How To Create A Documentary Video For Your Business

A documentary video, with the insight and education it provides to viewers, can be a real asset to your business. If you’ve got a topic you really care about, you can make a documentary video about it. All you need to do is follow the steps in this blog post!


What is a documentary?

A documentary is a film or video that documents reality, usually following a narrative, place or people over a certain period. A documentary video usually aims to uncover hidden truths about the subject, or at least shine a light on issues that were previously in the dark.

For example, check out this documentary video we produced for Bodyform in collaboration with Finn Communications.

The documentary smashed stigmas surrounding menstruation and made for really insightful viewing with groups of young boys discussing periods – unheard of!


What can a documentary video do for my business?

If you want to connect with your audience, it’s important that you don’t just bombard them with sales messages. You’ve got to bring value and insight to your content – otherwise, they’ll quickly be out the door!

Therefore, making a documentary video for your business can attract new customers and retain new ones. They’ll be thirsty for more knowledge and stories from your business – which means you’ll need to keep up the good work!


But before you get too excited, you need to know how to actually make the thing! Thankfully, we’ve pulled together some key steps in creating a documentary video for you to remember.


Stage 1: Planning


To make a great documentary video, you need to do lots of planning and research beforehand. The same goes for all videos you may produce, but with documentaries, you need to take special care with this stage.


Do you care about the story you’re telling?

Firstly, you need to be sure of your passion for the project. Documentaries are all about deep-diving into a topic, uncovering truths, giving voices to the unheard and having a profound emotional impact on the viewer.

Making a documentary video isn’t just a tick-box exercise; you need to truly care about the story you want to tell for it to succeed. If you don’t, it will show in your documentary – in the footage you didn’t get, in the interviews that don’t go deep enough and in the viewer’s feeling of wanting more.


Do lots of research about your topic

Unless you are going into your documentary video blind in a Louis Theroux-style investigation, you’ll want to know your topic pretty well beforehand. This will ensure you know all the best questions to ask – and not the obvious ones you could easily answer yourself after a bit of research.

As a result, you’ll be able to take the viewer even further into the topic and uncover things deep under the surface.


Make a plan and outline for your documentary video

To ensure your documentary video production goes as smoothly as possible, draw up a detailed but clear outline. The better this outline is, the quicker and more easily you can actually film your documentary.

For example, make a shot list. What exact things do you want to shoot, and when? This includes filler footage, or b-roll. In addition, think about your interviewees. Who do you want to talk to? What do you want to talk to them about? How will these interviews slot into the wider documentary?


Gather your video production equipment

To make a high-quality documentary video, you need high-quality video production equipment.

However, this doesn’t always have to equate to big, bulky kit. In fact, you’ll find the most flexibility with smaller equipment you can easily carry with you on the go. For example, if your documentary goes on the road, you’ll want to keep the equipment light. Just make sure you don’t sacrifice quality in the process of trying to lighten the load!

An example of a handy piece of video production equipment for a documentary is a gimbal. This is a small camera accessory that uses motors and intelligent sensors to move your camera around and achieve really slick, smooth shots.

Above all, make sure you have high-quality sound equipment. People will forgive dodgy camerawork, but they will never forgive bad sound.


Check legal, copyright and ethical issues before shooting

Before you film any locations or people for your documentary video, make sure you have permission to do so. Not just for legal and copyright reasons, but for ethical reasons, too. Do you have your subjects’ consent to film them, and are you harming or putting them in danger in any way by doing so?

These are really important things to check before jumping into a documentary project, especially if you’re covering quite a sensitive or controversial topic.


Stage 2: Filming your documentary


You’re finally filming your documentary video! However, before you start rolling, you should think about these aspects of the shoot.


Get a variety of shots to keep things interesting

If this is your first time making a documentary video, you may not be aware of all the different shot types you can take advantage of.

Try these out:

  • Vlogs (the cameraperson holding and speaking to the camera on the go)
  • Talking heads (filming people straight-on; usually interviews)
  • A-roll (your best footage that focuses on the main topic)
  • B-roll (filler footage that doesn’t necessarily mean anything – for example, crowds walking along a street)
Filming interviews

Here are a few tips to ensure your interviews make pleasant viewing.

  • Make the setting comfortable for the interviewee, and quiet so there are no disruptions or distractions
  • Choose emotive interviewees that will, in turn, bring out an emotional response in the viewer and add to the overall impact of the documentary video
  • Have good lighting to make the interview more appealing to watch
Keep your footage safe and organised

During the shooting period, make sure you are filing your footage away regularly in a well-organised folder. As a result, you’ll make it much easier for yourself when you get to editing.

We recommend an external hard drive with lots of storage and a secure cloud you can upload your footage to. Having shared cloud storage will also help if you are working with someone else on the documentary video.


Stage 3: Editing and distribution

Editing your documentary video

When you edit your documentary video, we recommend going through a few different edits.

For edit 1, gather all the good footage you captured and scrap the rest. Edit 2 should be a further cut of edit 1, making the documentary an appropriate length. For edit 3, add your b-roll to fill it out and give your viewers a breather.

Finally, in edit 4, add all your extra decorative bits – animations, transitions, etc. You may also have a narrative voiceover running through it; if so, you should have already written a script for this and recorded the audio.

Hopefully, you won’t have to make any further edits to your documentary video than that. However, even if you do, it’s all part of the journey to a finished video you’re happy with. Whichever way you get there, you should be proud of what you’ve achieved!


Distributing your documentary video

Finally, you can share your documentary video with the world! Depending on the purpose of your documentary and how much money you have, you’ll either share it in cinemas, on TV, DVD, streaming or YouTube.

As well as distributing, make sure you SHOUT about your new documentary video to get the word out. After all, you’ve worked very hard to make it, and it deserves to be seen!


So, there’s our guide to creating a documentary video. We hope it has made you more confident to pick up that camera and capture what you’re truly passionate about. And once you’ve made one documentary, you’ll be itching to make more!


Need more help creating your documentary video? Stada Media provides bespoke video production to businesses large and small across the UK, including documentaries. Have a story in your company you want to tell? We’re here to help you put it on screen.

Find out more about our documentary videos service here, and get in touch with us about video production here.

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