Video production used to be about fancy equipment, cool effects, big budgets and ‘creative’.
Today, effective video production is more about delivering measurable business results.
Back in the ‘big-iron’ days of corporate video you took some shots of the corporate headquarters, threw in a couple talking heads yammering on about the company’s mission statement and their place in the universe, added in a whack of superfluous motion graphics and $25,000 later, voila! – you had yourself a corporate video.
Then, a few years back, Sony introduces the EX1 camera, shooters like Phillip Bloom start telling everyone their secrets, Canon accidentally turns their DSLR’s into fantastic little video cameras and you have the beginning of a revolution. Today, everyone and their aunt is now a video producer and… here we are.
Video Production – Where we are today
1. The industry is in transition.
Let’s put one myth to bed forever. Video production is no longer a dark art mastered over decades slaving at the the feet of your local video Jedi master. Video production is just another technical and creative skill that can be learned by anyone with a bit of ambition and imagination.
My daughter was taught video editing in grade nine and she’s quite good at it. My other daughter takes phenomenal photographs with her iPhone (aided by a bit of Instagram magic.) My son, who worked with me in video production with no prior training was ahead of me in many (perhaps most) aspects of video production after a year or two.
I took up video production after 20 years in marketing (old dog, new tricks.) The ground beneath us continues to shift.
2. The means of production have been commoditized.
Software is (virtually) free. For $80 a month you can get every bit of new software you’ll ever need from Adobe.
Hardware is quickly becoming irrelevant. Sony recently introduced the FS6 which does everything you’ll ever need a camera to do (4K, low-light beast, slo-mo, great image quality, high dynamic range, amazing auto-focus, etc.) for under $10k.
The purists, tech snobs, and big budget players will always spend more on gear – good for them, but the differences in final output quality are becoming less and less obvious to the general viewing public. (Remember those audio geeks who bought the 1/2 inch thick, gold plated, plutonium enriched speaker wire and claimed it provided a much ‘truer’ sound experience? Those same guys are now playing their iPhone tunes through a single wireless Bose speaker.) Tech (via lower prices and more convenience) changes everything.
3. Everything is trending to Free.
Chris Andersen made a bold prediction in his book ‘Free : The Future of a Radical Price” that any business with a digital trajectory (many/most businesses as it turns out…) will have to deal with the fact that the future of many of their digital products and services will trend to free. That’s scary because it also means that commodity services will continue to be subsumed by larger companies who can afford to give stuff away. Like Google, for instance.
Google still makes most all of its money from search. Sure, we all use Youtube and Gmail because those are free services that Google has poured billions into over the last decade. Youtube only started making a profit a few years back. Imagine the competitive advantage you have when you can afford to loose bucket loads of cash every year on your product or service and still be able to increase your investment in the service.
Google, if they chose to be evil, could literally wipe out any web-based service they cared to. The amount of free stuff online is staggering. Photos, video clips, training, software… the list goes on and the list is growing. The services you provide may not yet be ‘free’ but as Andersen pointed out, bundling services with other things that you actually get paid for is the next wave. “Ya sure, I’ll throw in video production if we get to manage your entire account.”
4. The world is shrinking.
I’m currently working with people in India, Serbia and Kyrgyzstan on a variety of projects… because I can. You say you’re a really good shooter? So is the eager kid just out of college who’s been shooting since he was 10. You’re an amazing editor? So is a guy in Pakistan that edits for $10 per hour. You’ve got wicked experience in all aspects of video AND marketing? Yep, so does the ad agency that just added video production to their list of services to stay relevant and to keep their creative directors happy. Everyone is doing video production everywhere – and that trend is accelerating.
So that’s the ‘chaos’ part.
Corporate Video Production – Where we’re going, and what will matter.
1. The demand for video is insatiable.
Video is everywhere and the use of video by businesses is accelerating. That’s the good news. The best indication that corporate video has finally ‘arrived’ as a mainstream business activity is the fact that news articles and video production blog posts have finally stopped mentioning this months YouTube upload figures. Yep, we get it – the average person ‘watches 25 hours of video each day’ and ‘3.7 years of video footage is uploaded to Youtube every millisecond.’ Whatever.
We’re finally getting over hyping the numbers to ‘prove’ that businesses should jump on board the video bandwagon. Granted, a great deal of this new video output will be terrible but the fact remains that millions of business videos around the world are being created each year… and somebody has to create these videos.
2. Specialization (adding value) is the key to future success in video production
A buddy of mine works for a local App development company. (Like video, everyone is building Apps.) His company specializes in building Apps for Museums – big museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim. His company is able to land marquee museum customers because of their unique knowledge of, and experience with museums – not because they are wicked App programmers. This is exactly where video production is heading.
Offering generic video production services is going to continue to get more challenging because undifferentiated video production services are commodity services. “Hi, I’m Bob from Bob’s Video Production, would you like some video?” doesn’t move the dial any more. There is only one way for the price of a commodity service to go. (Down.)
The new breed of video production company will begin to specialize in specific business verticals like health care, or real estate and will develop knowledge and experiences that add value to their engagement beyond just being able to shoot and edit well. Vertical markets are one way to specialize. There are many other ways to differentiate your services.
You can develop a recognizable and unique style like Sandwich Video has done, or you can specialize in a type of video like the grandaddy (if your grandfather is 30 years old…) of explainer videos – 2minuteexplainer.com has done, or you can bring in the best people to do really, really good work like the folks at Variable seem to do on every frick’en project.
In every case where a video production company is growing and successful it’s not because they are great at the mechanical aspects of video production. It’s because they’ve moved beyond being technicians and they are adding unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the video production process. Buying a new camera doesn’t change anything. Telling your client how they can use video to solve their business problems – that changes everything.
3. All the world’s a screen.
Apple’s big idea – the one that changed the trajectory of their company was the re-imagination of the cell phone from a stupidly complex mechanical input device (loads of buttons) to a sheet of glass (a virtual device.) The interface options are infinite with a screen. Today we spend a growing portion of our lives staring at screens. Desktop computer screens, mobile phone screens, tablet screens, television screens, promotional display screens.
Our interface to the digital world is through a sheet of glass and we are all becoming digital… and video has become the digital rockstar.
4. ‘Real Reality’ (experiential video) and the coming tsunami of un-staged video.
Most marketing video today is fake (staged). Even the video that is supposed to be real – testimonial video – is staged to some degree. Most people watching corporate videos understand this. Marketing is the art of positioning (faking) stuff to sound and look real and important. All of us who work in this industry live on that continuum. We simply decide how much ‘fake’ we and our audiences can stomach.
Un-staged (or ‘slightly staged’) is becoming more relevant because it seems less fake. Most successful viral videos today look real even if we all know how much behind-the-scenes planning went into creating all of that reality. The next wave is going to be Real Reality – video that is genuine and spontaneous and not stage-managed. Where is this video going to come from? Everywhere. We all now carry really impressive video cameras in our pockets and we’re all getting quite good at using them. The flood of experiential video is going to change the corporate video production landscape and it’s going to change the style of corporate video even more.
Winning with fake is going to get tougher and tougher. Entertainment will be the exception here, but as we begin to see real reactions to products and services it’s going to be tougher and tougher to show people how they should ‘really’ feel about your product. Wearable tech like Google Glass (even though everyone’s first reaction to seeing those things are ‘WHOA, DUDE!!!! are you filming me right now????’ – not a good thing…) will make it easier and easier for us to lifestream our entire existence.
If your product sucks, there’s going to be no place to hide any more and no amount of PR is going to fix real (and shared) perceptions. And for those futurists out there – the bionic eye is already here. Very soon we’ll be capturing everything we do. And we’ll be sharing it. Nowhere for businesses to hide anymore.
5. More efficient video production processes
Back in the day (say…. a couple years ago…) if you wanted to get help on a project you’d either call somebody over to your cubical or give someone you know a call and try to explain your dilemma. Today there are so many online resources like training tips (I.e. Google: How do I extrude a 3d shape in After effects) or Royalty-free video clips (the prices are dropping and the quality is increasing very fast – why go out and shoot a reference clip of a city if you can download a great aerial shot for $100 or $10 or $1 or for free – remember that everything trends to free online…) and collaborative tools (either integrated tools like Adobe anywhere or AVID Everywhere or Autodesk 360 or stand-alone tools like Wispter, Remark, and Vidma
6. We’re entering the Post-hardware Era of video production
Remember when it used to matter which desktop publishing platform you were on, or which photo editing software you used, or what coding platform you developed on? No one cares any more. Really, no one cares. Same thing is happening now with video.
I wrote a post about this a while back and it’s interesting to see the old guard still griping about ‘kids with camera’s.’ The hardware you owned used to define your position in the video production industry. Today you can do great stuff with just about any camera and if you’re missing a special bit of functionality wait a couple months and some company will be dumping that into their newest model release.
How you solve your customer’s business problems is what matters today. Having expensive video equipment doesn’t make you a good video producer any more than having an expensive pen makes you a good writer.
Some near-term video production trends
1. Video continues to go in-house.
Businesses will continue to create their own video because they can and because, for certain types of video projects, it makes sense to do so. Businesses will also experiment and waste valuable time and resources on more complex video projects that they will ultimately out-source but, like a petulant toddler, they’ll have to make these mistakes and suffer through the pain in order to learn.
2. Better integration of video with marketing
Video continues to be a bit of a stand-alone activity for many businesses. This will change. Video has to be integrated with all other marketing activities. As an example video has to be properly optimized for SEO, video always benefits from building a strong landing page presence to support the video and video needs to part of a larger distribution and promotional process. Putting your video up on your website and on YouTube isn’t enough any more.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. If you don’t know how people are reacting to your video (open rates, completion rates, where people drop-off, call-to-action completions, etc.) you can’t tell if your video is having an impact. There are many online services / platforms to assist you with both video hosting and tracking such as vzaar.com, wistia.com, and brightcove.com and analytics software like Google Analytics are excellent tools to help you to understand how video is affecting your business.
4. Shorter continues to be better for business video
There is no correct length for a corporate video. Your video should only be as long as you need to make your point and not a second longer. There will always be exceptions and with certain business uses of video such as training and post-sale support it makes sense to produce longer videos. But, all things considered, shorter is better. Mobile is beginning to overtake desktop as the primary venue for watching online videos. Attention spans continue to shrink, particularly when people are using mobile devices.
5. Pre-production is where all the value is today in video
If you don’t have the right message and the right concept and the most appropriate style all decided beforehand in the form of a final storyboard that everyone understands and agrees to then you’re wasting your time with video.
Having some video up on your website used to be a goal in and of itself. If you don’t start your video project by first identifying the specific business goals that your video needs to accomplish then you’re waisting your time with video. No amount of shooting and editing and creative is going to save a video that is not on message or delivering a specific business outcome.
6. Personalization and mass-customization.
We’re still a few years away from technology allowing us to easily mass-customize the delivery of video, but the personalization and the creation of focussed, targeted content will become more prevalent over the next few years. Broadcast viewing (programming that makes you watch stuff on some-one else’s schedule) is being replaced by personalized, mobile viewing. That means a video targeted to a mass audience is going to have less and less value. Context, where you are and what you are doing is going to require videos that are created and delivered to meet the needs of a very specific audience, wherever and whenever they are.
And there you have it. Please feel free to share your ideas and comments below on this topic below.
Very complete and interesting article that sums up most of what is to expect from video production in the future! As technology is continuously changing and evolving. For example, the 4K revolution promises to render high-quality videos more accessible and affordable. With everybody possessing wearable devices and the responsive spread, everybody can and certainly will manage to produce good videos. As to corporate videos, personalized content is the key because consumers evolve as quickly as technologies do!
Thanks, for commenting “Unnamed Person” at Osko Productions. I agree that 4k will become more prevalent in the near future. The challenge with wearable devices is going to be the ‘HEYYYY! ARE YOU FILMING ME RIGHT NOW!!!’ reaction, but I do agree that we will all be capturing more and more of our lives on video.
Absolutely agree that mass personalization will be a very big deal in the near future. It will take a great deal of money, technology and creativity to get it right. It requires a highly flexible and intelligent platform that can swap content elements in a video on the fly. Look to Google to develop something like this as the evolution of adwords.
Great article that addresses so many issues in the field today.
There are still so many people stuck in the “big iron” mentality that you mentioned.
Many customers just don’t understand why they can’t shoot something with their cell phone, and it’s a good question. And you can’t effectively respond from a technical position. It has to be solution based.
There’s a lot of great stuff on this. I’ve got recently discovered and am making my way through the articles.
thanks for that feedback Reid. Happy browsing.
Nice article that does discuss what is happening in video production.
As a video producer and director I am a storyteller. We start each project with understanding our clients objectives and never with a cookie cutter approach. I guess I could tell my customers story with my cell phone but it looks better and is more watchable with a good video camera and prime lens. Our pre-production meetings always include post production team members. I totally agree shorter is better; my favorite quote for video is Mark Twain “If i had more time I would have written you a shorter letter.”
Thanks Mitch. I’m often asked to explain to clients why making a one minute video is about the same price as a two minute video. “Shouldn’t it be half the cost?” No…
I must say it’s pretty refreshing to see someone who works in video production concede that the kit doesn’t have to cost the earth and – instead of insisting it does – suggest other ways to add value.
Also thanks for the mention of vzaar. Just wondered if we could get our name changed: vzarr –> vzaar (think video + bazaar).
Anyways, great post! I can only echo a fellow commenter “very complete and interesting” 🙂
Thanks for the feedback Hayley… and ya, vsorry about that typo – fixed.
A piece of genuine insight, which I really like :
“His company is able to land marquee museum customers because of their unique knowledge of, and experience with museums – not because they are wicked App programmers.”
Mark – thanks for that. I think this is likely the biggest change the corporate video production industry is going to experience – the fact that video production, like writing and design and programming is not a stand alone activity like it used to be and video production companies are now being asked to add value beyond just having great production skills.
I have been feeling exactly what you wrote about for several years. Our market in Grand Rapids, MI is changing rapidly. The traditional projects still exist but the need for quick turn around video, SEO video and social media video has driven us to some exciting new innovations in our process!
We are so excited to be on the front end of this change and see nothing but opportunity while most of our competition seems to see challenges and obstacles.
Our new process and system promises 24 hour turn around for 2 of these types of videos.
This article has validated my sense for what small businesses, and large, have been asking for more than ever!
thanks for those comments nick.
Very informative article about the direction video production is heading. Video is becoming a huge part of our world today and it’s crazy to think that anyone can produce a video if they choose to. Thanks for sharing!
great post. thoughtful and optimistic (vs. hysterical and negative).
Thought I’d share this recent LA Times piece here – relevant to your final point about personalization and customization – movie trailer production is ramping up because of explosion in online viewership + need for diverse POVs to engage non-monolithic viewing audience:
Taro, thanks for the feedback and the share.
Such a good read. Indeed, the video production industry is moving forward at lightning speed.
Found your blog. Great information on video production. I really appreciate your efforts. Thank you a lot.
“All the world’s a screen.” Great quote. Video marketing, as you said, is changing so rapidly and it will be great to see the future of how it evolves with all the creative talent that is learning to leverage it.
Its interesting to see such a progressive opinion from a self proclaimed “old dog” many professionals see things like mobile cameras as an invasion. I for one welcome the new technology and i’m currently exploring the mobile medium for its use in a nimble professional environment. No, my iphone can’t touch my RED in terms of quality… but does it have to to be a professional tool? My RED can’t edit or share the video it captures can it?
Anyways, I enjoyed this article.
Brandon, appreciate the feedback. The cost of your equipment used to define your status in the industry.. now it just defines how much money you’ve spent on equipment.
That’s a great quote 🙂
20 Years ago you would indeed be hired because you owned a camera. And certain cameras were wanted by certain clients.
Like in the Pixar movie Ratatouille: “Everyone can film” (but luckily for the people in the business: not everyone can tell the right story).
Keep on writing, and keep on filming 🙂
Actually it reminds of a quote from Seneca (1st century Roman philosopher): you can own the best horse in town, but it doesn’t make you a better person.
This was a great read! I’m a graduating college student in Communications/Radio and Television. I am close to the top, if not the top in my class, and I currently work for a TV station in creative services. Although I am blessed to have a full time job doing something I love before I even graduate, I want to make more creative videos that take the time to plan for a business. I currently do wedding videos on the side, but I want to transition to business promos for their websites and other means. Do you have any advice on how to jump start this transition and getting clients? Do I just become a sales person and begin cold calling potential clients? Sorry for the long comment, but I feel like advice from a professional could help.
Thanks again for such a great article and I agree that Pre-production is where all the value is today in video.
Casey, you need to be in a market that supports a lot of corporate work (large city). If that is case then start hustling. Do any work you can get and start working your way up the food chain. After a year or two at the most, the market will tell you how good you are.
Yes, you have to sell your services, but it may be easier to start by working with complementary businesses ( like ad agencies) who need help with video.
You also have to determine what your strengths are: shooting, editing, selling… and partner with others who have skills you don’t have. If you are fairly good at all three then you will do fairly well.
Thanks for getting back to me so fast! I interned with an ad agency all last year, and they now ask me to help out on many shoots. I’ll keep working at it and hopefully I’ll be able to start producing videos for my own clients.
Thanks for writing such an insightful and detailed article about the video production market today. I really think you are spot on and it’s definitely given me some food for thought. Thanks!
Jana, thanks for that feedback.
Thanks for this article. You have done a great service for our industry!
Thanks for that input Bryan.
Good read. I will definitely share the article with my colleagues.
With the advent of the information age, you’re right about how the world is shrinking. It’s interesting how you talk about how being able to connect and work with individuals across the world as the “chaos” aspect of video production trends. It’s really important to make sure that you are as competitive as possible if this is the case. I’ve noticed that high quality videos these days are able to have the proper lighting. It’s a big distinguishing factor when I evaluate videos.
Thanks for your thoughts Adam. Hopefully you guys can hang on to your football team…
This is a great read for anyone who thinks video is easy to create. It is not by any means. There is a lot of effort into portraying the right story as well as meeting the consumers eye. The old saying you get what you pay for is true when it comes to video production and free isn’t always the answer. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the feedback Meagan
Thanks Jimm for sharing this article… Loved reading this.
A great read Jimm. I’m in the process of rejigging the branding of our production company (est 1989) and your writing has helped take some of the fear away from moving forward with the approach we’re considering. I produced my first corporate for Ford in the early 80’s, first commercial for Sharp in the early 90’s and started streaming video for all of my clients in 2000 long before You-tube came along.
Every decade brings new challenges — along with a bevy of doom & gloom nay-sayers. It’s truly refreshing to find an article that embraces inevitable change and provides the right measure of advise to navigate successfully.
Derek, thanks for that – you’ve obviously been through many cycles. The only thing I really didn’t add, or emphasize, in the article is that the rate of change is accelerating far quicker than we can image. We won’t be waiting a decade for disruptive events in the industry – they’ll start to arrive in one or two year increments. cheers.
This was a great read. I especially liked: …”Offering generic video production services is going to continue to get more challenging because undifferentiated video production services are commodity services. “HI, I’m Bob from Bob’s Video Production, would you like some video?” just won’t move the dial.” That’s a statement that could apply to a few other industries as well; video rental, taxis, restaurant, voiceover… Gotta adapt or die!
Thanks for sharing this article… Loved reading this.
What a great post! This was full of useful information. Thank You!
Thank’s for that information.
Wow. Just Wow. Just what I was looking for. Just what i have been feeling like the last few years. I graduates in Broadcast Communications at SFSU and i have made video production a lifestyle. I have a youtube channel that just hit over 7 million views. I have shot weddings. I worked full time in corporate video. Im shooting video right now of a tech meet up! My content is all over the place because i produce what i love…. and produce what ever jobs come up….. theres so much competition that i have a hard time focusing one niche market because i try not to turn down gigs and just keep working . One day i might film a wedding. Another om shooting corporate…. or a music video or something for my youtube channel. What ever sparks my interest. As long as i keep working and keep the muscle building. Thank you for this ariticle. Im a little less lost…..Your thoughts…?
James – thanks for that. Check out gydes.com – something new I’ve started – you might find some more inspiration there. Ultimately you have to find a niche, a style, a voice… something and rock it. That’s how you win. Scattershot is never a winning formula.
Great article Jimm. I know you wrote this a few years ago but it still rings true today. In fact, we’re certainly seeing many of the trends you predict become part of our every day “video productiony” lives. Our company is certainly at a cross-road and much like the museum app you mentioned, we’ve been looking to ‘niche down’ as they say. Is that also true for you? Thanks again for putting this out there!
I’m passing on the business to my son who’s been working with me for the last 5 years. Time for some new adventures.
Hi Jimm. I was just browsing and came across your site. Great post. One of the new trends we at Productionhero have experienced is to crowdsource the content and use social medias to get early viewer tractions.
Hey, Jim! It’s 2 years now but still, I must say such a worthy food of thought! I also believed that in today’s world video production houses has gained a lot of point of attention, as we have Pixar and Dreamworks as the best example of animation video production houses.
The way the demand for videos is increasing it looks like there will be many more video production companies starting up.
Jeff – not sure I agree – there is a lot more demand for video, no question… but that demand doesn’t necessarily correlate to more video companies. It does mean many more people will be doing video and that includes freelancers, in-house video, ad agencies and creative shops adding video to their list of services.
This is great. Thanks for sharing!
You’re quite welcome Hayden
This a very well-rounded article. You’ve shared some very interesting insights on various aspects of the video production business. I run a post-production and motion graphic studio in India that supports video production companies in the USA; this article gives me a very good understanding of the developments happening on ground zero. Thanks a lot for this.
Thanks Jimm I am a huge fan of your blog ! You manage to say in a concise way many things that I’ve tried to explain to my customers. You just help me having a better communication :). From a young french mummy who just started her own Video Studio in Paris, France. Keep writing and inspiring us !
Zelda, thanks for that feedback. I used to live in the 16th at Place du Trocadero. Paris is extraordinary.
Great article. Great blog. Thanks for the research.
Video production San Francisco Los Angeles
I certainly agree to some points that you have discussed on this post. I appreciate that you have shared some reliable tips on this review.
I have been a commercial photographer since 1991 and got dragged into video production (kicking and screaming) about 10 years ago. It was a natural part of my business evolution if I wanted to stay relevant and continue to address my client’s needs. I was delighted to read your blog and many of the trends you revealed I have experienced first hand but was unable to articulate as eloquently.
Two thoughts that resonate with me are the importance of collaboration with other creatives/clients and messaging. I’ve always advised aspiring photographers to stick with what they do best and let the others do the rest. Many clients just expect the production crew to produce the video with little thought to strategy. Today’s production crews must play the agency role.
My strength in video is primarily preproduction. Developing the concept and fine tuning the message before you ever pick up a camera is critical. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints and it’s always cheaper to rearrange a wall or room on paper than after the house is built. I believe the convenience and availability of camera/video gear has turned everyone into a photographer. But not so fast. If your imagery doesn’t engage your audience and inspire them to take action or at least have a heightened sense of awareness; you’ve failed. It’s all about the message. Thanks again for a well written blog.
David, thanks for the feedback much appreciated.
Oh yeah ? Video production is just another creative skill that anyone can learn ?
You make it sound like an amateur that thinks pressing record makes a film.
What about narrative, framing, lighting ?
Conducting an interview while operating a camera and getting professional sound ?
Or building a story that will move the audience?
I for example have been doing this for 10 years now and 6 years professionaly and for a living. There is tons and tons of things to learn every day and no learning it on the side as if it was any kind of hobby won’t make you as good as a professional I am sorry. I have people calling me almost every day because they don’t understand the very base of editing or because they got their sound wrong on their interview and I can tell it takes a lot of knowledge and experience to be able to do it right.
Sometimes pressing record with fully automatic camera settings and good audio is all you need.
Sometimes you need a crew of 5 or more highly skilled professionals.
I agree that expertise is important.
I don’t agree that experience, in and of itself, is important.
I’ve seen people new to the industry put out great work and I’ve seen people who’ve worked in the industry for decades put out crap.
Getting everything right that you mentioned is still important.
My point was that it’s getting easier every day to get all of those things right.
awesome post thanks for the information
Great and useful post! Thanks for sharing with us.
Nice blog! Thanks for sharing this helpful blog.
Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don’t really provide anything that attract others, but I’m most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.