Planning A Shoot With Inspiration 9

by Ibarionex Perello

December 10, 2012

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from creating videos with an HDSLR is the importance of planning. Though it’s easy to produce amazing video clips from today’s cameras, putting them all together for a satisfying and effective video is another matter.

Though many people say that the “magic happens in the editing,” I have found that the best editing experiences have always begun with solid planning before a single pixel is exposed to light.The editing process quickly reveals the lack of planning. This can be reflected in realizing you don’t have enough material to shape a story, or that you have far more footage than you need to achieve your goal.

To help formulate a plan for a shoot, the team I normally work with creates what’s called a “mind-map,” or a visual diagram allowing us to not only create an outline for a project, but also provides the means by which we can see how everything is interconnected.

The software we prefer is Inspiration 9, one of the most popular applications of its kind. It provides a form of visual mapping, which is a great tool whether you’re brainstorming an idea, planning a shoot, or trying to plan an edit even before you’ve placed the clips on your video editing timeline.

I’ve never been one for producing a traditional outline, but Inspiration 9 makes it easy to organize my thoughts, ideas and plans on the computer screen.

Above: By using Inspiration 9’s Diagram View, I can easily plan and review each step of a video shoot from pre-production to post-production.

Using the software’s Diagram View and its RapidFire feature, I can begin from a primary concept or goal, and expand on it, as well as plan what I need in order to achieve it.

We can start with an idea for a video and break up into our pre-production, production and post-production sections. Beneath each item, we detail the goals and tasks that need to be fulfilled in order to complete each phase of production. This can include research, scheduling, equipment lists, storyboards, etc.

Inspiration 9 creates an intuitive web-like visual map for ideas, allowing me to see each step necessary to pull off the project. The software is so adaptable, it lets me not only create text blocks, but also use images or icons to represent important thoughts. I also can attach detailed notes to any entry, which appears as a sticky note.

Above: The software offers different views of your project, including Diagram View, Map View, Outline View and Presentation Manager.

If you are more of a traditionalist, you can simply click on the Outline view, and the web-like mind-map is transformed into a standard outline format. 

However, I prefer the Diagram View because it’s far easier for me to scan the plan, and quickly and clearly identify omissions or concerns with the production. This also makes it easier for all the members of the team to do the same thing and make suggestions by adding notes to any single entry. As I usually place the file in my Dropbox folder, it’s accessible to anyone on the team at anytime. This is extremely important so that every member of the team has an understanding of not only the story we are trying to tell, but also how each person’s role is contributing to the look, feel and ultimate success of the project.

As I use the software to plan an entire shoot, I can also use it to refine the story I’m working toward. For example, because many of the videos I produce are profile pieces, they often revolve around interviews with my subjects. This process begins with a pre-interview, occurring over the phone before the shoot day, allowing me to narrow down the focus of our conversation and providing ideas for the types of visuals I’ll need to tell the story.

I can then create a rough storyboard for the shoot, especially when it comes to the B-roll, which is the secondary footage that will be used by the editor to produce the completed piece. Because I don’t have drawing skills to produce a traditional illustrated storyboard, Inspiration 9 provides the means by which I can structure my overall story as well as emphasizing what visuals I believe are necessary.

To me, the big advantage of the software is the speed in which I can document my ideas and reorganize or amend them. Creating a traditional outline with Roman numerals and letters was always a cumbersome process that slowed me down when I was trying to put my ideas on paper. Inspiration 9 frees me to see what I am thinking and considering almost instantaneously, which for me is a huge advantage.

The software, available for both Mac and PC, is affordable at only $59 for download or $65 for download and CD back-up. 

Find out more about Inspiration 9 by visiting

Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer and the host and producer of The Candid Frame photography podcast ( He is also the author of Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography Using Available Light and 5D Mark III: From Snapshots to Great Shots, both from Peachpit Press.

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