The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist? at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Open DV Discussion
For topics which don't fit into any of the other categories.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old March 18th, 2014, 10:38 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Windsor, Ontario
Posts: 42
The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Hi Folks:

OK, I've been shooting video since before it was video. It was that funky stuff that required a lab, smelly chemicals and a staff of hard working , smart techs to make it visible on the screen. I suppose it's the natural tendency for technological advancement to chip away at skilled job markets, I mean, I'm a businessman too, so I know that people are your biggest expense and potentially your biggest drama headache in whatever business you're in. I get it.

I've worked staff, been self employed before and done the freelance thing. basically unless you're in a click and/or willing to go into debt for gear that will be obsolete within 6 months, you ain't getting any paying work. Your profession is basically a hobby so you better have a gig outside of the industry or be independently wealthy enough to support it.

I'm not posting this to vent and rant as these are self evident realities to anyone who's looked for a job in videography and bitching it about does as much good as complaining about the weather. I get it.

I want to know if my assessment is accurate. Are any of you making good money on your gear and how long did it take to get your investment back? What type of stuff are you shooting? I remember back in the 80's I had a production company and it was a never ending battle of updating gear, which explains why the production companies of yesteryear when I was interning are nothing resembling what they are today. Yet, this seems to be the way of all business not just video, it's just the nature of the economy, here again, I get it.

It's just that if you do the math on what most of these people who advertise on trade sites that say they need videographers, you'll find their pay is real crap if anything at all. Here again, I understand why, it's a simple supply/demand thing, doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand it. How the hell are videographers making a living?

How many of you are full time videographers? I don't mean that you're working staff at a TV station or that you scrape the poverty line while you're living in your mom's basement, I want to know if you're making an adequate amount without suffering from Starving Artist Syndrome. If you are making a decent living, are you really just a videographer, or are you videographer,producer,director, editor, actor and sales manager as well? I'm just sitting here doing the math on what the latest gear costs and what most of these nimrods are paying. It just doesn't add up. I've spent the better part of the last decade working for a news station and watched my profession disappear really quickly. Most of the old geezers like me, if they're still working are just counting the days till retirement while they're being replaced by what my old chief photographer used to call the 23/23 plan. 23K for a 23 year old "MMJ" or "MoJo" as they're called to replace the expense of a photog/reporter engineer team. I'm looking for the management of these places to tell these kids when they go out for their assignments to shove a broom up their asses and sweep the floor on their way out because they don't want to spend money on a janitorial staff. Is there anything left of the profession? It never was a get rich quick ticket, but at least you could make a living back in the day.
Marty Hamrick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 12:11 PM   #2
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 562
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Marty: you are largely spot on. There are still many talented shooters working, but there's also been an influx of race-to-the-bottom newbies over the past 15 years or so, and this has created some challenges for freelancers.

Once upon a time, back in the Betacam/Varicam/HDCam tape days, and pre Canon 5D mkII, a decent camera and gear setup ran north of $100K, so this limited the pool of practicioners a bit. The day rates reflected, generally, the cost of the gear.

But as cameras grew smaller and cheaper, and the quality of what a little camera could deliver skyrocketed, there was an inevitable democratization of the industry. I paid over $100K for an HDCam in 2005, started trying to sell it in 2009...and finally unloaded it in early 2011 for less than 10 cents on the dollar.

Now I see laments on the boards that in LA, shooters with Epics are going for $300/day...with the camera. Not sure how the economics of that work out. For myself, I quit chasing the latest gear, and bought a couple of used cameras for cash (in my case, an EX-3 and an F3) which serve the work in my market very well.

Other shooters have found or created niches that are still very lucrative for them, and have at least a few clients that bring budgets big enough to support wonderful platforms like Arri, or the F55 or a Phantom. More power to them. Maybe it's a moral failing on my part, but after 17 years in news, and then another 20 years of playing the freelance game, I'm just as happy to keep my gear modest, not chase the big projects as hard, and spend a little more time fishing.

One positive swing of the pendulum I see is that when the Betacam era stranglehold on camera choice was broken, there was nearly a decade of Wild West cameras and platforms unleashed, with a "flavor of the day" issue constantly popping up as production assistants called looking for the XXX camera, and only that one would do. As the file-based media cameras and editing systems matured, I think we're finally seeing that soften a bit, as most edit houses and production companies can integrate nearly any modern camera into their workflow.

But there still seems to be a race to the bottom day rate war going on, which makes life that much more difficult for everyone.
Bill Ward is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 01:02 PM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,609
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

I'm at the point in my career and life that my main source of income for the last 30 years which was weddings and other social events, has now been relegated off my "to do" list and now what work I am doing is corporate...seminars, talking heads etc which I have always done but am concentrating on more now even though I am considering myself mostly retired. I still want to work some and make some money so my wife and I can travel a bit.

As for gear, I was never really a gear chaser and even today my main camera is the trusty old JVC HM700. Frankly if I do need something else, I rent it but for the majority of work that I am supplying gear, it works fine and the clients are happy.

A lot of my work over the years has been cam op for various AV companies here in town. They get a job to supply gear for a 2 or 3 day show and they need to supply cam ops, lighting guy, V1 and 2, A1 and 2...I'm the guy (well one of them anyway) they call to run camera. Great, walk in at call time, shows over for the day, I leave. End of show, I'll strike the camera gear, turn in my invoice and get paid. No muss, no fuss. HOWEVER.....5 years ago, they stopped paying for parking which in downtown Chicago can be as much as $50.00 per day. Haven't been able to increase my rate more than a few dollars since 2008 even though they know me, trust me and know the average is a bit higher than I'm getting. Why? well because the bottom of the barrel kids fresh out of school are out there and the companies know they can hire them for a lot less than me and I know that too so even though I'm not getting as much as I should, I'm still making a living, getting the hours and days, not having to schlepp my gear when I do work for the AV companies and I have no hassles or headaches at the end of the day.

The work that I do on my own for my own clients is fairly easy, mostly now talking heads and most of that I use my gear but they supply the cards, I shoot, hand them the cards and an invoice and I'm done. I still am using 2008 rates but again, I'm not busting my butt get treated pretty well by the clients, am making a living and at 67 years of age, that's about all I can ask anymore.

So is there still a "Videographers Profession"? Yeah I think there is just not quite the same as it was not all that long ago.
__________________
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
Don
Don Bloom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 01:18 PM   #4
Trustee
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: London, UK
Posts: 1,380
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

It's certainly not easy to establish yourselves now as it was a 5-6 years ago.
James Manford is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 01:48 PM   #5
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,230
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

I think a common theme here is that the "market", whatever market you are in has changed a lot. Low cost without a care for much quality has invaded the space. (this is for providers and customers).

All media be it video, photography, music etc... is a commodity now. With the interwebs in everybody's pocket 24 hours a day, a lot of value has left our world. You don't need to own anything because you can just access it whenever you need it from the web. So this results in being trained to not pay for anything as the first choice.

For my work, I am always trying to find niches where the quality of the product is still important to some and a professional's touch actually does make a difference. I think you have to bring a lot of value these days just to get people to pay some kind of rate. You guys mention 2008 rates, but that is really the case. Some quotes I will look at and think "I am thinking of putting down a lower amount than I would have back in the SD days..."

As far as gear, I am a bit optimistic in this area. Especially wiht 4k. At some point this gear craze has to level out and I think it will be at 4k. Once it does level out we can just own our cameras and not have to be in this perpetual upgrade cycle. This depends on your market and work type, but seriously, I still delivery a ton a stuff on DVD and that will not change for a long time.

I do a lot of different types of work, video and photography and being a salesman is becoming more and more important. People are feeling very empowered by their little devices thse days and the pull to do it themselves is pretty strong. Tech savy and talent/experience are not the same thing and it really helps to make that known if you want to sell your services today.
Tim Polster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 02:13 PM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Windsor, Ontario
Posts: 42
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Thank you, gentlemen. makes sense and bears out well with what I'm seeing. I have a Canon Gl-1 that I bought at a pawn shop in Jacksonville, Florida for 20 bucks. It's going to be my youtube puppy cam for the most part, documenting my dog, Loki's antics for youtube, however I'm doing a spec job with it this summer for a friend who's invented a new type of pool cleaner.

Looking back over the last 30 years, the biggest mistake I made was trusting that my profession was always going to be there. I arrogantly thought that my talents and experience was what made the project professional and foolishly believed that people would still pay for it. If I had it to all over again, I would've done something else that was initially more lucrative and done video on the side like a lot of folks. Looking into my other options so like some of you say, the wife and I could travel.
Marty Hamrick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 02:32 PM   #7
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: San Diego CA. and New Orleans, Loiuisana
Posts: 355
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Tim,
The gear craze will never end. There's already talk of 8K.
Things have changed considerably I'll admit but much of the bigger factors are still the same. And the cream still rises to the top. There are still people in your market and mine that are doing better work and being compensated for it. And I think that's fair and the same as it always has been.

I wish I could show you guys a speaker I recently filmed on the subject of bringing business through the door in this environment. One take away was stop trying to sell that trumped up company name you dreamed up. Sell yourself......people don't like companies, they like other people. Even big companies like Ford etc...are producing commercials now that hardly have their name on it. They are trying to get away from that company thing and connect with you on a personal level.

The other takeaway was building and MAINTAINING relationships. I may never be as good from a skills perspective as someone else in my market. But I do know guys in my market who are mediocre at best and still pulling down some serious income. And it's all because they have built ironclad relationships that even the best guy in town can't penetrate. Relationships require regular maintenance.

It's not about the kids, it's not about equipment or youtube, it's about us embracing change and meeting life on life'[s terms. Ask Tina Turner,The Big Wheel keeps On Turning!
Al Gardner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 03:28 PM   #8
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Ferrisburgh, VT
Posts: 178
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty Hamrick View Post
...I want to know if you're making an adequate amount without suffering from Starving Artist Syndrome. If you are making a decent living...are you videographer,producer,director, editor, actor and sales manager as well?
"Yes" and "yes" (no acting, though)
As the technology improves and becomes more affordable, it's natural that the market will demand more for less, since, quite frankly, better work can be produced in less time.

We (husband/wife team) just wrapped up our third year of business as videographers, and finally supporting our family properly. No debt, low overhead, we rely on creativity and pre-production to make the most out of the budgets that we have to work with. We have to provide all of the services that you listed above, and we don't really mind doing it either. It gives our professional lives some balance and diversity.

It never bodes well to blame "the kids." Sure, they might work for free, but can they really hold a candle to the hard-won expertise of a professional? Would you rather that they be paid your rate for their works-in-progress? Let those jobs go, they aren't jobs.

If we find ourselves regularly competing for jobs with film students, something's not quite right, and it's not the kids' fault.
Finn Yarbrough is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 03:55 PM   #9
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Belgium
Posts: 9,064
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Quote:
I have a Canon Gl-1 that I bought at a pawn shop in Jacksonville, Florida for 20 bucks. It's going to be my youtube puppy cam for the most part, documenting my dog, Loki's antics for youtube
That has been replaced these days with something that fit's in your inside pocket and shoots better video, keeps you connected to the world, runs your business and one day I"m sure can set a cup of coffee.

I remember when I started my business not so long ago (2005) the photogs where complaining because up until that moment you where required to provide a license that proved you where skillful enough to perform the profession of photography and suddenly, because of the digital age, the government decided that was not necessary anymore leaving the door open for anyone with the budget to buy a camera to call themselves a cameraman.

I have seen my dad, God rest his soul, editing vhs tapes together, from weddings he shot, I have seen him carrying large vhs tape recorders around his shoulder and a videolight on camera that could light a stadium, those where the days a videographer was a specialty job, just like when you get sick, you went to a doctor, if you wanted to have something filmed, you called a videographer, he always did this as a hobby but if he really wanted he could have made a living out of it just shooting weddings, birthdayparties etc.

Today everyone can point a camera and shoot video, this has lead to the fact that if you wanted to survive shooting weddings with a videocamera that is something you can forget around these parts, photographers however can manage a lot better but I have seen competition grow as well where they have to stay until past midnight at weddings where in the past they always stopped in the afternoon, right after the photosession. Photogs are also stepping more on video turf as the transition is much easier as it once was, some just take pretty moving pictures not really caring much about trivial stuff like sound, as long as the price it right and if your lens is big enough you can sell about anything. 10 years ago it would have been unimaginable to see a photog being interested in video.

Video is not my only source of income but if that would have been the case I certainly would become a photographer only doing video only to fill a few gaps in my bookings.
Noa Put is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 03:59 PM   #10
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Montreal
Posts: 388
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty Hamrick View Post
If I had it to all over again, I would've done something else that was initially more lucrative and done video on the side like a lot of folks. Looking into my other options so like some of you say, the wife and I could travel.
Video can still be quite lucrative but given the accessibility of everything, the professional needs to be more than a cam op or just editor. What was originally divided as separate professions, now has come under the umbrella of video production. Conceptualize, shoot, edit, FX/composite, color grade, and all steps in between are now within the scope of understanding with a few years of work to ANY individual out there.

The solution? Be badass at SOMETHING. Be an idea guy, have a distinct style, be a shooter known for X Y or Z and either sell yourself as that or be a super specialist in something. Just knowing how to operate a camera isn't enough anymore. Technical skills don't sell, ideas do.
__________________
Automotive Multimedia
Justin Molush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 04:26 PM   #11
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,609
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Let me add a few thoughts since there's been some great additional thoughts here.

First, yes an iphone 4 or better yet 5 will take far superior video than some of the older models of DV cameras and a lot of people are now using DSLRs for video as attested to right here on DVi and I have always maintained that if the DSLR is appropriate for the job sure why not but the real question is can you make a living being a videoperson today.
IMO the answer is YES BUT you do need to diversify and be flexible enough to know how to do other things. Maybe you don't need to be a V1 but you can help yourself if you know how to be a V2, if you know how to use some camera gear beside the one you own.
It's an ever changing profession and some people find other areas of the business to go into while others will just get out. That's the way it is.
Again can you make a living today? YES! I still am and I'm an old dog who's set in his ways. Some might say I'm a crotchety old man (mostly my kids say that) but I can still throw a camera on my shoulder and shoot a good interview or a webamerrical. The difference today for me from even 10 years ago, I get to choose. I'm not taking any work that I don't want to take and I can still make a decent living or at least enough to pay for the next few cruises.
Is it as easy today as it was 5 or 10 years ago? Probably not. Do you have to work as hard now as 5 or 10 years ago to maintain your business? You bet. Is it a great way to make a living? I believe it is.
__________________
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
Don
Don Bloom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 05:25 PM   #12
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: LIncolnshire, UK
Posts: 2,051
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

A lot of the worries expressed here about lack of work/money compared to a few years ago, seems as much about fear of the younger generation coming in with less experience, cheap gear and low prices. It's also notable that many of the contributors on the forum in the events section, are at the older end of the working age group, including myself.

Throughout industrial history, those that have spent years building skills and perfecting their craft, have resisted or resented change and new technology that threatened their income. The changes have usually been instigated and embraced by younger people who don't have the years of skill acquisition to protect and often resent the entrenched position of many older people.

As the world and technology changes, we need to change and adapt with it and build new income streams. It is no longer necessary to spend tens of thousands of pounds/dollars on recording and editing equipment to produce high quality end product. I can well remember the large number of editing and facilities houses that could be hired for putting your production together and the highly skilled people necessary to do that. Now though, for a few hundred pounds, a perfectly adequate computer editing system can be used to edit hd footage from a few hundred pound camera, which will match or even exceed the hugely expensive systems of only a few years ago. We can add animated 3d graphics, multi layered video streams, chroma keying and multi soundtracks, all from the comfort of our lounge if we want. We can even stick a camera on a cheap quadcopter and take aerial footage if we feel so inclined.

Most of my life I have also been a musician, and was one of the early musicians who started using my own backing tracks for live shows in the early '70s. I used simple drum machines and multi tracking to build my backings and soon had bands and musicians complaining that I was taking work away from other musicians, such as drummers, bass players etc. My response to that was that each member of a band now had the opportunity to use the same technology to create different types of work and that things were changing.

So basically, use your imagination, find some new ideas and directions and take advantage of the global market that is available to all of us.

Roger
Roger Gunkel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 05:43 PM   #13
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,230
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Good thread going. One thing I have noticed around this site is the business section has been very quiet over the past year or two. It used to be very active.

Maybe it all kind of evens out - Lower gear costs/lower rates. If we do not need to spend so much on gear, we might end up with the same take home pay as when the gear cost more and rates were higher. The problem is everything else in your life costs more as well.
Tim Polster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 05:52 PM   #14
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 6,609
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

Tim
Good point. Lower cost gear=lower rates. My question is why? It cost's me more to live today than it did in the 70s or 80s or 90s or even 5 years ago so more all accounts our rates should be higher. The problem is people are afraid of posting a higher rate since there's always someone out there who will undercut that higher rate and besides if I don't pay $10,000 for my camera but only paid $2500, I don't need to charge as much. So it goes round and round until you can't pay your bills then you go out of business.
I agree with you that lower gear cost might equal lower rates...my argument is that it shouldn't. The client isn't really paying for my gear. They're paying for my experience, my technical knowledge, my artistic ability, maybe even my winning personality (I said maybe) but most of all they're paying for me to be able to do an outstanding job for them. Pay Me! :-)
__________________
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
Don
Don Bloom is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 18th, 2014, 06:38 PM   #15
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,230
Re: The Videographer's Profession : Does it Still Exist?

I totally agree. I am just trying to find a silver lining to the demise!

It seems the best way to stay around is to own your gear, not upgrade until you have to and be a jack of many trades (including salesman and marketer). I try to do all of the above although I am an image quality/gear nut. So I have some challenges.
Tim Polster is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > Open DV Discussion

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:52 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network