You are ready to have your video produced, and you are about to choose a video production company to do it. Did you know that choosing the right production company will make or break your show? No matter how great the subject or script, the overall quality they give you will determine where your video falls on a scale between powerful and effective or weak and useless.
Yet how do you know what to look for when choosing a production company? Video quality is determined by far more than just the types of equipment used or the price being charged. I'd like to show you why the quality of your video is so important, how to identify what makes great quality, and how to choose a company that will give it to you!
Why choose great quality?
Show viewers a video with below average quality or even the average level of quality many production companies give, they will have trouble focusing on the message. Without all of the elements of quality in your video, it will not achieve the results you are looking for.
On the flip side, when you do have good quality, viewers really don't notice it. What they notice is the content of the show. They become absorbed in your message. When you watch TV or movies, do you think about the production quality? Most people don't notice the elements of the show such as shooting, pace, camera work, lighting, sound, editing, music, etc. They experience the show and get the message.
Also keep in mind that your video quality will reflect on the quality of your company, yourself and your message. It's similar to the principle of dressing for success! Your video can impact your image. Here are some examples of where quality can make a difference:
- A nicely done employee orientation tape or corporate communications tape "sets a tone" that can influence the employee's perception of the company, inspire pride and can even motivate them.
- In a sales or marketing video image is everything. For example, who would you hire to manage your money? An investment counselor who drives a Kia or a Lexus? Good video quality identifies you as a credible success who can be trusted, and with something valuable to offer. Poor quality teaches the viewer not to trust you.
- A training tape with good quality says you are knowledgeable and serious about your subject. It will influence viewers to "buy in" to what's being shown. It also says that you value them enough to give them something valuable.
- A demo tape with good quality says you are a successful in demand consultant.
- A public relations video must have good quality for stations to use it on air, and to draw the viewers' attention.
While paying a high price for your video is not a guarantee of quality, often the opposite is true. Usually the bargain that's hard to pass up is what you should pass up. There is always someone out there who will charge you less.
Here's a little story I heard that says it all. Driving along the road to work, a man passed the little 2-man barber shop that had been there for ages. The lot was filled to the brim and there were cars lining the street... There were LOTS of folks going in. As he passed the throng, he saw the sign out front:
"We fix 7-dollar haircuts".
I've had many clients come to me to fix programs done by other companies that were poorly produced. It may seem like you are getting a deal at the time, but in essence you may be throwing away your money.
It is true that in today's economy, production companies have had to drop their overall prices somewhat. Generally those charging below industry averages are either without experience and/or talent, without the right type of equipment and resources, or those whose businesses are in the process of going under. Although you may be able to find the rare true bargain, I have seen over and over in the world of video that the old adage is true when it comes to extreme low prices: You get what you pay for.
What makes great quality?
Let's look at several areas that you need to be aware of when determining the level of quality a production company will give you:
Equipment: Believe it or not, a high priced company using the best equipment does not automatically translate to quality. You can put me in a gourmet kitchen, but would you serve my food at a dinner party attended by your boss and co-workers? No way! It is the same with video. Having the best tools can help, but without the right knowledge, experience and skills you can end up with an ineffective video that you would not want to be associated with. So beware of the production company that primarily stresses their state-of-the-art equipment.
It's become easier and more affordable to buy video equipment. So these days, many people are becoming "video professionals". In fact, it seems like almost everyone these days has two careers - whatever they do for a living, and video production. Yet every aspect of video production really is an art form. It takes talent, years of experience and a wide range of training to make a quality video. When choosing a company it is essential to look beyond equipment, and to the total package you will be getting.
That being said, the main requirement concerning equipment is that it be broadcast quality. As long as it falls into that category, you have the potential to receive good quality. Anything below this will have that amateur, unprofessional look.
Experience: In my opinion this is probably the most important issue. It will dramatically impact the way the video is planned, shot and edited. Think about when you flip through the TV channels looking for something to watch. Do you stop and view the local cable access station? Most people flip right by that, deciding in a split second that this not worth their interest.
They may not be able to tell you all of the reasons why, but these days if a show is not done with quality, most folks perceive it and will tune it out instantly. Almost everyone can make a video with today's available technology. My nieces used to produce their own music videos in elementary school. However there is a huge gulf between amateur video and a professionally produced show that holds the viewers attention and accomplishes your goals. There is a huge difference between the quality you get with various professional video production companies. Experience and talent have everything to do with that.
There are many production companies out there who have the appearance of being able to handle the work, but hire them and you won't get the impact from your video investment you are hoping for. Find people with natural talent along with education, experience and developed instincts, and you're more likely to have success! Ask questions such as the following:
- How much experience do they have creating videos? Are they fresh out of school, or have they had any professional education? Is this a second career stemming from a hobby? The experience level of almost every crew member will impact every aspect of your video, so ask about them also.
- Will the more experienced people actually be working on your video from start to finish, or will they delegate to less experienced people?
- What type of clients have they worked with in the past? For example, I would not want a wedding video company to videotape my corporate video.
- Does the video crew have good corporate manners? Can they work well with the people who will be involved with your shoot? Video crews are notorious for vulgarities and inappropriate dress and manners.
- Can you get references from their other clients? Are they credible?
- Do they have an in depth understanding of the type of video you are creating? For example, if it is a marketing video, do they understand marketing concepts? If it is a training video, do they understand training concepts? Having the appropriate knowledge helps the director plan, shoot and edit the video for maximum effectiveness.
- Do they seem to know how to create mood and atmosphere? Can they tell a story effectively? Are they able to create appropriate emotions? Look at their demos and see how you feel as you watch them. Do you feel "sold", motivated, inspired, etc?
- Will someone who understands all phases of production work on your show from start to finish? As a producer/director/editor, I understand each phase and that impacts how I plan and create the entire show. Many production companies pass the project along like an assembly line. The show can become disjointed and ineffective.
The right producer/director will know what questions to ask you, and then they will know what to do with the answers!
Shooting: As I mentioned before, if the camera work is good, the viewer usually won't even notice it. They will simply experience the message. Take a look at their demo and observe the following:
- The framing of shots. This means heads will not be cut off, and usually the camera will have the focal point centered on the screen. If there is more than one focal point, they will be equidistant to the sides of the screen. These rules can be broken if there is a creative effect being achieved, but you will sense whether or not it works.
- The focus. You would think this goes without saying, but an inexperienced camera operator may go out of focus and may not be able to get the image back into focus quickly.
- Camera movements. They should flow smoothly, capture all the important action and information, and add variety to the screen, making the show more visually interesting. Steady camera moves make the camera work unnoticeable to the viewer.
An amateur may be shaky, zoom in too quickly or not quickly enough, and may have rough camera moves. They may not move enough to keep the show interesting, or they may move too often. These things will become distracting. Again, these rules can be broken for effect, but watch for those who overuse these effects or do them poorly.
Lighting: A poorly lit shot can make you look 10 years older! If you have a one-inch long wrinkle, poor lighting can extend it to be at least two inches. Great lighting gives your picture dimension and poor lighting makes your image flat and one-dimensional. Visible shadows should be kept to a minimum, and there should be no bright spots.
Sound: Great sound is essential. Today's audience is savvy when it comes to good sound. If it is less than perfect, you will increase the likelihood that you will lose them. Poor sound is like going to a fantastic movie but the people behind you won't stop talking! Professional sound is crisp, clear, not too loud, not too soft, and you hear only what you are supposed to hear.
Add music to a less than perfect audio track and the music will sound like an increase in noise. Add the right music to a well done sound track and it can transform the listener. Check the following on their demo:
- Sound volume. Is it consistent and audible? Does the viewer have to strain to make out words?
- Clarity of sound. It may be loud enough, but without clarity it still can be a strain to make out all the words. Think about sound on cable access stations. You can often hear a kind of echo, like they are talking into a tin can.
- Background sounds. For example, air conditioning, airplanes, lawn mowing, footsteps... Sometimes it is impossible to avoid, but whenever possible, these sounds should be avoided as they will be very distracting.
- Music. Is it right for the video? Is it playing at the right volume? Music should never overpower or distract. Yet the right piece can set the tone. It can create excitement, calmness, etc. A long piece can actually seem shorter and more interesting with energetic music.
- Video effects: Page turns, tumbling boxes with video in them, funky wipes - recognize those from your wedding video? Effects do have their place, but usually your video is not that place! The very occasional effect is fine in most videos. An abundance of them can make a video look very amateurish.
- Editing: This is an art form in itself. A talented editor will know how to choose the right shots, cut them together smoothly to tell the story, create a mood, teach a concept, and sell your product. Things to watch out for are cuts from the same angle over and over, hard cuts that don't make sense to the brain, etc...
It really takes years of training to be able to identify the elements of a well edited video. However, once again I would say that when watching a demo, you should not even notice the editing. The video should draw you in and flow smoothly.
A well made video can be a powerful tool. When you are investing your time and money, it's important to educate yourself so that you can get the most gain possible. A savvy buyer can invest the same time and money, yet get much more payback.