You’ve got the green light to start your video project. Now you just need to find the right production house. Where do you start? We’ve created the following post to help you plan your next video project.
The first section explains how to begin the planning process. The next section looks at what you should consider when looking for a video production company. The last section offers suggestions for specific questions that you should be asking prospective production companies. Here’s a video planning checklist we created to make it easy for you to plan the entire process.
Things to consider before you reach out to video production companies:
1. Prepare a video production brief.
Any prospective video production company is going to have a lot of questions. You’ll be much further ahead if you’ve thought through the kind of things you’ll be asked such as: What are you trying to achieve with your video? Who is your audience? How are you going to measure success? What are the key messages that you need to communicate? What is your timeframe? Do you have a particular style or type of video in mind, if so, do you have an example of something you are trying to emulate.
Here’s a list of the things that should go into a proper video production brief. All of these questions have to be answered at some point, so you might as well consider them at the beginning of the process.
2. Set a budget.
If you’ve never created video before you probably won’t be familiar with video production costs. Here is a post that explains video production costs and here is a link to a video production cost calculator that helps you estimate approximate video production costs based on a wide variety of input variables.
Some companies prefer not to disclose their budget hoping that project quotes will be lower. The challenge with this strategy is that is forces prospective production companies to guess what your budget might be. Does it make sense that the company that guesses closest to your budget should necessarily be the chosen vendor? Most video production agencies will start projects in the two to five thousand dollar range. Some start at ten thousand dollars or more. The complexity of your project will ultimately determine its cost.
3. Consider what kind of video production company that you should be looking for.
Video production companies have evolved considerably over the last 10 years. Some companies are generalists and some specialize in certain types of video like event videos, explainer videos or broadcast commercials. While most video production houses will claim to create ‘marketing videos,’ your specific marketing goals and delivery channels may be quite unique. If you’re creating a video that you want to promote on TikTok or Facebook as an example, then you should look for a company that has had success in creating these specific types of videos.
4. Create a short list of companies you want to consider.
Google is the place most businesses start when they launch a search for video production services. Asking co-workers and industry contacts for references is still the gold standard in business referrals.
The challenge with Google search today is that unless a production company is paying for Adwords to be seen in Google most people will never have the patience to make it beyond the first page of Google Search Engine results. That’s unfortunate because there are a lot of great companies still to be found for those with the patience to perform a more exhaustive search.
The overall professionalism of the Production Company’s website, the quality of their videos and the type of supplemental information they provide should give you a good idea as to potential fit.
6. Check reviews.
When you’ve narrowed down prospective vide production businesses you should consider reviews. Not all reviews have the same value and not all reviews may be genuine but reviews are becoming an essential tool in choosing between different video production houses. Google Reviews remains the most used review tool.
There are a number of review indexing businesses that dominate search results today such as Up City, Clutch, Yelp, Peerspace, theManifest, and many more local business indexes. The business model for many of these is similar to Adwords – paying for placement. Typically, the more in-depth the reviews are, the better idea you can get about the company and it’s processes.
7. Know what you want to ask prospective companies.
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to between three and five companies you should prepare a list of questions for each company so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison. We’ve listed a number of these questions in the section below.
8. Consider if the company will be adding value to the process.
Video production business are evolving rapidly. Being good at filming and editing are now table stakes in video production. The new generation of video production companies are adding value to the process, either with industry expertise, with channel expertise, by being part of a larger marketing group or by specializing in specific types of video.
If you’re not being supported by an internal marketing department or by an external ad agency that will help you oversee the video production process then you should
understand what value the video production company you are talking to can add to your project.
9. Determine how involved you and your team will be on the project.
Do you want a complete turnkey video production service where the production house handles everything or are there specific pieces that you need to oversee? What levels of approval are required?
Do you need to have someone with authority on set during shooting? How many edits are you expecting from the production house? All of these things need to be considered before a quote is provided.
What to look for when searching for the right video production company
When you’re in video production company search mode, there are many variables to consider in your decision process. We’ve listed them below in priority order.
1. Experience / Expertise.
Whether you’re looking for a heart surgeon, a pilot, a chef or a personal trainer there is no substitute for experience and expertise. Experience can only come with time – the more, the better. There are no substitutes here. Expertise has to do with the capabilities and skills of the video production team. Expertise is determined by interests, capabilities, drive and a variety of other intangible factors. You also need to understand what aspects of experience are most relevant. Are they going to help you write the script, manage all the logistics of the project or help you promote the video?
What to look for: While there is no ‘correct’ amount of experience to consider, more experience is always desired because: It demonstrates a long term commitment to the craft and, it represents a level of output quality that has allowed the person or company to remain in business. Every other consideration is subjective.
Like graphic design, marketing and most other ‘creative services,’ video production is a subjective endeavour. Often it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what works or why and most people find it difficult to articulate why they believe a specific video seems to be professional or effective – especially when considering how it might apply to their specific brand.
You need to consider the niche / focus of each production house. Most companies tend to have some type of focus or specialty – sometimes it’s just difficult to tell.
What to look for: Look at as many of the different video projects that the production house has on display on their website but pay particular attention to the ones that are closest to the type of video that you have in mind. One company may specialize in event video and while the scope and presentation of their videos may be impressive, those videos likely have nothing to do with the Facebook ad that you need to create. The company that does outstanding social cause videos may not be the right fit to produce your animated explainer video.
3. Video Production Outcomes.
Looking subjectively at a portfolio of videos only tells you part of the story. What’s more important is understanding the goal of each video and the outcomes that were generated by that video. Video productions are now being guided by much more measurable processes and metrics. While awards might make you feel good – unless they generate a business outcome they have little merit.
What to do: While most production companies don’t put together case studies for their video projects, you should ask them to explain the business outcomes of the videos that you feel are closest to the video that you want to produce.
Video production agencies have to earn the right to shoot larger projects, with larger budgets for larger clients. This is an iterative process that takes years. The quality and size of the businesses that a video production house produces work for is a good proxy for the general level of trust the industry has for their capabilities.
If Coke trusts a production house to do a television commercial for them then it’s safe to assume that company is very good at what they do. What to look for: If businesses or government agencies you respect and recognize have chosen to do work with a specific production company it’s a reasonable assumption that that
company is good at what they do.
5. Budget / Affordability.
Fame, fortune or fun – these are the three criteria a video production business employ in their customer selection choices. Assuming that your project won’t generate enough interest in the ‘Fame’ or ‘Fun’ side of the ledger then you have to find a suitable vendor based on your budget. The challenge is to find the optimum company that can work within your budget and do the best job. The only way to establish budget parameters is to discuss them upfront. Some companies only do projects starting in the $25k range. Some start higher. If you have a very small budget then there’s little value in chasing down the industry leader to quote on doing your work.
What to look for: Begin by assuming that the maxim ‘you get what you pay for’ still holds true today. Sure, everyone wants more, but ‘more’ generally costs more. A great way to discover what things costs is to have a reference video or two and ask potential vendors ‘what would something like this might cost to make.’
6. Cultural Fit / Customer Support.
It’s very difficult to know how your experience with a new production company is going to go. That’s why reviews and references are so important.
Reviews are quick summaries of other people’s experience and when you read enough of them a pattern always emerges. Beyond that, you should discover very quickly whether the key people on the production house team will be the type of people you want to work with by chatting with them. If possible, try to meet them in person. Are they ‘2 dudes and a camera’ or are you working with a professional, experienced company that you would be comfortable introducing to your business owners / leaders.
Get them to explain their production processes to you. If they reply ‘what do you mean?’ – run away.
What to do: Ask the prospective video production business for a few references and take the time to contact them. Meet the owners of the production company.
While self-evident, ensuring that your deadline and the production schedule of the video team are in synch is still very important. Have you factored in all of your internal approvals? What happens if your deliverables ‘slip a little bit?’ Is the production house still on the nut to delivery at the original deadline if things change that they do not control? Have you accounted for people not showing up the day of the shoot (I.e. Covid) Or if for bad weather cancels an exterior shoot? What if you cannot deliver necessary components required for post-production? What if your CEO is terrible on-camera? What if you discover you don’t like something in one of the shots only when you see the first cut?
What to do: ‘Stuff’ happens. It’s best to talk through all of the contingencies and agree on how these will be resolved before shooting begins. It’s smart to allow both extra time and money for contingencies on larger video projects.
Questions that you should ask prospective video production companies
1. Can they share results of previous projects?
This is the question that will provide the most insight into the prospective video production company. You will discover how important actual business outcomes are and how they ensured that the videos that they produced achieved those outcomes.
2. Can they share reviews and references with you.
Reviews might be as simple as providing a link to Google reviews. Being able to talk to past customers will provide more objective and in-depth knowledge of what it is like to work with a video production company.
3. What is your strength?
Do you have a specific subject matter or channel expertise? The first question is a great open-ended question to ask because you will discover what the production house values. The second question will let you know if they will be adding value beyond filming and editing. Are they technicians or are the subject matter / industry experts. As an example – if you’re looking to do real estate video, all things being equal, you should have the best experience with a company that has been shooting real estate video for the last ten years.
4. Ask them about their production process.
How do they typically handle scripts and storyboards. What is the typical make-up of their production team? Do they do all of the post-production in-house or do they have contractors handling some aspects of production. What happens if they don’t like some aspect of the production?
5. Ask them about their business.
How long have they been in business? How is business going? Are they developing any specializations? (this can be very revealing.) Who have they worked for in the past. What was their best experience with a client and why?
6. Who will be working on my project?
Specifically – what people, in what roles and for what timeframe will their people be working on your project?
And finally, here are a couple of posts that provide insight into the process of selecting a video production company that will be a good fit for you and your business.
How to ensure a positive experience with you video production company:
The top ten reasons your last video project failed
Hopefully you’ll never hear these responses from your production company:
The top ten things you never want to hear from a video production company