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Choosing a video producer these days is harder than ever

Here are 5 tips.

Videogapher Magazine recently featured an article about the differences between producing video in the old days and what it's like now. It was written from the standpoint of the producer, and the costs associated with getting back in the game before the digital era.

Buying video services back then was a matter of poundage. A simple way to judge a video company was by the size of their investment. If they had a big Betacam camera, an array of audio gear, lighting kits, and some form of editing, a decent demo reel, and were reasonably nearby, they were considered. Simply put, video wasn't something ANYONE could do, let alone do well.

Concept? Script? Well, that was a consideration, but the corportes often wrote their own or let their ad agencies do it, so it wasn't a big deal. Video was about hardware.

Today, it's about software. Software for both the brain and the brawn. The miniaturization of video and the relative affordability of the tools mean that there is less separation between ad agency and production company, with more multi prong producers offering a mix of each's offerings. A well-regarded video production "company" may in fact be one person and a trusted cadre of suppliers offering a complete solution, from concept, to completion, to digital and social media distribution (with the occasional DVD or Blu-ray still in the mix as well). 

No, this doesn't mean that every producer does everything. But the talented producer catering to corporate and institutional clients may have invested less than $10,000 to be in the game rather than the $100,000 necessary some decades ago.

So, in an era where iPhones produce decent hi-def and 4K imagery, and desktop computers can be used to create Hollywood-worthy edits, how can you find the producer that best meets your needs, and exceeds expectations? How do you find someone who will help you sleep at night, and have a positive impact on YOUR career?

Here are a set of five important things to consider.

  1. VISION. Does the candidate listen? Does he/she understand your needs? Can he visualize the end result you want? Can he offer a plan to achieve that result? All of this can be easily judged if the producer offers a plan on paper after meeting with you. This plan should include a creative outline, a justification for the creative approach offered, a timeline, and a detailed cost quotation. In this way you'll be able to compare apples to apples.
  2. TRACK RECORD. Have they been there? If you're responsible for producing meeting videos, have they worked with large audiences? Who were the clients? What was the result? Do they have samples of complete videos that were used, not just a glitz demo reel? Is there proof of audience reactions? Does their web site have case histories? Do they have a website? (modify this list according the videos you are responsible for, whether HR, recruiting, internal communications, new product intro, fundraising,  and even local TV Spots.
  3. HOW MUCH RESPONSIBILITY WILL HE /SHE TAKE? Success or failure can be attributed to many factors, including the information you provide and the approval process (overly broad input from committees will be the death of the success of a project, I should add). However, beyond that, the producer should be responsible to make the best effort to achieve your goals possible. They should be willing to live with the project for you, up to and including the deadline. This may mean after hours work, on-site coordination, and the ability to be flexible. If they have real past experience, they know what it takes.
  4. QUOTING AND LIVING WITH A FAIR PRICE. In today's faced-paced corporate world, with hair-turn changes, "failure is not an option" attitudes, and layers of bureaucracy, you and the producer should agree to a project budget that is fair to all concerned, with a certain small percentage allowance for unforseen circumstances. Once agreed to these terms, everyone should proceed with the best of intentions, with your success being paramount. A producer taking this amount of responsibility should not be charging an open ended hourly rate.
  5. POST-MORTEM AND EXPECTATIONS OF AN ONGOING RELATIONSHIP. Once the project is over, you and the producer should be willing to meet and discuss what went right and how things can be improved in the future. This increases trust and the knowledge base for future efforts.

There are other considerations that can be somewhat surface considerations. Age? Years of Experience? Do they write scripts? Do they own their own equipment? Will they release all the source materials to you once the project is over?

My opinions and prejudices? Age does not have to be an issue, either young or old. I started at 22 and someone must have trusted me back then. I'm now way past 60 and I'm still producing, from writing to producing to editing. I own most of my own equipment, have many music and stock libraries, and a ton of experience. I've learned from my failures (not many failures, but I own up to those I blame on myself). I release materials when asked, or keep them in the vault for 5 years (after that, their usually made obsolete by equipment advances). I believe scriptwriting, which calls out the words, visuals and music to be used, to be the most valuable tool to truly understanding the client's needs and definition of success. I've seen my clients get promotions, raises and corner offices.

And that makes me happy.

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