Hey all you hard-working video producers out there. We are living in some exciting times for our business. The good news is, more and more companies and organizations are realizing the importance of video. Even social media superstar and consultant Chris Brogan is championing the need and benefit of video.
The bad news is that more and more of these organizations are doing it themselves. The aforementioned video by Chris goes into detail on how he lights his video blogs, how he captures audio (at least he recognizes the importance of good audio), etc. And as programs like FCPX become more powerful and more accessible to the average Joe, you can expect even more DIY videos to hit the market. That could mean less work for you…and me. (I recently got an email from an “almost” client who LOVES my work and started to hire me, then got the project cut by the Exec. Dir. so that someone from within their organization can do it and save the money. Such is the way of things.)
To be fair to professionals like Chris Brogan, I don’t know if it’s really necessary to hire a pro to shoot your daily or weekly video blogs. I actually think what he’s doing is smart and I commend him on making the effort to up the quality of his video blogs (which up until now had just been webcam videos. Blech!)
But in the past few months, I’ve seen quite a number of promotional videos by high-profile, financially successful authors, consultants, coaches and professionals who have absolutely terrible video. I’m talking about videos where you can tell they just set up a 5D Mark II, turned on maybe one 250k light, then started talking. No mic, just on-camera audio. I’m sitting here thinking to myself, “I KNOW that dude has bank. Why in the world is he settling for such a crappy sounding/looking video? Geez! At LEAST hire a TurnHere videographer or something!”
And truth be told, it’s not just videographers dealing with this. I’m seeing a lot more DIY teen and family portraits on Facebook too. So, you photographers out there are facing the same issue.
So I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out what the heck-fire is going on. In some cases, like the example of my “almost” client, I know economics play a real factor. (They are a non-profit and have to be very wary of when they do invest in things like professional video). But how do you account for millionaire (or at least hundred thousand-aire) professionals who won’t even put out a few hundred bucks for a well crafted promo video? The only answer I can think of is this: “They, and their audience, just don’t care.” User Generated Content sites like YouTube have made the average viewer used to what we artistes would call, ahem, crap. Why spend $1,000 or more on a professional video of you talking to a camera just to have good lighting and audio when the people you’re marketing that video to won’t miss anything if you did it on the cheap with poor lighting and an on-camera mic? So, to some extent, I can’t blame them. It may make good business sense to save the duckets.
So what does that mean for you and me. Those of us who make a living from this? Well, I can tell you one thing, there’s no point whining about it. It is what it is. Technology has changed the landscape of visual arts, and those who have made a living at it need to keep up with the times. No. Check that. We need to stay AHEAD of the times. So, as I’m prone to do, here’s a list of ways in which we visual artistes can continue making a living at this, if that’s what we wish to do.
- Be different. This is a broken record for me, but it always bears repeating. You HAVE to set yourself apart. You need to create work so compelling, so different, companies must come to you to get it. You have to make them WANT to hire you and not DIY it.
- Diversify. You have to look at other ways of generating revenue from your talent. This does not mean market all kinds of video services under one brand. Many of you know that I’m a huge proponent in focusing what you sell. But, there’s no reason why you can’t have one brand that sells weddings, another brand that markets corporate work, and a third that does cat-juggling videos. Whatever. Another way to diversify is look into content you can create that people want to buy (e.g. long-form narratives; documentaries; etc.)
- Find a new market. If you previously made a living shooting video blogs for high-profile authors and business coaches, you had best start looking for a new market. There will always be SOME company out there that needs professional, well-crafted video work and are willing to pay for it. You just may need to work harder at finding them. If you have to, partner with someone who’s good at sales and marketing to help you.
- Education. Since there is a surge in DIY video production, maybe you should consider creating a series of videos that teach others how to make videos. The education market is changing a lot too, so this may not necessarily start out as a big revenue generator as there are so many free resources online, but again, if you’re different, perhaps you can capture that market with HOW you teach. You Suck at Photoshop is an excellent example education delivered in a unique way. Again, it might not yield dollars per se, but it could be used to build a platform from which you can generate revenue (e.g. advertising, etc.)
- If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. You can do what one of the videographers for Chase Jarvis did. Reach out to one of these high rollers and offer your services as a part of their team (i.e. become their employee). Show them why you working for them full-time can be the best investment they ever made in promoting their brand.
These are just a few ideas of how to deal with the changing tide of video production. Do you have any?
Here’s Chris Brogan’s video where he talks about his DIY video set up.
Tim Ferris is a successful author who “gets it” when it comes to the power of video.
We feel the same way. We just saw a video from a local business coach who is very proud of his DIY, craptastic videos with bad lighting and bad sound, and his bad used car salesman style of talking on camera. The theme of his message, one he obviously ignores in his own practice, was “Do what you do best.” I wrote to him to suggest he hire a pro to shoot his video. No response as of today.
Ron Dawson says
That description made me laugh Steve. Thanks.
“Don’t be craptastic!”
Jason Groh says
I hear alot of filmmakers photogs, etc. complain about this all the time. The fact is….the middle…is gone. People are so used to Youtube and “viral videos” looking cheap. The perception of what may have been 10 years ago “wow that looks terrible” today is “that’s good enough.” It also has to do with the format of delivery as well. If it is going to television it must look great or at least better than if it is going to the web or potentially an internal video (outside of MAJOR corporations). For everything else good enough is fine. This is the world that we live in and quite frankly there is nothing wrong with it. It’s just a matter of adjusting business models and defining your market and the type of work you or your company wants to do.
Ron Dawson says
Perfectly said Jason. As the saying goes: “If you’re in the middle of the road, you’re gonna get run over.”
Jason Groh says
Thank you sir! 🙂
Michael Wright says
Cat Juggling videos! I’m all over that idea… Thanks Ron!
Ron Dawson says
Oh. It’s a very big business! 😉
Steve Lubetkin says
Professional Photographers of America must be reading this blog. Today they launched all kinds of resources for members to use on their websites and in their social media to differentiate professionals from amateurs. see http://www.ppa.com/weddingphotographer/ for one example.
Ron Dawson says
Ha. Considering I do some writing for them on occasion, I wouldn’t be surprised. 🙂 But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
Video quality is a direct reflection on the business. Americans are surrounded by high quality video products on TV (content may be crap but video quality is great). Most grade school kids won’t watch a poorly produced show.
Poor quality video is easily translated into “I don’t care enough about you (the viewer) to do a competent job” Brogan can afford to produce bad video because he has an established following from his books and social media content. Can’t say I would stick around to watch his video if I didn’t know who he was. Brogan’s video get hits because lots of people can’t afford to see him speak but are interested in what he has to say and will put up with poor quality video for free. I wouldn’t recommend using crappy video if you are trying to communicate without a huge preexisting following.
I do think there is also a difference in the type of show. If Twit or Pixel Corps are doing a live cast, things can get rough but I am perfectly willing to forgive them for the payoff of immediacy. That said, Leo Laporte has poured a ton of money into making his in-studio show network quality and he has benefited from it. People/Organizations will PAY to support and be associated with quality.
Anton Seim says
You hit it on the head when you said, “they, and their audience, just don’t care.” The good news is, most of us really don’t want to make the kind of videos that serve an audience who don’t care if they look and sound bad – even if they pay the bills. If the next Batman movie looked like it was shot on a DSLR and lit with Home Depot work lights, nobody would go see it. So we both need to set our sights higher and make peace with the fact that our “almost clients” will get what they pay for, and nobody will pay attention to their crappy videos (if people do really start accepting lackluster quality, well, there’s nothing we can do about it). My point is that you’re right, we need to do two things, diversify, and make ourselves indispensable. I just lost a huge job to a client with a T3i (that I even recommended they purchase). In the down-time, I’m watching tutorials on Lynda.com (for $25/mo.) and learning new skills that are going to blow their minds – skills that they will have to pay me to use to make things for them that are clearly out of their scope.
Clayton Arnall says
I think you’re right in saying the middle is going away. However, I had business call me the other day and say they were tired of their DIY style videos and wanted a more professional polish for their marketing videos – so all hope isn’t lost! There will always be people looking for quality stuff.
Kris Simmons says
Its easy to get fixated on all the people who take the DIY approach and to get frustrated by what seems to be less opportunity for pros like us. However, I choose to believe that if more people are using video, that means more opportunities for videographers. Sure, some companies who used to hire outsiders are now taking it in house but a lot of small to medium size companies are also getting into the game at the same time and desperately need our services because they lack the time/people resources to do it themselves.
We should focus on the opportunities for growth instead of obsessing in the areas that hurt our business. I believed when I first started this business that if you can tell a story visually in a way that only a professional can and if you bust your butt to market/sell those capabilities, there will always be plenty of opportunities to put food on the table…and then some!
|| Atelier Pictures || Portland Photography and Cinematography says
We have had a few conversations with clients about setting them up with all the tools necessary for them to run a long term online video campaign. It is tricky figuring out the fee structure for doing, basically, consultation work. There are some good strengths to having the organization take control of their video content.
Also, on a side note, in our conversations with wedding clients, we do a lot of education of what video looks like today. They know it is valuable, but do not have reasonable expectations regarding the time required and cost.