A Guide to Video for Smart People

The Interview

Every now and then I see a post that talks about photography, and how many factors go into the cost of hiring a “real” photographer (and by “real” I mean “professional”) so for my own reference in the future, I wanted to write up my thoughts on the topic of shooting video. (For our purposes today, assume you’ll be shooting a few talking-head videos for a presentation.)

I’m calling this “A Guide to Video for Smart People” because someone very intelligent, who I greatly respect, hired me to do a video shoot. Since, we had to talk about pricing, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts.

1. When you hire a professional, you get a professional.
What is a professional, exactly? It’s someone who uses pro-gear, and has the knowledge to use it. Someone who has experience, and has done professional shooting before. Someone who knows about shooting, and lighting, and pacing, and talking to talent, and audio, and composition, and dozens of other things you don’t even think about because it’s second nature after a while.

2. Professionals use professional gear.
Everyone’s got a camera nowadays, but there’s more to shooting than a camera. For a typical interview shoot you might have a camera, lens, lights, audio recorder, microphone, studio headphones, tripod, stands, spare batteries, spare cards, spare XLR cables, reflectors, and a dozen other things you bring on every shoot. I’m not suggesting you need top-of-the-line everything, but even on the low-end it can be $2,000 for a basic set-up.

3. Professionals are thinking.
If you haven’t had the luxury of scouting locations, you might show up and get a quick tour of the location so you can pick a spot to shoot in. When I walk into a room, I’m looking at the layout, the lighting, determining where all the outlets are, looking at the height of the ceiling, figuring out where the tables and chairs can go, etc. If there are windows in the room, is it cloudy outside? How will the changing sunlight affect the lighting during the shoot? And that’s all before setting up the tripod.

4. Professionals respect your work.
Besides taking the shoot seriously and doing a great job capturing the footage, a pro-shooter will make sure your work is preserved. Anyone with clients will know that even though you might provide them with files, there’s a chance they’ll come back a year later (or five years later!) and ask for it again. For a recent shoot the raw footage came out to be about 9GB of data. After editing it was about 30GB of data. That all gets backed up, and archived, and managed so that you can go back a year later and provide the footage again.

5. Professionals edit.
Even if the client thinks it’ll be quick and easy and there won’t be any editing… there’s always editing. Unless you’re just doing camera ops for someone else and they want the raw footage, you’re editing. So much DSLR shooting is done today with secondary audio that at a minimum there’s the syncing of audio with the video. Add bump-in and bump-out, a few cross-fades, choosing the best take, and render time, and you’ve got some time invested. (I’m not even getting into the copying, burning, and delivering of the work, but hey, that’s another aspect.)

OK, that’s part one of my “Guide to Video for Smart People”. We covered five points. There are more, but I wanted to keep this brief. The great thing about working with smart people is that they’re smart (duh!) so educating them to some of these facts shouldn’t be too hard to do. Chance are after the first shoot you do, they’ll get it, and it’ll be the start of a great (working) relationship. :)