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Old July 29th, 2010, 02:12 PM   #1
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Thoughts wanted on developing templates for video productions...

Hi All:

I work for a very successful (and busy) web/graphic design and video production firm. We've done a fair amount of video production in the past year (some TV spots, mostly B2B work)...but we still find middle-to-high-end video production to be a hard sell to clients.

After several years of developing high-end, database-drive custom websites for corporate clients, we developed a template-based series of low-end websites for small businesses and other companies who don't want to fork out $15-20K or more on a large site. Our goal was to provide a custom-designed banner head (along with accompanying CSS to match the design), but otherwise make the site navigation, page layouts, etc all "canned" for rapid production.

We charge a flat rate ($5,000) and also offer a variety of options for added functionality (e.g. photo galleries, contact forms, etc.) The resulting sites are definitely superior-looking to the typical cheesy online templated sites you sometimes see (because we have world-class designers and developers who know what they're doing).

This low-end website approach has been VERY successful. At any given moment we have several in production and several more clients lined up waiting for their sites.

So I've decided to explore the same concept for video productions: to develop several production templates with tightly-controlled production parameters...and offer them to clients at a flat rate of $3,000-5,000 depending on which template they choose.

I'm curious to know if anyone else here has done this? I know the basic concept is something probably used all the time by wedding videographers...but I'm talking about business videos here, so definitely a more corporate look and feel with a certain amount of customization.

I think there is a lot of potential for this. Yes, it limits our creative freedom as video producers...but I'd rather be shooting and editing template-based videos all the time rather than doing a bigger, fancier production once every other month.

Any thoughts or experiences?
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Old July 29th, 2010, 02:40 PM   #2
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It's a big step from a product created at the keyboard to going out and shooting a professional looking video.

One of the difficult areas will be the soundtrack. Getting a good sounding narration of a good script will be difficult .. or is that where your company comes in?
30+ years with our own audio and visual production company and studios.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 03:50 PM   #3
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Too rich for my blood. I've been pleased with some of the projects I've been able to purchase at for $20-$30. Your stuff may be better, but I can't imagine it would be 150x better. I guess I'd have to see it to know for sure.

But then there's the problem of my shooting and composition matching up with the level of professionalism of the template. To me, that's where the template idea seems to fall apart. There always seems to be a perceptible discontinuity between the two. Maybe only I notice it...
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Old July 29th, 2010, 10:47 PM   #4
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Scott, I have to say this really depends upon your area and client base. For many, $3,000-$5,000 is what companies will want to stay around for non-template video production. Especially if it is internet video.

Pre-packaged conjours up $500 instead of $5,000. Are you shooting with a crew and how much shooting is included with the $3000-$5,000 package? 2010 has really made me look at pricing models as things seem as if they are in a static mode right now. I fear future could be tough as the cheaper stuff is looking better and better and seems to be good enough more often.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 10:39 AM   #5
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Are you talking about selling templates you create, or just asking if other videographers take a template approach to our work?

I for one use my own templates for various type of projects. In the editing software I've been using the past few years, there is the option to save current timeline as a template.

So, as one example, for the music recitals I shoot, I load the template I created from the first recital, and drop in footage. Why reinvent the wheel over and over?

Last edited by Roger Van Duyn; July 30th, 2010 at 10:41 AM. Reason: added comment
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Old July 30th, 2010, 11:06 AM   #6
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Hi All—I don't think I did a very good job explaining my idea...

When I say "template" videos, I use the term loosely. I'm NOT referring to just having a library of stock video clips and throwing them together in the timeline along with a few custom graphics and maybe a little narration. (That's far too cheesy for us!)

When I say "template" I still mean an "authentic" video production with a real crew, a real shoot, real post-production, etc...but the "template" part comes in by VERY tightly controlling the "real" aspects of production.

For example, I'd place hard limits (and I mean HARD limits) on how long a shoot can go, with a STEEP penalty in price if the shoot goes over. Or (alternately) I'd place HARD limits on the total amount of acquired footage (in minutes), with a "not-to-exceed XX minutes of raw footage" statement in the contract.

I'd also place VERY tight limits on the structure of the video. For example...

Video template 1 = B-roll only plus narration, not to exceed 3mins total length.
Video template 2 = B-roll plus a a single interview
Video template 3 = B-roll plus up to 3 interviews

So I guess the idea is to really LOCK DOWN the parameters of the production, and make it clear to clients that in return for the lower total cost of production, the parameters MUST be adhered to.

The whole point of this idea is to save us from what we've all experienced repeatedly (I'm sure), which is "video scope creep." In my experience, creep happens *regardless* of how carefully you handle pre-production. You can storyboard and get signoffs 'til the cows come home...but that is NO guarantee against creep.

I'm also a bit shocked to hear people saying $3,000 for a full-blown, professional video production is "too much." (Is the industry really hurting so badly that business video productions are now being given away at wedding video prices?) We've done several projects lately with $10K+ price I'm not experiencing such extreme penny-pinching (and we're not even in a big city).

I believe that if you're producing a 3-5min video, shooting with top-notch DSLRs or pro cameras, writing a script (or working with the client to develop a script), doing lighting and sound for the shoots, developing good-quality lower-thirds and other graphics, laying in good-quality stock music, etc...and you're doing that for only $3000 you're getting abused!

But again...the point isn't so much to limit creativity—in these "templated" video structures, the cameraman is still free to shoot however he wants, and the scripting can still be creative. But we just offer people a tightly-controlled set of options and make it clear that's what comes for the reduced price.

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Old July 30th, 2010, 01:10 PM   #7
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Ok, I think I'm tracking with you now. I thought you were talking about creating templates to sell to other videographers (the or business model.) That's why I thought what you were proposing was too expensive.

But if I'm hearing you correctly, you are propsing to design your own internal templates which you will use to produce videos for your clients.

There are a lot of other services that follow that model. For example, when I worked in radio, that's how jingle packages worked. The "big boys" would pay $50k+ to have a completely unique, custom composed jingles. The rest of us "little guys" would pick a jingle package (or "template" if you will) and they'd just sing our call letters or station name to the pre-recorded music. These jingle "templates" were pretty standard in the industry but still cost $5k-$10k.

So I think your idea has merit. It would certainly make it much easier for the client to envision what the end product would look like.
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Old July 30th, 2010, 02:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
I'm also a bit shocked to hear people saying $3,000 for a full-blown, professional video production is "too much." (Is the industry really hurting so badly that business video productions are now being given away at wedding video prices?) We've done several projects lately with $10K+ price I'm not experiencing such extreme penny-pinching (and we're not even in a big city).
Scott, to be clear, I do not think it is too much, what I posted was sort of speaking for the market I have been seeing. The idea is strong. I take this approach as well in some areas. Something defined is always good for comfort level. Pricing is really market and selling skill dependent.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 01:07 AM   #9
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Good idea Scott

We are sort of coming up with our own business packages with separate "formulas".

You need to have a formula locked down so can increase productivity/profitability on your business videos.

We are still in the planning stages of our business video models, but we are looking @ a 2 hour on location shoot w/ 2-3 crew and a 3-5minute complete edit w/ graphics, music and VO.

Still working out pricing and planning of these things.
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Old August 1st, 2010, 03:32 AM   #10
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What a SPIFFY idea.

In fact it's so spiffy, that why not lets all extend it into every business area we can think of and get SUPER rich.

It would be PERFECT, for example, for DOCTORS. We'll figure out our 10 most popular operations, and post some really nice lowball prices - making sure, of course, that our customers know that if anything DANGEROUS about the surgery comes up while the operation is in progress that we reserve the right to tear up the contract and charge them a whole lot more. All we have to do is make darn sure they're not a lot sicker than they thought when they came to us - exactly like the video customers businesses that probably really had bigger problems then THEY thought - when they came to us looking for those lowball videos.

Oh, and how about we do it in CONSTRUCTION. We can design a coupla nice little low end house plans with very little customization necessary. Then as long as the customer's LOT is FLAT - and there are no SINKHOLES around or stuff like that - and the ZONING is OK, and it's not too far from the POWER grid, and the WATER is available, and they don't want any really TALENTED and therefore waaay overpriced people to do any of the design work, or the "lot orientation" stuff (we'll just face them all NORTH regardless, OK?), or the landscaping, or the energy management plans or the other things that requires any actual talent and effort - then we can probably make some nice little cookie cutter houses and turn them around even CHEAPER than the low-end functioning business competition in Homebuilding does today!

Sounds like a GREAT business model.

After all, who wants to deal with all that really messy stuff that turns a cookie-cutter video into something special. You know - all that TALENT stuff. Think of the coin we'll save on writing when all we need is someone to tweek the beginning and end, and we'll just keep re-using the middle. And we'll just make sure that we have ONE SIZE FITS ALL editing that ensures that no matter how complex or simple the NEEDS of the clients might be - we'll make damn sure that they FIT into OUR 3 minute model.

Because as we all know, EVERY story can be condensed down to a similar 3 minute narrative. (Kinda like VIDEO CLIFF NOTES, RIGHT?) And we all know that lots of people prefer those to actually READING THE BOOK. HECK, who needs all that plot and character development crap anyway!!)

This sounds like an EXCELLENT idea.

Let's dumb down our industry as much as it's humanly possibly. Let's make sure that the client base out there understands that there's NO REAL REASON to pay for skilled labor to make things any better - not when WE'RE ready and willing to make video as CHEAPLY and MEDIOCRE as any other industrial punch press process.

On second thought, I've got an even BETTER plan. We know how incredibly successful CRAIGS LIST has become. They've done it by making it OK to trade everything. So let's get REALLY aggressive and kick some real ass out there...

Who's up for trading their LIGHTING day rate for a dozen eggs? How about a full SOUND package with operator for 24 hours in exchange for a fast food VALUE MEAL coupon? I could probably DIRECT a whole film with one of your really simple COOKIE CUTTER scripts for, let's say a case of sparkling water, a bottle of mid-range Scotch and a pair of sneakers (in my teenage son's size).

Let's get this started right now.

I don't want anyone to steal this idea from us. Who knows HOW much it's going to be worth if we take too long to implement.

Where do I sign up???


(sorry for the blatent sarcasm, but I'm just a guy who thinks that COMMODITIZING video is one of the single most DANGEROUS trends that can happen to everyone here. Video is NOT a commodity. And anyone who's EVER made a successful one knows that. Whether it's ROCKY 6 or Godfather 3 or your 15th safety video - the moment you think that it's OK to work to make it simpler to do - rather than the best it can be - you're on the same road to shame that Mr. Stallone walked and that Mr. Coppola AVOIDED walking for so many years.

Your thinking is based almost totally around what YOU need. To truly succeed in this business, you have to keep a laser focus on what your CLIENTS need. And they DON'T need solutions to YOUR problems - but rather solutions to theirs.

Have a nice journey.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 06:24 AM   #11
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Template videos

Bill I think your barking up the wrong tree.

We're not all wannabe indie feature film makers, some of us just make a living by making videos for various companies or organisations, yes we want to make as good a job as we can, but it depends on the client and the market your in.

From my perspective I have doubts about waiting for the that next call from a "current" client on making their next video. My business model is too dependent on these one off projects, when it works it's fine, but I have too many days of twiddling my thumbs waiting for that phone call.

So, what else can I do... Maybe smaller jobs. Volume based. After all their does seem to be a big business in wedding videos, event filming etc... Yes, packaged commodities based largely on an hourly rate... but so what.

Of course if it's just based on price your screwed. What you want is that word of mouth networking that says " He may be more expensive, but gee he was good etc etc...

OK. it aint art, big deal... It pays the bills.

Getting back to the original post "templates" is a bad idea, however a "Package" rate does have legs. I get a lot of calls from small "retail" clients wanting a video for their website or whatever, usually its a junior employee who has been asked to get some costs on making the video. No real brief but you can get the gist of what they want. In the past I have tried to offer suggestions on how they may better communicate their ideas. I've not landed one job. In the future I may very well say, OK, Package 1 is ...
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