2020 has been a well-chronicled crappy year! Family and friends all over are dealing with challenges to this day. Despite it all, we still need to look for and find joy, and that will keep you moving forward through the mayhem, as we all look forward to 2021 being better…MUCH better!
2019 was a great ride, and now it’s time to “drive” right into 2020! Need a Videographer, Director of Photography, Director/TD, Cinematographer, or just a good ol’ Camera Operator? Give me a call!
To all of my clients, freelance colleagues and friends, my sincere thanks and a tip of the hat you you all!
Back in the “old days” which, for today’s post I’m defining as pre-2004, people seldom worried about using music in conjunction with videos which they knew would receive limited viewing. Whether a wedding video distributed among family members or one produced for a company that would only be viewed internally, little thought was given to the consequence of using music without paying royalties to the artists or producers of that music. That has all changed. With the popularity of social networking, the emergence of YouTube, Vimeo and other media hosting/sharing sites, Instagram and other web portals created to present videos, everyone should be aware of the potential consequences arising from the use of copyrighted music without permission from the artist(s).
Music labels and producers (and the lawyers that represent them) are no longer taking this lightly and are suing the pants off folks who use their intellectual property without proper attribution AND royalties paid. Aside from the expense of a lawsuit—which could easily put a videographer out of business (epic fail!), finding the right person to pay the royalties to can be quite the hassle, in and of itself! YouTube and Vimeo are blocking the audio from any posted videos with suspect music playing in the background, and they have comprehensive recognition algorithms to detect the misuse of music on their sites.
Rather than engage in a time consuming and expensive battle with artists, producers and attorneys, I have chosen to use legally licensed music. And although I don’t have that latest tune, I can get very close to most contemporary songs and still have a clear conscience.
Ron Dawson is a friend and an incredible filmmaker who has been doing this for two decades. Ron knows many of the top indy content creators across the country and he recently shared a story about another filmmaker, Joe Simon, in his blog post, “The Music Licensing Chickens Have Come Home to Roost in Wedding and Event Videography.” Ron gave me permission to link to his story; I encourage you to take a peek as it unpacks this subject in far greater detail. Joe’s story was published in 2011, but it’s just as relevant today — if not more so — than when it was released.
First Impressions Video has a library of royalty-free or royalty-paid music that we use which—we believe—fits our clients’ tastes, their story and the emotion of the event, and it often can mimic current music. Notwithstanding music considered to be in the public domain or picked up in the course of recording a reception or other activity, we will endeavor to use only music and recorded special effects for which proper licensing has been obtained. It is our desire and intent to stay on the right side of this legal issue; we trust you’ll respect this decision.
I hear that question a lot. Unfortunately, there are a number of elements that affect the price of a video. No, that’s not a dodge, it’s the truth. What would you say if someone asked you this question:
How much does an airplane cost?
In thinking about the variables in play to answer this question, you begin to get the idea there are a lot of things to consider! I know my way around aircraft and there are easily thousands of questions, like, “are we talking about fixed wing or rotary wing (helicopter)?” So let’s dump the airplane metaphor and get back to video. Let’s start by posing a few questions that should be addressed before we answer “that other question.”
- Rate. Often described as hourly, half-day and day rate. Many videographers don’t price by the hour and some only price on a full day-rate basis. Hourly averages range between $25 an hour from that film school grad you know to $250 an hour for a top-flight video veteran. My hourly average hits just under the center: around eighty-five bucks an hour. Which lends me to…
- Equipment. Sure you could whip out your smartphone and shoot away, but is that really the look you’re going for? If so, stop reading! Otherwise, continue. There are $20,000 cameras out there (don’t forget lenses!), $2,000 microphones, and lights that weigh as much as a Volkswagen, but is that really necessary? Is there a line item charge in the project budget for equipment? I have professional level gear that you may not see Spielberg using, but it will produce corporate video that will resonate with your audience and you won’t need stockholder approval to shoot! Oh, and my rate includes the aforementioned pro-level gear! Cameras, mics, lights, sliders, tripods, gimbals…oh my! Only if I have to create a specific effect might extra equipment fees enter the equation. I don’t have a drone, though I have access to one through an industry colleague, and this is considered specialized equipment.
- Personnel. I started my business as a single person crew (“SPC”) to be able to deliver quality work at an affordable rate. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be multiple cameras, mics and lights…it does mean that I know how to be efficient in the deployment of this hardware (including setup and take down) by myself. And in those instances where it just makes sense to have a grip, 2nd camera op or sound person along, I have a rolodex full of these folks that can be called in. Also in the category of personnel: talent. Does the project require professional acting talent or will we be shooting personnel from the company being filmed?
- Time. How comprehensive is the project? Can we do it in a day? A few hours? What will be required to edit the acquired footage? When is the project due? And by the way, just because the finished deliverable is “only” 5 minutes long doesn’t mean that hours, and sometimes days of production didn’t go into what is ultimately seen on screen.
- Post-production. Because this is a future article all by itself, I’ll be brief here. Post-production includes the components that help make the video “pop.” Editing, music selection, titles, graphics, animations, voice-overs, special effects. A word of caution here: less is often more.
So there you have just a few of the key elements of a video. Truthfully, anyone who would just throw out a “ballpark” quote without reasonable consideration of the variables I’ve shared here is asking for trouble. I would much rather take a modest amount of time to talk about those elements so I could provide a quote that would be meaningful for all parties involved. I may miss out on a few jobs taking this approach but I’m as professional in my business methodology as I presume you are in yours. Consultations are free, and the result will be a production that achieves its desired results at a rate everyone finds acceptable.
So the last few months have been a blur, but I’ve been crazy busy. And that’s a good thing! Questions that do continually come up have to do with how to go about hiring a video production company (now we’re being called “content creators”!). So I am sending this out again as it’s never a bad idea to have these questions answered. And if these comments are of any help, please give me a call. Remember: Great video doesn’t have to break the bank!
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So you wanna make a video… but where do you start? Well, one of the first things you’ll likely do is hire a video production company or videographer, and that can be a mind-bending task. How do you know who to hire? What can you expect to pay? To get you started, here are a few things to consider.
1. When preparing your job description, please be specific.
The sky is the limit when it comes to producing a video. There are so many variables that the possibilities are endless. Understanding your vision and what you’re trying to achieve will be critical in requesting a quote. Provide as much detail as you can about the services you need. Some of those questions would include:
- How long should the video be?
- Do I need more than one cut? (60 second, 30 second, 15 second)
- Do I need more than one video? (i.e. Think “episodic” TV)
- Where will the video(s) be used? (website, on-air, social, etc.)
- Is there a specific date this needs to be shot? What is the final deadline?
- Other than shooting, what production elements need to be considered? (editing, scripting, voice-over, location, casting, etc.)?
Answering these questions will help me to fully understand what you want and can, therefore, provide a more accurate quote. When possible, it’s a good idea to provide a few reference videos that illustrate the type of video you’re looking for. This is an easy way to set expectations and provide a target result. Explain what you like about them and why.
2. When reviewing portfolios, find someone who has produced work at the level you want for your own video.
A person’s portfolio and work samples will give you the best indication of what your video will look like. If you want something you don’t see, refer to point #1 and be specific what you want. First Impressions Video has shot a wide array of projects, so there should be no problem meeting and exceeding your objectives.
3. In general, you’ll get what you pay for.
As you start to get quotes back for your project, you may be tempted to go with the cheapest option. After all, everybody likes to save money, right? My advice is to take an honest assessment of the project and ask yourself what is the result you want for your video. If you’re happy with the look and feel of the cheapest option, great! But what you’ll generally see, is that the more money you’re willing to spend, the better the end result. Pick an option that satisfies both your budget constraints and your expectation for quality. The last thing you want, is to pay for the cheapest option, then not be satisfied with the result and have to do the whole thing over again with someone who can produce at a higher level.
Unfortunately, too many times—especially with first-timers, I’ve observed something like this:
What the client has in mind…
but what the budget says is this…
As I have shared, there is a lot more that goes in to making a quality video than meets the eye. What First Impressions Video will do is offer options so that you can determine which are best for you, given your budget and time constraints.
Whether it’s your first venture into video or you’ve done a few, the process of finding and hiring the right video pro can be a bit tricky. The goal of this essay is to provide solid insights, so that businesses small and big can feel like video is for everyone—not just those with big budgets and lots of experience! And if you have a question, First Impressions Video is but a phone call or email away!
714-979-3850 – Office
714-608-4495 – Mobile
If you’ve been around a shooting location or in a studio—or if you’re the subject of a video shoot, you may have heard terms flying around that you didn’t recognize. So here is my attempt to “decode” some of these terms for you. This list is by no means complete, but provides some basic insight for the next time you’re around—or in front of—a camera! If you’re a nerd and want to know more, just Google “video (or film) glossary” and have a ball!
Aperture is the size of the opening within your lens that allows light onto the image sensor. Aperture is measured by f-number or f-stops.
Bokeh describes the character of the blur in an image, often used to specifically refer to points of light rendered as fuzzy circles. Bokeh also refers to a more romantic form of imagery, often used in wedding videography.
Boom microphones (“Shotgun” mic) are long, highly directional microphones. They are normally attached to boom poles to capture dialogue in a scene. They also can be mounted directly on cameras to capture long distance sound.
Closeup (CU) A tightly framed camera shot in which the principal subject is viewed at close range, appearing large and dominant on screen. Pulled back slightly is a “medium closeup” while zoomed in very close is an “extreme closeup (ECU or XCU).
Composition Visual make-up of a video picture, including such variables as balance, framing, field of view and texture all aesthetic considerations. Combined qualities form an image that’s pleasing to view.
Depth of field Range in front of a camera’s lens in which objects appear in focus. Depth of field varies with subject-to-camera distance, focal length of a camera lens and a camera’s aperture setting. See “Bokeh.”
Establishing shot Opening image of a program or scene. Usually, it’s a wide and/or distant perspective that orients viewers to the overall setting and surroundings.
Gaff tape (or gaffers tape) is a type of non-damaging, super durable tape used on film sets, most often by the gaffer and grip department. NOT duct tape!!
Headroom Space between the top of a subject’s head and a monitor’s upper-screen edge. Too much headroom makes the subject appear to fall out of the frame.
Lavalier (or “lav”) microphone is a small clip-on microphone that attaches to the subjects clothing. Normally used on TV newscasts or variety shows that require sound to be captured from the subject without it being obvious that there is a microphone attached. Lavs and shotguns are the two most-used microphones in my audio kit.
Long shot (LS) Camera view of a subject or scene from a distance, showing a broad perspective.
Medium shot (MS) Defines any camera perspective between long shot and closeup, viewing the subjects from a medium distance.
Nose room The distance between the subject and the edge of the frame in the direction the subject is looking. Also called “look room.”
Over-the-shoulder shot View of the primary subject with the back of another person’s shoulder and head in the foreground. Routinely used in interview situations.
Pan Horizontal camera pivot, right to left or left to right, from a stationary position.
Pedestal A camera move vertically lowering or raising the camcorder, approaching either the floor or the ceiling, while keeping the camera level. NOT a tilt.
Point-of-view shot (POV) Shot perspective whereby the video camera assumes a subject’s view and thus viewers see what the subject sees.
Rack focus Shifting focus between subjects in the background and foreground so a viewer’s attention moves from subject to subject as the focus shifts. Watch for this move the next time you’re watching a TV show or movie!
Two-shot A camera view including two subjects, most generally applicable to interview situations. Add one person and you have a Three-shot!
Tilt Vertical camera rotation (up and down) from a single axis, as on a tripod.
Tracking Lateral camera movement that travels with a moving subject. The camcorder should maintain a regulated distance from the subject. NOT a pan.
Whip pan (swish pan) Extremely rapid camera movement from left to right or right to left, appearing as an image blur. Two such pans in the same direction, edited together one moving from, the other moving to a stationary shot can effectively convey the passage of time or a change of location.
Zoom shot makes the subject larger or smaller within the frame simply by shifting the lens elements inside to change focal lengths. This magnifies the view of the subject while the camera itself remains stationary. A Snap Zoom is a very rapid zoom move, intended to convey energy.
**AUTHOR’S NOTE** I first wrote this article in September, 2014. Having now done hundreds of interview videos since then, the 6 points I detailed in 2014 take on even greater meaning, so I thought I’d “rebroadcast” the post. I would also add a seventh point: When speaking in front of a camera, it isn’t necessary to try to remember a long passage or thought! When you get to a point where you’re not sure what you want to say next, just pause–while still looking at the same spot–collect your thoughts, and continue. Seasoned pros know this neat little trick and now, you do too! Your editor will love you because editing your session will be much simpler when there are pauses that can be easily put together, creating a nice, cohesive interview!
About a year ago, I wrote on my blog about giving a great interview, in which I tapped into my friend Steve Cooper’s article (hitchedmag.com) for some terrific insights. Recently, I shot interview-type videos for a number of corporate and non-profit clients and it sparked a few new thoughts that are worth sharing, for the next time you are asked to be interviewed on camera.
- Get comfortable! Make sure that—while attractive to the camera (viewing audience)—your clothing is comfortable. If it’s too tight or binding, it can contribute to your voice sounding constrained. If you’re nervous in front of a camera, an overly snug outfit will only compound the nervousness.
- Know your subject material. Create a list of talking points. Notes (as opposed to a script) will allow the conversation to flow smoothly and sound more “normal.” Unless you have expertise working with a teleprompter, I recommend not using one. Also, this is NOT a “gotcha” interview, so I want my subject to be well informed.
- I typically recommend the “off camera” style, as if you were talking with someone you know. You’re just “having a conversation.” Plus, off camera interviews pull the subject’s attention away from the camera equipment.
- Practice starting your responses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to coach subjects to NOT start every response with ‘um,’ ‘uh,’ ‘like,’ and the dreaded ‘so.’
- Shoot with multiple angles and perspectives. Often, I shoot with two cameras to accomplish this. A single medium close-up shot can be a bit monotonous, unless you are going for a very specific look! Even if you only have one camera, you can (should) vary the angles and perspectives of the interview. It will be far more interesting. “60 Minutes” set the standard for this approach.
- Shoot “cutaways” (sometimes called “b-roll”) of other interesting areas that support the interview that can be edited into the final product. Again, this helps keep the interest level up and boredom to a minimum.
And finally, start with the end in mind. Even a short interview has a “story arc,” and by knowing where you want the interview to finish, it will simplify the presentation from beginning to end!
In my May 21st blog, last year (“Can you give me a ‘ballpark’ quote?”), I broke down the elements of a video production to illustrate what goes into a bid for a project. In that article, I mentioned that post-production is a subject that should have its own story, so here it comes today!
To review, the components that play into how a job is priced includes:
So let’s unpack that last one: Post production. A simplistic definition would describe it as everything that happens after production wraps, leading up to the delivery of the finished video product. It’s only when we drill down further that we find out what that really means…
- Editing. The art of taking the raw footage—with its audio—and turning it into something useful. I believe too many on the “client side” have limited understanding of what goes into good editing, especially the time it takes to do it right. And there is NO correlation between the aggregate time of the source footage and a finished sequence. Even if the desired time for a video is one minute, it could take hours (or even days) to whittle a lot of raw footage into that really special promo/talking head/commercial piece! A good shooter will capture footage with editing in mind (especially if it’s the same person doing both tasks), but editing is still the process that can take the most time*.
- Audio. This subject actually has two definitions. The first pertains to adjustments that are often necessary to “sweeten” the audio captured with the source footage. Depending on the quality of that sound, it may not require much work—but it can! A good editor typically has an audio application just as robust as the editing program and I’m pleased to have the Adobe suite that includes Audition, in my workflow arsenal. Nothing can undermine a video like bad audio, so major attention needs to be paid to this crucial element. The second context pertains to the music bed that sometimes rides under the video. This sound track should complement the tone of the visuals and NEVER compete with it. We’ve all seen videos with the audio track WAY TOO LOUD (yes, I’m yelling!), and even with volume controls, an audio track should never overwhelm any spoken word in the video.
- Titles, Graphics & Effects. Call this the “glue” that brings everything together, “TG&E” make for a nice opening and closing to your video. Effects should never be so dramatic that they become a distraction; they should be an enhancement to your presentation.
I hope this addresses the point that creating a video is comprised of many moving parts. Make sure your video production company understands them all and can pull the “pieces of the puzzle” together into a cohesive, compelling video!
Happy New Year!
* I am often asked how long it takes to edit a project. And while there is no specific answer (no dodge here!), reputable sources (plural) say that it can take from 1 to 5 hours to produce 1 minute of finished video. The range represents the complexity of the edit; the more elements (footage, graphics, titles, music, effects, rendering, color correction and others) the longer it will take. In the context of the “ballpark quote” article, post production can easily be equal to—or even higher than—the cost of production itself.