I believe that the most exciting thing about the video production process for any client is when they get to see everything come together in post-production. Editing, in a sense, is a form of writing, because it is up to the editor to find the story among hours of footage, then assemble those elements into a coherent whole. Sometimes the final product follows the original script line by line. However, sometimes the final video may bear little resemblance to the original script. That’s because a new and better story can often emerge as the editor and the client sift through the footage. Those that enter post-production with an open mind can often find a new angle to the story that was never thought of previously. And that can be a very good thing. That’s why it’s important to allocate a good portion of your budget for post-production. Things can become very fluid as the client, the producer, and the editor experiment with different possibilities, so you want to be prepared. Anticipate change. More than likely, you and your team will request changes to the edit. Also keep in mind that in a very complicated video (i.e. heavy compositing, layers, effects, etc.) the smallest change can be incredibly time-consuming for an editor to make. He/She will need time to remove old footage, find and insert new footage, apply the same effects, color correction, titles, etc. Then, the video must be rendered out so you can preview the new version. Turn-around time for certain changes might take longer than you initially expect, so be sure you and your team avoid waiting until the 11th hour to request changes, if at all possible. Neither you nor your video production company want to miss a deadline.
The above scene is from Jaws and it takes place right at the moment that Chief Brody gets his first look at the great white shark. It’s then that he realizes that he and his team underestimated just what they are up against. The same problem can occur in any video production. It’s easy to underestimate the scope of your project. What seemed like a simple, straightforward shoot and edit can quickly balloon into something entirely unexpected. The last thing that you, as a video producer, want to do is to go back to your client and say, “We’re going to need a bigger budget.” That’s not a fun conversation. Here’s what needs to happen to ensure that neither you nor your client underestimate the scope of the video project.
Everyone (both client and video producer) need to be upfront and honest at the beginning. You as a video producer should never over promise. Be clear on what your capabilities are. And you, the client, should never try to downplay what’s involved in producing the video. If you are working from a script and are not as prepared as you need to be, then you need to tell the video producer, “I’m going to need several takes to get this right.”
All decision-makers need to be involved from the very beginning. If the “higher-ups” wait to watch the video after everything has been shot, you may be forced to re-shoot portions of the video if they don’t like what they see. Re-shoots are costly. You as the client can avoid them by making sure that anyone who has to put his/her stamp of approval on the video is present for all important decisions.
When it comes to budgeting for post-production, the “less is more” mentality doesn’t work. More is more. In other words, you will always need more money for post-production than you think you do. Many clients (and video producers) underestimate just how much time will be spent editing the video. You may accurately gauge the hours you will spend assembling the edit, but you may neglect to consider time needed for encoding, making approval copies, delivering approval copies, approval meetings, phone calls with the client, making changes to the edit, re-working sections of the script, additional color correction, audio mixing, more encoding, more approval copies, etc. The list can go on and on, so you need to be prepared. Always budget more for post-production.
Video producers and clients need to work together so both parties clearly understand what’s involved in the production of any video. These tips are intended to help you avoid potentially awkward meetings wherein you have to ask for more money, because you simply underestimated what you were up against.
My brother Steven turned me onto this spot from American Airlines and I thought I would share it here. I think this spot works for a number of reasons:
Premise – It’s a simple idea: a film producer trots around the globe with her eccentric director scouting locations for a film. She’s exhausted, but because of American Airlines new international business class, she can enjoy some much-needed rest while traveling the world. In your own marketing and advertising efforts, keep your strategy simple and on point. Find that key selling point you can wrap a campaign around.
Problem & Solution – Notice how the commercial sets up a need: busy world traveler wants some quality rest. The solution is the new international business class from American Airlines, which offers seats that can transform into a small bed.
Characters – The eccentric, quirky film director is stereotypical, yet funny and memorable. Even in a thirty-second spot, characters are important.
Pacing – The cuts are quick, but they don’t confuse the viewer. And they add to the humor in the spot. The style of edit should match the subject matter of the piece and support the mood you’re trying to achieve.
Comedy – The movie is about Parisian squirrels who ride scooters. The premise of the movie is irrelevant to the overall strategy, but it provides the quirky comedy necessary to help the spot stay memorable.
And as always, feel free to leave your impressions on this commercial in the “comments” section.
There’s a fine balance that has to be made between delivering a high-end product and maintaining a budget that your client finds reasonable.
Let’s say you’re getting started in your video production business and you need to keep your production costs low to attract new clients. However, you also want to create content with high production values to give the appearance that your client spent more than they actually did. You always want to go for the “wow” factor. So, how can you create videos with great production value while working with a modest budget?
Learn everything you can about proper cinematography techniques. One of the easiest ways to make more aesthetically-pleasing videos is to know the basic concepts of cinematography. Video production is a craft. Don’t think that you can pick up a camera and then point and shoot. You have to learn about composition, framing, camera movements, lighting. You have to learn all you can about the camera itself and its functions. Don’t take this first lesson for granted. This is a necessary pre-production task that won’t cost you anything but time, but it’s the foundation for better looking productions.
Capture good audio. Nothing spoils a video faster than bad audio. Make careful considerations regarding your locations. Scout them first. Listen for anything in the vicinity that could cause a problem for your audio track. If you can, hire an experienced audio mixer/boom man for your shoot. Even if the crew consists of just you and the sound guy. Trust me, it will be worth it.
Keep the crew to a minimum. Your production budget can really spin out of control once you start adding on grips, audio technicians, editors, etc. When you’re starting out, you will need to function as producer/writer/director/DP/editor in order to keep your costs down. However, you have to concede the fact that while you’re on location you won’t be able to do everything yourself. Start off by hiring one assistant to help you with gear. A fair rate for this individual is anywhere from $200-$350 per day, depending on his/her experience.* (a day rate is based on a 10-hour day. You can pay your assistant a half-day rate if you are on location no more than 5 hours.)
Develop a shot list. This is a no-cost pre-production task that will save you time while on location. Each shoot needs to run as efficiently as possible. Time is money. So, always write out a shot list before arriving on location.
Rehearse before shooting. The less tape you use, the less money you spend. The less footage you put on your P2 card (or other solid-state media), the less space you take up on your hard drive, meaning less money. So, always rehearse with your talent before shooting. Go over the action and the camera moves. Make sure everyone is clear on what’s to happen when the camera rolls.
Take advantage of DIY techniques. High-end productions utilize dollies and cranes to create smooth camera movements. Those movements look very professional on screen and ramp up the production value of any video. But that equipment costs money – a lot of money. But have no fear. There are a number of wonderful do-it-yourself resources on the web for creating the same professional look at minimal cost. Just look at our previous post about creating a dolly move without the use of a dolly. Also look at tutorials from sources like Triune Films and read DIY stuff from FilmmakerIQ. Here’s a quick tutorial on creating your own camera car mount.
Invest in stock footage. This will be a rather pricy upfront cost, but the resource will quickly pay for itself. Let’s face it – Shooting at the beaches of Mexico would be too expensive. Grabbing that aerial shot over the Colorado Rockies is probably out of reach. But, if you had a library of stock footage, you could quickly plug in that aerial shot when the subject matter calls for it and by doing so you can instantly increase the production value of your video. A good resource for stock footage is over at Digital Juice.
There are a number of ways to keep your costs down while giving your client a video that “wow’s” them. All it takes is a little imagination and resourcefulness. And as your business gains momentum, you can start investing in bigger crews, better cameras, and additional gear.