How to Map Out Your Video Production With Blocking

Heard of blocking? In theater, blocking is used to figure out the exact staging of actors so that their performance is never obstructed from the audience. They do the same thing in video, and you should be doing something similar with your screencasts.

Have you ever planned a video production, either a screencast or a video recording, and had it end up nothing at all like you envisioned it? What caused the deviation from your plan? Was it a change in direction that came late? Was it the sudden addition of new information or assets? Or was it that things just didn’t work out the way you had expected?

Most of the time, the reason things don’t turn out the way we expected was because we failed to plan thoroughly. Sure things still work out most of the time, but it takes a lot more work in the middle of a project, and sometimes you can lose focus. I am assuming this is due to our expectation for instant gratification that we have developed thanks to fast internet, search engines, and online purchasing.

Blocking, as I mentioned at the beginning, is a key part of good planning. If you’re not pulling out a camera, blocking a screencast means thinking out your space from start to finish. Your stage is only 16×9, and your information has to fit comfortably and clearly. Plotting your course ahead of time will save you time and energy in the long run.

In the video below, you’ll see an example of how I did the blocking for the live-action eLearning Brothers video.

The major points of my blocking diagram tend to be potential obstructions on my set, camera and actor movement, and lighting.

  • Potential obstructions may be tables, walls, televisions, chairs, desks, couches, and other things that you may find in any particular room. Not mapping out your area means that your plan to move through a room with ease falls apart because you found yourself bumping and dodging all kinds of things. You may want to have a plan for someone to bring in a piece of furniture mid-shot so that you don’t hit it, but that the item is there later in your shot.
  • Camera and actor movement will need to be planned and, many times, rehearsed. A shot you envision in your head as being smooth and pleasing to the eye may turn out to be horrible when tried out practically. Designing the shot ahead of time will help to alleviate this issue, but rehearsing it is always a good plan. Even if you don’t get your camera all the way out, walking through the movement while looking through your cupped hands can help you find problems that you didn’t envision.
  • Lighting is extremely important to map out. For some reason, our minds don’t naturally plan lighting for a camera. It will take practice to train yourself not to disregard the lights in relation to you as a camera operator. In my blocking diagram, I discovered that I was going to end up in front of a light, and that would create shadows on my actress. I then had to plan to come to the side of the light rather than directly in front of it, and consider raising my light to be above my head and shine downward on my actress.

In next week’s blog we’ll discuss production tips such as using a slate (or clapboard), microphones for live-action video, and more lighting techniques. Many of these things must be considered beforehand while blocking and white balancing.

This blog is the fifth in a series documenting the production process in producing a company video for eLearning Brothers. The series will cover several items from pre-production, to production, to post-production. Click here to view the previous blog in the series (Pre-Production Meetings).

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