On-Location Video Production Tips - Traverse City Michigan

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Two weeks ago the Allied Production team had the pleasure of venturing up to Traverse City to film on-location for our client Left Foot Charley. While we do a fair amount of studio work, the majority of our video production shoots occur on-location anywhere from the Grand Rapids Area, to around the country. Each shoot has it's own unique set of challenges, but hopefully our years of experience can help you plan your next on-location shoot, whether its 15-minutes away, or 15 hours.

Our Goal: Awesome Footage, Awesome Interviews

Our schedule allotted us two days to shoot video content for two videos we are producing for Left Foot Charley's website. Based on our shotlist the shoot requirements included

  1. Drone Work  - Lots of beautiful vineyards to capture. 

  2. Multi-camera interviews - Stories and people are usually the crux of any content highlighting the personality, and soul of a business. 

  3. B-Roll -  You'll never have enough footage of your subjects to cut away to, or use during voice-over, or cover-up poorly-timed wildlife from wandering into your interview backgrounds.


Video Production Success Lesson 1: Packing and Preparation 

When traveling for a job, preparation is everything.  From your mode of transportation, to lodging, to your equipment, to your location scout to understand what power is available, and evaluate the location to “pre-light.” No detail is too small, especially when you can’t run back to the studio or call your local rental house to grab an extra light or piece of equipment.  Here are a some important to-dos to remember before hitting the road. 

  • Location Scout - Understand your location, especially power requirements and staging areas. Shot lists, blocking, and other shooting documents could change based on what your location scout uncovers (ideally you’ve done this before getting scripts, storyboards and other elements approved by the client.). Knowing your location let’s you manage any unforeseen circumstances like weather, sick crew/cast, equipment malfunctions etc. 
  • Equipment Check List - It may be obvious, but make sure this thing is detailed.  Make sure to make separate lists for your equipment and any rented equipment as well. Nothing like getting an angry call from the rental house because you forgot to return a C-Stand. Also, make sure you have a list for both legs of your trip.
  • Lodging - This should be figured out well in advance. Have hotel rooms booked, or if you're staying with a friend, family, or family friend, take extra care to make sure you're communicating with them clearly. Those relationships are much more tenuous than the client-consumer interactions you’ll have with a hotel. The last thing you want to be is a burden for your hosts. Plus, you want to have a place to stay for next time, right?
  • Addresses of Locations - There is no time to get lost. Make sure you have all of your location addresses in one place and easy to access. 
  • Contacts - Same as the addresses. Keep all this information in the same place. Phone numbers and first and last names,
  • Mode of Transportation - How are you getting there? When driving, make sure you're budgeted for gas and have enough space for equipment and crew. 
  • Food - You're hardly going to have a minute to eat. So plan. Make you sure pack plenty of snacks and water for on the go grubbing, and keep your schedule realistic. We all want to pack 14-hour days with 24 hours of work, but you’re not doing any favors over-working your crew. 

Video Production Success Lesson 2: Sticking to the Schedule 

We arrived the evening before our first day of shooting. This gave us a chance to settle in, make sure all batteries were charged, and review the game plan for the next couple of days. It’s also a great opportunity for some team building moments. Have a nice dinner, tour the city/local sites and get the proper rest for the hectic couple days that will follow. 

Our client, Meredeth, was as efficient with her schedule as we were with ours. Operation excellence is always a huge help with these jobs, and having a client that is detail oriented can help reduce the stress you sometimes bare as producers. This was no accident though as we worked with her a week in advanced to align on a schedule that was manageable and well organized.

We know that production days can get busy, but it's always a good idea to take a little time and capture some BTS. Here is a quick look at our trip to Left Foot Charley. Not only is great marketing material, but it’s a great look-back for the team, and selfishly as a business owner it helps us remind ourselves of what went well, and what needs improvement. 

Day One

From 11am to 2pm, we visited three different vineyards to capture b-roll and drone footage, while also shooting a two-shot interview with one of the growers. This was a smooth process and we never felt rushed. Remember the planning but from earlier? Well we actually practiced most of the drone shots the week before with our DJI Phantom 4 Pro and perfected the day before (the early arrival paid off again.). While Nate shot drone footage, Dennis and Ceci set up the interview. We shot the interview with our subject sitting in front of a beautiful view of the Old Mission Peninsula. We then captured some detailed shots of the grapes and wine/cider fields.  Next stop was Left Foot Charley Winery.

We stopped for a quick bite at a local taco place next to the winery, then got back to shooting. We had from 3pm - 5pm to shoot b-roll of the bar and wine making facilities. Meredith also scheduled a private tour of the winery so we could highlight the educational process of making wine. While one of us was busy shooting the b-roll, the other two were setting up to capture a private event in the Barrel Room. By 5pm, we were ready to go. 

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For the Barrel Room event, Ceci shot photo's and ran the slider, while Nate and Dennis shot people drinking wine, talking, laughing etc. No one was using the same lens and no one was capturing the same thing. This ended up giving us tons of variety to work with in editing. 

By the time the event was winding down, live music was starting on the patio. We shot some of the musicians as to highlight LFC's support for local music. By the end of the day, we were bushed.

Video Production Success Lesson 3: Logging Footage 

That same night, we spent a few hours logging all of the footage we shot that day. After a long day like that, logging footage is the last thing you want to do. But believe us, you'll thank yourself later. Get that footage in a secure hard drive ASAP. This will also allow you to clear your SD cards and have them fresh for the following day. Also, be sure to charge all batteries for the next day as well. 

Pro-tip, have a standard process for logging footage, and double checking the footage has been logged. On top of this, have daily backups made of your log-drive. This way you always have two copies of your footage before returning to the studio. Redundancy helps reduce headaches later. Especially when you haven’t budgeted for reshoots. 

Day Two

This was a lighter day, but still required all hands on deck. Starting at 11am, we had to shoot three interviews: one of the owner, one of the manager, and one of the bartenders. Also, we had to shoot headshots of the winemaking team.

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We got there at 10am for setup. Once completed, we split up. Nate and Dennis ran a three-camera interview on the second floor of the barrel room, while Ceci shot headshots on the lower floor. Dennis had to run sound, while Nate ran cameras and asked the interview questions. It may sound daunting, but with all of the preparation, it felt more like hitting record 3 times and slating each take. Also, with our GVM automated slider, we captured some beautiful automated slider interview, it’s really like have a robot cameraman. After the interviews and headshots, we captured some drone footage of the LFC location along with a little more b-roll. By 3:30, we were on our way home. 

Ending Thoughts 

Looking back on the trip, it felt like one quick press of the shutter and we were done. The reality? Planning, scheduling, list making, and communication, made all of it possible. We left with everything we needed (and more) to create two amazing videos for Left Foot Charley. On-location productions (especially the long-hauls) are a great test for any production team. Each trip makes us wiser, stronger, and closer because of the experience.

We cant wait to get back on the road.  

Please leave any stories or tips of your experiences with traveling productions!