Is this your first video production?
What questions do you ask? Will your final product meet expectations? It can if you follow some simple, but important guidelines.
What better place to start than 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. There's a saying that goes: you can't have it fast, good AND cheap. It's not just a saying. It's true. Two of the three, yes. All three, not likely!
This video represents your company. Make sure it doesn't come off like a school video science project. Find a company that gives a fair bid for the type of video you need and can produce your project in a professional manner. Look for quality and customer service first, then measure that against the quote. More than likely, you will be able to find a company that fits your budget.
First, find a production company that has done it before. Look for real experience. Ask for recent clients names and numbers, then follow up. Also, there a couple ways to have your project priced out for you. The "Package Price" or the "A La Carte" price.
The package price for the entire project is the way many video projects are priced, or negotiated. This way is usually the best for both parties. 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 clear bid with exactly what each side will be responsible for. The advantage for this is if the company requires 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. But, it is very important to understand that if you as the client, ask for more than what is described in the bid, you would be expected to pay extra for that request. So be thorough.
If you A La Carte, basically you hire your production company by the hour or the day. You are paying for their time and only the time they are working on your particular 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. This way is not for the individual that has a very tight budget target to hit.
Now, your producer or project manager should be available to you at any time to answer questions and to consult with you about any part of the video production. Don’t underestimate the importance of your producer to the project's success; pay them fairly because they could make or break the entire project.
What exactly does a producer or project manager do? They manage the project from the beginning to end. They are responsible for coordinating the scriptwriting, pre-production, shooting, and editing.
Who's going to write my script? Scriptwriting is usually charged by a finished minute rate. For example, if your script is 8 minutes long and you are charged $250 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, as well as the graphic directions.
Shooting is usually charged by the day, but sometimes can be quoted by the half 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.
The editing can be charged by the hour or by the day, depending on what you are most comfortable with. For most all projects, a high-end digital (non-linear) editing system will handle your project fine. Depending on the location and system, you should pay between $100 - $350 an hour, including a creative editor that can help make those important last minute decisions.
Awards are important, but they're not everything. One thing they do tell you though is that the company has been recognized by their peers in the industry. 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 it comes to quality and a format to shoot on or to edit to, 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 -training, industrial or marketing, television or commercial programs, the DV format is the smartest choice because of its native digital format. Betacam SP has long been the industry standard, but recent advances have swung the pendulum toward digital video, or DV, DVCPRO and DVCAM.
When first meeting with the producer, they should ask you most of the questions and then 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. If the producer tells you what you need without listening to what you are saying, a red flag should go up. Every project is different, and each has specific needs and budgetary concerns.
Set up a time to meet with the prospective producer. If you want a marketing or training video for your product, it would be important for the producer to see the product. Bring copies of videos you would like to emulate and tell your producer what you like and don’t like about these videos.
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:
- shorten the length of the program,
- use fewer professional actors, and
- 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 vido 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?
Some Final Points to Remember
An important point to remember, especially if you are new 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.
We are very accustomed to top quality programming. Today’s audiences 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.