We know you want to create videos but many of you don’t really know where to start. Sure the cameras and software are cheap and plentiful but even you realize there’s more to it than just pointing a camera and yelling “Action!” Creating effective videos is not simply about having the cheap tools, it’s also the creative and professional knowledge to make something that well represents who you are and is effective at getting your message delivered.
Walter Biscardi, Jr. directing an original television pilot on location.
Understanding The Grey Nature of Video Production
Video production is one of THE most subjective services on the planet. We work squarely in shades of grey, far FAR more than 50 shades. There is absolutely no black and white descriptors on how we do what we do. If you ask us to create a training video for your team, we don’t have a “training video manual” with step by step instructions on what your video should be. If you ask for a commercial campaign, there’s no book with “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3” to making a commercial. There’s no formula to anything we do in video production that if we add up all the elements and it equals “X” then we know we’ve done our job correctly. It doesn’t exist.
The quality and success of a video production rests solely on the video professional understanding your exact needs and then producing something that exceeds your expectations. You alone are the judge of whether the video production company has “succeeded” or “failed” in their work. Everything we do is subjective, we’ve done our job when you are happy and the project is effective to meet your needs.
Heather using a camera slider on location for a corporate process video.
What Have You Done Lately?
The easiest way to start your search is to look at demonstrations from the video professionals you’re considering for the job. Everyone should have video samples online. Have they done work that is similar in scope to what you’re looking for? If not, but you like what you see otherwise, reach out and see if they have any examples that might not be online. There’s no better way to get a quick gauge on the quality and range of video production by an individual or production company than to look at their samples.
What Am I Comparing?
Generally one of the first things that jumps out at you is the quality of the lighting and sound in a project. Projects that are well lit in a very natural way or in a way that enhances the storyline and message will stand out as “more professional” or “more cinematic.” If the lighting is flat or overdone, it has a “corporate” or “talking head” feel to it. A great way to really see the difference for those of you with Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime is to watch an episode of a sitcom or drama shot in the 70’s or 80’s. Look at how bright and flat the sets are because the cameras back then couldn’t work in lower light. Now compare that with just about anything shot today and you’ll notice just how natural and often how dark the sets are because today’s cameras and digital formats allow a lot more latitude in lighting and finishing. “House of Cards” on Netflix is an extreme example of using a lot of darkness in scenes.
The sound quality and mix is something you may not consciously pay attention to, but it does affect your perception of the finished product and message. In fact audio is generally FAR more important than video when it comes to your video project. The audio is what distinguishes really good messages from “ok” messages. Quality music, sound effects and sound elements, mixing the sound to the proper levels all greatly influence the viewing experience and the audience perception of your message. Music Libraries especially distinguish video production companies as it’s an easy area to ‘go cheap’ to save money on project, but going cheap on music generally leads to less than desirable cuts of music. Quality video professionals pay a lot of attention to detail to the sound mix so as you compare production companies listen to the sound mix, the music and the extras that make the messages stand out above the others.
What Should I Know Before I Call?
Good creative video professionals can start out with the proverbial blank canvas. However, one of the best pieces of information that helps in planning out a project is knowing who your audience is going to be and how the video is going to be displayed. A video designed to be played in a noisy convention center during a trade show needs completely different considerations than a safety training video to be played in a classroom. A television commercial designed to launch a new product during the biggest football game of the year needs completely different considerations than a marketing campaign designed to roll out on mobile devices. A independent film aiming at national film festivals needs different considerations than an original television pilot.
So at the very least, ‘start from the end’ of ‘this is how we will use the video and this is how we will display it’ and that allows the video production company to design and shape your project to best deliver your message.
What Am I Listening For In Our First Meeting?
When meeting with the video professional, either via phone/video conference or in person, are they asking you a lot of questions? As a video production company, we have to come to you with a lot of questions to fully understand not only what you’d like us to produce, but also how you’re going to use and display it. This greatly influences how a project will be produced, the type of equipment & personnel we’ll require and how the finished product will be created. For example a project created for mobile devices will generally require the primary graphics to be a bit larger due to the smaller screens vs. something that is created to play back on a 50″ or larger screen.
If the video professional is talking a lot about the equipment, the technology and generally filling the conversation with technobabble, that is generally a sign that they have a pre-conceived notion of what they want to produce for you. They ‘understand video’ and talking about all this technology with the latest cameras, aerial gadgets and such is serving to impress you with their vast array of “stuff.” But are they actually listening to you? The project you are asking for is unique to anyone else and the project should be produced as such.
The time to talk technology is only what something particular is required to serve the needs of your project. In the first discussion with a video production company, the discussion should center around you and your needs. Not what we, as a video production company, have already pre-determined for you before we even meet. You can spot the pre-determined projects right away when you look at those demonstrations and samples on the various production company websites. Do multiple projects for multiple clients look very similar? Are they produced in what appears to be a “cookie cutter” style even using the same music and graphics style? Those companies came in with a “here’s what you get” mentality.
A true production partner comes in and listens to you, THEN builds a plan around what you really need.
Michael mixing the sound at Biscardi Creative Media for the original PBS television series, “This American Land.”
Can They Deliver?
There’s no better reference for video production services than word of mouth. Look at the testimonials on the websites but then go beyond that and ask the companies for references you can talk to. Preferably someone in the same type of industry or field or need as what you are going for. All video production companies are swell when you first meet with them, but what are they like to work with during the project? How did they handle change and revisions? Did they deliver the project on time and on budget? If not, how were the budget changes handled?
Most importantly, have you or would you work with that company again and why? We’re in a creative and sometimes very stressful field. You want to make sure that the people you’re going to work with are both professional and pleasant to work with. And that they will actually deliver what they promise.
What’s This Going To Cost?
Many video production companies and video professionals have pre-set packages for simple projects. Particularly on the lower budget scale. But for the most part, what’s created for you is going to be custom priced based on the needs of your particular project.
$1,000 – $10,000 is the general range for simpler videos that involve 1 – 2 days of video production either on site or in a production facility, a few days of editing and some graphics, music and sound mix. Generally you have a very good idea of what you want, there is minimal scripting (or possibly no scripting) to be done and you probably play a more active role in the development of the project vs. bringing in a writers and other creative team members.
$10,000 – $50,000 is the general range for more complex projects that require more time to develop, possibly additional days of video production or larger crews, and more time in the post production process of editing, sound and graphics. Generally more creative is brought into the pre-production aspect of the project such as writers and such. You’re still overseeing this project, but more of the overall design and execution is handled directly by the creative team.
$50,000+ is for projects that are larger in scope or require much more creative direction such as national commercials, indie / feature films, product launches and marketing campaigns, live events or major trade show events. A lot more creative becomes involved in the early stages such as writers, creative designers and more. Video shooting often gets more complex and the post production and finishing is generally much more refined.
As with anything else, the more time and money you have to put towards a project, the more the project can be custom tailored to meet your exact needs. Sharing your “not to exceed” budget with a production company up front can yield a much better project from the start. If the video professional knows your top dollar budget going in, the project can be designed around that budget. Otherwise a completely unrealistic budget may be presented and then you have to start over designing something completely different.
This happens often as many people simply don’t realize all the costs involved with the production quality video projects. Even providing a range of budget dollars is of great help to move the production process forward more quickly.
Good luck and have fun!
WALTER BISCARDI JR is a Creative Director in the Atlanta area who has been creating original stories and branded content for clients across the globe including Food Network, CNN, The Weather Channel, Home Depot Racing, Bridgestone Golf, Georgia-Pacific, IBM, Ping Golf, Kroger, The Carter Center, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many more. Quite simply he’s the guy who makes media messaging and campaign simple. No technobabble. Just clear, concise and creative content delivered where and how you need it, on time and on budget. Contact me today to discuss your next project.