Thinking about hiring out some video production...
November 10, 2008 8:18 AM   Subscribe

The company I work for is interested in doing more with video clips in multimedia/video sales pieces (for tradeshows and sales visits) as well as smaller Flash web pieces for our company site. To that end, one of our marketing managers is starting to talk to video production houses in our area about doing some shoots to give us stock video footage to use in our marketing campaigns. What are the questions you would ask when talking to such outfits you're thinking about hiring? What are the industry standards for video deliverables (file types and formats that can then be redeployed via Premier or Flash into a variety of media)? What red flags should we look for that indicate someone doesn't know what they're talking about and should not be contracted? Thanks!
posted by aught to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I work in the post production side of film/video production. Im not sure if you want footage of your facility so YOU can put clips up on your web page or put them into sales pieces, or you want someone to produce finished video sales pieces for you. Either way, I would say that the thing you want is a place that has a good producer.

The truth is - there are tons of different file formats and cameras and video systems out there. Avid has been the benchmark of editing systems for a long time, Final Cut Pro is fast becoming a very reputable system. But a good person can do good things with the software they are used to, and it is not always accurate to judge a place by this anymore. On the converse,with all the new technology and software that is out now, there are more and more people calling themselves "video post houses". Is becoming a little like the "desktop publishing" boom of the 80s when every one got quark and though they were print designers.

All that being said, I would ask to see a demo reel from the places that you are looking at. Look at the work that they have done, and simply see if it looks good. Any good place should have a reel.

I would ask what formats they shoot. Digital Beta has been the standard for a long time, Beta SP is the older analog format that is still used a lot, more and more people are shooting DVCPro HD now, and it is a very nice format. I would be weary of anyone shooting DV or miniDV - it really seems more like a "prosumer" format. Again - some people can do good things with it but if it is the only format they have, that might be a flag.

As far a deliverables go, video people like tapes a lot. Tapes will always play in a working tape machine. If you are playing something in a booth at a convention floor, DVDs will work all day - but with digital files, there are so many different file formats and ways to compress them. Not all computers can play all formats... there are a lot of headaches that go along with it.

If you really just want files to send to some one at your work, so that they can place it on the web page - any good post house should be able to give you what ever file type your web person needs. There are a ton of different file types - but Quicktime files seem to be the most flexible. You can open them in a ton of applications (Flash and Premier) and convert them to what ever smaller file type you may want (flash movie - or mp4).

This might seem like a lot to digest - but I think the thing that helps the most is a good producer. If you want to tell some one what you want - and have them run with it, or if you just want good elements that you can use with in-house people - a good producer will help you facilitate that. The producer might not always know the technical information either - they may have to ask their editor or graphics people for the file details, which is fine. The technical stuff changes with every new release of new software, but having some one that you feel confidant will be able to get the answer you need is important.
posted by robot rex at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks, robot rex, sounds like good advice all around.
posted by aught at 12:15 PM on November 10, 2008

Couple of notes - I work in the field (I'll be talking at seminars this week in NYC on both Avid and FCP.)

You don't care what software they use. You care about what their reel looks like;

When they quote you, ask them to itemize it; are they padding things (like $20 for blank CDs?)

You want to present to them 'what you want'; are they to write it? Are you? (Because that's more than just finding a good producer - it's good writing as well.)

Itemize exactly what you want. What are you willing to spend? You're going to find (and likely think) that their pricing is expensive. They're paying a shooter/editor at least 400-500/day...or they're not professionals.

Yes, miniDV is very consumerish...but if it's going to the web...truly? It doesn't matter.

So, let's work backwards; for your website, you'd like .FLV files to author into your own webpages. Do you mean "Animated footage", like much of flash? Or do you mean a video that's been converted to flash format .

If you want them to put it together for you, you'll be paying also for someone to do the HTML and whatever (minimal) authoring necessary. Web skills and video production aren't the same field (although often work together) - so that's more people you'll be need (in your place) or theirs. If you're going to do you have a good flash video player?

Do you want clients to be able to download your clips? Flash isn't a very good format for it.

If you're going to shoot a video (or a series) of videos, you should expect at least two deliverables - something on tape - a "master"; this means the finished piece will be recoverable at full quality in the future. You might also get, what I refer to as a "digital master" - a quicktime file of the full finished piece in the format of the editing codec, and not a distribution codec.

Flash, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV (and DVDs) are all meant for distribution; having a digital master around will mean that you can draw from the best quality (if you needed to in the future...) and these formats are lousy in comparison

So, you'll get a Tape Master (maybe) or a Digital Master; uncompressed Standard Def will run you about a gig a minute. It'll be a quicktime file, and in a specific codec (DVCPro25, DVCPro50, Uncompresed..) Those things are dependent on the video software as well as what was shot. Find up up front what they want to give you along with your last check

And depending on your wishes you could stop here (and build your compressed files yourself or you could have them do it.
posted by filmgeek at 4:50 PM on November 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

filmgeek - our marketing folks tell me they want a variety of film clips of people using our products, sales professionals saying smart things about our product features, and clients giving brief testimonials about how great our product is, which we can re-combine into various long and short pieces using either Premier or Flash (both of which I and our Graphic designer have experience using). It sounds to me like they'll need to do several discrete shoots to get this material.

Yeah, no miniDV is for sure - I could make crappy looking video myself with a $300 camcorder and no prof lighting, if that's what they wanted. Web is one medium, but they also want to be able to make pieces out of the footage that will play on HD tv monitors at tradeshows, so it needs to be higher quality. Flash would be for smaller short pieces on the web site product pages, no need to download those. But if we just get uncompressed Quicktime masters of all the clips then I can work with that in Premier and Flash (we are a Windows house, so no Final Cut Pro unfortunately).

Re the writing and planning, yes, thank you - one thing I have done is repeatedly stress to the marketing folks that they must figure out first exactly what they want and what they want the vendor to do, draft it all out, and work backwards to ask for the correct pieces, and do all this planning and deciding before they make any calls to any production houses. You might have thought to yourself reading the first paragraph in this comment, "Hm, they aren't really sure what it is they want..." -- and I fear you might be right. But I'm just advising and not in charge of the process so if they go into it half-assed, I can't chew them out (unfortunately!) and saying "I told you so" later will just give me acid stomach.

In any case, thanks for the tips - this gives me some more solid things to recommend (and to say, myself, in those meetings where I am asked to attend as well). I really don't want them to throw thousands of $ down the toilet and then later hand over some crappy footage ripped from a playable sales presentation dvd that is all they got as a deliverable, which ripped clips I am then supposed to repurpose into other pieces.
posted by aught at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2008

Aught, respectfully, a pro can use a $300 camcorder and get something good, and get something even better from a 3k camcorder, and the format is still DV; DV isn't that's the lens optics at the low end. But I have a buddy from film school who is a shooter; and he can outdo me with the $300 camera every day of the week.

If you need it to be HD, then I prefer DVCPro HD (at the low end shot with the HDVX-200 - the 'p2' stuff) over HDV.

Just so you know, P2, HDV, DV - none of these are uncompressed. They're already compressed- they're just in a compression format that came from the camera. If a client (to show how savvy they were) asked me for uncompressed HD, I'd ask if they were sure...and then I'd give them exactly what they wanted. DVCProHD runs about 1 gig a min...uncompressed about 6. So if they want me to take a compressed file and make it 'bigger', sure. Dumb, but sure.

Premiere Pro handles all this shit fine. I think FCP (and Avid) are great tools. Premiere Pro ain't no slouch either (mostly it's got a bad taste from the original/corporate version of Premiere. Adobe made a real mistake not renaming the software when it went Pro.)

The real problem/issue (imho) is that you have a marketing/sales department who doesn't know what they want. Gee, let's have a new website. We need some videos. And don't know what these thigns cost.
posted by filmgeek at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2008

filmgeek: The real problem/issue (imho) is that you have a marketing/sales department who doesn't know what they want. Gee, let's have a new website. We need some videos. And don't know what these thigns cost.

You have hit the nail on the head in this regard, and I am doing all I can to convince them to do the planning work up front to reduce pain and confusion later. I didn't really know about Avid Express and I wonder if that might be a better route for us if/when we get someone to shoot the good footage for us.
posted by aught at 7:49 AM on November 25, 2008

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