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Old March 4th, 2003, 01:51 PM   #1
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Will technology kill the video business

For those of you out there that have shot for years, I would like your opinion on the future of the semi-pro videographer. Technology has grown to the point that shooting, editing and creating a dvd can be done by all. What effect has this had on you, what effect will it have on those of us that depend on semi professional work such as weddings, corporate, etc. I am not calling the pro corporate guy a semi pro. I realize that some of you are making a great living because your are pro's. At some point the folks around the smaller office's are going to say "well I can do that". We all know that the difference between semi pro work and amatuer work can be tremendous, but when money is calculated in, it could be a swaying factor. The lines between pro and consumer gear are getting closer. Is this line getting closer for the videographer as well?

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Old March 4th, 2003, 03:31 PM   #2
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A few weeks ago, a company contacted me to author a DVD for a training video they had produced in-house. The video was recorded on a consumer mini-DVD camera, and consisted of the camera mounted on a tripod pointed at a computer monitor. Of course, the shutter speed hadn't been adjusted to match the refresh rate of the monitor, and the screen was barely in focus. Needless to say, we're producing another video for them.

Businesses are doing everything they can to save money in today's economy. Many, like this particular company, are trying to produce in-house videos. With only a few rare exceptions, these companies wind up abandoning either the project, or the attempt to do it in-house.

As more and more companies see the lackluster results they get by having inexperienced employees attempt to produce a professional video, they will be even more committed to having a professional produce their work. After all, if their company's marketing looks amateurish, they won't stay in business for long.

My $0.02...

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Old March 4th, 2003, 05:33 PM   #3
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An interesting reality-check question.

I am not a professional videographer so readers will have to accept my remarks within that context. I do, however, have much personal background in how large corporate management group-think operates.

Non-media companies use the video medium for only two reasons: internal communications and sales. Small businesses (ex: <$10-20mil annual sales) must always watch their expenses. So the temptation to self-produce internal communications pieces has always been, and will always be, strong. But without the benefit of professional guidance most of these pieces will be pretty crappy, as Rick's example illustrated. Few of these businesses, which are often local or regional in scope, will produce a televised ad. Often when they do, a local cable tv operator will produce the ad for nearly free in exchange for the run money. To a great degree, the management culture that produces decisions to go cheap on internal features (and often on many other matters) is the same myopic culture that keeps these businesses small and struggling.

Medium-sized companies (ex: $100-500 mil. annual sales) will generally recognize that video production is outside of their internal core competency and can be produced much more effectively and less expensively by a professional contractor. Often these companies have offices throughout the country, or world, which locate local contractors who can help with such matters.

Large corporations (ex: $1 bil.+ annual sales) may decide that their communications needs are frequent enough to justify the establishment of internal staffs and facilities for productions. But advertising productions for these companies are strictly in the realm of their public relations firms.

Of course odd-job work, such as wedding and other events, will always be up for grabs. This segment is built locally on word-of-mouth.

But the devaluation of tools, such as video cameras, really has very little impact on these scenarios. Video cameras and editing tools have been widely available to the public for many years. When "desktop publishing" became popular in the 1980's many small job-shop printers wailed that their days were over. Didn't happen. The availability of page layout technology actually made many of the smarter shops more profitable and successful as they learned to work with their clients in new ways.

So I firmly believe that the continuing commoditization of high-quality video technology offers only benefits to current and prospective videographers. Lower admission fees enable more people to explore videography careers without mortgaging their futures. Devaluation of professional technology prices also puts ever sharper tools in the hands of budding professionals who might otherwise have to forgo such tools.

But, in the end, the tools do not deliver the results any more than wide availability of surgical instruments would enable anyone to become a surgeon. Telling a story or delivering a targeted message via sound and moving images requires skill and talent. The tools used are arguably the least important element of the process. Talented professionals who are reliable and enjoyable to work with will always find themselves busy, even if every 3rd college kid winds up with 24p HD cameras in ther backpacks.
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Old March 4th, 2003, 05:39 PM   #4
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much of this effects the low end projects 1st then starts workings it's way UP the ladder ... there is serious under bidding happening in the low & mid range $ projects as many productions company's need work and there just is not enough to go around..
you no longer need to go on a flame when you can do many things in combustion/3d max at your office ...
i know many company's that will get the job but they make no profit and they keep buying new equipment needed for the job ! at some point it will catch up with them and they will go under .

you have to change with the times or be left behind .where are all those post offline/ online post houses ??
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Old March 5th, 2003, 06:56 PM   #5
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i agree with ken, tools don't make the work. anyone can buy freehand for download at macromedia.com. how many people can make real illustrations with it? if anything, i actually think it benefits skilled workers because people have so much exposure to crappy work, that they want something better.

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Old March 5th, 2003, 09:12 PM   #6
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There is an old story about going to the hardware store and buying a $2.00 wrench. You get home and all that happens is you scrape your knuckles and can't get the nut off the bolt. Now you go back to the hardware store and buy a $10.00 wrench and with absolute ease you remove the nut and don't hurt you hand, but now you've got $12.00 invested in a $10.00 wrench.
Get the point? A lot of businesses are trying to go the cheap route and in most every instance they end up paying a lot more to have a knowledgeable pro come in and redo the work the way it should have been done in the 1st place. Moral of the story is even though a lot of companies are spending less there are lots of companies who are still spending lots to have professional quality work done. Our job is to find those businesses. We might have to diversify our business some and perhaps even change our pricing some but to me 10% of something is always better than 100% of nothing.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 01:37 AM   #7
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I think Brian hit the nail on the head there.

As technology becomes more availible, every joe and his camera wants to become Spielberg. And this is a good thing based on two issues. 1) We might get some really good and serious talent. and 2) You create a field of "unserious" people for companies to be burned on.

Why is this good? They compete with my business? Well, if you play your cards right and make sure that all your business is top notch and that you have a good reputation, then the "cheap" customers will first get burned by hiring the "bad" guys. Then when they have understood that paying Joe in his cellar $500 to shoot this commercial that you want $15000 to do might not have been the financial success they expected.

Henrik "HuBBa" Bengtsson, Imaginara Fotographia,http://www.imaginara.se
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Old March 6th, 2003, 08:55 AM   #8
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Having the tools does not mean that everyone can actually use them to produce quality video. Everyone can go out and buy musical instruments but does that make everyone a good musician. People accept the fact that one needs to take lessons and practice before the musical output is acceptable. The advent of DV and NLE makes it possible to create nice clean video just like playing the keys on an expensive piano or electronic keyboard. That is very different from producing listenable music or in the case of video something that people will watch and enjoy. Producing good video takes a lot of effort, good camera work, good editing and good reproduction. All these require a lot of learning and practice. I am a hobby video enthusiast but make videos for local dance groups and theatre. I have done so for over 20 years and it has become a very expensive but satisfying hobby. I use two or three cameras and mix using Premiere and my DV Raptor, Sound Forge for audio etc. I have moved from Fast Video Machine for linear editing with Hi8 and SuperVHS( I started in the 60's with Super8 film). As the technology becomes more available I am of the opinion that it may be more difficult for the amateurs to compete. The expectations of the audiences are higher and the learning curve for the technology is greater making it difficult to learn over a weekend!!!

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Old March 6th, 2003, 02:14 PM   #9
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Yes Ron,
i agree on all points. The problem however is that clients might not see this point right away. They see a bunch of people who are willing to do it for cheap or nothing. Will these people deliver? Most of the time the will not. They do not have the experience or resources to deal with a commercial project and will often fail to deliver what they promised (and nearly killing themselves trying).

In my opinion this is how things are, and something we will have to deal with. We will still get our clients. Maybe the client will be a bit more aware of why we charge our prices however. He may just have come from "the other side" :)

Never forget our motto =) You can have it cheap, fast and good. Choose any two :)

Henrik "HuBBa" Bengtsson, Imaginara Fotographia,http://www.imaginara.se
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Old March 6th, 2003, 02:37 PM   #10
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I agree with all of you guys.. and I just want to add my experience and input on all of what you had said...

I'm a 19year old student at USF.. consider myself at a proam level but without the wisdom and knowledge of most of those who prowl on this board. I think the reason why I do roam these boards is becuase I seek the knowlege and wisdom from those of you. I agree with Ron Evans on "Having the tools does not mean that eveyone can actually use them or produce quality video."

I have been waiting patiently for some time, planning, plotting, thinking, sitting back and watching... those who have come and gone in my field of work(Automobile Media). I've seen average joes grab camcorders from their local electronic store, and produce their own DVD's with premiere and a Macintosh. Then after waiting for their DVD releases.. I give them 4 thumbs down.

I think that their is a ratio of atleast for every 100 average joe's, only 1 of those average joes will have the WIll to actually explore, indepth into the field of videoraphy, and hopefully produce something of quality. I can speak for this becuase the automobile media industry I think has the most amatuer joes prowling around with their own camcorders thinking they can be on next ESPN on DVD.

The same goes for the photography industry.

The average age range for the current amatuer average joe is about 16-24. Well atleast in my industry.

Okay I think I'm babbling on about almost nothing but.. I think what I'm trying to say is... As techonology increases, so will the number of average joes, and for this generation, becuase the techonolgy is so easy to get...

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Old March 6th, 2003, 06:24 PM   #11
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I think Henrik's point about finding new talent is key. This always happens when there is a technology shift -- some can handle it and some can't, and there are new players who fill in the gaps. Some pros will get bumped because the new talent is better, no doubt, but the total pool of pros isn't going to shrink.

Recently, I made an 8-minute movie of a birthday party (not a pro job, for friends). I sent it off to the family on a DVD. They think it's the greatest thing they've ever seen and think I'm David Lean. But what I realized was that my 8-minute video was incredibly less complex than the typical 30-second commercial I see on TV.

In other words, I can achieve my goals to make home movies but I won't ever be a threat to the pros here. And even if I do take on a commerical assignment (doubtful, but never say never), I'll get it because I can work on a budget that the typical pro can't. In other words, it's new work the pros don't get now anyway.

With video getting cheaper, more folks will try to take advantage of it as a medium and the market for the pros will expand. It's hard to imagine people getting less interested in a medium that has transfixed us for the last 50 years.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 07:14 PM   #12
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You have made some excellent points. I totally agree with you, and I believe that the home-hobbiest will start demanding better quality in the equipment put on the market at their price point.

The line between "Uncle Harry" with his camcorder at the pool party and the prosumer at the wedding is going to get smaller, and smaller and smaller.

These are going to be very interesting times. Nick :]
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Old March 7th, 2003, 05:38 AM   #13
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This is not the first time technology has the changed the face of our business. The trickle down of technology into consumer, prosumer, video boutiques etc. Each group of producers complaining about the availablity of equipment to new users. In '94 I bought an Avid Media Composer with accessories about $80,000. I paid $7,000 for two 9gig hard drives. Now you might pay $20 for a 9 gig drive. A year later the whole outfit had dropped to under $50,000. I gained clients from big post houses, but lost clients to smaller start ups. It's the inevitability of this business.

If your worried about losing clients then it's time to invest in your business. Change your marketing to gain new clients or add new and different services. Change is good,
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Old March 7th, 2003, 06:44 AM   #14
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I should add that I am, indeed, thinking about a commercial project. Not vidoegraphy in the sense that it's been discussed here, but rather a film project. My idea is, as far as I can tell, new, so it will be additive to the mix.

If I succeed, I'm not treading on anyone else's toes because the idea is new. If I fail, no one will notice.

I would not have attempted this were it not for the very low barriers to entry. My total investment to get started will be less than $7,500. A few years ago, that would not have even paid for one editing station.

Correction: If I fail, I will notice the hole in my pocket...
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Old March 7th, 2003, 09:32 AM   #15
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I've got an old story that relates here. Several years ago I had a client that I did a lot of steady work for. One time they called me in for a meeting. They had written a treatment for a program and wanted me to give them a bid for producing it. I came up with something like $15,000 (this was some time ago; it would be $30,000 or more today). They thought that was high and contacted a guy they knew who was hooked up with a college in a small town nearby. He would do it for $5,000. I said, "He may do you a show for $5,000, but he won't do THAT show for $5,000. I budgeted that much for talent and travel."

So they went with the $5,000 guy. A few months later, I got a call from the client, wanting me to come out and look at the show. It was pretty rotten. Then they asked me what it would cost for me to fix it.

They spent a lot more than they would have originally. The point is, companies will always try to get the cheapest price they can on things. You may get burned on occasion, but you won't really lose any of your good business. I like the wrench analogy, and it is very appropriate. Just because a person can buy a camera and computer doesn't automatically make him a video producer. And in these days of interactive training programs, that's even more significant. Shooting and editing is only a small piece of a program now.
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