May 14, 2014By Lance Baily

Pre-Production; How To Plan Your Sim Lab Video Project

Recently a Simulation Technician wrote me the following email:

“Hi Lance! I just read your article on “Editing Basics for Sim Lab Video Productions” – I have a BA in Computer Art & Design and took a lot of secondary classes in Communication, video editing, and production so I can attest that you did a great job on the videos! In my previous career I created a lot of safety and training videos so it was exciting to see how I could bring those skills to the Sim Lab. 

I was wondering what YOUR process is for creating a video for the Sim Lab. Do you come up with what you want to communicate, write the script, do a storyboard and then shoot it, followed by editing? (this was my method) I work with very non technical people that don’t get the whole storyboarding thing, they want to just start shooting.”

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Well dear reader – my process is similar because that’s how it should be done! Why? Well big-time Hollywood Producers are spending thousands of dollars per minute during large productions, and so a lot of cheaper pre-production (aka planning) goes into the shot before the camera and actors ever step foot in the final set. Think about it like this, cameras, lights, grips (the folks that carry heavy set equipment around), sets, actors, locations and crew cost a great deal to rent or hire — and so producers and directors try to plan out as much as possible beforehand so that when the “camera is rolling”, everyone can just get the shot at move on. By sitting down ahead of time, the script writer, director of photographer, and director work with a story board artist to create a quick visual ‘shot by shot’ plan for how the camera angles, special effects, actors, and scenes will unfold. While it’s not always perfect, this story board provides scene builders like props, hair and makeup, wardrobe and other crew a better idea of what the general plan is.

Because it takes a lot of time and money to move all of the equipment and people to new locations, scenes that take place at different parts of the movie but which occur at the same location are shot during the same time frame. And this concept — is the biggest time and money saver for your simulation program. Imagine that you are renting a local video production company to shoot a virtual tour for your simulation center. You would need to schedule rooms in advance so that the production did not interfere with student learning. Because you only have the production crew for eight hours and it takes an hour to have lights, cameras, tracks, and other production equipment to move and setup, you will want to minimize the number of times this has to happen — and get all the shots you need in the space you have scheduled when you are there.

Thus, pre-production, aka planning – will enable everyone involved with the production to determine what locations, people and equipment are necessary ahead of time so that you can maximize efforts and reduce costs. Even if you are just shooting something with your own team and don’t have any rental costs — there is no point in coming up with a plan while 5 other faculty members, 10 students, and 2 sim techs wait around. The concept is the same — those people are being paid to come up with a plan as opposed to just taking action to produce the plan which was done between just two people weeks before.

Pick Roles and Stick to Them

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Because productions don’t always logistically work out as planned, someone on your team in charge of the actual production should have the “final say”. Having too many cooks in the kitchen will mean your production will get bogged down by last-minute ideas or fixes. If an idea is good and you have time for it — shoot it, but create the hierarchy in your group to know where the “buck stops” so that small projects do not become month long headaches. At minimum, you should have a writer, a director, and an actor. The camera person and editor could be the director but its good to have those be separate jobs as well. Teamwork will produce a better project but a “final call” veto will empower your production to actually get finished. If there are more production ideas — setup a time for yet another video!

How to Create Your Story

Obviously every story should have a beginning, middle and end. If your your faculty member has an idea for a video production but only knows the part they want — thats ok. Sit down with them and bullet point out in an outline style the various big picture items and smaller individual components they want to produce. This way you are sure to cover all the points that are important to capture with your production crew ahead of  time, which will mean you can better plan out how long certain scenes to will take — which means you can schedule the right people accordingly!

 Outlining A Sim Lab Orientation Video example:

  • Wide of the Entire Sim Lab on one shot, then:
    • Nurses Desk
      • Calculator
      • Patient Chart
      • Phone System
  • Manikin
    • Head
      • Eyes
        • Pupil Dilation
        • Nose
          • NG Tube insertion
        • Mouth
          • Intubation procedures
          • Cyanosis
    • Upper Torso
      • Auscultation points
      • Chest Rise and Fall
      • Etc.
    • Etc.
  • Crash Cart
    • Etc.

I cover this in more detail through my article on Sim Lab Video Production.

StoryBoard Means Efficiency

Your storyboard does not need to be a work of art – just some basic concepts so that communication regarding the plan can be visually understood by those helping with the production. Look at the chicken-scratches below which anyone can clearly understand as indicators of movement and action. Storyboarding also helps prevent people from saying “Oh we will fix it in post”.

storyboarding a sim lab video

Lastly, give yourselves a deadline. This will help your team to understand that this project is time sensitive and that everyone involved should take it seriously. If you waste peoples time, they will be less likely to want to help you with future video productions — and so having someone be in charge with the power to say “no” will help the production move along in a way that respects everyone involved!

Note sure what a video can do for your sim lab? Check out my article on “Why Video Production Can Save Your Sim Program Big Money!


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