Creating Templates (to save your family)

Creating Templates

“What is your production timeline?”

 This is a question I get from other video producers all the time. I think they assume that because of the quality of my work, I must have more time to work on my projects than they do. They are shocked to learn that my turnaround is typically less than 48 hours. Actually, when you boil it down, a solid 3-minute testimony takes me an average of 12 hours. After 11 years of specializing in short-form video and short-time turnarounds (as a one-person team), there are two lessons I’ve learned.

A solid 3-minute testimony takes me an average of 12 hours. @danniobracken Click To Tweet

1. Investing in new technology saves time. Moving from mini-DV to memory card changed my life. I was literally buying back hours of my life. No more real-time capture. Faster computers cut my render time in half. HOURS.


2. I’m thankful for templates. I first discovered this when I was responsible for worship series branding. How do you build brand continuity across multiple media? You start with a solid base.


The most common type of video I’m asked to produce is the testimony– someone who had an encounter with Jesus and was transformed as a result. I’ve produced hundreds. Most you can watch at here. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Each of these videos follow the same simple template.


1. A-ROLL. Essentially, this is the script. The main content of your story. I’ve learned that script-writing is not my responsibility. My responsibility is to simply create a safe environment for my story-subject to share freely. Often, I’ll prompt them ahead of time. I’ll email a set of limited questions, just to give them the opportunity to write out their story before sharing it on camera. When they email me back, BOOM, I have a script. In some cases, I’ll record a voice-over, and you never see the subject talk on camera (Chris Mills). In other cases, I’ll do an on-camera interview from a refined list of questions (Gary Vance).


2. B-ROLL. Once I have a script, I create a shot-list. I read over the script and imagine visuals that might support the main content. B-Roll is secondary to A-Roll. It should always support the main idea. In other words, you shouldn’t have to think too hard. If it doesn’t support the main content, don’t capture it.


3. Music. I’m licensed to use music from Find a library you like and be willing to pay for quality. Quality of and selection of music can make or break a great story.


Every testimony is an edited compilation of those three elements. So here’s a look at my 12-hour production timeline, broken down:
Emailing/phoning/collecting intel for script: 1 hour.
Shooting/recording A-Roll: 1 hour.
Shooting B-Roll: 3 hours.
Editing and adding music: 7 hours
So there you have it. I lay naked before you. But, I’m just being honest here… I’m starting to feel stuck. I love working from templates. They buy me time with my family. But the template has become easy. Plug and chug. My present challenge is reigniting that creative desire to tell stories in new ways. Join me in celebrating efficiency and margin, but let’s not cease pushing each other towards the next mold.