Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Evaluate A Video Proposal

You’ve committed to making a video, estimated the cost of your production, and posted a request for proposals.  Within the hour a handful appear in your Inbox… the question is... how to choose?  You may like the videos that the company produces, but you still need to know the cost.  The numbers seem... squishy.

Unfortunately, there’s no standard format for production proposals; quotes can come in different forms and formats.  All of them have strengths and weaknesses, but some are riskier than others.  A good video proposal should give you either a precise cost or a specific range of costs based on preferences you control, as well as information that describes the video in a way that's consistent with your vision. 

There are three main types of production proposals:

The first is  a Rate Card.  Rate cards provide the hourly rate for an activity, sometimes with an estimate of how long the activity will take.  Unfortunately, they’re often a poor estimate of the final cost, and they present the greatest financial risk to the client.  Worse, they can signal that the production company doesn’t stand by the quality of their work.  Not only are time overruns frequent on every project, but edits and changes based on your feedback will come at a price.  However, there are times when a rate proposal is the best choice. If both you and the vendor agree that there will be a lot of back and forth on the project, than an hourly rate may be the most reasonable approach.

In most cases, though, I recommend one of the two other proposal types.  For the skinny on these, jump on over to our main blog at Hurricane Images Inc. and read our guide to evaluating proposals. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

What Does a Corporate Video Cost?

What's it going to be? A Yugo or a Lexus?
This is the most pressing question most companies have when it comes to producing a video.  Frustratingly, that question is roughly the same as:  "What's it going to be? A Yugo or a Lexus?"

That's probably an overly judgmental comparison.  In truth, though, the car buying comparison is one you hear a lot when it comes to the question of "how much will this video cost?"  A not-so-practical friend says, "I've saved some money-- what kind of car should I get?"  The answer, of course, is impossible without knowing how much money they've saved.  And what kind of car they want.  A $500 beater may be exactly what they need; or a $50,000 Tesla might be the only car that suffices.

Even though you can't answer that oh-so-common question, there are six factors that go into the cost of your video.  The most predictable of which is the cost of filming.

#1:  Filming

Your  filming costs depends on two things: the number of days and the size of the crew.  If the production elements are well planned or coordinated in advance by you—or the shoot only involves one person on camera—you may well get away with a single videographer setting the lights, recording audio, and doing the camera work.  For a mid-range production, a one-person shoot will cost between $125-$200 an hour, or $500-$1,000 a day.  This includes all of your equipment costs.  As the shoot becomes more complicated, more crew is added to organize the day.  Each crew member will range from $350/day to $700/day for a corporate video shoot.  A mistake companies sometimes make is trying to estimate the number of hours by the amount of time they anticipate filming.  Not only are the filming hour usually underestimated, but the cost of prep, travel, setup, and break-down are typically forgotten.  Most shoots will include not just the main subject, but 2-4 hours of B-roll as well.

But filming may not be the biggest cost you face when you hire a production company.  Read up on the other five factors on our company blog, Hurricane Images Inc. Blog, as well as tips and tricks for reducing your costs and getting the best deal possible.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Making Powerful, Credible Testimonial Videos

Testimonials are one of the most powerful marketing tools available to businesses, but they're often lacking in the "trust" department.  Rather than appearing as an honest review, viewers too often see them as paid advertisements.  So how do you create video testimonials that are compelling and believable?  Over at Hurricane Images we've created three vital guidelines for creating your video.  Rule One?  Make the client real.  Give them time to tell their story-- for the audience to understand the obstacles they faced.  Then take it deeper.

Friday, October 27, 2017

How to prepare for being on camera-- beyond the outfit

Sitting down with a client last week I was asked a question I hadn't heard in a while.... It surprised me because it seemed based on an antiquated notion of technology.  And at the same time it made me realize that it was one of the most common questions I get-- even if it was only every couple of months.

What should I wear?

Well, concerns about "fine patterns and checkers" have disappeared with the advent of HD and 4K, but our expectations about what makes for a strong interview, presentation, or pitch has increased immensely.  Seeing people on camera is so common place, that we instantly recognize shortcomings... white shirts, haggard eyes, rambling sentences.  How to prepare for being on camera has evolved beyond what to wear. I've compiled a list of my best advice over at Hurricane Images Inc Blog.  Head over and check it out....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Going Pro: It's a wrap

Ian Robin Walker

Okay, clearly it's been a long time since I posted to this series, and the reason is largely about success.  While I do hope/plan/aspire to continue with the odd post on videography/photography business, product reviews, and technique, for now I'm putting a peg in this topic.  You can also check my other (even slower moving) blog at Hurricane Images Inc.  This is a client facing blog-- rather than this peer facing blog-- and there's a lot you can borrow from that.

I wrote that the end of this series is due to the success of my own process of turning pro.  I mean this in an "in progress" kind of way.  Since jettisoning my regular employment four months ago, I've been working continuously.  I've not consistently earned what I need each month-- I don't expect that to happen for another eight months-- but earnings have exceeded expectations this first trimester... even as turn-around times have proved painfully longer than expected.  My projects have included small jobs for big companies like BitDefender, Silicon Valley Air Experts, and The California Department of Public Health, and large jobs for small outfits like Davis Properties and Rocket Interview.  Balancing 45 hour work weeks with raising an infant (and keeping my sanity) has pushed writing projects like this to the side.

I started this post with a picture of yours truly, though, which is pretty unlike me.  Why?  It's a reminder that ultimately you  are your brand.  If you look at some of the most successful media producers out there-- from Philip Bloom to Casey Neistat to (one of my personal favorites) Brandon Li-- you realize how distinctive their personal style is.  Not just their artwork, but their personalities and how they put themselves forward.  Everyone, regardless of where they are in their career, should reevaluate their online presence and branding every six months.  This includes cleaning up the website, checking that you're still appearing on other sites and searches, and retooling your communications.  So if you're bored right now, get to it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Going Pro: Client Journeys - The Unexpected Call

One of the best-- though unnerving-- pieces of advice of new videographers/photographers is to make a pitch to your day job or current associate, be that a hobby or a related businesses.  The bottom line is that every organization can benefit from a video, and people who know you will (hopefully) trust you.

I was lucky.  I didn't have to pitch my day job; they approached me to create a video and it was no small project.  They wanted a 4 part series on the statewide program, complete with a mini-narrative (or extended role play).  It to months to plan, weeks to shoot, and I'm still working on translations for them.  It didn't pay well by an independent contractor standard, but it did by a regular employment scale.

But it wasn't the Unexpected Call.  That came from Hilton Worldwide.  They didn't want a commercial or even an in-house industrial; a senior Vice President was celebrating his 50th anniversary (and likely retirement due to illness), and they wanted a "thank-you" video from his colleagues and staff who were spread out across the U.S.  The video wasn't something they had planned on, either, it was a last minute addition, and it needed to be organized and edited in three weeks.  They wanted staff to film themselves-- using phones or cameras or whatever was available.  They also wanted it to be clever, humorous, and heartfelt.

I had no idea why an international company based outside of LA would cold-call me in the SF Bay.  He said he liked my website (really? the one with five videos?) and I didn't ask any questions.  He also said there wasn't a budget for this, but he wanted to see what it would cost to edit the staff contributions.  We talked about how many staff would contribute; I asked about general themes he thought we should cover; he told me a little about the Vice President, Greg.  I quoted him $1200.  It wasn't a living wage, really, but it wasn't embarrassingly cheap, either.

The next day I sent him filming guidelines for the staff, and based on our discussion, eight questions for them to answer, based on themes about Greg's personal style, computer style, driving technique, etc.  Everyone was to answer three of the eight questions, plus a statement about "one thing they appreciated about Greg."  I set up a Dropbox account for the incoming footage.  A week later, the files started to arrive.

As you can imagine, it was a hot mess.  Footage was shot on iPhones, in offices, in hotel lobbies, conference centers, vertical for Christ sake.  Airplanes roared in the background.  The President of Hilton Worldwide had his professionally done.  The 15 on-camera interviews ballooned to over 20.  Everyone had to be included.

Greg had started as a valet, and I found some archival footage of the Hilton where he worked; I organized the clips around the three major "questions."  And then I edited to the bone. Instead of fighting the bad and inconsistent quality of the footage, I went with it... allowing it to help shape the flow of the video.  

Rather than share the draft video with my client, I shared how I was structuring the piece.  After 10 days, I produced a draft for his review.  It was rough-hewn, a visual jumble tied together with playfulness, and audio earache to the refined.  He loved it.  I don't recall a single suggestion.  They played it at the 50th Anniversary, and the audience fell out; Greg and his family were deeply touched.

My client sent an email, introducing me to four new Hilton owners in the SF Bay (Hilton is a franchise), recommending me.  New businesses hasn't come from that-- at least not yet-- but I appreciated it as a sincere compliment.

Five months later I received an email from my client.  Greg has passed away from the illness that forced his retirement.  They played the video at his memorial.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Going Pro: Conversations about taking it to the next level

Photographer Ming Thein recently posted a discussion on his blog about the process of turning pro.  If you don't know him, his architectural photography is quietly phenomenal, with a subtle Miksang influence and flawless post production technique.  He writes a good blog, too.

For a unique perspective he shares this post with Robin Wong, a photog who's mid-stream in his journey of turning pro, and together they reflect on both the pitfalls and the tricks to being successful.  On point that can't be emphasized enough is how to think about and manage cash flow. 

"The reality is that most material work tends to be planned anywhere from one to six months in advance, and some clients may not pay for a month or two after that – which means your cash flow cycle should really be six months to a year once everything is stable."

An even bigger take-away in the piece is using smaller short-term jobs with quicker turnaround with the larger "meat" of your work.  This can sometimes mean taking on jobs that don't typify your work.  Ming may take the job, but he doesn't add it to his portfolio.

"Everything I’ve done up to this point has that question at the heart of it: is it core to what I want to shoot and what I want to be as a photographer? If no, unless I really, really need the money, I don’t do the job – and even then, I don’t tell anybody about it. So the answer is – let’s call it ‘identity building’ – must happen directly or indirectly, all the time. In practical terms, this means 3-4 hours a day answering email, making content for the site, maintaining the other social media channels (FB, IG, Twitter) etc. And that’s of course on top of the actual shooting and admin and logistics."

It's a long read, but a good one for anyone thinking about the leap.