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How video production can survive in a digital marketplace

A few weeks back I was contacted by an advertising agency that was in the market to acquire a video production company.

It has become clear that some marketing agencies are responding to the high demand for video by teaming up with or possibly buying and shaping a video production company to ease costs and increase project reaction time. Whether this spells trouble for traditional production companies or it was just a one off, you cannot avoid the future.

The ever increasing requirement for fast turnaround creative internet videos means that many of the old school TV ad production companies are having their heels bitten by the new breed of dynamic, fast moving and highly economical internet video production companies.

I left my career as a photographer in 2009 as many of my photographer colleagues were being made redundant. Newspapers were waning and the new breed of digital news media was emerging, paying peanuts for photographs and now using video alongside news articles. Digital photography as opposed to celluloid film also went a long way to devalue the business as today most people have a digital camera or mobile phone with a camera, and it has never been easier to take, send and publish a photograph.

Many photographers were outraged by the way in which things were changing, and quite rightly fought for their fees. Proclaiming the importance of having high quality and experienced photographers. Some won their individual battles, but the monumental weight of the new digital media has changed the landscape of a career in photography forever. With today’s fast evolving digital revolution it’s not the most industry-experienced film production individuals that survive to make a living from being creative – it’s the individuals who listen for change and adapt quickly.

I’ve seen this directly with my career in photography, this is also now happening with video production.

Many clients requiring video production are armed with budgets that don’t support the day rate of the highly experienced film Director or Director of Photography (DoP). They don’t want to spend £100k on the production of a TV ad any more; they want to spend their £100k on 20 online ads, each one to be rolled out every week or two.Does a production company dig its heals in at this point and cut the client loose and saying: “come back when you have a bigger budget”?

No, of course not - if it wants to survive in the ever-changing landscape of digital video.

This is an industry that needs to adapt to service its clients. Rather than having an office in London’s expensive Soho where producers source premium cost freelance crew, cameras, lighting, locations and post production services, a business needs to adapt, and bring as many of these assets in-house as possible. You could even go as far to take on an affordable facility where equipment, studios, post production and set building are all on hand at short notice and crew are salaried and ready to go providing a video production service for a whole range of different types of clients who demand high production values coupled with super fast reactions to a trend led market.

This new massive demand in commissions for web based videos are constant enough for a production company focusing on internet video productions to offer full time employment for its team members and very regular work for freelancers in return for negotiation on their standard rates. Okay it’s fair to say that much like photography, video production will always require experienced DoP’s and Lighting Camera operators for cinema and high budget or highly demanding shoots as there is no replacement for experience, but the ever increasing wealth of trained and self taught individuals with exceptional talent looking for a career in this expanding creative industry is to be embraced not dismissed.

Many smaller production companies work long hours with few breaks to try to make a living from internet videos, but it is important to remember that this is not sustainable for growth and does not promote a consistent yet scalable service for its clients. It is also totally unreasonable and unproductive for crew with no invested financial interest in the company to be stretched. Keeping reasonable hours of work with transport, correct breaks and meals provided where necessary is vital. Happiness and creativity needs to be nurtured not tortured!

An internet video production company must continually look for talented team members, trialing and employing new camera operators, editors and other crew on a regular basis, build up a database of likeminded individuals who would be looking for the opportunity to work in the fast paced and hugely diverse and satisfying field of internet video.

Talent and experience are useful assets but one thing that is key to building a strong internet video production company is to source a team who understand and embrace this high production turnover industry, individuals who are adaptable and thrive in the trends of popular culture.

James Vellacott is Managing Director of Cherryduck Productions and Tower Bridge Studios

Posted 18 September 2015 by James Vellacott
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