How to choose a video production company

By June 13, 2017Opinion

Regardless of whether you’re looking to invest in a few short explainer videos or fire up a lifelong partnership, choosing a video production company is an important business decision, and like all important business decisions, it should be treated with a great deal of time, research and commitment.

And while it may be tempting to type “video production companies” into Google as fast as you can and contact one of the first few companies that pop up, doing some research beforehand will help you to avoid a ‘Picture of cheeseburger versus actual cheeseburger’ scenario taking place later down the track.

In recent years, video content has developed from a nice-to-have into a tried and tested marketing method, and as a result, businesses from all different industries are now creating their very own set of visual assets, from explainer and product videos to mini-documentaries, to consumer-facing content and corporate videos.

In fact, a recent study by video software company, Vidyard, revealed more than half of B2B and B2C marketers are producing 11 or more videos per year, and this number won’t be going down anytime soon.

And while video has already proven itself to be invaluable to brands and businesses, its performance and effectiveness is largely dependent on your choice of video production company.

Having been in the video production business for more than a decade, and having created well over 2,000 videos, we’re more than familiar with some of the hurdles businesses face when choosing a production company. To ensure you don’t end up with a final product you’re less than pleased with, we’ve provided a few questions to ask yourself before signing on the dotted line.

Is the video production company any good?

The easiest way to tell a good video production company from a bad one is to take a look at their latest work. It sounds rather obvious, but by taking an in-depth look at a company’s portfolio, it should be fairly easy to determine if a job has been executed well or poorly.

When you arrive on a production company’s website, the first thing you will probably come across will be their showreel. Production houses use showreels to exhibit the style and breadth of their portfolio – but to get a proper feel for the company’s talent and technical prowess, your best bet is to look over some of their most recent projects.

What’s the quality of their work like? Do the videos look and sound professional? See if you can find a similar brief to what you’re looking for and read over the details – it’s a best practice for agencies to clearly outline the brief and the solution they provided alongside the visual assets.

What were they trying to achieve? Who were they trying to reach? Did they succeed in doing so?

It’s also worth noting that a quality production company should be able to do a lot more than produce videos. How well can they write scripts? Are they able to find stand-out locations and stand-out talent? Have they demonstrated any business acumen? You want to ensure you are partnering with a multi-talented and well-balanced team, not a one-trick pony.

“A good production team should have a range of different expertise,” says Scorch Films’ Head of Production, Sarah Morris.

“For instance, here at Scorch, each member of our team comes from a different professional background, which means they each bring a different skill set and viewpoint to the production process.”

Are they coming up with creative new ideas?

Every business has a different brief. Some have a particular communications challenge or objective they want to overcome; others know exactly what they want, but they don’t know how to turn that idea into an engaging script or a powerful visual concept.

And even if you already have the creative aspects of your video locked down, you are far better off partnering up with a team who are just as creative as they are technical.

“It is part of our job to create new concepts, challenge existing ideas, and ultimately, establish the best way to communicate your message,” says Scorch Films’ Senior Creative and Shoot Director, Will Clark Smith.

“At the very least, your production company should supply you with a beautiful visual tone. Shooting from the right angle, using the right lighting and sound; it requires a high level of creative skill to create a mood that drives your story forward.”

That being said, the creative shouldn’t be left solely to the agency. You know your product and company better than anyone else so don’t be afraid to voice your opinion throughout the process.

Do they understand how your business works?

One of the main hang-ups businesses get stuck on is only wanting a production partner with experience in their sector. The logic behind this makes sense – you might have a niche audience or you may be covering highly technical subject matter, and you need to be sure the company can deliver the right material at their end.

Our advice: don’t get too hung up on this – a good production company can produce video content for a variety of industries and audiences. What you should be mindful of is the company’s level of commitment to understanding your business and its challenges.

Because the fundamentals of an effective video, whether it’s a corporate video or consumer-facing content, are being able to answer these two questions: ‘what are we trying to communicate?’ and ‘who is it for?’

“You will be investing a lot of time and resources in getting the right videos for your business and you need your video production company to do the same,” says Scorch Films’ Client Services Manager, Holly Yates.

“Do they seem interested in your business? Are they making an effort to understand your target audience and your company’s culture? If they don’t seem interested or excited, they’re probably not.”

A few more words of wisdom: when you do meet up with a production company, make sure you get a good feeling for what the company structure is like.

Think about who your main point of contact will be, because you will be dealing with your account manager and their team on a day-to-day basis, so the chemistry needs to be right.

How much should a production company charge?

The majority of video production companies won’t have a one-budget-fits-all package deal – the cost will depend on what you are looking to accomplish, and these costs can vary considerably.

For instance, if you want a single live action film, you’ll need to hire a Shoot Director, Cameraman (DoP), and a Production Assistant. Much larger projects will require a team upwards of 20 crew members. Then there may be costs for casting and hiring stylists, external costs such as closing a road or renting out a location, and once filming is complete, there will be editing and post production costs.

“A good production company should aim to understand, and when necessary, help the client to define, a realistic level of investment before proposing different production routes. The greatest variables are the crew, location, cast, length and filming complexity,” says Scorch London’s Co-Founder and Partner, Steve Jay.

“We select our crew and equipment based on your budget, and will provide guidance as to what is achievable within your price range.”

While the costs for live action shooting are largely dependent on the crew and equipment, the cost of an animation depends on the time it will take the designers to create it as well as the complexity involved. To explain, an animated 2D video series with relatively simple design and music in the background, such as this video for K2, is significantly cheaper than an animation with complex 3D characters, like this video for Collect+, as it takes longer to build and animate these characters.

Regardless of how much you are looking to invest, a good company should provide you with a transparent and itemised quote that covers all the costs involved, so you know exactly what you are buying.

“A smart supplier will aim to maximise your investment by providing you with as many assets as possible. For a live action shoot we would need to hire out a crew for the day, so we would aim to shoot a range of videos within the day,” says Holly.

As an example, when Scorch Films did the shooting for the investment management service, Nutmeg, we shot four videos in the one day to ensure Nutmeg received the most out of hiring a crew for the day.

Can they produce what you want – when you want it?

Before you sign the dotted line, all good suppliers should provide you with a production schedule that details the final date you will receive the finished product.

Visual assets can take anywhere between a few days and several months to produce, so if you have a specific deadline in mind, make sure you communicate this from the outset.

One way to get the most out of your supplier is to be as responsive as possible so that all changes or feedback you have can be absorbed into the schedule and the finished product can be delivered on time.

And make sure you voice any concerns you have about the production schedule. For instance, if you are not sure why filming takes two days instead of one, challenge them on it! In most instances, there will be a logical reason as to why, but it is important to understand what you’re purchasing.

“We are all used to working within tight timescales, to a range of different budgets and enjoy taking on challenging projects, but a good production team should always be honest and flag to a client when they are asking something that is unachievable in timescale or budget,” says Steve.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask to speak with a production company’s previous clients – a good supplier will happily make the introduction and leave it up to you to ask them whatever you like.

So, as you begin your search for the perfect video production partner, make sure you keep these questions close at hand. And remember, whatever your video production needs, as long as you have a rough idea of what you want to achieve, a good agency should help you to build your brief from there.

Scorch Films are an independent video production company based in Soho with a team of expert directors, producers, editors, creatives and strategists who are experienced in working with B2B and B2C businesses across a wide range of industries. If you want some more advice or support, get in touch with their friendly team today.