July 2003|Videography is a popular business these days, and with good reason. From wedding videos to corporate training and marketing videos and all the way up the ladder to broadcast production, there are a variety of opportunities available for videographers to drum up business. Digital production takes many forms, from high-end Avid editing suites to PCs customized for video production to Mac G4s or off-the-shelf Dells. What machine a commercial studio uses depends not only on the taste and the budget of the business principals, but also on the types of video production they intend to do.
Today's tools put the video business within reach of the one-person shop. Armed with a camera, a PC or Mac, and a commercial software package such as Adobe Premiere, a person with creativity and vision (but not necessarily deep pockets) has the ability to start a business. That's not to say that anyone can do it. Videography still takes great skill and talent, and editing is an art in itself, but off-the-shelf tools open the door to a segment of the population that once might not have been able to afford the price of admission. Yet there are plenty of players competing in the corporate video market and some companies try to straddle the line between consumer and corporate.
This article looks at six video businesses that cover a range of styles to give you a sense of the different faces of commercial videography, as well as the types of work afoot in today's digital studios, and what it takes to make a go of the videography business.
Atlantic Video Productions
- Market: Broadcast Video
- Editing Tool: Apple Final Cut Pro
- Workstation: Mac G4
- Camera: Sony UVW-100
- Web site: under construction
Kevin Weyl has been in the broadcast business on and off for over 30 years, and his company, the Amherst, Massachusetts-based Atlantic Video Productions (AVP), is a full-service production agency geared toward broadcast media and offering a full menu of services including production, editing, duplication, and placement. He has clients all over the world, including Fortune 100 institutions, government agencies, and individuals, and his deliverables span the spectrum from infomercials to training pieces to content for the Web and Web design and programming support.
Even though AVP often takes on projects that require a large crew, Weyl keeps costs down by keeping his staff streamlined at a single full-time employee—himself—and picking up a crew for each shoot. "I feel like the company needs to reflect a flexible approach to production," he says. "Money is always an issue, so rather than create overhead to pass on to customers, I stay as lean as possible so I can be where I need to be in the budget process."
Weyl understands that in his end of the video trade, he has to be proactive about generating business. Unlike wedding videos, where a proprietor may have a Web site or advertising budget, Weyl explains that companies looking for his services aren't going to take this route. He says, "The work I get, I get by being proactive in trying to get work. I provide an expensive product and customers aren't going to buy the product off a demo reel or brochure or ad in the yellow pages."
For each project he undertakes, Weyl likes to invest in new equipment. "I am a firm believer in having your own gear," he says. "When I got involved in production on a full-time basis, I was renting at the beginning because I didn't have the money to make a substantial investment. Every time I have a substantial project, I buy stuff that I need, so I can own as much gear as possible." This way the work pays for the equipment, Weyl says, and he doesn't have to incur substantial debt to keep his equipment up-to-date.
Weyl does his own rough cuts in-house using Final Cut Pro, but he farms out final production because of the significant investment involved in purchasing a high-end editing suite such as an Avid system. His deliverables vary from DVD to VHS to Betacam (for broadcast stations) depending on how the final product will be distributed.
In a time when most video producers are using digital cameras, Weyl continues to shoot using Betacam because, he says, "I have a wonderful camera that I know how to use and I get great images with it. I would challenge almost anybody to tell me the difference between digital video image and an analog image if it's properly shot, and as far as I'm concerned, I much prefer a warmer image, which is more of an analog look, in video especially, and if you go to film there is nothing better."