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Video Production: How to reach the “Next Level”

The price of entry into the video market keeps getting lower and lower.  From the Red, to the 5D to the Black Magic Cinema Camera, the power to create incredible video keeps getting more and more accessible.  Heck, even the latest GoPro can film in 2.5K.   Anyone with money (or a credit card) can get a pretty good camera, lens, a tripod, slider, steadicam, and light kit.  Many creatives know someone who does logos, can whip up a website, and boom… “You’re in business”.

There are literally millions of young, creative, hopeful entrepreneurs with nice cameras and creative cloud subscriptions out to make a name and a profit for themselves.  The question on all these creative’s minds is “how do I get to the elusive ‘Next Level'”? (and pay off this credit card).

While we at White Knuckle are constantly striving to get to the next level ourselves, here are few things we have learned in our journey thus far:

1.  Avoid the “Magic Camera Syndrome”
When we talk to young hopeful videographers, we often get the question, “what camera should I get?”  While this is a legitimate question, it belongs at the end of the conversation, not the beginning.   You can have a first rate professional 6K camera and stink as a videographer… or… you can have a iPhone and tell an amazing story in a compelling way. Our rule of thumb is, “Keep using your current camera until the camera (not your lack of knowledge) is hindering your ability to tell your story.  Then, and only then, start looking for a new camera.”

2.  Don’t be Lazy/ flaky
I’m convinced that if you work hard and keep your word you will rise above 80% of the competition.  We are often approached by clients who have had a negative experience with their previous video team.  They say things such as, “I don’t trust my video team.  They’re creative, but they’re just flaky.”  Don’t be that guy/gal.  Work hard on projects.  Do the pre-production before you show up.  Have a shot list.  Really think about the client and their needs.  Know the brand.  Study it.  Show up for meetings on time.  Impress your client by your work ethic as well as your creativity.

3.  Learn as much as you can about business…
This can be a difficult concept for creatives to grasp, but there really is no substitute for good business.  Awesomely creative people who run their businesses poorly will end up working for someone who runs their businesses well. We had to learn the hard way how to read a balance sheet, do cash projections and create an accurate bidding spreadsheet.  If I could have done one thing differently, it would have been to get more business training before starting White Knuckle Studios.

4.  Practice, Practice, Learn, and then Practice Some More
There are tons of training resources available to video people of all skill levels.  From formal training and film schools to Lynda.com and youtube, there is enough online training to help you make a feature length film.  Take advantage of all of it….   Then take your camera out into the real world and film. Study your footage.  What looks good?  what could you do better?  What effect do different angles have on the viewer?  Go out again and apply your findings.  Repeat.  Every time you film and study your footage you are getting better.

5.  Be a good storyteller
Video Production is about more than just capturing a pretty shot, it’s about communicating.  Learn how to tell good stories.

6.  Charge what you’re worth…
I mean this in both ways:  If you’re brand new and don’t know what you’re doing you can’t expect full studio prices.  If you are experienced and have great equipment don’t try to compete with the kid down the street.  Your experience brings value.  Charge for it.

7.  Do get better equipment
There is no doubt about it, nice equipment will make a huge difference in the image.  Once you truly understand why you need it; what you will do with it; and if you can afford it, go get it… just post reviews on youtube for the rest of us.

These are probably not the answers you were hoping for, but I’m convinced there is no shortcut.  I”m open to your opinions and comments.  Let us know what you think.


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