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Finding the Right Videographer – 5 Questions to Ask

Posted by on Aug 15, 2011 in BLOG | One Comment

Finding the right videographer is somewhat like online dating: you have to know what you’re looking for, otherwise might just end up with an inbox full of undeserving, unattractive, antisocial weirdos, some of whom are trying to take advantage of you.

There are a few ways to vet your videographer – one of them, obviously, is his/her online portfolio. But here is an interesting fact – many good videographers are not necessarily talented online designers or editors. I use one videographer whose online presence is sadly lacking (maybe because he’s so busy shooting?), but whose talent behind the camera is unquestionable. Conversely, someone with great programming and Photoshop skills might wow you with his whiz-bang website – but looking at the actual content of the video may make you realize he is that most insidious being, a dilettante. That’s the guy who has a ton of hobbies, a lot of things he is “pretty” good at, but never really spent the time or effort to be excellent at any of them, and certainly not at videography. In the photography world, he is known as a Fauxtog. 

So here are some questions you can ask any potential hire to help separate the good guys from the goats:

1) WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT ARE YOU BRINGING?
This is a great way to gauge how experienced someone is with an on-location shoot. If you’ve given your basic objective (e.g. a 5 minute video, shot mostly indoors, with shots of the office, interviews of the boss and some clients), your guy should already know that means a full light kit, sound equipment, tripod, reflectors and probably a PA or two to help set up and keep track of shots.

In an on location shoot, preparation is everything. You waste valuable time, effort and money if you don’t have all the equipment or manpower you need to get a good result. A good videographer will tell you everything he has on hand, what he needs to rent (important because YOU will be paying the rental fees), and what he needs for contingency. Someone who uses the phrase “wing it” after this question is asked should immediately be shown the door.

2) WHO DO YOU WORK WITH?

We all know not to go to a dentist for an appendectomy. A videographer is there to capture the moment in a compelling and clear way. His editor, scriptwriter and producer bring the entire video to life. Sometimes a videographer is also a good editor. Rarely is he a one man band, capable of all aspects of production. Never is he a pirate. Oh… wait…. 

Understanding who he is collaborating with, and understanding how experienced THEY are, gives you a better grasp of what to expect from the final product.  Does he have someone with him to track the good takes, move things along on schedule and coordinate the next shot – or is he leaving all those “trivial” details to you? Is someone else asking the questions in the interview, or is he sticking a camera in your face and telling you to talk? Is the final edit going to be performed by him or by his old college buddy who used Final Cut for his semester of broadcasting? Check the team’s names online (LinkedIn is a great place) and see their work too.

3) WHAT WAS YOUR LAST PROJECT?
Now we find out whether this guy just does wedding videos, or if he has what it takes to create a professional grade, well thought out video that investors and consumers want to see. Don’t get me wrong – lots of videographers do weddings as a way to augment income in the not so busy months. But, obviously, you don’t need everyone to see your wedding video. You DO need everyone – or at least the right people – to see your business video.

A good video guy has been around long enough to do it all – the wedding, the corporate video, maybe a fashion show or TV pilot. I love using guys who have done news coverage – they are alert and fearless in their efforts to catch the perfect shot. People who used to be in film are also great, provided they are not so artsy that the thought of doing corporate videos causes them to roll their eyes or fidget uncomfortably. If the last project your videographer mentions is something for school, or for a friend, or for his church, then sorry – he is not the guy you need.

4) HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Here’s the thing: many, many people will tell you that it is “cheaper than ever” to create a quality video. This is true. “Cheaper,” however, does not mean free. Nor does it change the rules of video, which state that dark places must be lit (properly), sound must be captured (properly) on a microphone, shots must be edited (rigorously), and that a great eye for shots is born from experience.

So if your potential videographer is telling you he can create an amazing 5 minute video in under $500, ask yourself: what is he scrimping on to get that deal to you? Most likely that means an inexperienced crew, iffy quality equipment, lackadaisical editing, or just general lack of knowledge. Maybe he wants to get you this price in the hopes that you will hire him again? That’s counting pre-hatched chickens dude, and you know what everyone says about THAT.

I’m not saying that there is a base price for video, or that super expensive videos will 100% get you super awesome results. I’m just saying you can’t buy a second hand Toyota Yaris and expect it to drive like an Audi.

Do you want to pay for this…
…or this?

5) IF YOU WEREN’T WORKING ON THIS VIDEO, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
Some people might consider this a trick question, a Pandora’s Box of subconscious yearning, a veritable maze of reasoning from which the hapless service provider might never emerge from alive. But honestly – this is a great way to see where this person’s aspirations and ambitions are going. Is this person really about capturing good product, or is he using this as the next jumping off point for joining the next season of Big Brother?

Call me crazy but when I hire someone, I want to make sure the person who gets the job is more knowledgeable and passionate than I am regarding whatever it is I’m hiring them for. Otherwise, why bother? The responses I would like to hear from this question are (in no particular order):

– I would be working on the pilot to my own TV series (see Variety Society SF)
– I would be traveling the world capturing crazy food/customs/environment on video and hopefully turning it into compelling short films   (see: Eat, Learn, Move from Rick Mereki)
– I would be shooting for a huge client that I can’t name but has given me creative cache to make the most amazing video possible which will earn them millions of website hits and qualified customers galore. (see upcoming Ampliphi Media website 😉

IN SUMMARY:
Don’t just judge a videographer by what you see on YouTube or his website. Professionalism, experience, attention to detail, and the ability to work with others are traits that are just as important – if not more – than getting a rock bottom price for video services.

What else would YOU look for in a video provider? Weigh in below!

1 Comment

  1. Bing
    August 16, 2011

    Hey there! Great article… You have covered everything. The only thing for me with your guidelines would be the basic conversation I will be having with a "potential" videographer… I'm looking for confidence and not cockiness. The technical jargon in shooting (It's hard to BS on this one if you know the shooting process). I like giving the "what if" scenario, I'd like to hear what he/she would do. And lastly, if he/she is a good listener, remember that the videographer has to take directions from the director for treatment. My take on this is follow your guidelines then profile the videographer on how it would be beneficial for the production team, project and client. That's it! Thanks Michi!

    Reply

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