To produce a video for your company or organization, you’ll likely need more than one person to help make it all happen. After all, video and film production requires more collaboration than any other communication medium. So as you go through the budget and review each line item, you’ll see a lot of personnel, especially in production.
DP, Gaffer, Grip, Director, Producer… There are potentially several people who can be involved in a given video production. Who are these people and do you really need them all? The answer comes down to the creative goals of your video and the scale of what you are trying to achieve. For example, a short web video of a CEO delivering a message directly to camera while sitting in his/her office, could be pulled off with 2-3 crew members – most likely, a producer, a director of photography and a teleprompter operator. While a mid-scale corporate marketing video shoot in a studio environment could have 8-12 crew members including, a hair and make-up artist, camera operators, gaffer and grips.
With all the activity going on set it can be hard to follow who is doing what. On most sets, big or small, every individual plays a key role in bringing the final product to life. On smaller sets, often times these individuals fill many roles. The key for any project is to have the right amount of people to accomplish the job, whatever the scale may be. Here are some of the key positions you may encounter on a corporate video shoot and what exactly they do.
Director / Producer – Depending on the scale of a production these can be the same person or two separate positions. The Director is in charge of overseeing all creative decisions from scripting, to directing actors (or your CEO), to supervising the final edit. The Producer is charge of the business and logistics of the production. This covers everything from budget and crewing to securing locations and production cast & crew. They ensure all elements of the production stay on-time and on-budget.
Director of Photography – This individual serves as primary camera operator, lighting and shot designer on a corporate set. They create the overall look and feel of the video through lighting design, camera movement and shot composition choices. Often times, the director and director of photography will work together before the shoot day to create a shot list (a shot by shot plan for the production).
Audio Mixer – The Audio Mixer is charge of recording good clean audio while on set, whether that be a single individual delivering a message to camera or several people walking in and out of a complicated shot.
Gaffer – The Gaffer is the chief lighting technician on set. They are in charge of working with the director of photography to practically implement his / her lighting design. They ensure the correct lighting fixtures, power and all the needed accessories are available and where they need to be.
Key Grip / Swing – On a large set, there are several grips handling specific jobs, but on smaller corporate productions, there is generally one individual who takes care of all camera and lighting rigging and general power needs. This is the Key Grip / Swing. Swing meaning; they ‘swing’ between rigging and electrical work.
Hair / Make-Up – This individual makes the on-screen talent look they’re absolute best.
Teleprompter Operator – The teleprompter operator runs the teleprompter, which allows on-screen talent to read a script while looking directly into camera. The teleprompter is mounted on the camera lens and is operated through a laptop.
Other crew members might include a set builder, art director, assistant camera person for complex camera setups, jib operator for sweeping camera moves, dolly grip for moving shots, production assistants for moving gear around and other odds and ends… and that just covers the production. Other teams work on your video from concept (writer, casting, locations) through post-production (editing, music, color correction, etc).
On small productions one person may wear many of these hats but rarely if ever can you find someone who can do everything themselves. This collaborative nature is part of what sets video production apart. As the production gets larger and a greater level of complexity (and sometimes quality) is required, specialists take on each role. The production company and producer you work with will help you navigate the various options and help build a production plan that is right for you and your project.