Business Men in Suits, Blue Tone Colors

Getting Proper Permission and Releases for Video Production

Disclaimer: This article does not represent legal advice

Without wanting to put a damp squib on a brilliant idea – have you thought about the permissions you might need to fulfil your brief?

Seeking permission to film is a key part of the pre-production stage of video production – without proper permission, ugly legal action can ensue in short and long term.

Attaining proper releases concerns locations and people as well as forms of visual and audio content such as logos, trademarks and music.

Location Permission

Unless it’s your own premises, filming on location will require permission. Rules vary widely and some locations may also charge a fee. For example, this short piece entitled “Gone Punting” required a licence from the Conservators of the River Cam to film on the River (along the Backs). We also required permission from Kings College – which was granted for one day only.

Business Men in Suits, Blue Tone Colors

Another short piece “Shopping in Cambridge” required permission from the Centre Administrator. Filming had to take place at an agreed time – we supplied copies of our Public Liability Insurance, completed risk assessment forms and agreed not to focus on any shop fronts or go inside the stores. I was actually pleased to note that on the day we were questioned by security (and passed the test!), which made me feel confident that public areas are closely monitored.

In fact, for a four minute video to promote the Cambridge Ambassador Programme, 35 individual permissions were sought and granted. This takes time – so remember to allow for it in your production schedule.

People Permission Releases

When it comes to including people – we work on the basis that if someone is in front of the camera talking to us – this means they are happy to be included on the video! However, it is always best to get permissions in writing if participants are identifiable and we regularly ask people to complete a release form. This is particularly important if children are to be included (a parental signature is required).

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you shoot a crowd scene of people in a public area, you generally do not need a video release form from every person in the crowd. By being in a public area, we all give up our ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.' Again, if filming an event we make sure that we have approval / accreditation from the organisers and don’t just turn up!

Visual Content Permission

This can be the trickiest part of a video production; preparing the key message, writing the script and preparing the ‘set’ so that everything looks great, sounds great and meets the defined objectives.

Originality is important, not only to generate real interest in the video, but also to avoid copyright infringement. Take a look at this YouTube video:

Audio Content Permission

A good soundtrack can be make or break to audience engagement and sharing. Music supports visual content and also helps keep a pace and level of interest to the finished edit.

Serious Business Man

Unfortunately this isn’t as simple as selecting a song from your iTunes library. YouTube’s Audio ID technology automatically scans and detects copyrighted songs inside videos and, depending on who owns the rights, disables the audio or serves additional advertising on the video that is paid back to the rights holder.

There are numerous websites available for sourcing royalty free production music (which can include custom productions): our current favourite is

Also be sure to check out a Neil Davidson's article here on Reel Designer: 4 Resources & Tips: Choosing Music Tracks for Corporate Video Production

Do it Right, The First Time

It may take time, but getting the permissions you need before a project commences could save much time and effort (including re-edits) later on. Good Luck – ask me any questions you have below as a comment!

Luan Wise

1 comment

  • Very informative article, thank you – shall be paying close attention to the advice here! 🙂

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