Guide Video

The Documentary Production Process Explained

A man recording a documentary on set

When looking for new ways to express your thoughts, feelings, and passions, documentary filmmaking stands as one of the most powerful and eye-catching ways to really go into detail on what you want to express to a wider audience.

However, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy. It’s one of the most meticulous and tough things you’ll ever do, but at the same time, one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever accomplish when it’s released the the general public.

That’s why we’re here to give you some basic principles and guidelines that are typically followed when you’re looking at documentary production for your business or solo project.

What is Documentary Production?

In simple terms, documentary production is pretty much everything that goes into making a documentary what it is. From planning and recording to editing and publishing, documentary production encapsulates everything as one.

The purpose of a documentary is to make the biggest impact on the audience as possible when creating long-form content about a particular topic, issue, or real-life event. Therefore, production for all aspects of this to capture it in the most captivating way requires a lot of different stages in order to make sure it’s to the highest standard.


The Documentary Production Process

Whether you’re a business wanting to sell a product or are just passionate about certain topics within your industry, documentaries can be made for anything. Yet, the steps that it takes to do that are not easy, but also thrilling at the same time. Let’s run through the documentary production process step-by-step:


1. It All Starts With Ideation and Development

It doesn’t matter how good your equipment is or how many social media followers you have to push your work; if you don’t start with an idea, nothing will ever come of anything. Everything starts with ideas and back-and-forth conversations with the people closest to you, or within your company.

Finding what you’re passionate about and feel is so-called ‘documentary worthy’ is not easy but often comes naturally from what you experience day to day. Therefore, if you feel as though one of the six types of documentaries may be beneficial to you, looking inward may help you come up with ideas and concept developments.

However, once you have an idea, the research must begin. Becoming a reporter and journalist as the filmmaker by putting hours of research into these topics is the process that must be taken if you want a successful documentary to come of it.

Thus, exploring books, articles, videos, podcasts, and any other forms of content related to your idea for the documentary is absolutely quintessential in creating the most balanced and interesting documentary.


2. Pre-Production Planning

Now that you’ve thought about what you want the documentary to be and researched heavily into the subject matter and gathered all the facts, figures, and interesting stories that you can use, it’s time to actually begin the planning process of how you’re going to express this narrative.

In this process, you’re going to have to look and begin planning things like:

These are the core aspects of pre-production that you need to plan before creating your documentary. If you want a meaningful, powerful, and impactful documentary, you’re not going to be able to hit them goals alone. You need others around you in every stage of the documentary production process.

The Guide at Eurovision in Liverpool

3. Making Your Documentary (Production)

With all the planning done and every in place for you to create your documentary, it’s now time to actually record the footage and make your story come true through raw, unfiltered video. Having your production team think of the different styles of shots they can use or the type of emotion they want to convey through it will be essential to creation.

Whether you want to carry out 1-to-1 interviews in close proximity, want to shoot B-roll footage of locations, or just show unfiltered behind-the-scenes footage, this will all be clear and accessible if you choose the right production team to take these creative shots.

Without a doubt, in the production phase, you have to ensure that you have expert videographers, cinematographers, the best lighting setups, great sound systems, and many more because you’re never going to grab the attention and emotions of your audience with low-quality and unplanned footage.


4. Post-Production Editing and Refining

After your entire recording process, which can take a few weeks, you now have all the compiled footage that you planned to have at this stage and now it’s a case of putting it together in a way that’s appealing when it goes out to the audience. Often, this can be the longest part of the process, as you need to make sure:

Ultimately, you want the final product to not only hit the right audience, but look how you want it to look, sound how you want it to sound, and come across the way you want it to come across. The atmosphere, emotion, passion, etc., all have to be aligned for a successful documentary so going through this with professional editors to maximise your documentary’s potential is vital.


5. Sending it Out to the Right Audience

Once everything is now complete and you have everything set in the right places, you’ve watched it back and you’re happy with how it looks, sounds, and feels, you need to actually present it to the audience that is going to respond well to it.

To do this, you’re going to have to have social media channels open, so you can send it to your existing audience. Yet, to make the most of what we have access to nowadays, sending it to theatres, television, streaming services, film festivals, and many more.

Getting it out there is incredibly important; otherwise, there would’ve been no point in making it. Thus, if you’re also in the filmmaking industry, this will be helpful because, if it’s an interesting topic, event, or issue, word of mouth will also get your documentary seen.


In Roundup

Regardless of the project you’re currently thinking about publishing, if you believe your story, the issue, or the real-life event is powerful enough, then it’s worth creating a documentary about. However, without the best equipment, producers, and videographers, it’s pretty hard to get recognised and create the impact you want.

At Guide Video, we’re video production experts and have worked with the likes of Eurovision, Liverpool Football Club, the NHS, and many more along the way in creating powerful marketing videos for them all.

If you think your business idea or solo project could benefit from creating a documentary, we can help you through the entire documentary production process, from start to finish. Get in touch with us today by calling 0151 702 0140 or clicking below to speak to a member of our team. We look forward to hearing about your project!


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