Studies show that people remember merely 20% of what they hear, and only 30% of what they see, and an incredible 70% what they hear and see.* With this in mind, it's no wonder why video is such a powerful communications tool.
So your company has decided they need a video. Where do you start? What questions do you ask? How can you make sure the final product is what you are expecting? This article will give you the tools you'll need to have a professional video project you can be proud of.
First, let's talk about money. As with most things, you get what you pay for. Especially with video production, if you make a decision to hire a production company solely by picking the lowest quoted bid, you will probably end up with a video that is much less than what you expected.
Remember, this video represents your company. Do you want your video to look like a high school A/V project? On the other hand, there is no reason to go crazy and spend ungodly amounts of money. It's important to find a company that gives a fair bid for the type of video you need and can produce your project in a professional manner.
To start your video project, there are two decisions that you will need to make. First, do you want to hire an independent producer or a production company? Second, you will need to decide if you wish to receive your bid for production as a "Package Price" or "Piece Meal".
Independent producers usually work for themselves and do not own any equipment. They generally rely on outside production companies to supply their equipment and crew needs. This means that if you have an immediate need, the producer is dependent on someone else to help service you. However, unless the independent producer is very busy, you should get good personal attention.
By hiring a production company, you get a producer who is part of the production company that has the equipment and crew resources in-house. They can generally respond immediately to your needs. Depending on the scope of your project, a production company will either use an in-house producer or hire a freelance producer to coordinate your project.
Either way you decide, be sure you have an experienced producer to manage your project.
There are two ways of hiring a producer or production company to create your video: "Package Price" and "Piece Meal".
A package price for the entire project is the way most videos are negotiated. On the surface it seems to be the most logical. The client knows exactly how much to budget for, and the production company knows how much money they will have to work with.
The downside for this arrangement is that once the price is agreed on, the two sides can become adversaries instead of partners. The client will naturally try to get as much out of the production as he can, while the production company will then try to maximize its profits. If you choose this route, be sure to have a very clearly written bid with exactly what each side will be responsible for. With this clearly defined bid in hand, there will be no confusion or surprises.
Another way to produce your video is "piece meal". You can hire your production company by the day, or by the hour. This way, whenever someone is working on your project, you are paying for their time and only the time they are working on your project. Your producer should be able to give you hourly and daily rates and should be able to estimate the total cost for the project according to your needs. The downside to this is that your actual costs for production may be more or less than you budgeted for.
Other than the producer's expertise, the quality of the final product depends largely on the equipment used to shoot, light and edit the video.
In its simplest terms, SD is what you would generally see when you watch your evening news. The quality is very good and is used for the majority of the professionally produced productions. The standard for over 10 years has been the Betacam SP format. There are many smaller market TV stations that still use Betacam SP along with a number of production companies. There are a number of new digital formats out there that are just as good if not better than Betacam SP. These include DVCAM and DVCPRO among others. MiniDV is a very popular format. While MiniDV is a great format for what it is, most cameras that shoot in MiniDV don't have the high quality lenses, image controls and chips (CCD) needed to give your project a professional look.
In the last couple years, HD has really taken hold and is definitely the future of production. Many companies that want their productions taken to the level of film are finding HD to be an excellent cost effective choice. To put HD into perspective, if you give SD a quality of 3-4 at a 3-4 price, HD will give you a 9-10 quality at a 4-5 price when compared to film. The quality is simply amazing, especially when the proper time and equipment is used to light the scenes. Sony makes a couple cameras that shoot in the HDCAM format. These cameras shoot in the standard 30 frames per second and is what many HD projects and HD programs are shot on. The ultimate options for shooting in High Definition is Sony's CineAlta and Panasonic's Varicam cameras. These two cameras can shoot in 30 frames per second as well as 24 frames per second (24p), meaning the video images will look most like film. So for projects that look most like film, 24p is the way to go.
Note on HDV: This new format can be considered high-end consumer. Just as MiniDV is an amazing format for what it is, there is no comparison when you are match it up to true High Definition.
So how do I pick a format? It depends on the needs of your project. If you want to produce an in-house training video that looks professional, SD will be a great choice for you. There are many marketing videos or commercials that will still look great shot in SD. However, if you want your project to be at the same level of film, HD might be your better choice. Even if your project will end up on DVD, VHS or the web, the format you produce your project can make a big difference. It's the same reason why a Hollywood movie looks so much better than your home movies even though you are watching both of them on the same VHS VCR.
So for most, your production budget will determine which route you will take.
Whether you hire an independent producer or a production company, you should have an experienced video producer coordinate your entire project. Your producer should be available to you at any time to answer questions and to consult with you about any part of the production. Don't scrimp on your producer; they could make or break the entire project, and they should not be learning on your nickel.
Your producer's job is to manage the project from beginning to end. They are responsible for coordinating the scriptwriting, pre-production, shooting, and editing. Depending on where you live and his or her experience, you can expect to pay your producer between $350 to $850 a day.
Scriptwriting is usually charged by a finished minute rate. For example, if your script is 10 minutes long and you are charged $100 per finished minute, your cost for a complete script should be $1000. A complete script should include all voice tracks and equally important, the video shot descriptions that match the voice track.
Shooting is usually charged by the day. Depending on your needs, your shoot may be as small as hiring one cameraman with gear, all the way to having a complete crew that may include a cameraman, lighting director, audio technician, production assistant, teleprompter operator, make-up artist etc. Rates vary depending on your location, but it is standard to hire a strong two-person news style crew shot in SD for $1,000 - $1500 per day, including professional camera gear, audio and a basic lighting package.
You can expect to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for a two person crew shooting in HD. This would include a High Definition camera, HD monitor, audio and a basic lighting package.
Depending on the scope of your project, the shooter can also act as the producer.
Editing is almost always charged by the hour. For most all projects, digital (non-linear) editing will handle your project beautifully. Depending on the system, you should pay between $100 - $200 an hour for editing SD and $175 - $300 an hour for editing HD. This should include an experienced editor that can make suggestions on how to make your project even better.
Looking under "Video Production" in the Yellow Pages directories is generally a good way to find a local production company. Just remember that just because the size of an ad is bigger for one company than another, it doesn't mean the production company is better.
Personal referrals sometimes are your best bet. But remember that this video will represent your company, so be sure you are referred to a professional video producer with experience and not cousin Billy who has a consumer camera and wants to get into the video business.
You can also search the Internet. One of the best sources for lists of production companies on the web is at www.mandy.com. There are many others sites with lists, but this one seems to be the best. Using search engines to find production companies that have a presence on the web is also a pretty good source.
Has the production company won any awards for the videos they have produced? There are regional and national awards that producers can enter their projects. If your production company has won some critical acclaim, it's a good chance that they would be a good company to produce your video.
When you initially talk with your producer, be sure to ask some questions. But more importantly, the producer should ask you most of the questions and listen to what you want. This is your company's video and it's up to the producer to try to get in your head to give you a product that you want, within your budget, and not what the producer wants at the budget he wants. Be aware if the producer tells you what you need without listening to what you are saying. At the same time, ask the producer for recommendations that would enhance the project beyond your video knowledge.
Set up a time to meet with the prospective producer. Meeting at your location is usually most beneficial. If you want a marketing or training video for your widget, it would be important for the producer to see the widget. It would be important to bring copies of videos you would like to emulate and tell your producer what you like and don't like about these videos. Be sure the producer brings sample videos similar to the project you want to do.
Look at past projects your producer has completed. You should also call the producer's past clients to get feedback on their professionalism, work quality, and personality to understand what is was like to work with them.
Your producer should listen to what your company's goals are regarding the video, ask a lot of questions, then give suggestions for the best way to produce your video within your budget. Often, your production company won't know anything about your business and vice-versa.
What can I do to keep my costs down?
A good producer will help you keep the project within your budget. Some of the more common ways to save money are:
Holding a pre-production meeting to coordinate the project could save hundreds of dollars. If the shoot is scheduled at your company's location, try to do everything possible to facilitate the shooting process. For example, if you are creating a marketing or training video for your widget, let your manufacturing line take direction from the video producers and allow disruption of their work.
What kind of experience does the producer have?
The experience of the producer relates directly to the quality of the finished product. Be sure to see examples of video work that the producer has personally produced.
Are there any extra charges?
Ask up front if there will be any extra charges. Some common extra charges: taxes, tape costs, mileage, travel expenses and duplications. It's important to understand that if you, as a client, make changes to the project that require additional work from the production company not originally agreed upon in the proposal, expect extra charges to apply.
What will you need from me?
You, or a representative from your company, will need to have an accessible contact person to help coordinate approvals, schedule shoots, and answer questions to help make the production process as smooth as possible. Speaking of approvals, it will be essential to have you, or designate, responsible for approving each aspect of the production process, including scriptwriting, shooting and editing. Once approvals are given, you can expect any changes made thereafter will be additionally billed.
During the shoot, you should be able to stand and watch every shot in the monitor to be sure it represents your company the right way. That is your opportunity to be sure the director is getting what you want. However, please be aware that you did hire a professional crew to produce your project. This is a team effort, let them do their job while making sure you convey what you want in your production.
An important point to remember, especially if you are a rookie at using video, is that communications is key to the success of your video. Your production company should be available at any time to answer any questions you may have. Your producer should be kept informed of the project's status and what the next steps are.
Television is a huge part of our lives and we are very accustomed to top quality programming. Today's audiences are sophisticated and expect broadcast quality video productions. If your video is anything less, your message and image will suffer greatly.
Remember to ask questions, be sure you are asked a lot of questions, and go with your gut feeling. Chances are you will end up with a great product and have a fun time in the process.
Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions.
Eyecon Video Productions
*Source: Harvard Business Review