HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST
VIDEO PRODUCTION COMPANY
How do you pick the right video production company for your project?
This blog is for those of you out there scouring the interwebs seeking a video production partner for your business, either for a one-off project or perhaps to collaborate with on a more regular basis. How do you make sure you make, not the right decision (there’s no hard and fast right or wrong), but the best choice based on your needs? I’m going to give you some tips that will hopefully steer you towards making a well-informed (rather than a shot in the dark) decision and regretting it when it’s too late. There’s a tonne of talented creators and video producers and production companies out there with varying strengths and weaknesses across the board. We aren’t all the same and none of us (production companies) are the best option for every production.
Now, here is my best advice to help you choose the best video production company (or freelancer) for you.
Do not just watch their reel, don’t just do a google search. Watch through as much complete work as you possibly can. Why? Because it’s relatively easy to get the best 5 or 10 seconds from a series of different productions put them together slap some awesome music on it and get a really nice-looking reel put together. What you really need to do is consider what kind of video are you looking to make and then look for/through comparative work from different companies.
Can they hold your attention through the entirety of their videos? Is the quality there? Is the style right for what you’re looking to do? Is their content engaging again and again? Or are some subpar? Do they have consistency? Take the time to look at as much as you can.
Read through their website. What’s their work history? What services do they offer? Are they specialists? Or do try to do everything? And look here’s the truth,
Nobody specializes in everything!
If someone says I specialize in… and then there’s a never-ending list of all these different categories… probably not the highest quality. For Alucinor we have a series of services that we provide but we very clearly have our hallmark type of work – what a lot of clients come to us for and the things that we know that we excel at.
It really surprises me the amount of times someone will call for a quote and I’ll say hey how’d you hear about us us or what piece of work did you see? And they’ll be like oh I haven’t I haven’t watched anything yet. They just found us on Google… How do they know that we’re even remotely what they’re looking for? Either from a quality perspective from a style perspective, team capacity etc.
Check who they’ve produced videos for before. Have a look at that content and give those previous clients a call to learn what it was like to work with them. It’s not just about the finished product but the experience that you’re going to have working with the production company or working with a freelancer. You want to have confidence that whoever you go with is going to have a clear plan, communicate well with everyone, not have a big ego and deliver within scope budget and time.
Try to gain an understanding of the process of what it’s like to work with that production company from previous clients (not just one), that information can be invaluable.
Meet them (in person if you can). Then you can really start to gauge firsthand (despite what is presented on their website) what they’re like. Their vibe. Would you want to work with them for weeks or months? Is this a team of creatives or are they just the kind of production focussed, just “shooters”? Or are they problem solvers? Are they really listening to what you have to say or are they kind of immediately just spewing a lot of words at you and trying to take your production in a direction that suits their strengths (not necessarily your needs). Are they asking questions, or do they already think they have all the answers?
Video production can be stressful at times, so you want to know that on a personality level that you click well with the with the team you are choosing.
Like nearly every job on Earth when you boil it down video production is all about people and the way that people come together and work constructively and effectively as a team… and hopefully have some fun along the way!
Lay out clear deadlines that you have for your project and make sure you can get in writing that they can meet them. We’ve had projects where the client attitude has been it’s not urgent… and this is the more documentary style work which can by its nature take place over a longer time period and it’s kind of “ready when it’s ready”. But most videos are made with a deadline in mind.
Just make sure that that company confirms that they’re capable of achieving your deadline (or perhaps listen to them if multiple potential producers are telling you that your deadline and what you want are not compatible). Ideally together you need to lay out key milestones along the way. Shoot dates, 1st, 2nd draft – final cut, grade, sound mix, VFX, delivery etc.
Ensure they’ve got the capabilities to meet your needs whether that be personnel skills — motion graphics, cinematography, visual effects, composing original music… whatever it is you need.
We (Alucinor) are a small core team. There’s two of us full-time and we work with a whole network of freelancers from composers to visual effects artists to motion graphics specialists, Drone operators, Camera assistants, sound editors — a whole range of specialists.
We need to know before we begin a project who we have to bring in to be able to do it and we scale up and down on a project-by-project basis depending on what’s required. This structure means we bring in the best people we know, based on their style, specialisation and quality of work for each project. The team is very much catered to the production.
Other companies may be much larger, and this isn’t a good or a bad thing. One of the key pieces of positive feedback we hear from our clients is that they are ‘dealing with’ Shane and or myself from the first meeting to the final cut. There are no layers of salespeople or client service representatives – you’re dealing directly with the lead filmmakers. Because of this boutique, heavily involved approach it means we wouldn’t have the same production capacity as larger video production companies as at least one of us has to be intimately involved in everything we do.
Larger video production companies will generally use all in house staff and have everything you “need” — without hiring in external specialists. This may come at an additional cost (bigger team, overheads etc) but perhaps you’ll feel safer knowing the capacity is there. There may be a mix of rotating younger staff paid a lower wage because they are newer to the industry and still finding their bearings.
Although some large production companies can be ‘sausage factories’ squeezing out video after video without a great deal of care and attention. That may be what you are after, fast cheap regular content — there’s a production company for everyone.
Other large production companies are superb melting pots of talented collaborative individuals that are going to deliver well-crafted work for you. The best thing you can do to gauge this is just to watch their work and chat to them about any concerns you may have.
Do they have the capability to meet your deadlines? And, can they be flexible if you’re dates and requirements change? That can pose a challenge because most of the time a production company will have another project booked after your production’s completion date. Successful video producers are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for the phone to ring.
They will have something lined up after your project, and most likely something lined up after that. So, if you’re working on a project where dates may fluctuate (such as a shoot in another state), make sure they are aware of this and that they’ve got the ability to accommodate potential schedule changes. Whether it’s bringing in other people or just having enough inhouse personnel to smoothly cover the job.
Make sure that they’ve got the flexibility to be able to accommodate changes in your schedule if you require them, they need to know this ahead of time and some may need to turn you away if they have a hard and fast start time on their next booking. (We have to do this a lot because again, we’re a small team and if Shane and I are both booked we won’t take it on).
This one’s a bit of a funny one. My views on it are changing and that is the equipment that the video production company is using or has access to. In the past I placed a lot more emphasis on the equipment itself, nowadays I don’t. I think what you really need to do is just look at that the quality and the look and just the style and the feel of their work.
Can you see that they’re capable of doing what you want done for you for your business for your company? Camera equipment is important but it’s not as important as it as it used to be because cheaper cameras have improved in image quality so much. That said, a few things to take note of.
If you’re doing any green screen work or any visual effects work or anything like that and just or anything that is going to end up broadcast on television or a cinema screen — make sure the camera records at least in a 10-bit codec with 422 color sampling as a bare minimum with 4k or more resolution (even if delivery in 1080p). ProResHQ is the most common 10bit 422 format but Canon, Sony and Panasonic all have their own proprietary 10-bit formats. Ideally if you’re shooting VFX or green screen, shoot in a raw format such as Arriraw, proresraw, Canon Rawlite, R3d or Braw (even CDNG) for the most image information and the cleanest chroma keying or rotoscoping. But 10bit 422 is going to do just fine.
Look for transparency and clarity in their quoting. Some production companies may just give you a lump sum and it’s not really broken down. I would generally veer away from that (or request a breakdown). It doesn’t mean anything dodgy is going on whatsoever, but what you ideally want to have is an itemized quote where it’s crystal clear where the costs are in creative & pre-production, production and then post — in editing, color grading etc.
The reason you want to see that broken down is because as the production evolves there may be some costs that are no longer required. For example, you may decide not to do a planned animated sequence. Or you run with a smaller crew than initially scoped for, maybe to be less disturbing to the people in the environment you’re filming in etc.
This way you’ll know that in the end you won’t get billed for these things whereas if you just have sort of a lump sum quote you’ve got very little room for that to change and it’s not as clear for you what you’re really paying for.
If you don’t get an itemized quote, ask for it. If they’re not comfortable with that – alarm bells. (Most will have zero issues with this).
Ultimately no one production company is not going to be the best at every single kind of video. One production company may be able to do a whole series of different kinds of work, absolutely (we occasionally cover events, but we also shoot music videos). Point is, everyone’s going to have their own strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, for us here we know that one of our key strengths is character driven storytelling in both the narrative and branded (corporate) documentary space.
That’s where a lot of our time, energy, professional development and just a lot of our work takes place. There are other areas such as intensive visual effects or motion graphics projects. Not that we don’t do those projects, we scale up for them and bring the specialists in (or partner with an animation house) but in terms of our FTE staff in-house, it’s not our cup of tea.
One production company isn’t perfect for everything, make sure that you’re choosing the best production company for your business and the actual project or series of projects you’ve got lined up (within your budget).
Take that time to do your due diligence early because it could save you a lot of headaches in the long run.