An experienced commercial producer understands the importance of getting on the same page with both clients and agency as early as possible in the production process.
They also know that spec sheets are the perfect way to do exactly that.
In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about what spec sheets are, why they’re used, and how to create a spec sheet for yourself with our free spec sheet template.
Grab your project brief and ready your bid form. It’s time to dig into the spec sheet every commercial producer needs.
Before we get to our breakdown, take a moment to download our free spec sheet template.
Using our spec sheet template to follow along with this post will grant you deeper insight into both how spec sheets work and how to make a spec sheet work best for you on your next production.
While you’re at it, consider making a quick visit to Wrapbook’s comprehensive Resource and Template Center.This hub offers various templates from employment forms to other video project planning worksheets, including resources like call sheet templates, movie credits templates, and even NDA forms.
Now, with your free spec sheet template in hand, let’s turn our focus toward the spec sheet basics. We’ll start with a big one.
The spec sheet is an important part of the army of video production planning forms that come with any commercial production. Whether it’s a blockbuster bound for the Super Bowl or a DIY slice of branded content aimed at a niche demographic on YouTube, a spec sheet can be invaluable in moving any commercial from project brief to finished product.
In the simplest terms, a spec sheet is a sheet that lays out all the requirements of a given commercial project in as much detail as possible.
A project’s spec sheet acts as a kind of meeting place for clients, agencies, and producers. They come together to agree upon a set of expectations then codify them within the spec sheet’s margins.
If you were to think of the project brief supplied by a client as a video project outline drawn in broad strokes, then you could think of the spec sheet as a video project outline drawn in incredible detail. That doesn’t mean that spec sheets are substitutes for scripts, storyboards, shot lists, or other creative planning tools, of course, but they do document the concrete parameters that the client requires from the project and that the producer has agreed to provide.
We’ll dig deeper into the exact contents of a typical spec sheet in just a moment. But, first, let’s turn our attention to how spec sheets benefit commercial projects.
The entire point of spec sheet usage in commercial production can be summed up in one word:
Spec sheets are used to keep coordinating teams focused on the same target at the same time in the same place. They communicate specific requirements and expectations in order to cut off any chaos before it occurs.
For clients and ad agencies, spec sheets help with quality control. For producers, spec sheets ensure alignment with client and agency partners.
Consider for just one second what would happen without an accurate spec sheet if producers did not have an agreed-upon set of requirements. In such a world, producers would instead face so many phone calls, emails, and much-dreaded text messages in which no one could or would accept accountability. Commercial projects might be delivered over budget, past deadlines, and in unusable states.
In a world without spec sheets, commercial production would be such an anarchic jumble that producers would have no other alternative but to, you know, invent spec sheets.
That’s why, in figuring out how to create a spec sheet for any project, the key to the entire process is clarity. It’s in a producer’s best interest that every detail be as clear as possible as early as possible in the pre-production process. It will allow them and their crew to focus on their jobs as filmmakers from that point on.
Because what is a spec sheet that’s too vague, abstract, or complicated? What is a spec sheet that lacks clarity?
To put it simply, without clarity, the spec sheet is likewise without purpose.
And without purpose, the spec sheet will be more a torment than a tool. It might as well be lost in the ocean of other video project planning worksheets.
But we won’t let that happen to your spec sheet.
Figuring out how to make a spec sheet may seem daunting at first, but the process itself is relatively straightforward. Like most other video production planning forms, spec sheets usually contain a standardized set of information which can then be customized on a project-by-project basis.
Below, we’ll break the spec sheet down into six basic categories of information. As we review them, feel free to follow along with our free spec sheet template.
Let’s start from the top:
The general information section of a typical spec sheet contains exactly what you’d expect. It lists key creative and managerial personnel, important dates, and other organizationally critical information (like the project’s name and job reference number).
While it may seem overly obvious to list items like “client” and “director,” these details can prove valuable both in clarifying chains of communication and in keeping well-ordered business records for future reference. The general information section is thus the perfect starting point for any spec sheet.
The proposed production schedule section is critical for coordinating the production’s basic timeline. It lists target dates for all of the major milestones that your production will attempt to hit throughout its lifecycle.
Of course, it’s always possible that some of these dates will shift throughout pre-production. Shoot dates, in particular, are often subject to changes based on talent, location, or client availability.
Nevertheless, these target dates are crucial for schedule management of a given project. Producers should pay particular attention to the final delivery date, as on-time delivery (preferably accomplished under budget) is one of the most fundamental signs of a successful commercial production.
The bid specs section of your spec sheet breaks out the essential details of your initial bid. Among other details, it gives readers a projected budget total, crew size, and union status.
A seasoned producer can take one look at this section and have a reasonable idea of a production’s planned scale and scope.
The elements and materials list found within a spec sheet is arguably the most flexible and easily the most informative section within the entire document. It breaks down all the essential elements that are planned to go into a shoot and specifies whether responsibility for supplying each element falls to the producer or the client.
This latter function is of particular importance to producers because of its potential impact on the production’s budget and schedule.
If the client is paying for a particular element, that could be an advantage in the budget, but it will also require additional coordination. On the other hand, if the production is set to pay for a particular element, the producer will likely have more control over the element’s coordination, but strict attention still needs to be given to its place in both the budget and the schedule.
The deliverables list is an inventory of final products that the client expects. This section will likely include a list of video spots along with their runtimes, but may also include expectations for photo work, motion graphics, or any other materials that may be attached to the production.
In post-production, the deliverables list will act as a checklist. Once all items are locked and delivered, the producer can finish their wrap process and move on to the next production.
Last but not least, a spec sheet should contain a section for miscellaneous notes and comments.
Our spec sheet template includes prompts for a few current issues of notes that producers may want to address formally, but a notes and comments section can be expanded to cover literally any additional concerns that don’t fit neatly into another section.
Now that you know how to create a spec sheet, the trick now is to figure out how to make a spec sheet work best for your next project. Like all of Wrapbook’s video production plan templates, our free spec sheet template can be modified and customized to meet the needs of your specific production.
Looking for any other templates or resource? Be sure to check our collection for whatever you may need. Or, if you’re searching for even more in-depth breakdowns, dive into our guides to film budgets, movie credits, or call sheets, all accompanied by comprehensive templates to help you meet your next production’s needs.
At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.
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