3 Ways to Ensure a Quality Video Production
(And how to spot a poor one before it's too late)
There are almost as many potential service providers and video production companies today as there are potential products. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of adding video content to their online presence--for instance, 80% of visitors to your site will watch a video while only 20% will read written content in its entirety. With these kinds of benefits in mind, video production is being utilized by companies for new forms of marketing efforts and internal applications as well as traditional outlets such as TV commercials.
With a massive shift in technology, both in video acquisition as well as in delivery, there are more variables than ever to consider when choosing a company to be your video production solution (and even more aspects of a production company's services that could easily be misleading when working with the wrong provider).
The savvy client may be familiar with many of the varieties of "snake oil" that may be peddled to them when shopping around different production companies, while customers new to video may be overwhelmed or at least unsure of where to focus their attention. WIth that in mind, here are a few tips when seeking a video production service:
1.) Where is their focus?
(or: is it all about them, or all about you?)
Many production companies will tout their features, which may or may not apply to anything you are seeking for your own project. This could be lists of awards, rattling off the names of various manufacturers that fashion filmmaking equipment, or even by boasting about the scale of projects they have worked on in the past and the budgets that supported them. While it may be of interest to certain customers, beware of the production company that spouts these kinds of "factoids" without context and without inquiry. Often they are attempting to distract you from the simple truth that every customer--and every individual production that customer undertakes--is unique, both in its value proposition and the scale by which its parts are measured.
In order for a production company to provide you with a video product that exceeds your expectations and performs the functions you desire of it, they need to focus on you, the customer. Their skill set should include how they get to know you, your business, your model, and any relevant experience they have had in similar industries and with similar target budgets. That they have worked with multi-million dollar budgets on national ads in the past may have no bearing (depending on circumstance) on their ability to learn your needs and figure out what your competitors are doing in order to provide maximum quality and effectiveness with your particular budget.
With this in mind, even more vital than knowing where their focus lays is knowing how they will realize your goal, which is why you must:
2.) Always discover their process
(and: how solid their understanding and implementation is of that process)
When approaching any video production, whether it is for television, the web or a trade show, you need to probe your production companies for solid indications as to their process--their approach, in other words--to the creative process. How defined are their steps? How delineated is the entire pipeline? How clearly can they demonstrate when and how things will happen so at any point during the process you will know exactly where you stand?
Many production companies approach this process haphazardly, hoping that their clients will simply trust them while they experiment and tinker. This is how budgets dry up more quickly than expected, and this is how deadlines either are not met, or are not planned for adequately and therefore end with a rushed product no one is happy with. Video production is not always predictable in every way, and hiccups and even catastrophes do happen from time to time, but most of these challenges are foreseeable and easy to overcome with planning and experience. The only question is: how far has your production company applied its knowledge into a creating a workable, communicable pipeline and process?
Which is why it's important to remember that:
3.) The real value in video production isn't a commodity
(or: the je ne sais quoi is more real than you might think)
A video production company is not (depending on your needs) selling you parts. They're selling you a complete package which is always more than the sum of just those parts. What makes one ad moving and impactful and another fall flat or seem amateurish despite its high production values? Is it just the editing? The lighting? Is it everything? That may be hard to quantify. In the end, what makes your video production stand out and lets it differentiate your company is the underlying philosophy and approach of the production company crafting it combined with the knowledge and talent of the people involved.
That is why when you look at a company's reel, or watch work samples of projects they have created for other customers similar to yourself, you want to look beyond just the production values and the pieces carefully laid at the surface. Ask questions about the particular project they are showing. Who actually directed it, shot it, edited it? Are those people even still with the company you are meeting with right now? Believe it or not, most or all of the creative minds that crafted the project you are looking at still may have left the company in the interim--and if this is so, then what promise can they really make of a similar quality project for you?
There are many other aspects to inquire about as well: Ask about the budget and time constraints. Ask about challenges that arose during the production and how those were accounted for--and more importantly, planned for in advance (if they were at all). Keep production companies on their toes during presentations with questions such as these. Getting a feeling for the undercurrent of creative energy a production company exudes will give you insight into what working with them will be like--much moreso than any pie charts or slide shows.
So, in closing:
See if/how they focus on you, find out how they will deliver their promises, and watch for what drives them below the surface.