Unit 1 - Planning

Welcome to our first unit. Below you will find all of the information needed to complete this unit. The information builds on itself in a linear fashion. I recommended that you follow the unit in order. However, if you have experience and want to jump ahead please feel free.

Photo by Chris Campbell CC


1. Participants will recognize the need for planning when creating an audio or video piece.

2. Participants will develop a plan (including why, what and how) for an audio or video production of their choice.


This unit explores the reason to plan as well as the details of exactly what needs to be considered for audio or video productions.

Many people want to jump right in and shoot something, or record their podcast before taking the time to think about the many details involved with the task. While this enthusiasm is terrific, failing to plan will make your project more difficult than it needs to be.

In the following sections you will read and watch materials relating to the pre-production process. Next, there are several exercises and a culminating reflection to complete before moving on to Unit 2.


Mini-course Reading

What do you want to create, and how are you going to make it happen?

When beginning any design process, not just a media project, the first step is to have an idea. From there you begin to flesh out the details of making it happen and often shaping your ideas to fit your resources. Media projects are just the same.

When working with audio and video the resources available should influence your decisions about the scope and design of the project. It would be incredible if we could all make movies with as many special effects as a big-budget action film, but educators do not have the technological capabilities or the budgets to make it happen.

Planning versus Magic

When planning a project it is essential to remain realistic. Too often educators dream up ideas without recognizing their practical limits. I refer to this as the "as if by magic" problem. Unless you critically examine and plan how every detail will be accomplished, it is easy to fall into the "as if by magic" trap:

  • "And then she will vanish in a puff of smoke," as if by magic.
  • "Then we will have a rapid montage of pictures cut to this piece of techno music," as if by magic.
  • "The intro music will fade under and Tom's podcast plays," as if by magic.

Making the "magic" happen is hard work with lots of details to consider. A realistic take on the above:

  • My friend Jim, the licensed pyrotechnician, will trigger the smoke pot. Sandy will drop to her knees a safe distance from the flash pot and crawl off camera.
  • I will supply the 200 pictures to Kate, our editor, in a file format she can read. Next, I will get the rights to use that awesome piece of techno and provide Kate a high-quality audio file for her to use in editing.
  • I will create two audio tracks in my editing program and fade down the level of the intro music, which is from our collection of rights-free music, as I fade up the level of Tom's recorded podcast.

Step by Step Planning

  • Define your audience and message. Who do you need/want to reach? What are their expectations? How will they receive your message? What do you want to communicate?
  • What is the best imagery and/or audio to communicate your message to your audience?
  • Figure out what resources are available. Consider everything: cameras, microphones, editing software, helpful tech people, lights, tripods, computers, time, and people you have available.
  • Recognize that the resources available will not allow you to perfectly fulfill your initial vision. Even the most well-known Hollywood directors face limitations to their vision.
  • Take the limitations you face and re-shape your vision. Finding ways to get your message out in an exciting way with limited resources is the key. While challenging, this can be a fun process!
  • Next, create a detailed plan. This will include:
  • outline or script of final product
  • production timeline and schedule
  • shot list
  • locations
  • participants needed for each piece
  • physical equipment needed for each location
  • post-production needs (editing, storing files, music, etc.)

For even more details jump ahead to the 'Planning Your Project' section and take a look at the worksheets for pre-production planning, or check out the links in the 'Additional Resources' section.

Linked Readings


Video 1:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Why is Pre-Production Critical to Shooting Video?' by Reel Rebel

Video 2:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'How to Make a Podcast Part 1: Planning and Preparation' by videojug

Learning Exercise

Learning to see the many elements that contribute to the success or failure of a piece of video (or audio) is the first step in being able to produce a high-quality project.

Here is an exercise that will get you asking the right questions:

  1. Go to YouTube in another browser tab or window.
  2. Search for a video on a topic you like. If you're drawing a blank, science topics usually have a wealth of options.
  3. Watch the video from beginning to end.
  4. Is the video you found something you would be proud to have created? If 'Yes' carry on with the following step. If 'No' repeat search until you succeed.

When you have a video selected open the file below and complete the worksheet. You might find it is easiest to print the worksheet and fill it out as you watch the video.

Unit 1 Learning Activity Worksheet: File:ALBUnit1LearningExercise.pdf

Plan Your Project

Throughout this mini-course you will be creating a final project of your choice. This can be an audio or video production on any topic you'd like. Remember, the design process begins with an idea, so take the time to think about what you would like to create. When you have an idea download and complete the worksheet below.

These worksheets will guide you through the pre-production process for your project. Please select Video or Audio to reflect your choice of medium.

Reading the materials found in the Additional Resources section will provide you even more information and guidance in the pre-production process.

Additional Resources


Use the discussion tab at the top of this page to answer the following questions:

Select the 'Discussion' tab located next to 'Page' on the top left corner of this screen.
Select 'Edit' from the tabs on the right.
Type or Copy & Paste your reflection into the space provided
  1. How have your thoughts about production changed over the course of this unit?
  2. What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in planning an audio or video production?
  3. What aspects of planning and producing do you feel most comfortable with at this stage?

Next Steps

Continue to Unit 2 - Audio


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