It’s a big – but important – question. There’s no denying there can be quite a variety in the different charges for video production and to some, it may appear they – or rather ‘we’ – are charging different amounts for the same thing. But there are differences…
We have grouped the types of producers into three different categories to give you some of the positives and negatives to each of them.
It’s a difficult issue to navigate – anyone can get a camera and call themselves a video producer so be sure to do your research. Look at work they’ve done before and speak to at least 3 possible suppliers before deciding who you think is best (and if you need names of others to speak to, let us know as there are some other brilliant ones out there we can introduce you to!).
Freelancers or Shooting Producer-Directors
These will generally be people who cover all aspects of production for you. From all of the pre-production refining of a brief, understanding you requirements, and going right through to the filming, editing and delivery.
Even within this group there will be variation on cost and some of the considerations will be:
- How experienced are they? And is their experience relevant to what you need?
- What kit are they using? Some freelancers will be filming on domestic cameras or simple DSLRs whereas some will have cinema-quality cameras capable of 8K footage.
- Are they able to take care of everything your video needs?
- Do they have access to specialist crew if it’s needed?
- What happens if they’re ill on the day you plan to film?
- What happens if something goes wrong?
In a lot of instances, using a freelancer or a Shooting P-D will be the right thing for you to do. Ultimately it’s about the cost versus potential return on investment so the financial risk of using a freelancer will be less.
Here are some of the positives and negatives:
- Single point of contact throughout production.
- Some very talented ones out there if you select the right one.
- There’s only them so availability could be an issue (especially if they’re good).
- They may be using quite basic kit which will have technical limitations.
- They may not have access to or experience in using some specialist equipment.
- There are some hugely talented freelancers out there, but it is not often a freelancer is an expert in every aspect of production. For example a great cameraman may not be able to do animation. Make sure whoever you engage can deliver what you need.
Small to Medium Production Companies
In the interests of full disclosure, this is where we sit. We will still try our best to be as objective as possible in our description though.
Most companies in this category will have a small amount of permanent staff who may well be working on multiple projects at the same time. They will often bring in freelancers from a network they’ve used before to fill in the gaps in their internal skillset, or to help with peaks and troughs in demand.
Some questions to consider when speaking to people in this group:
- Have they got the experience they claim to have?
- Do you like any of the work they’ve done before?
- Do they really understand your objectives?
- Do you trust them?
- What happens if something goes wrong?
And now the positives and negatives of these types of producers.
- Able to cope with variation in workload.
- You’re not paying for overheads or staff to cover for the ‘downtime’
- Likely to be one or two key people at the company who will be accessible to you throughout.
- Have access to experts in each area of production.
- If your job is a particularly large one, they may not have the network in place to support this.
- They may have limited experience in high-end production (such as big budget TV commercials)
Larger Production Companies and Agencies
There’s no doubting some of these guys produce industry-leading work. They’re the ones doing the TV commercials and high-end corporate films you may well have seen. Just take a look at Across The Pond and some of the stunning work they’ve produced to see the calibre of work companies like this can do (yes, we’re unashamedly fans theirs).
But you pay for it. And rightly so. You’re getting industry-leading talent working on your video and every aspect of these productions cost more than you may guess.
Some things to consider when looking at larger production companies or agencies might be:
- Do you really need a production of the scale they’re able to deliver?
- What will the video need to achieve to get a return on your investment?
- Do you have the experience in managing an agency like this?
And the positives and negatives?
- They will have industry-leading talent in their staff ranks. No need to go and bring in freelancers most of the time.
- They will be hugely experienced in all genres and disciplines of production.
- They will have large amounts of kit themselves which may reduce the cost of hiring in specialist equipment.
- They may have their own studio.
- Cost. They will have a lowest price below which they won’t go for any production as it’s just not worth their while.
- Cost again. You are getting ‘best in class’ creatives and business leaders working on your video content and that comes with an appropriate fee attached to it.
- Oh – and another thing on cost – they’re likely to use broadcast-standard facilities (e.g. editing in a Soho post-production house rather than on a MacBook)
- And finally, cost. This time of overheads – support staff and they have to be paid for somehow!
- There really is only one negative to these types of companies (that’s cost, in case you hadn’t guessed)
So in short, think about what you want to achieve through video production and what the potential value of that is. This will help inform your decision about what you want, what you need, and what you can afford.