Scaling your video production
As a film and video production company based in Birmingham, most of our commissions are based on our capacity to understand a brief, our capability to turn it around quickly and perhaps, the most consistently asked-for requirement, our ability to be the most cost-effective supplier. This means that to stay competitive, in the majority of our smaller to mid-budget projects, we’ll run with a video production team that can multitask their job roles. So, our producer will also be the director, and our camera operator will also handle sound and lighting, which is a very effective way to keep costs down and to keep the crew more mobile.
These multi-tasker crew members are no less specialist, in most cases they will have worked and been trained in one specific role, but will likely have picked up multiple video production skills along the way, which means they can cover a variety of project needs (our senior producer is a top-notch editor for example). On some occasions however, the production may need to go ‘big’ (we’ll come back to what denotes a large-scale production in a minute) and this may require more specific specialist roles. You’ll see them on the credits of broadcast productions all the time, ‘Gaffer’, ‘Director of Photography’, ‘Best Boy/Girl/Person’, ‘1st AD’, and you would be surprised to know that these roles also have a part to play in smaller video productions, such as lower budget TV commercials, and even some corporate videos.
These specialist roles aren’t just there to inflate a production cost, or to make the shoot seem more impressive to the client (or pander to the director’s ego!)… they are there for the simple reason that they will significantly increase a production’s value, both in terms of aesthetics, but also in terms of efficiency and scope. With dedicated specialists there are more options available; roles aren’t spread as thin, the knowledge pool is much wider, and people are able to focus on more specific and focussed tasks, meaning there are more viable creative options, and the solutions to technical challenges are more readily available.
Specific video production roles
We recently produced a TV and cinema advert that required multiple cameras and lighting set-ups and filming scenarios across a single day. That’s not unusual, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we knew that time within each scenario would be extremely limited – one hour max, so we’d have to reduce production set-up time and any other possible logistical concerns. Luckily for us, our client recognized and understood these challenges, so the budget was allocated for us to produce each segment with the resources and crew that we needed.
This meant that on the shoot, as well as having a producer (logistics) and a director (creative), we were also able to bring in extra video production crew for specific roles – we had a ‘DP’ (director of photography), ‘1st AC’ (focus puller or first assistant camera), ‘gaffer’ (head of lighting), ‘best-person’ (chief assistant to gaffer), and ‘spark’ (gaffer’s assistant). This meant that we could get everything ready, well in advance, with the director’s creative ideas communicated to the lead video production specialists, who would then independently co-ordinate and designate each team member. This allowed the production team to move from scene to scene (or setup to setup), without a complete reset of crew and kit each time.
This took a lot of the pressure off the director, who didn’t have to think about any of the technical aspects of the shoot and was able to work directly with the talent to get exactly the results the client wanted. Perhaps, most tellingly, the production finished on time and within budget, and the results were stunning.
Picking the right team
We totally understand that budgets may be limited (particularly at the minute), or that you may not want the intrusion of a large video production crew on-site, and in most cases, a smaller team is the more viable option, however, on occasion, it’s worth the bigger spend, and with that in mind it’s worth knowing what these specialists do… and why they are invaluable to larger productions.
So, in next week’s article, we’ll be putting our client-facing hats on and clearing up what some of those roles are, and what exactly it is they do. We’ll look at the differences between what a producer and a director do on a video production shoot, we’ll have look at what a focus puller’s role is, explain what a gaffer and a spark is, and of course, we’ll answer the age-old question of what exactly is a ‘Best Boy’?(!?)
In the meantime, if you’d like to talk to us about an upcoming video project, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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