Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Kind of Video Producer ARE You?

Essentially,there are 10 general categories of video producers: casual, amateur, hobbyist, part-time paid, full-time paid, inexperienced professional, experienced professional, independent shooter, ENG professional and commercial (entertainment or business) video producer.

* Casual video producers give no thought to videotaping as a business, means of income or even source for entertainment. This producer purchased or was given, or acquired a camcorder of some make or model for the purpose of occasionally recording a personal or family event.

The casual video producer infrequently pulls out the camcorder bag, charges up the battery and gets part of blowing out the birthday candles, a segment of the Grand Canyon Railway journey, carving of the turkey or unwrapping of holiday presents - maybe the kids in their Halloween costumes.

* Amateur video producers
put more effort into their productions. They will shoot longer bursts, record more specific elements of events or trips, and usually pack more than one spare battery. Many of them will actually own a cheap tripod, but rarely auxiliary lighting or additional microphones.

The amateur producer might have simple, basic or free editing capabilities. Amateurs may even attempt to add titles, and "edit" out long, boring footage in an effort to make their productions more enjoyable to view. Amateur video producers tend to focus more on a given subject - trip, nature, event, birds, insects, kids, cars, women - instead of mixing all matter of content in an effort to fill the tape, hard drive or card before dubbing over to reuse their media, or starting a new tape.

Amateurs may actually give some thought to ways to make a dollar or two with their equipment and basic skills. They may have some idea that doing montages and weddings could, in the years ahead, become a decent "retirement" profession to fall back on.

* Hobbyists will usually acquire more than just a camera and a bag. The hobbyist will nearly always have a decent tripod and/or monopod, auxiliary lighting and purchase additional mics or other audio recording tools. Hobbyists will own an editing system purchased with the specific intent to edit productions into a quality finished video.

Hobbyists will seek ways to make money with their video tools, primarily in an effort to finance their real goal - producing video in an area of special interest. The hobbyist enjoys nature, or sports, chasing storms, or simply doing a better than average job of producing youth sports, even social/commnity activity videos and selling some copies.

The hobbyist seeks to make income from video primarily as a method for investing more into videotaping and editing tools to perpetuate the hobby rather than as an income source.

While most hobbyists will remain in that category, some will eventually move into some aspect of business with their video production experience, abilities and tools.

* Part-time paid video
producers could be hobbyists as well, but definitely want or need, or have invested in video with an eye toward generating income to supplement whatever other income sources they have. This is usually a full-time job, or a working spouse, or one or both supplementing retirement income levels.

The part-time paid producer may or may not be considered a professional, and may, or not, consider herself to be a professional beyond being paid for what they produce. Quality may, or not, be a personal issue with their productions.

Many part-time professionals, however, consider themselves creative artists and will put in untold hours in an effort to polish their productions. Perfection certainly is often a goal for them.

While primary focus for part-time producers seems to be wedding videos, part-time video producers may find a niche in car shows, drag racing, surfing, or some other specific area or activity - so long as it generates income. The part-time producer is not always so much interested in hours vs income and cost ratios as he or she is in making a "chunk of money."

* Full-time paid video producers have invested significantly in time, money, equipment and experience with the primary intent of entering video production as an independent business. While a majority of full-time independent professional video services providers work from a small office/home office environment, others focus on establishing a commercial location - even developing a editing/production studio.

As such, the full-time video producer may or may not have achieved his or her, or the client's for that matter, desired level of professional. Interest may be as minimal as getting by, or making a living, to becoming highly successful, building and growing the business, or even expanding to a brick-and-mortar based location/multiple location level.

In most cases the full-time video producer began at one of the previously-mentioned levels with the idea of eventually moving forward into a full-time, commercially viable, video production business.

Budgets for the level of their business operations, concerns or plans will play, or should, a primary role in establishing rates for services and products. Any full-time video producer not factoring in all costs related to their business will eventually experience a short-fall and either go out of business, or have to re-enter the workforce and gear down their video business efforts.

* The inexperienced or experienced professional will reach above, or fall below, the line as established for full-time paid video producers. While the inexperienced may move up, or fall behind, as circumstances affect their business model and/or learning curve, the gaining of experience will move many of these into a higher level, often better-paid, independent professional video services provider.

* Shooters focus on establishing themselves as experts in the field of video acquisition. The successful ones focus on a specific area of production - working on documentaries, entertainment, even some areas of news gathering - and building a name for themselves. They often have invested heavily on support tools such as stabilizers, higher-end production cameras, shooting platforms and/or other rigs such as cranes or jibs, etc.

By focusing on the specific tools, and quality cameras, their area of specialty calls for, and by developing experience and professional expertise shooters can often hire out for quality pay actually earning more per hour than many full-time, full-service independents can generate. While up-front investment costs may run higher, actual operating expenses may be lower for a potentially faster R.O.I. - return on investment.

* ENG professionals can include any, or all, of the above upon achievement of experience and development of professional talent levels and working their way up the ENG career ladder.

The established ENG professional has worked long and hard, often at poor income levels, to achieve a reasonable position in this field. Perhaps the top 10-percent of this category will generate the highest income levels - the remainder slaving under often thankless conditions at entry-level, or worse, pay scale.

* The entertainment/commercial
(corporate) producer has parlayed talent, experience, investment capital, equipment, branding and more into a business environment where the right connections generate the right business opportunities.

The creme does not always rise to the top here, however, and often folks who strike for this level of production, above or below the line, either fall out altogether or find themselves returning to one of the previously-mentioned categories.

These categories are based on my experience, not necessarily personal investment/involvement, as an independent professional video services provider. There are most definitely many sub-categories or alternative titles, and the success/income range within any of the above, or others, is wide.

A living, or more, or less, is available to a person with the right combination of ambition, incentive, skills and determination who pursues video production. Whatever level you determine to pursue in video business remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What Focus is Right for Web Site

A reader and fellow video business owner whom I enjoy a great e-mail relationship recently inquired regarding my thoughts about web site development and utilization of content for marketing strategies. I tend to shoot from the hip a bit more when I respond to readers/followers and friends via e-mail. Perhaps my following comments to him will get a few comments of their own from others. Opinions welcome.

Dear Reader:

Most of the clips I currently share on my respective web sites and links are CD quality and do take as much as 60 seconds to load up and play. I settled for quality (or better quality) over speed, and will likely always go that route even though I know some people will not be able to access, or not have the patience to view. Over time I get enough who stay with me and business occurs. I can live with the numbers, and when I get all this web site URL works-in-progress stuff up to the next level my numbers should improve. This will be sooner, rather than later.

If I could afford, or trade, and retain enough working understanding of what a so-called web site developer wound up doing with my site, or the whole enchilada for that matter, then I'd not be adverse to using outside help. But web development is going to have to be what I can come up with, gleam from others and beg, borrow or create, operate, update and manage on my own. My margins are simply too small to afford a guru for my web development.

To quote your "back end" web site guru: "consistent with a video producers website," sounds like some subjective mumbo-jumbo to me, but I am always open to possibilities, so I'll listen to what somebody has to say, share or suggest. But the control freak in me usually opts out even though what is being proposed, regardless of cost, is all that and a bag of chips. I'm simply too independent.

I too am looking into how I can offer video hosting for clients and my own reels, samples, etc. I am studying the possibilities, and the affordability, and the scale-ability as well as flexibility (gosh all those "abilities!") and I will test many things on my way to continuing my personal and business web site development and offerings.

I plan to have a shopping cart, secure on-site credit card and scheduling options, etc. It will take me longer to develop all this D.Y.I. (do it yourself), but it will be along the lines of what I have in mind and not another person's interpretation of what I "should" or "could" have. I'm not really obstinate, but might come close sometimes.

My ideal of an "ideal" web site for a video production company/business is ease of navigation, simplicity of information, reduction of redundancy and elimination of rhetoric. TMI, the young people say - "too much information" so I want it to offer views of my work and various specific example of what is possible.

I want it to offer private screening, viewing or access for clients, and the ability to provide feedback for rough cuts projects leading to their final approval for production. I want to offer samples of events I've produced and the ability for those visiting who participated, or are interested in these event productions, to order on-line, perhaps even eventually to download and burn to DVD themselves. I want them to be able to provide links to share, and to be able to pay for all this via credit card and/or PayPal easily, quickly and securely.

I plan for graphics to be lean and mean. I plan to use little, if any, fancy flash-in-the-pan creative flash-type or other graphics and intros. My interest is NOT to entertain visitors, potential clients or viewers, but to provide them with easy access to the services I offer. I do not want to clutter my pages with copy or graphics and refuse to use those stupid-looking amateur spinning cameras, whirling DVD disks or some other goofy motion graphics that do nothing to provide good quality information and distract from my professional presentation.

Limited use of complimentary fonts and graphics is key. Limited (almost monochromatic) color schemes, not ghastly color mixes that induce the gag reflex in normal people. Have I given you some kind of clear idea of what I think web sites should be? Hope so. And I hope I haven't offended you in the doing.

I am of the opinion (if you haven't already, go to and click on the link in the middle of the opening page) that iWeb has GREAT potential, especially what I have been able to check out in the iLife 09 series. This site was developed using iLife 06 and there's much more interaction and capabilities now, along with utilizing a account. I am looking, and leaning, in this direction even though I purchased a GREAT looking template series. I simply do not have the time and money to invest in a huge learning curve for all the software it takes to implement the template series, so it was a bad investment for me. I have access to the software, but no knowledge of it yet, so...

A CLEAN and consistent page design that each web site page adheres to, one that doesn't require a bunch of scrolling down to see it all (preferably one that each page would be almost totally visible in most screen environments); a limited color, font and graphics scheme; specific landing pages for specific marketing drives and promotions, where mention on blogs, Facebook, Twitter or other social sites will bring the curious or interested to a specific, informative and easy to comprehend landing page site. This is my ambition.

Blue is cool. Red is hot. Black is classy. Brushed metals are becoming cliche. Get the picture?

Regarding research by viewing other sites. Freeze frame, generate PDF images, or make simple sketches of what really grabs your attention, what you like, and go with that at first. Check out the web sites that consistently come out on top in your various Google searches, and try to rationalize what it is about these sites that not only seem to please viewers, but also grab the attention of search engines, spiders, bots and butt heads. :-)

iWeb is totally capable of generating some seriously effective web presence. Simplicity and ease of navigation is key to making it work - visually as well as practically.

You asked about a market for real estate video production and services.

Real estate has potential, but insider strength is the best way to get something profitable working, IMHO. And yeah, I'd have to say that industrial and commercial properties is probably better suited to independent video production service provider influence than the mentality among residential property agents that "anybody with a camcorder" can produce quality video for their walk-through needs. You get what you pay for, and many believe the price of a camera is investment enough.

You asked about various and related editing software, and putting them to use.

Over the next three-four months I intend to immerse myself into the full extent and capacity of Final Cut Pro, and all associated Apple-branded software. My plan is to eventually become so proficient in FCP and related software/hardware production that I can offer editing expertise at affordable prices and with sufficient turnaround of quality editing services and product, that many will beat a path to my door for this.

I still want to shoot, develop, create, edit and all the other, but I know my run-and-gun days are going to be more difficult as time, age and wear-and-tear on my abused body grows long. But so long as I can see and hear and have the use of my fingers (or toes - I mean if a guy can play guitar with his toes...) I can sit on my posterior and edit. Right?

And, you asked my opinion regarding Snow Leopard OS for Mac.

I ordered, and have received, Snow Leopard. Before I install, however, I will make an exact copy of my current start up disk in my Mac Pro, pull it out after testing, and also the original start up disk, and I will generate a third (sorry, this is above and beyond, but I believe in backup redundancy and preventive effort) start up system disk that I will then install Snow Leopard over the existing Leopard OS.

I am reading cautionary, but mostly good things, from people who have simply jumped into the update/upgrade and all for the most part seem happy and content.

There are ALWAYS issues, and it is best to see what is being said at Apple and elsewhere regarding certain system/software and third-party issues, needs and incompatibilities, and see if any of these specifically apply to your system, then full speed ahead.

Several people on Video University and WedVidPro, as well as Facebook are claiming total contentment and satisfaction with their upgrade installations. I am not finding an abundance of horror stories. I will do it, only not tomorrow.

Nobody is perfect, nor is ANY software update, upgrade or new introduction. They all, as we humans do, have issues. Some seem insurmountable, others are mundane and relatively unimportant in the big picture. It is always a good idea to let the antsy front runners discover the problems, report them, wait for the .1 .2 or .3 or so update, but those too usually result in a whole new set of issues. I'm an early adapter rather than a wait-and-see guy generally, but only to the extent that it never entirely undermines my "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Is that a conflict? Probably.

Hope this helps. Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009 Earl Chessher