If you’re searching online for a video production company to hire, you’ll see some amazing video samples and get excited about the prospect of making your project equally flashy. But all video production companies are not created equal and if you look at each website with a critical eye you can learn a lot about the production company behind it.
Video production companies tend to be small businesses, hardly ever exceeding twenty employees. Five-person companies are much more common. Individual producers may actually be the norm in spite of appearances. Everyone wants to appear big, growing and successful in their marketing, but the nature of the video production business favors smaller entities. A producer who writes and perhaps edits is a common core of a small video production company. A larger firm may have an editor or two on staff. There may be an animator. But the shoot itself is generally a team of freelance specialists who come together for the day’s production. Such a team can consist of camera, lighting and audio people, actors, makeup artists, wardrobe people, and possibly a hundred other specialists. Just read the credits at the end of feature films! But chances are your business video production will not require animal trainers, stunt drivers and helicopter pilots. You may just need a camera person who can shoot what you yourself have written.
Because of the wide spectrum of personnel a video shoot may require, video production companies flex their size depending on the needs of each project. They hire whom they need for a shoot on a day-to-day basis. To be sure each production company has a set of favorite freelancers whom they call regularly, but to present them as staff members is deceptive.
Why should you care who’s on staff and who isn’t? For the most part you shouldn’t. The producer is responsible for the final product and for the smooth workings of the crew. Your contract should be with the production company and you should pay only them. They are responsible to settle accounts with their own suppliers. So working with a producer-director who has no on-staff crew should be about the same as working with a large firm that keeps everything in-house. The small company has the advantage of low overhead and being able to hire specialists for each task. The larger firm can be a well-oiled machine with resources in reserve, but it can go the other way as well: your project can be given low priority in the large company or the one-man-band producer can get in over his head.
Either way it still makes a difference if a production company presents freelance crew members as integral parts of the company because honesty matters. If the producer pushes the honesty envelope, how do you know that the samples you’re watching are actually the producer’s work? They could be samples from one of the freelance crew members, a freelancer who may or may not be associated with your project. A freelancer who may have done good camerawork on a brilliantly written video, but will she write your program? In other words, are the samples you’re enamored with actually relevant to what you need?
When you speak to a production company, do two things:
- Ask about the details of the samples you’re interested in. Who did what on that project? How many people worked on it? What was the budget? Will the same team be involved in your production? If this is really the production company’s work, they should have all the answers.
- Check up on the individuals who are associated with the production company. You will often find photographs of “all the team members” on a company’s website, implying they are on staff. Google them, check out their LinkedIn profile. Are they staff or do they actually have their own companies with all the other “team members” as a part of their team?
When hiring a video production company it may not matter to you if the crew members are on staff or if they are independent contractors who come together for the day. But verify that the video samples you admire are really the production company’s work and that the same crew and processes can bring similar results to your project. A little due diligence in choosing a video production company can help you make the right choice.