February 29, 2012 \ Geoff Birmingham
Saving on video production costs – skip the producer?

MoneyWe are always trying to help our clients save a buck.  One way to do this is to employ a smaller crew during filming. So, on occasion, we will just send out our camera guy and sound person to film with the client, without me there as producer. (In the video world, the “producer” is equivalent to the “director” for a film.) The two of them have enjoyed that – “Guess you’re unnecessary, eh Geoff?”

This begs the question: “Can I just hire a single camera guy to film this video for me?”  You can, of course, though there are strong reasons to have more manpower at your disposal.  But let’s say your needs aren’t complicated – you just want, for example, to record a presentation that you are giving.  There’s not a lot of direction that a producer is going to offer in a situation like that beyond telling the camera guy where to place his equipment.

But what are the implications if the video has a few more moving parts?  Overall, the results have not been disastrous for those clients who have chosen to self-produce. We can attribute this, in part, to the fact that we give the client and our crew some serious direction in advance, so they have a good idea what they need to accomplish with us in absentia.

Even so, we typically see a couple of small glitches in the outcome that suggest there could have been more serious implications if the project had been a little more complex.  Here are just a couple things that can be easily overlooked by clients who self-produce:

  • Giving direction in the capture of b-roll. As producers, we have a pretty good idea of what shots are going to be valuable to help tell a story.  So, for example, if we know that we are going to interview a particular person, we will tell our cameraman: “Mr. Cameraman, please shoot plenty of video of that person in the class/at work/doing something because we will be interviewing her later and will want cutaway shots.
  • Giving direction in the set-up of interviews. A beautiful-looking interview shot isn’t the most important thing in the world, but we always try to be as imaginative as possible in the composition of shots.  And, just as importantly, we are always trying to figure out ways to make each interviewee look as good as possible on camera.
  • Eliciting strong content from the interviewees. A video producer usually has a picture in his mind, in advance, of what the video will be, and what his interviewees need to say (in general) to match that vision.  He knows if a message has been delivered well for video purposes, or if it needs to be redone. He is able to recognize an interesting theme that his interviewee perhaps has touched upon and delve into it further to get even more juicy content than expected.  He is able to make an interviewee feel at ease and more confident speaking on camera.

Basically, the producer brings value because he knows what he needs and knows how to avoid pitfalls.  If a client wants to self-produce and doesn’t have a lot of obstacles to navigate, usually things won’t go too far off course.  But, of course, the more navigation that’s needed, the higher the risks of self-producing.  As with everything in life, it requires a cost-benefit analysis!

Photo: MoneyBlogNewz