Comparing Apples to Apples in Video Production
One of the most challenging tasks for a company seeking a video production solution is figuring out how to compare what two different companies are offering for the same project. This is especially tough when your company is new to parsing the myriad options at play when producing commercials--and during filmmaking in general. Some variables are plain and simple to describe, but many are derived from the interplay between a multitude of puzzle pieces. The solutions to these puzzles are often dictated by art as much as science, which means they may not be readily apparent. When approaching different production companies, it is important to ensure that bids, proposals and other offers are comparable, or else there is little to glean comparing production notes meant to win over potential clients.
Here are a few elements that are vital to examine whether you are dealing with a NYC video production company or producing your next TV commercial anywhere in the world:
1.) What equipment are they using (and does it line up with your production goals)?
Some companies move into the realm of video production with a fixation on cost. First of all, any video content you create for your business should be functional as an investment (rather than a purchase), which may change your view of production costs in general. Whether you and others at your company view the creation of your video content this way or not, there may be some that look at the bottom line of various video production company proposals and choose based on that. However, this often leads to poor choices; if someone offers you an old Volkswagon Beetle for $5,000 and a Lamborghini for $10,000, which is the better deal?
The first way to compare is in terms of equipment: what type of gear is your production company offering?
If you are unfamiliar with cameras and other equipment in the proposal, can the video production company demonstrate to you what sort of quality and flexibility their video strategy offers? What kinds of lenses are they putting in front of their cameras? When they offer "post production", are they at home on a laptop or are they using calibrated professional equipment? Make sure your next video production vendor can show you very specific examples of footage captured with exactly the sort of equipment they are promising you so that you can better understand different offers from different companies. When it comes to production solutions, however, equipment is not the be all and end all--in fact it's not nearly as important as:
2.) Who are the specific people who are budgeted in your video company's proposal?
This is something that is often downplayed by video production companies, partially becuase many of them work with a revolving door of freelancers that they may or may not have access to any longer. Like we talked about when we discussed how to ensure a great video production, the first question to ask any potential production company is who specifically was the above the line talent on the example projects they are showing you, and then to ask whether those people are available for your project.
After that, the next step is to compare those people and their verifyable qualitifcations and references with what other companies are promising you. If you have the chance to choose between an owner operator who mostly shoots sitdown interviews and one of the top TV commercial directors and DPs in the industry, then there should be other considerations besides cost depending on the goals of your video content. Shopping a concept around is a great way to ensure a cost effective production, but it could backfire if you are not comparing similar creative talents between companies, which is also why:
3.) Disaster planning is a part of budgets as well.
When you look through the list of equipment and other elements a production company is proposing for your project, compare the items that don't immediately jump out at you. What does each company's insurance policy cover? Do they both handle situations that you and your company may be concerned about? What redundant equipment do they have in the event of unforseeable challenges on set? What is the plan if the bright shiny new camera they have sold you on stops working in the middle of an expensive shoot day? Will there be backup cameras on set? Is it worth it to you to pick a company that costs more if these kinds of bases are covered and all else is equal?
In the end, choosing the best video production vendor for your company's needs is an involved and challenging endeavor, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. Pay attention to the details, and don't take everything proposed to you at face value, and you will be well along in learning to spot discrepencies between video companies and make informed decisions about what solutions are approporiate for you.