Saturday, March 28, 2009

Make Money in Special Interest Video

You can do something you really enjoy doing in video and make money at it. I am talking about producing Special Interest Video. Creating and marketing SIV’s isn’t likely to make you rich, or pay off the mortgage...
...but it could.

There’s a host of genre’s in SIV. First, let’s define Special Interest Video even though most of you know, or think you know, a lot of you, myself included, totally overlook some SIV material that fits.

Special interest could also fit in the “limited” interest category. They are essentially the same: special interest videos are "limited" in the range of potential market share they can capture because not everyone will be “interested” in them; “limited” interest video is, well, limited in its range of appeal or market potential.

Either way you are creating a product that is limited to a set group of individuals who might be interested in purchasing a copy, or producing and marketing a SIV of their own. The approach opens up two markets specifically - what you might produce, and what you could produce for others. Both also work on the “work once, sell many” principle I like to operate by.

While SIV only appeal to a small part of any given market or demographic, the spread can be huge. While your market reach might be only a few hundred, today’s population and diversity of interests actually puts most “limited interest” production potential in the thousands of sales. It depends a lot on how and where you market, identifying and reaching the groups where a higher concentration of interest in your subjects exists.

Let’s take a quick look at numbers.
You love producing sunsets, live in an area where you can accumulate hundreds of dramatic sunsets over a season, put them to music (there’s a broad range of perfectly acceptable copyright-free resources, and even a host of software productions available to enable you to generate your own, as well as a host of musicians who also make video - you do not HAVE to violate copyright music laws to create these.), give your productions a title, design some nice graphics, package and offer them for sale.

This is nothing new, Reader’s Digest has produced mood, nature and other “inspirational” footage/music videos for years. Still do, so far as I know - I have a few older productions in my personal library. So does my Dad, friends, and I rarely go to any client’s home without seeing some of these in their own collections. People do buy them, folks.

Keep in mind that this is something you do because you enjoy collecting sunsets for yourself. You may, or not, be a full time professional video services provider, but you still go out and commune with nature in some way from time-to-time, collecting on video anything from flowers to animals, desert plants to nocturnal creatures, piers to plantation homes, storms to cumulus cloud patterns. Take this a step further, editing and packaging, then marketing, and you can pick up some coin for your efforts.

It starts as a labor of love, but easily becomes a SIV production. You have done the work without thought to profits, but hey, sell a couple hundred or so at $9.99 or so and you have picked up some money for your labors. The subject, and your treatment of its production hit the consumer pulse and you could literally sell thousands.

Sure, there’s a lot of competition in this arena, but you can develop your own market, and followers - consumers who after discovering your productions come back for more again, and again, and again.

But that isn’t all!
Wait, there’s more! Hundreds of hobby enthusiasts all over the world are either skilled at doing something uniquely creative, or buying SIV productions that they hope will help them pursue their particular interests, learn how to collect this, build that, or find whatever.

People collect things, enjoy history, like trains, planes or automobiles, but they also like knowing how to put together special projects, even their own SIV productions. Those who are knowledgeable about their chosen interests, able to articulate in a reasonable manner, understand the ins, outs and tricks of their creative skills need only be encouraged to enter into a mutually beneficial SIV production - one that each of you, the video producer and the talent, can put together using your particular knowledge, produce, package and market, and bring in a few dollars worth of orders from time-to-time.

SIV productions can be...
...generally appealing, wildly hot, or very specific. The marketing can be the same, from casually mentioning their availability on your general or dedicated web site, to e-mail blasts, viral marketing techniques, to full-blown advertising and direct mail campaigns.

The interesting thing about such productions is that once a few people hear about them, purchase them, express an interest in them, and tell others in their circles of influence, more people come, browse your selections, make purchases and periodically visit again, and again. You productions, or any one of them, could get hot, or not, but all you have invested in them is a little bit of effort - something you were going to do, more or less, anyway, but just carried it a step further to offer your SIV to the rest of the world.

There is a huge potential for production of how to videos, mood videos, videos that promote self-published books, entertainment, hobbies, information and awareness - the list is infinite. If you have a product and market, you will make it.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Wedding Video Production Primer

Information abounds on a myriad of ways to approach wedding video production. Forum advice ranges from the simple, basic one-camera, or two-camera one operator single-person business, to two or more cameras and operators, to full production crews with multiple cameras, operators, audio technicians and helpers.

There are plenty of resources and opinions also, that offer advice on the camera model, style, format, lens, standard or high definition...
...everything from lights, mics and audio levels, to tripods, tape and batteries. Marketing, production, editing and delivery notions are all over the board, all of them appropriate, none of them the end-all answer.

This bounty of information is all well and good, and will either help you make GREAT decisions regarding the above, or muddle your mind so much you want to throw your hands up in frustration and go back to your day job.

Keeping in mind that there are a hundred ways to make a good, no GREAT decision, the following is what I recently shared with an individual who asked:
“I'd like to know how to set up for a wedding shoot. Single camera? Multiple? Where do I set up for either? What about lighting? Angles? Sound? Where, and whom, to mic. What about shooting an indoor, night ceremony?

“What about pricing? Obviously prices can range from nothing to whatever. If a bride plans a wedding for 150 guests, and you charge them $1,500, what would that include?”

For someone who might not be familiar with weddings, or wedding video production and editing, this information could be helpful. It is not by any means all inclusive, nor the definitive article, but should generally set the uninformed and/or inexperienced on the right path.

A Wedding Video Production Primer
You can certainly go wedding (and event) video production using one camera, but it can be a bit more of a challenge to do so. The use of a second camera, or more, and additional operator(s) offers many options for more angles or points of view (POV).

Many of us in the field prefer to shoot with two cameras, using the second unit as a CYA unit as well. Personally, I prefer two cameras AND two operators. One operator predominately uses a sturdy tripod and works from the back, to the side of the main aisle, or in the balcony, even a side balcony if one exists.

It is possible to set this camera, frame it, and lock it down (where the term “Lock Down Larry” comes in), while the camera/operator does her/his thing, run and gun, off shoulder and/or using a monopod or other stabilizer or brace system. I prefer not. And especially suggest not going this route until you have a few weddings under your belt.

I rove with the second camera, or run-and-gun, using a unique and sturdy monopod system. I also usually monitor wireless audio coming into my unit. Sometimes not. I am nearly always somewhere up front, to the groom's side, to capture tight, get intimate shots of the bride during the vows and whathaveyou.

I often utilize a third camera for another unique perspective (I presently work in standard definition using two Canon XL1 and one Canon GL2 cameras). I sometimes place it against one of the front row pews on the floor set wide to get a unique angle on the processional including the bride’s entry. I have used it on a stand for a unique overhead shot, and even set it in the back area at an angle to the official, bride and groom to pick up a wide shot. I have used it for an exclusive close-up shot (CU) of the mothers lighting candles at the unity table, and the bride and groom lighting the unity candle.

NOTE: A matching set of cameras makes it a bit easier to get some degree of color balance. But even with matching camera models or brands that is not always the case. You will often have to manually white balance each unit, or even do some additional color correction in post. It is amazing how similar the image looks when screening from one camera. But when switching back and forth between cameras and shots, even a minor shift in color or brightness and lighting, becomes very evident.

We use natural available light in 99 percent of the venues we have worked, or even candlelight. I will normally use on-camera lighting 10-watt to 50-watt during under-lighted receptions.

In only one church in my career have I deemed it absolutely necessary to use auxiliary lighting for the ceremony. That church is almost totally dark, the only daytime light entering (barely) from one stained-glass window to the front of the church and high, nearly to the ceiling.

Even with 1,800 watts of lighting from stand units in the balcony the ability of the cameras we use was sorely tested. This venue is an old mission and pretty much everything at the altar is covered with gold, highly reflective, but not very illuminating. Those instances are pretty rare actually, and even candlelight can give a nice, warm hue to the ceremony if you manually white balance according to the light the candles throw off.

I have also used 10-watt auxiliary lights strategically placed to throw some illumination onto the vows area, suspended in the gazebo or arch, or where ever available. If it is going to interfere in any way with the visuals I will avoid doing so, same with mics or auxiliary audio recording units.

There will be some lights, or candles for evening services, and that should be sufficient for most of today's venues, and many of the current available standard definition cameras. Figure out the ways you can adjust your cameras to compensate for more, or less, illumination and various light temperatures and sources, then be ready to adjust on the fly when you need to.

I use NRG varilights that I can dial down as needed without making a LOT of difference in color temperature. I use 50-watt lamps with screens over the fronts to keep from blasting guests with blinding white light. Even so, there will be some reaction, but I've not run into any of our clients who have complained excessively about the "bothersome" lights.

Some video producers shy away from using lights at all, but my personal opinion is that “video IS light, light IS video.” I personally do not like the coloration or the darkness of shooting natural when the DJ invariably shuts down the lighting to show off the color bar, strobes or whatever other light show is brought in.

Mic the groom, wireless or hardwired, and the bride whenever possible. One or the other is going to whisper if you don't and you will NEVER know which one forgets to project. I use a wireless system, with white cable and head for the bride (I have even temporarily coated a black mic system with liquid paper - sure, it rubs off some during the event, but mostly stays white, and rubbing it off is easy when I am ready to clean it up and use it black again in another situation).

I shoot live audio to all cameras as well, except for the one receiving whatever wireless source I utilize. I have four Zoom H2 digital recorders which I place at the podium, on mic stands or where ever they are needed to pick up soloists, readers, roving ministers, dual speaker podiums, and sometimes even directed toward the "sweet spot" if any of the house sound system. Due to many bad luck experiences resulting in damage to my cameras or mic circuitry, I will never again trust anything from house sound or auxiliary boards. EVER!

I use lots of 2- to 3-hour bricks, having gotten away from battery belts (too heavy after awhile) even though most belts actually last pretty much for the six or more hours, give or take, of most wedding events - ceremony and reception.

We rarely stay for the "party" dancing, shooting the main dances, and two or maybe three of the first party dances, then we get the heck out of dodge, unless there’s late traditional events that have been arranged for coverage.

Most receptions feature the intro, then toasts, sometimes first dance and subsequent father/daughter, mother/son and bridal party dances happen immediately after the introductions. Or the first dance will fall between introduction and toasts. Always check with the attending activities coordinator or DJ or band emcee, for the general plan.

Cake cutting, bouquet and garter will often occur after dinner and prior to the party dancing. If not, you're going to be stuck for a long night. Try to find out as much about the event plans as you can from the bride, her mother and the coordinator or activities person. Believe me, you will be glad you have some kind of handle on it, even if it all changes somewhat.

The market seems to want a "meat and potatoes" production with good-to-great audio video quality. And a minimum of special effects or creative elements, for a production of anywhere from 40-minutes to one and one-half hours in length. Actually, less is more, if you do a GREAT job of shooting, getting good color, quality audio visuals, and editing it all together. Botches in angle, focus, sound, etc. can create some serious editing/production headaches, but usually, if you work with two cameras there’s not much you cannot overcome in post.

With that in mind, event (wedding) coverage that provides basically a documentary/journalistic style approach, (getting what happens the way it happens without creative enhancement - maybe SOME slow motion, or a fancy cuts-to-the-beat dance sequence) should be valued at $1,200 to $2,000, depending on your experience, abilities, equipment used and assistance needed.

My package starts at $1,500 for basic, and goes up to $5K. We also offer a $1k service that is primarily a highlights production with live audio for the vows and rings, everything else edited montage style and featuring the high points of the event. Plus they get totally RAW DVDs of the footage shot - no kisses, no promises. Opinions and theories on provision of RAW footage vary widely, some professing professional outrage at even considering the concept. Whatever.

Many in this profession keep their prices and overhead low, offering a single-camera, single operator service, and they are quite successful at it. Their editing time is shorter, and I have seen production by them that stands up to any quality standard.

These people are often highly skilled shooters and editors, making as much, sometimes more, often less per package than my two-and-two prices. I do not begrudge them that.

The following forum groups are excellent resources for people considering a move into wedding and event video production, either as a part-time income-booster, hobby or full-time professional business: Videomaker, Wedding Video Professionals, WEVA, DV Professionals and Video University. There are more, but these would be a good start.

Friday, March 06, 2009

How I Produce Funeral Videos

A follower wants specifics about producing funeral videos: after reading my blog article, "Videotaping Funerals" Oct. 6, 2008. This will be an exceptionally long post (yes, even longer than usual) but readers will find it to be fairly definitive in content.

"I've noticed at least one of the larger, local funeral homes providing the montage service - at least it was mentioned in one of their tv adverts - and can understand this service, what is new to me is videotaping the funeral/memorial service itself.

Do people actually request coverage of this event? It seems strange on one hand, but can understand it on the other. What are the primary objectives for camera coverage? Do you try to do this with one or two cameras? Maybe you could go further into detail about the coverage...I'm a little interested." — Hogwild

* "What is new to me is videotaping the funeral/memorial itself. YES, this is a seriously under served segment of our industry.

* "Do people actually request coverage..." - YES, now that the word is out regarding my services, I am getting numerous calls, inquiries, referrals and new business weekly.

* "What are the primary objectives for camera coverage?"
— Remembrance, honor, dedication, celebration, preservation

* "Do you try to do this with one or two cameras?" Often one, usually two.

* "Maybe you could go further into detail about the coverage." Glad you asked:

How I Produce Funeral Videos
is a LOT like how most of us produce wedding videos (upcoming blog article featuring a "Wedding Video Production Primer" - VERY SOON!) in that like weddings, funerals are pretty much all the same, but different. The essentials are standard, the particulars and specifics will vary.

A Traditional Funeral
goes like this: Guests arrive and are seated about 30 minutes prior to service starting time (generally speaking - varies somewhat), family is either brought forward and seated, or was seated prior to guests entry. There is usually "entry" music, either live or CD, iPod, etc. a half-hour before service is to begin.

The venue's "family assistant" will usually announce the official service beginning and admonish guests to put cell phones/pagers on silent, or turn them off, introduce the official or opening speaker.

The official(s) open with prayer or meditation. Usually, one of three things happens next:

1. The official will read the obituary/eulogy
2. A family member or friend will read the obituary/eulogy
3. A song will be performed - live vocalist/soloists, organ, harp, guitarist, or pianist, or recorded CD/iPod/audio cassette

This is followed by eulogies (if obituary biography opened) from official, or a combination of family members, friends or professional/organization associates.

Either another song will follow, or people from the attending guests will be invited to share a brief (sometimes not so brief) memory. This can be problematic when videotaping if those speaking do not use the microphone at the podium, or up front.

The official will usually follow with a special message, or most often a real sermon - often about 15-20 minutes, but there are instances where they have gone an hour or more, include scripture readings, mass, liturgies, communion, and even an altar call to seek salvation. Be ready, prepared and find out as much as possible regarding this segment beforehand.

A closing song usually follows, with benediction and often one of three things:

1. Guests stand while casket is escorted out, usually by the pall bearers, followed by the family, then exit as everyone proceeds to a grave side service, dove release or outside military honors, or even a combination of all these.
2. Family stands to the front, near casket, while guests are requested to file past in a greetings line. This will either be followed by the casket, pall bearers and procession to grave side, or not. Or there could be no grave side service (having been held earlier and privately) and everyone attends a reception either on site, at a restaurant, or family residence.
3. There is no casket, and the "cremains" in an urn are escorted out, for a committal service, or other. The greeting line will be held, and/or people will mill around outside the facility, talking, meeting, greeting, sharing, comforting, etc.

There are many, MANY exceptions, and I will try to cover some of them along the way as I point out my approach to...

Videotaping & Producing a Funeral
I will now tell what I do, arrival/setup to breakdown/departure, for the average funeral production. I will follow with some exceptions that might occur, and what happens when a client books my most extended hours package.

I generally ALWAYS arrive at least 30-minutes, and often one-hour prior to service time. This depends on my familiarity with the venue, and whatever indication I have received from the booking family counselor of anticipated attendance. The MORE people they expect, the earlier I will time my arrival - if for no other reason that getting a better access parking space. You will be glad you did for all the obvious reasons.

NOTE: I always try to park headed out, or in line with the anticipated procession vehicles when I know I will be following by auto to the grave side/burial service on second location packages.

I use two cameras, and often two operators - main camera on a tripod, centered on the podium, framed based on "rule of thirds" (imagine a tic-tac-toe grid in your viewfinder or screen and frame subject's eyes on one of the cross-hatch junctions). Give a bit of head room (some air between top of frame and subject's head); and lead room (more space in direction subject is facing/speaking, less behind).

I try to be somewhere toward the front and to a slight angle from where the speaker(s) are. I prefer slightly off-center, and not directly in front of the podium even if that were possible - it usually is not because your rear would be in the faces of the family. Not good.

So, closer and to the side in smaller, more intimate venues; just behind the family section, and to the side closest to the podium in larger venues; and where ever they will allow me in churches - balcony, designated video platform, back of church, etc. This camera records ambient sound for enhancement or backup.

Second camera is off-shoulder or on my favorite monopod. This camera rarely, if ever, runs continuously. Instead it is used for pickup shots, and run-and-gun moments to catch procession/recession, after-service milling around, or various other scheduled events. The main camera person is breaking down equipment, stashing tripod and converting to mono, or prepared to go with shoulder shots, or stashing everything in the vehicle in preparation for following procession to the grave side, reception location, etc. Second camera, when running, also picks up ambient/natural or amplified audio from house system.

During the service I am also up front and to the side, enabling me to get head shots of family, guests, reaction shots, etc. during prayers, eulogies; as well as the vocalist/accompanist or other performers. My primary function, however, is to get a save shot if the ceremony goes beyond 55 minutes on the main camera and the operator needs to change tape.

NOTE: This is also VERY "doable" for a single operator. After the Lock Down Larry is set up on the tripod, I am free to get the cutaways, CYA shots, B-roll shots, etc. And, I am also able to keep the second camera steady (my monopod has a reliable foot-stand section) and rolling while changing tapes if needed in the main camera.

is not critical from the cameras, but I like having the live audio from on-camera microphones to enhance my main audio source - that amazing Zoom H2 portable digital recorder I have placed at the podium. A 2-gig card is usually enough, but I recently found a sweet deal on 4-giggers so I can put in fresh AA batteries, set it up when I arrive, test audio levels and get decent recording of the 30-minutes of entry music, start recording and leave it running until I break down and retrieve the unit.

I like that I can break out segments of the recorded H2 file(s), and then go to the unit's "normalize" function to bring everything up to zero. I have a tendency to set a bit lower to avoid potential over-modulation, so quiet or soft moments, or harp, guitar, piano, singers who cannot project and do not use the mic system, etc. can be brought up to decent levels. What I do with MY files is drag-and-drop into my Mac using my card reader and burn them onto a CD via Roxio Toast. I have NO trouble syncing up with speakers or musicians, and get good quality recording on my aiff files. Nice.

I have extra units if I discover that I need to place more of them in more locations - near the second podium, near the performers, etc.

I always, ALWAYS inform the venue, the family counselors, the family assistants, the officials and, when possible, family members that I have been paid to provide quality video and audio, and the ONLY way to get quality audio is if ANYONE who speaks comes to the podium to do so. Rarely, ever do I have to contend with people speaking from the seats.

Also, if they want to pay for it, I do offer/provide a wireless hand-held microphone that can be passed around. It can be fed into the house sound for audience clarity, but unless that is requested I inform them that the hand held mic's primary purpose is to direct-feed the signal into another of my H2 recorders, not for audience. Whatever.

After Setting Up
The main camera's sole responsibility is to maintain a sharp-focused, well-framed, steady shot of the speakers, moving only when necessary to take in a speaker from another position, or taller/shorter, or a performer off to the side. Otherwise, no zooms, no adjustments, no re-framing, no focus bips.

Prior to the ceremony the main camera shooter will often pick up some candle, cross, crucifix, flower or angle shots of the casket or urn, flag on stand, tilt-ups or zoom-ins of tall, round or large stained-glass windows, fancy lights, etc.

And, of course, to affirm that camera two is rolling (if two-operators) before changing tape. We do not communicate other than looking and paying attention at the critical times - slight nods indicating "rolling" "changed-and-rolling again" etc.

The secondary camera responsibility is
1. Exterior shots of venue
2. ECU's & CU's (extreme close ups and close ups) at foyer or entrance where there are usually photos and/or photo-montage boards, memorabilia, programs, boutonnieres for the pall bearers, special mementos, etc. These items, along with the guest book and a few people signing, all contribute to a special opening montage with which I begin virtually ALL funeral productions, or may also be used during songs, etc, especially when it is music only and nothing to show during the service.

I also nearly ALWAYS get several casket shots, and especially a centered shot of the casket or urn, surrounded by the flowers, sprays, large framed photo, etc. YES, most family clients WANT some casket shots (Remember to use "casket" not coffin. EVER!). These can be tastefully acquired without making it look as if you are morbidly curious or wanting to climb inside. A bit of gallows humor there.

And, I also get close-up shots, tilts, trucks, pans, dolly shots, Dutch angles, etc. of many of the floral displays up front, and around the casket, urn or large-framed photo. These too are used for the montage, opening/closing titles, or to break the monotony of long-winded speakers and songs with no live performers.

3. During the ceremony the second camera will get head shots of guests and family members, a few poignant shots of emotions are OK, but I do not "dwell" on extended emotional outbreaks for too long. That is not appropriate IMHO. These are inserted as needed to provide production value and breaks from long-winded speakers. Hint. Hint. Well-worth the effort to generate renewable business, references, etc.

NOTE: Our resources KNOW the quality of our productions and are happy to sell our services along with their packages, or refer us to others. They KNOW our productions are not plain video anybody with a camera could capture, more or less. They KNOW that we provide a beginning, middle and end, and often create special elements the average Uncle Charlie or family friend does not or cannot.

At the conclusion
of the ceremony, following the casket/family recession, greetings line, move to the reception area/location, military honors events (gun salute, flag folding, taps and presentation of flag to designated recipient); sometimes a horse-drawn carriage through the cemetery park, on-the-shoulders pall bearer procession, Scottish bagpipe, New Orleans-style jazz band, veterans, Harley or antique auto club procession, or the auto procession to another location, and subsequent if any, and usually much shorter grave side or committal service, the two cameras trade off, depending on who's on first.

Many other things can happen such as:
* Mariachi bands, live dance performances, candlelight ceremonies, themed celebrations and more are entirely possible.

Funerals are not so much the dark, sack-cloth-and-ashes, hair-pulling, clothes-renting, wailing, morbid, icky or gross events the uninitiated or inexperienced imagine, or have been told.
* Many Indian, or Eastern group funerals feature processions to the crematorium where the family wants, and is paying for, documentation that all honors have been bestowed, final rites given and the body cremated. They especially want to get video of the family member or official designated to "push" the button that starts the fire.
* Many ethnic groups will have, en lieu of, or in addition to Christian/Catholic/Americanized services, special rites/rituals - Sanskrit, etc. - as well as second, even third language segments.
* There have been choral presentations, choral accompaniment to the liturgies or Gospels, ethnic singing groups, usually from German, Polish or Russian immigrant families.
* I have experienced rock bands, heavy metal music, and even members from the gay/lesbian community singing "'s raining men!" or some other appropriate anthem.
* There have been fly-overs, fly-by and Scottish bagpipe brigades, Harley Veteran groups with multiple flags and blue jean jacket "colors" - especially from the Vietnam era.
* Dove releases, toasts of champagne, wine and tequila shots with the entire congregation asked to participate (apple cider for those avoiding alcohol), picnics on the grounds, potlucks on mile-long tables, and video montage projections ranging from a few minutes to a half-hour in length.
* Filipino groups tend to take a lot of time posing at the casket for family photos. Indonesians also, while Spanish groups tend to be very demonstrative, spending a lot of time at the casket, sharing emotions and spiritual moments with the deceased.

MOST Funerals tend to be
fairly reserved, routine and traditional, however, but do not be surprised or shocked at the possible variations. Some families/guests will be rather quiet while others will be extremely demonstrative. There are often jokes, laughter and tears of joy as well.

I thought this long article would be fully definitive, but it is not. I am concerned about writing much more, making it too long for even the most curious to read and absorb. There is much more to share, many elements I have not yet shared, that often come up.

What I have described sounds like a LOT of work, but yet it isn't really. Services rarely take up more than a couple of hours total. Some will last longer due to visitation, Rosary, grave side services a longer distance away than normal - often only a few miles, but sometimes 40 miles or more, receptions and other special programmed events. The editing, however, is easy and quick if you get the shots and audio right. Most every funeral produced requires much less work, editing and effort, paying much more per hour than a wedding.

My upcoming book with its accompanying support materials will contain all this and much, much more, plus samples, forms, demo clips and videos. It will contain expanded versions of many of the articles here, as well as updated information. I expect, pound-for-pound, word-for-word, and resource materials galore, "Diversify: How to Market and Make Money Producing Event Video" will prove a huge value at a reasonable price for all skill and experience levels of people in the Independent Professional Video Services Provider community wanting/willing to think "outside the wedding".

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Study Your Resources, the Competition

Unless you totally love doing it, no matter the cost, wedding event video production is only the smallest tip of the iceberg, income-wise. In fact, for the vast majority of independent professional video services providers wedding event video production is the most number of hours you can work for the least amount of dollars per hour in return you can do!

Yet the vast majority of independents do focus almost entirely on wedding event video production, treating most anything else they might provide as an afterthought or step-child. Web page designs focus almost exclusively on wedding video production, and rightly so if your only interest is in this area of business, and you are satisfied with the return you get.

Not that many independent wedding video producers take the amount of time and effort they should to check out the competition, instead depending on what they think they know and cautiously guarding their "secrets" instead of trying to learn what others are doing that might, or not, help them grow their own. And even fewer make an effort to see what other services are offered, how they are marketed, their focus, what sets them apart from the other "full service" independents. EVEN FEWER set aside a serious amount of time to research programs, software, hardware or web services that could set them apart, or above, the competition.

Current economics make this a good time to do some research. Research to discover new products or services you can use to keep the money coming in. Research to discover how others are setting themselves apart from you. Research to discover if it is price, product or SERVICE that is making the difference for others in the independent video production business community.

Marketing Guru Steve "Doc" Yankee admonishes his followers to market, market often, and market regardless, noting that it isn't something you do when the cash flow spigot stops flowing. It is something you do EVERY DAY, to keep your business, services, prices and product in the public eye.

My marketing mantra has for a long time been: "If you market, you will make it!" © 2009 Earl Chessher. I always admonish my readers that great ideas won't work unless you do, knowing that "work" is the key word, and that it seems to run against human nature to do too much of that - even if YOU KNOW the idea will work, bringing in a boatload of bucks.

I once quoted a business friend, in an earlier blog, who asked me to help him develop a good business approach to expanding his pest control service. We worked something out. He got all hot and excited about it, his face lit up like a thousand-watt bulb, but then I didn't hear from him. Weeks went by and life got in the way, but one day I cornered him about our fantastic market-expanding concept for growing his independent commercial pest control business using video.

"It is a GREAT idea Earl," he said. "I KNOW this is what I need to do to really build my client base and grow the business." He paused before the moment of truth: "But it's going to work too well, and that means I AM going to have to work harder!" He wasn't willing to work THAT HARD for the success and business he knew this marketing approach would generate.

Just doing less than one hour's worth of research I found a number of interesting web sites to visit. Sites offering new services, new products, new marketing concepts, and sites offering GREAT self-promotion for the usual (weddings) as well as a bounty of other concepts that could benefit the independent video production company.

And, of course, there's the value of networking with other independent video producers around the globe. Fellow video business enthusiast Robert Wagner, active on the Videomaker forum, just recently shared with me an idea he is putting into action RIGHT NOW! Wagner has a good-sized trailer that has been "just sitting there" taking up space. He is refurbishing it, installing connections and implementing green screen capabilities. Robert is going to tow his trailer to flea markets, huge commercial open market sites and other locations, and set up an "on site" video production "booth" for the thousands of potential fair/flea market visitors/customers that attend. New idea? No, but Wagner has the incentive and willingness to work to put together his NEW approach to an old marketing idea and make some money doing it, using things that are available to him at a minimum cost. Sweat equity.

Here are some of those places you might want to check out. Study them. See what they offer. Study how they present themselves and how they market. Take a look at Eye15Productions, Animoto, Photo to Movie, Castleland Productions, Go 2 Productions, MTPRO.TV, Last Cut, Royce Multimedia, Reach Local, Event Video Production, Video Builder, U on DVD. If that doesn't give your marketing senses a jolt, check out Veeple and sign up for a "clickable video web service" - free trial through March, 2009; Reel Moments has a solid focus on SDE (same day edit) services that they also offer a "how to" product that will make a believer out of you.

Check out Independent Media, and McNally's Plug and Play, where you can obtain a CD/DVD plus/dash duplicator that offers short run copy protection for your productions with NO licensing fees per disc. If these aren't enough, Google your own and take a close look at what and who is out there doing business, making money - WORKING while you wonder how come you are not.

What do these sites offer? What are they marketing? How? What sets them apart from you, from the rest of the market? Exclusive? Software, hardware, web product? A unique style/approach? Their years of experience? Price? Equipment used? Production Quality, branding, web site quality? What "look" do they incorporate? How are they different, or the same? What is their focus and how do they make it work for them?

Find the answers by researching and studying the resources, the competition, and decide where YOU can set yourself apart. Make your move to the top. Write the GREAT ideas that will start pouring out of your brain down so you do not forget them. Put the GREAT ideas to work so YOU will have to! Make money!