Hiring a Production Company

Film crew on location
Ryan Pratzel

Creating A Video

The Challenge

Many organizations, large and small, are debating internally how to better use social media and video. It's easy to say 'have an intern send out a few Tweets,' but in reality every message is a reflection of your brand. Often, during the discussion someone brings up the idea of creating a video.  

It sounds simple enough. In fact, most of us carry around a high definition camera in our pockets, i.e. a smartphone. Before it's lights, camera, action, stop and think do we really know what we're doing? Consider the following:

  • You know your organization, but do we (your team) really know how to write a script to concisely convey what we're all about?
  • How do we edit video we capture on someones phone?
  • Will the audio sound ok?
  • We want our logo in the video, but how do we do that?
  • If we create this video internally will it convey our brand to potential partners and clients in a professional manner?
  • Do we have the time and resources to focus on creating this ourselves?

Some organizations have internal video departments or multimedia specialists. If you don't have this resource, a video production company is likely your best solution.

Why a Company Versus a Freelancer?

After deciding it's time to make a video, the next challenge is finding a vendor to complete the work. Obviously Creative Liquid is a company, so I'm somewhat biased, but I'm going to make the arguments for why a creative firm is a good choice. There are many talented freelancers. In fact, we hire them on a regular basis. When you need creative help from concept to delivery it's a good idea to have a creative firm at your service.

  1. An established creative firm has vast experience and can manage your project's budget, schedule and deliverables. This is one of the reasons our clients say they use us time and time again.  
  2. Many firms, Creative Liquid included, have a diverse staff that can lend various viewpoints to your project.  
  3. Resources are important. This is more than just camera equipment.  Creative Liquid has multiple edit suites, network storage, staff, facilities, etc.  Resources also include things like freelancers, understanding film permits, etc.  
  4. Reliability. Now, like any business, there can be some bad creative firms, but for the most part hiring a video company gives you a reliable partner. We've had many clients over the years start with a freelancer, because they think its less expensive, only to come to us to save their project when they can't get the person they hired to finish the job. In the end, some clients end up spending more money because they can't get their materials from the freelancer they hired.  (Unfortunately we've seen this more than a few times)
  5. Reputation matters. If clients rave about a firm, or routinely high a firm over and over again they must be doing something right. Creative Liquid is client focused, i.e. we work for our clients.  

The Process 

Creating a video is a process. In this section I'll provide some tips that will make things easier for your team to produce a video.  These questions are a good starting point if your organization wants to produce a video.  

What's Your Message & Who's Your Audience?

This sounds simple, but really think about who do you want to see your video and what do you want to tell them.  We recommend clients start by creating a rough outline with all of the key stakeholders taking part. Don't leave out a major decision maker! This can derail your timeline and blow up your budget. Anyone who gets to review the scripts, storyboards, video cuts, etc needs to be involved from the beginning.

How Will You Distribute Your Video?    

If the video is for use internally it may be placed in PowerPoint presentations or on a company intranet.  If your video is intended for external communications it may go on your website, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube accounts.  It's important to know your distribution options early.  For example, many organizations require video to be accessible and may require closed or open captioning.

What Is Your Timeline?

You know your organization and your decision makers, be realistic. Many simple videos can take weeks to months to create. This accounts for fine turning the message, scheduling, production, editing and reviews of cuts of the video, finishing and quality control. When we create a project schedule we account for time the client will need to internally review all deliverables. This includes things like script drafts, storyboards, video cuts, etc.  

When determining your timeline it's also important to manage your internal team. Make sure key stakeholders are aware of the schedule and understand their responsibility to provide timely feedback.  

What Challenges May We Face?

Consider this a risk assessment of your project. Things to consider include:

  • Are key decision makers in the same office or will we need to coordinate across multiple locations?
  • Where will filming take place and are there any logistical challenges we need to address?
  • Will filming require permits?
  • We want to use some already existing content, do we have the rights to use this material?
  • The video will be used at a convention or conference, have we discussed display specifications with the venue?
  • Will the messaging in the video require legal review?

You organization may have other challenges. It's a good exercise to explore these before getting started. Creative Liquid can help you assess each of these points and determine how it will impact the schedule and budget.

What's Your Budget?

This is often one of the biggest challenges we face as a production company. When it comes to marketing and communications, many clients face sticker shock. This is especially true for smaller companies or fast growing firms that have not worked with a creative agency before.

There are many aspects to a video's budget. While we understand why many organizations don't want to reveal their budget when they are seeking bids from vendors, when it comes to video I highly recommend having a budget range or a ceiling. You can produce a one minute promotional video for $5,000 or for $1,000,000 or anywhere in between. There is no set price.  

At Creative Liquid we first determine the scope of work and then create an estimate that will allow our team to complete the work. We often will discuss various options with clients at different price points so they can ultimately decide what works best for their needs and budget.

There are a few things to consider that will help you team draft an initial budget before approaching a production company.

  • How much creative help will your team need?  This includes scripting, storyboards, concept development, etc.  If you want to create a 1-2 minute corporate video promoting your services and need a script written, budget $2-4k for development and consulting.  (Consider this a decent starting point)
  • How much footage needs to be filmed? How many people will appear in the video? Can the filming take place in one day at one office location? Production can be the biggest budget item in your project. This includes labor costs, equipment, etc. When a video crew shows up with lighting, microphones, cameras, etc all of those items factor into the cost. Estimate approximately $3,200-$4,000 per 8-hour day for a video crew consisting of a director of photography (camera guy), producer, and audio technician. This is a typical setup for conducting interviews. (Half-day crews would be about 1/3 less)
  • Does your video need motion graphics? This would include your logo on an animated title screen, name graphics for people who appear in the video, etc. If your video needs more complex graphics, such as charts, statistics, moving maps, etc you'll need more time. At Creative Liquid, and in many post facilities, video editing is billed by the hour.  We create a firm fixed price estimate when we determinet the scope of work, but keep in the mind the more complex the editing the more hours needed.
  • Will you need talent? This includes professional voiceovers and on camera narrators. 

With these things in mind you can begin to create a rough estimate.  Creative Liquid's team can provide you with a ballpark price for your project based off of a preliminary scope of work. Or, if you come to us and say we have $15k to spend and here's what we want to achieve we can evaluate whether your budget will cover what you want or if it can be done for less.  

Getting Started

If your organization is ready to get started we'd love to hear from you. One more tip; don't be intimidated by video.  Our team is happy to explain and walk you through the entire process. We do this with many of our clients.  At the end of the day your message and satisfaction are paramount.  Stop by our cozy office in Old Town Alexandria for a coffee and meet our team.  

At Creative Liquid we work on projects big and small.  Our clients include federal agencies, nonprofits and companies.  You can view various work samples on our website.  If you're ready to start the conversation about your video you can call us at 703.459.9900 or contact us via our website.