the video project feedback applies and to confirm that iterative changes were made. For best results, you’ll want to use a tool for managing multiple versions of your work with side-by-side comparisons that align with a video’s playback timeline.
- Final approval. Content review and approval often cause bottlenecks in the process. Reviewers can be slow to leave feedback or fail to do so in an efficient manner. This creates bottlenecks in post-production sign-off. Here, you’ll want to avoid these issues by establishing a system for sharing edits with the right stakeholders, collecting feedback, implementing changes, and approving the final version.
- Delivery. Once the final cut has been approved, it needs to be delivered to the right people in the right codecs. Here, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll deliver this in a cloud storage platform like Google Drive or Dropbox, via local storage, email, or hard copy.
Distribution and promotion
Finally, you’ll need to put together a workflow for distributing and promoting the final project. While promotion will vary based on your content strategy and the goals associated with a project, workflows often include the following steps.
- Establish key metrics and a reporting strategy. Make sure you have a clear picture of which metrics represent success. This means, you’ll want to look back at your initial goals and use those to establish a reporting system.
- Develop a plan for distributing content. Here, you’ll outline the distribution strategy. Which channels will be used to promote the content? Will you use organic and/or paid campaigns?
- Format content. After you’ve decided which channels you’ll use to promote your content, you’ll want to format video footage so that it fits with the standards of each platform. What formats do you need to export videos to and how many different versions/cuts do you need to create?
Traditionally, video has been dominated by standard codes. However, today, we’re seeing an explosion in the variety of standardizations in videos are created and reviewed. Instead of just using H.264 codec wrapped into an MP4 format, the same video content needs to be produced--and reviewed and approved--for a number of different channels and different optimizations simultaneously. Instagram content, for instance, may need to be trimmed down and broken into a series of short clips, whereas you might upload the entire video to YouTube.
Now, you’ll want to ensure that the same video file can be automatically transcoded and rendered for different formats quickly and that all those formats are reviewed, approved, and stored together as part of the same project structure internally.
5 video workflow best practices
Create repeatable approval guardrails and enforce them from video project brief to final cut
Video production can involve so many decision-makers spread across different locations and skill sets. Different stakeholders and teams need to provide input and expertise at different stages of video creation.
With such a large team working on complex projects, setting repeatable processes at each stage of your video production workflow will ensure that your project hits deadlines, gets in front of the right people at the right time, and moves through the production line fast.
Key guardrails to put in place include:
- Pre-set stages that apply specific project team members and content routing to each step of production. These stages ensure that the next step of content creation doesn’t begin until all requirements, content, and approvals have been met for the previous steps or versions
- Time and/or decision-based triggers that send video files for review only after certain steps occur (a new version is created, a client indicates a first review on a rough cut, a file is exported from Adobe Premiere into a folder, etc.)
- Approval decision checklists that track when and why team members have signed off on a video file or not and if they have requested changes across the entire production process.
- Automated notifications and reminders that keep all team members accountable and aware of changes to video content, deadlines, and more.
Automating these guardrails helps standardize the cadence of video production and reduces confusion around roles, responsibilities, approvals, and project expectations across teams. It speeds up production review processes, keeps assets organized, and helps eliminate human error. Ultimately, this gives your video editing team more time to focus on creating quality content, not clarifying or tracking down feedback.
Plus, the time savings from automating these administrative tasks of video production can really add up.
When we analyzed video review activity among our users, we discovered that video projects that used these automated guardrails had faster project approvals and faster delivery timelines even if they had 2-3x times the amount of versions, comments, or stakeholders providing feedback and decisions.
With a video production workflow in place, more changes and more eyeballs on files in post-production does not create more delays in getting to a final cut.
In fact, it can shorten video delivery timelines significantly even when the collaboration process appears more complex. An automated review workflow helps act as a buffer that can absorb the complexity of video project collaboration.
Assign a production/project manager
Projects can quickly devolve into chaos without the right leader. Designate a production manager to ensure that your video production workflows stay on the right track.
For more complex processes, you may need to assign a project manager for each stage—pre-production, production, post-production, and promotion—as each of these areas requires different expertise.
This person should be a strong communicator that can delegate tasks and keep workers on track. This becomes especially important when you are coordinating efforts with freelancers or contractors working on their own schedules. A project manager can keep each contributor in the loop, providing guidance, resources, and a set of clear expectations to ensure consistency across distributed teams.
Host and review all project files in a central creative collaboration tool
Video production involves so many moving parts that losing track of details sometimes seems inevitable.
One of the biggest challenges for video producers is gathering and implementing feedback on new video versions in post-production. To give stakeholders access to new versions for review, video editors need to export files and upload them to shared folders or another hosting system like Vimeo. With this process, any changes live outside of the native video files and completing feedback can be difficult or time-consuming to correlate across many communication channels.
As such, you’ll want to establish a centralized hub for storing and collaborating on all video project files and related documentation.
This hub should live outside of your video editing system and be an accessible point of reference for project files and project status for everyone involved in the video project. Within this project space, collaborators should also be able to work with and markup video files in a way that streamlines feedback for the editing team.
Helpful post-production review tools include:
- Frame-by-frame timeline review: It’s essential that reviewers be able to leave precise feedback. Whatever system you use to gather input should allow reviewers to review a new video render by time, timecode, or exact frame.
- Range-based commenting: Similarly, stakeholders might want to apply comments or changes across a range of the video’s timeline. This helps editors understand exactly where changes apply without second guessing or misinterpreting feedback.
- Safe area review: Stakeholders also need to be able to see how a video will look in different formats to accurately approve its use across different channels. Providing safe area overlays onto one video file allows collaborators to quickly see how a video project will appear when launched across multiple channels.
No matter how complicated things get, keeping video file storage and the advanced video project markups and changes in the same system is imperative for a smooth production process.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you use a cloud-based solution that syncs updates and uploads in real-time so that everyone has access to the latest information. This is especially important when collaborators and editors are working remotely from different locations or on set.
Integrate review and approval directly into your video editing software
Once accurate feedback has been indicated by stakeholders, it’s helpful if your video editing team can then see and implement those changes directly in their editing bay.
Implementing a video production workflow that integrates review and approval tools directly within an editing system like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro allows your video production team to feedback right away, understand where changes apply, and get new versions out the door faster.
Hallmarks of an integrated production workflow for editing include the ability to:
- Render and encode updated project files and sequences as a new video version for review.
- Auto-notify team members when new renders are ready for review and allow them to add comments
- See a list of all projects in review with stakeholders and their status and versions in the editing window.
- Synchronize new feedback and comments to the editing timeline, so editors can see exactly where changes are required and make edits directly to the project file without jumping between systems.
Here's an example how video editors can integrate their video editing work in Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects with video review and approval from multiple stakeholders:
Establish clear naming conventions and filing systems
Beyond storing project materials in a central location, you’ll also need to establish a naming convention for all files and a system for keeping them organized.
Naming conventions might look like this:
Your system might look something like this:
- Project name. Folder where you’ll keep all of your work.
- Raw footage. Subfolder where you’ll keep all raw footage and clips.
- Project files. Subfolder where you’ll keep all project files and autosaves.
- Audio. Subfolder where you’ll keep music tracks, voice-overs, and other audio files.
- Graphics. Subfolder where you’ll keep all motion graphics, titles, and other design elements.
How you arrange your files is up to you. The important thing here is that all stakeholders know exactly where and how to find what they need to complete their work and the latest version of a video file.
It’s also worth noting that many content management systems come with the option to set controls that can automatically ensure files are named and stored according to brand standards.
This ensures that different people don’t use different naming conventions or organization methods. This can lead to double work and different versions of the same project.
The video production process can get overwhelming fast. With the right production workflow in place, you’ll have a system for breaking these complex projects into digestible tasks with clear deadlines and expectation to guide contributors through each stage.
We hope the tips outlined above help you get started on your own video production workflow and ensure that every video you produce is high-quality, on-budget, and in line with your brand guidelines.
While setting up the perfect workflow does take some time, the upfront investment stands to be one of the best things you can do for your video content strategy.
Creative collaboration solutions like Ziflow allow video teams to easily collect feedback on complex video projects and versions, track project status, and more. The platform integrates video editing with team-wide approval decisions, so team members can submit decisions when video cuts are ready for review and everyone remains on the same page about the status of video projects.