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