A tidal wave of converging trends stands to change the face of commercial video forever.
First, there’s technology: the prevalence of high-speed Internet access and dramatically improved streaming technology. Then there’s supply and demand (and more technology): the low-cost and ever-improving quality of video recording equipment.
And then there’s the irrepressible social media surge: the rise of YouTube and other online video distribution services driving demand for business videos of all stripes.
The result is an effective and inexpensive marketing opportunity for your business.
Market and technological forces have driven down production and distribution costs significantly, even for the smallest companies. Long gone are the days of pricey training videos and big-production commercials, says Jeff Watts, owner of video production house Watts Communications in Waukesha, Wis. Instead, businesses want their videos fast and cheap.
The potential for costly miscues abounds when hiring a video production company for your project. Here are our tips for making the most of your video budget.
Ask for a reel: Companies should run away screaming from any production company that doesn’t have an example reel of videos.
Make sure video is right for you: Remember that video is only one component of a broad communications strategy.
Look for a company seeking to understand your business: Video is meant to serve your communications strategy–not the other way around.
Know your audience and objective: Lay out these guidelines before you start working on a project to ensure you meet your goals and save money.
Do it right the first time: Countless companies waste money and time doing video production in-house, only to end up going to the pros for a second round of production.
Work through a liaison: Your video may need internal approval by several people in the food chain, so simplify the process by naming a single liaison between your business and the production company.
Don’t forget the entertainment: If YouTube and Funny or Die have taught us anything, it’s that only the most entertaining videos go viral.
“Before, when we would pitch a corporate video, they would put all their eggs in one basket for that presentation–that one big-budget item,” Watts says. “We would get it onto VHS tape and get a nice case for it and send it all over the United States as their ‘electronic brochure.’ Now with the Internet and all these other avenues of advertising, the big expensive corporate video is not at the top of the list.”
Social media has reduced customer demand for high-cost, high-margin productions–but it also has warped business customers’ perception of quality.
“One of the challenges we face in this industry is what I call the YouTube-ification of video,” says Brent Altomore, owner of Groovy Like a Movie, a San Diego production house. “People are getting very comfortable with ‘good enough’–and that’s a direct result of how much video we watch online that is just not of great quality.”
Altomore, a 10-year veteran of the video production industry, says this satisfaction with “good enough,” along with the wide array of high-quality recording equipment available in the consumer market have ratcheted up the competition.
“The barriers to entry are so low that all you need is a credit card and you can call yourself a production company,” he says.
To deal with the new market demands, Altomore, Watts and their competitors have adjusted their strategies. Matt Krzycki, founder of GoodSide Studio in Seattle, shoots with smaller crews and uses a more efficient production process, which helps his studio sit in the middle ground between the two extreme types of video production company models operating today.
“On one hand, we have ‘Gigantor Studio and Production,’ who always thinks bigger is better and are really not adapted to the smaller crews, smaller budgets and simpler work flows that the new tech allows,” Krzycki says. “And then you have this guy who I call the ‘Craigslist Kid,’ who thinks video is free now. He’s often a hobbyist or enthusiast and sometimes might do a good job, or he might be using your project to discover that he really doesn’t like doing video.”
When choosing your production company, focus on the two biggest differentiators: technical competence and business acumen. Great camera equipment is available for cheap these days, but Watts contends you can’t buy knowledge about lighting and composition off the shelf.
“One thing that can separate you from everybody down the street is the experience that you have in lighting, framing correctly and adding motion to your camera movement,” Watts says. “There’s one thing that doesn’t change when you get down to it and that’s the art of the craft.”
Even more important, Altomore says, is understanding the whole point of developing a video. “The hardest thing about my job is not making the pretty pictures,” he says. “What is hard is understanding the clients’ communications goals, understanding who their audience is, understanding what the objectives are and making sure that the pretty pictures we make match those goals.”
Altomore warns businesses about the end product they may get if they opt to hire a college kid with lots of creativity but limited business experience.
“They don’t always understand that just because something is a creative idea doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to solve the problem the client is trying to solve,” he says. “And in the end, they may not have the maturity or experience to say, ‘Wow, this would be really beautiful or interesting or funny to do, but it doesn’t actually benefit the client.'”
Self-described tech geek Ericka Chickowski also writes for Consumers Digest, the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.