The answer to the question, “Should we produce our brand’s video in-house?” is always a resounding “No!”
In the digital age, everyone is Steven Spielberg. Kids with smartphones and ring lights develop global social media followings and become their brand in thirty-second bursts. Videos, whether produced and stylized or candid and raw, go viral, and for a flash and a bang, the subjects have the attention of the world. Making a stand-out buzz-generating video seems so easy and economical.
Producing a high-quality video “in-house” is not easy or economical, and “in-house” is a euphemism for Do It Yourself (DIY), which is a great way to go if you’re into arts & crafts but a terrible direction if you’re producing a video. Film/video production is a complex creative and technical discipline that requires advanced levels of expertise to do in a way that delivers positive ROI and drives sales and elevates brand awareness.
Consider that even big Hollywood movies with big budgets that employ the best above and below-the-line talent money can buy do re-shoots because one of the thousand things that must go right before, during, and after the camera rolls went wrong. And if you don’t know what above-the-line and below-the-line talent mean, your production won’t make it five feet past the starting gate before it has to be put down.
Before producing a video “in-house,” brands should consider the following five questions.
1. Do you know what a producer does?
A producer is an actual job title. Hollywood producers have their guild and everything. If you plan to produce a DIY video, knowledge of a producer’s job duties is an excellent place to start. It is an easy description. Clear your calendar because a producer does everything.
Making a video is like putting together a round puzzle with 1,000 pieces that are the same color – it is difficult, time-consuming, frustrating, challenging, and rewarding. Still, if even one piece is missing, you don’t get the whole picture. A producer is in charge of every element of the puzzle – from script development to distribution.
Any video project is made in three stages: pre-production, production, post-production. The producer oversees each stage of the video production process. A producer, simplified:
- Pre-production: creates a budget, develops script from concept to final draft, hires scriptwriter(s), hires director, cast, and other above-line talent, hires production crew, and manages all matters related to the video before shooting.
- Production: “the shoot” is the director’s domain, yet the producer ensures production is on time and budget, reviews daily footage, and is the final authority on-set production-related matters.
- Post-Production: oversees the editing, delivery of the final product, and distribution.
During these three phases, the producer is also in charge of human relations, many fragile (ever work with an actor or actress before?), and disaster management. Every production has at least one disaster.
If a brand moves forward with making its video, somebody, or a group of people, must be in charge of everything a producer would generally do. Therefore, companies should do an honest and realistic assessment of the time and effort required to produce a video in-house and the unique, often unforeseen challenges it poses and weigh them against the current needs of its business.
Considerable creative, technical, and administrative resources are needed to create compelling branded video content. Producing in-house means existing staff will be pulled from their day-to-day duties for the duration of the production.
Making professional-quality videos is not something a junior staffer can orchestrate on his or her lunch break. A full-time dedicated production group is needed to shepherd a video marketing campaign from concept to screening.
Producing in-house may save a few dollars on the balance sheet, but it is a mirage. Lost productivity from re-assigned staff and an end product that looks and sounds like novices slapped it together leaves your brand with at best a marginal video and, at worst, unusable content that is a complete financial loss.
2. Do you know how to create a film/TV budget?
Any time a motion picture camera rolls, whether digital video or IMAX, a unique visual language is spoken embedded with a dramatic code as ancient as human civilization. That language costs money and lots of it, and to unlock the code requires trucks full of special video equipment, audio equipment, lighting, and editing equipment.
If you don’t speak the language, how are you going to create a budget? If you don’t know what a piece of equipment does or how to use it, how will you know the actual equipment cost or need it? A production budget requires specialized knowledge of video production costs.
Lots of Hollywood Math goes into a production budget too. For example, you may budget $5,000 for the art department. The art department is full of people with advanced degrees in art history, and they know how to do whatever it is you want for $4,000. The crew will spend the extra $1,000 on a wrap party at the closest tequila bar. That’s Hollywood Math.
Here’s another one. Crafts Services. Second, only to the director, craft services may be the line item in the budget most responsible for the success/failure of a shoot. Craft services are the entertainment industry’s term for “eating.” The word “craft” did not spring out of nowhere.
It should indicate an expectation that food preparation during the shoot is a highly specialized skill, and the budget should reflect that. Even if you have a low budget, especially if you are on a low budget, this is not the area to skimp. Take care of your cast and crew on a shoot, or your production will face a mutiny.
Your company may have an entire department full of talented financial professionals who whip up quarterly and annual budgets in their sleep. Still, if directed to handle the finances for video production, the learning curve may be much steeper than you realize.
Producers know how to speak “production,” and seasoned Production Managers are well versed in the tricks of the trade, like the fact your wardrobe head will return 75% of what they purchase, which means your production will have a well-informed budget based on reality.
3. Do you know how to write a script?
You don’t, and you can’t learn it online. The script is a blueprint. Without a blueprint and sound structural engineering, your building will collapse. Without a script and sound story structure, a story will collapse.
Branding is storytelling. A brand’s message must be on the page. A professional screenwriter knows overall story structure, tone, pacing, dialogue as theme, set-ups and payoffs, when all-hope-is-lost, and how to rally the hero to victory during the final battle.
Don’t fall into the trap that the 30-second video you’re going to run on YouTube is different from Titanic. It’s not. Everything you see in Titanic is in the script, and everything you see in your video should be in the script too.
Do you know how to turn a script into a shooting script, so the cast and crew know what they’re doing or distribute last-minute on-set script revisions? Script continuity? The life cycle of a hand doesn’t end when the writer types, “THE END.” As words become footage, the script enters a vital production phase that only people who understand the intricacies of the transition can manage.
4. Do you know how to direct a movie?
It is impossible to produce a great video from a bad script, but it is possible to take a great script and make a wrong video. It is a statistical fact based on box office sales that no one is more responsible for the success or failure of a feature film than its director.
The director is in charge of putting what’s on the page onto the stage. The director has the creative vision to translate words to film and draw out the best performances from the cast and crew.
A skilled director knows how to shoot any type of video – live-action video, corporate training video, explainer video, business videos, animated videos, online video, etc. He or she knows how to use a green screen and, like the producer, is a pro at disaster management.
Creative disasters may include cast conflicts, equipment failures, inclement weather, or some random variable that impacts your most important shot. With all due respect to your marketing team, the ultimate goal is to produce the type of content that will knock people’s socks off, and the director is the only person who can make that happen.
5. Do you know the basic principles of video and sound editing?
Your raw video is not a video until skilled artisans called video editors to study every take and assemble a powerful visual story with a solid emotional impact with your brand at its center. The editing process is grueling and requires advanced knowledge of video editing and video editing software.
From a technical perspective, sound and video editing must be seamless, or the overall production will be cheap, campy, and ineffective. Your video marketing strategy will fail if the viewer can’t hear because of background noise or choppy editing.
The post-production team also includes professionals who create special effects, sound effects, graphics & motion graphics, and music that helps your video increase viewer engagement and brand awareness. Failings in any of these areas will sink your message.
A video’s production value is not determined by its budget or other resources (e.g., celebrity spokesperson) but by professional staff who know the trade tricks to create media magic.
It does not matter how great your concept or tagline is or if you have $1 million to spend on a commercial running during the Super Bowl. If you don’t have the right video production team, your investment may be in jeopardy.
If you decide to produce your brand’s video with an in-house team, consider the enormous creative, technical, and administrative talent needed at every production stage to ensure a successful shoot.
Hiring a video production company that offers the full range of video production services mitigates the many creative and financial risks involved in creating video content guarantees professional-grade technical proficiency, all of which allow your brand’s message to shine through.