Any good video project takes planning and preparation to become a success, and even though you feel all set to jump into the deep end, you might want to pilot test your idea to work out the kinks in your production before show time.

A pilot is basically a small scale test of your production. This approach to testing can be seen in everything from TV production to the world of academia and no matter where you see it the main principle is the same:

Mock up so you don’t fuck up!

Traits of a pilot test

So what are the main traits of a pilot test? Good question let’s take a look;

  • It’s an execution of your project at a small scale
  • It utilizes simulation and/or mock-up situations e.g. fake interviews and staged events
  • It’s tested on a sample audience for feedback

The real strength in doing pilot testing of any kind lies in the fact that it gives you room to fail without consequences. If you mess up your pilot there will be no significant repercussions, and you will have learned a lot that can be applied to the actual video project.

Typical learnings from pilot testing

Pilot testing will give you a lot of learnings on a number of aspects of your video project.

The usual take-aways concern:

  • Feasibility – For starters, pilot testing your project will give you a general idea of how doable your project is. Often small things can prove to be a challenge, and if your idea is already giving you a lot of problems in the test phase you might want to iterate it.
  • Time – Estimating the amount of time it takes to realize a project can be very tricky. The test phase will give your a good idea of how long the different parts of your pre- and post-production will take.
  • Cost – Running a preliminary test will make the budgeting for your video project somewhat easier. You might uncover some hidden costs that have to be considered in you project.
  • Gear – This is an important one, even professionals make mistakes in their set up and you don’t want to have problems with your video filming rig on the day of your shoot. Your pilot test will give you plenty of opportunity to test your camera, lighting, post-production etc. so you don’t get caught unprepared when it counts.
  • Set up – The quality of your video can often be traced back to how you set up your shoot, and even simple situations such as interviews or b-roll takes can prove to be more tricky than anticipated. Without the stress of having to get it 100% right in your pilot, you have the time to test different set ups and learn from any mistakes you make.
  • Questioning – This one boils down to the intricacies of preparing questions for interviews. One thing is to have it all planned out on paper, another is actually conducting the interview and interacting with the interviewee. Running a mock interview will quickly give you an idea of the quality of your questions, and any need for iteration there might be.
  • Idea quality – Put simply, your test project will undoubtedly expose if your idea actually works in reality. At times ideas that seem funny, inspirational or educational on paper fall flat in reality.

Main take away

Running a pilot test of your video is a must with any new project you are planning to embark on. Even a very small scale test-run will give you valuable insights you can use in your video project, and provide you with a proof of concept to assess before jumping into the real deal.