Using Video for Business: Finding and choosing a great production company.
To use the cliche, not all video content is created equal. High-quality video content with a great story line is usually crafted by great creative minds. But that does not necessarily mean that high-quality equals high budget. Everyone know that you get what you pay for. And, in a sense, that’s right. But video productions have different sizes, scopes, talent and can be designed in all different ways to meet a budget. Your next task should be finding and choosing a great production company that’s a good fit for your company to work with.
So, how do I match my business with a great production company? First, you’ll need to do a little research. Do some fact gathering on what types of video content they produce and who they have worked with. Knowing your needs is also critical. Now, let’s play matchmaker.
1. Remember those questions we asked internally… well, here they are again.
What questions do I need answered before I call an outside production company?
• What are your goals for your video?
• What is your video’s target market?
• What do you want your video to say?
• What level of production value are you striving for?
• How should you present your company?
• How will you promote your video?
Again, these questions will help you focus your company’s video content needs and budget. When you share the answers to these questions with a production company, they should be able to give you a pretty accurate price range for your project, as well as discuss potential upsides and downsides to ideas. Their knowledge is a valuable resource and can help you further develop your plans to use video content in your marketing.
2. Evaluate examples of their work. You have a favorite shirt. A bag. A favorite radio station. News program. We like our favorites because we like the way they do things. That shirt fits right. When we need to get another one, we get the same brand, and that one fits right too.You get the picture. When you find a good partner for your business, you go back to them for repeat business. And so is true of your clients and customers hopefully! When you evaluate a production companies work, look at all aspects and think if those things ‘fit’ your business. How do you spot good, compelling content? First, is it technically high-quality?
Lighting: Are the people and subjects lit properly for the theme or type of video? (i.e. if this is a testimonial, can you see the person’s expressions on their face?)
Audio: Can interviewees be heard with clean, static-free sound? is the music appropriately balanced with speaking voices? does music add to the emotion in the video or does it detract?
Framing: Is the subject or the focus of the video properly framed? That is, does your eye go to the right place for the video’s type and topic?
Camera: Watch to make sure that the camera operator or cinematographer is
at the top of his or her game. Are the camera moves smooth? When the camera pans from one person to another does it seem natural or distracting? Did they use the right equipment? A camera can be mounted on a tripod or handheld or flown on a crane… Was the camera getting the right angles? And did the camera move fluidly? No shakiness (unless you’re remaking the Blair Witch project!)
Editing: Is the video well-edited? Do the cuts happen seamlessly, or is there a choppy, disjointed feeling to the editing? Think about how the pacing of the video feels – is it too fast for the information being conveyed? Too slow to create the needed excitement? Are there any cheesy transition elements that detract from the video?
Great direction: This one is tricky. But if the subject is speaking well and you feel comfortable with how they are delivering their message then they have probably been coached by an expert. Rarely do people walk onto a set – be it for a testimonial, advert, speech, or interview – and have a natural way with a camera. Note that video is different than public address – sometimes even CEO’s, president’s, business owners and VP’s have concerns and trouble addressing a camera. A great Director will bring out the best in someone on camera and coach their delivery to be natural, with the proper intent. Using actors? The same goes for coaching local or professional actors on-set. You need to have a Director in control that can get the best delivery from people.
The Right Spokesperson: Have someone inside your company that can deliver a great pitch? An engineer that can speak technically on project design? A client that speaks highly of you? A marketing manager that is passionate about the company? These could all be good choices for your video’s spokesperson. Keep in mind too that not everyone is comfortable on camera. If you need to go with a professional actor for your type of video, that’s ok too. Or maybe it’s a combination of actors and insiders. A great production company can weigh in on the pro’s and con’s for your specific film.
Second, is the STORY compelling? When you watch examples, you’ll want to pay attention to how the video FEELS. Is the message clear? Moving? Exciting? Does it give you all the necessary information? Do you come away with a clear understanding of what they are asking of you? Are you supposed to purchase? Donate? Emotionally connect with company leadership? A great production company crafts great stories. Sure, some are less blockbuster than others – testimonial for hair restoration? – but if your video content is in front of the right person that NEEDS that product, service or message, then will it connect with them?? This answer should be a resounding yes. Make sure these add-up and you’ll ensure you present your company with its best foot forward. Watch several examples from the production companies your interviewing. Make sure they have a track record of producing high-quality, technically great content.
3. Call and talk with a producer at the production company to see if their company ‘personality’ and methods are a good fit.
Call around to your top choices. Talk to the real humans that do the work. You can tell a lot about a company by how they present themselves. Is the producer (or director) willing to talk through your basic project idea on the phone? Will they give you a free quote for services? What scope of project do they handle? If your film need actors or a telepromptor or a special set are they able and willing to develop that?
4. Ask for references. Simply by asking for references, you let a production company know you’re serious about creating compelling, high-quality content. They should be able to get you a few references that you can touch base with about their work.
5. Ask about their ability to stick to budget and what the plan is for project changes and additional work, if needed.
Sticking to budget is the hallmark of a well-managed production. A great production company plans for every contingency. They should be able to tell you what the plan – and cost! – is if something changes. Maybe that good idea everyone brainstormed at the start of your film turned into a great idea and you want to make it a reality. You should know in advance what the project’s production budget is and how it will change with new information.
6. Discuss the level of involvement needed from your company.
This is an informational, but great question to ask. Someone at your company will need to be the project point-person. Setting up the way your company communicates with your chosen production company can save headaches down the road when revisions and edits need to be made. Think about who will be hands-on. The CEO? Is he out of town often? The Marketing Director? Will s/he have autonomy to make changes or need to pass every little change to upper management? Make sure your know who will be managing the project on both sides of the table.
7. How many revisions will there be to my film?
A simple, straight-forward question. But make sure that this is spelled-out before project starts. You want to make sure there are enough revisions to enact your video edits. But be realistic, and organized. Your point-person should be watching to make sure things are correct with each project version. Typos and small changes can be costly mistakes if they are say, used in a 3D graphic element that needs high-level editing. A good rule of thumb for most videos for business is sharing of one rough-cut, followed by a few revised preview versions after changes are executed, then delivery of the final film. Choosing a production company to work with is like choosing other business partners. By knowing the answers to the questions above you should be able to develop a successful relationship with a production company. The right partner should be invested in making great content. Look on them as a partner, an extension of your in-house marketing endeavors. A great partnership can lead to spectacular video content that can drive the results you need. Finding and choosing a great production company doesn’t have to be a struggle.
Now what? Download our USING VIDEO FOR BUSINESS Success Kit for a more in-depth discussions of the process.