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 Producer or Production Company?
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 can 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.
Two Ways to Hire
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 many videos are negotiated. For most situations it is 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.
If you choose this route, be sure to have a very clear bid with exactly what each side will be responsible for. The advantage for this is if the company requires to do more work than initially planned to finish what is described in the bid, they are obligated to do whatever it takes to complete the project. However, it is very important to understand that if you, as the client, request more than what is described in the bid, you would be expected to pay extra for your request.
The other way to produce your video is “piece meal”. 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 to estimate the total cost for the project according to your needs.
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 $1000 a day.
Scriptwriting is usually charged by a finished minute rate. For example, if your script is 10 minutes long and you are charged $200 per finished minute, your cost for a complete script should be $2000. 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 for $1,000 – $1500 per day, including professional camera gear, audio and a lighting package. On smaller projects, the shooter can also act as the producer.
Editing is almost always charged by the hour. For most all projects, a high-end digital (non-linear) editing system will handle your project beautifully. Depending on the system, you should pay between $100 – $200 an hour for editing, including an experienced editor that can make suggestions on how to make your project even better.
Finding a Production Company
Looking under “Video Production” in the Yellow page directories is generally a good way to find a local production company. Remember: 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 http://www.mandy.com. There are many others sites with lists, but this one seems to be the best. Using search engines like Google to find production companies that have a presence on the web is also a very 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.
Quality and Format
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. For most corporate video projects (marketing, training, communications, etc.), commercials and television programs, the Betacam SP or DVCAM formats are the smartest choices because of their widespread compatibility. There are a number of new excellent broadcast digital video formats, like DVCAM, that are just now emerging on the market. From a client’s point of view, Betacam SP or DVCAM or one of the new professional digital video formats (DVCPRO, Betacam SX, Digital Beta) will give you broadcast quality images. Even though Mini DV is quite an incredible format for the prosumer market, it doesn’t have quite the quality of the professional formats.
Meeting the Producer
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, not what the producer 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. 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 tapes 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.
Q and A
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.
Questions to Ask Your Producer
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:
o shorten the length of the program,
o use fewer professional actors, and
o keep the shoot days to a minimum.
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 videotaping 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 be an accessible contact person to help coordinate approvals, schedule shoots, and answer questions to help make the production process as smooth as possible.
Questions Your Producer Should Ask You
What do you like and dislike about other videos?
What do you want to achieve with this video?
Who is the target audience?
What do you want the audience to do after watching the video?
How will the tape be shown?
How many shoot locations are there?
Will we be shooting during business hours?
If we are shooting during business hours, are there any logistical concerns?
How long does the video need to be?
Will a company executive need to be on camera?
Do you need a professional on-camera talent or voice-over?
Who will write the script?
Will you need extra graphics or animations in the video?
Are there any other materials that need to be included in the video, such as photographs?
Final Points to Remember
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
Toll Free (877) 704-1517
*Source: Harvard Business Review
Greg Coon is the President of Eyecon Video Productions, a professional video production company based in Dallas, Texas.
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