Choosing the Right Video Production Company

Every video project is a real partnership between client and production company and there are many important elements to consider. Sometimes the intangibles can be as important as the tangible. All video companies are not created equal and your choice depends on what you want to accomplish. Here are some things to consider before you make a decision.

The Plan – Before you contact production companies

• Establish a clear goal. The more defined your objectives, the better the final product will be.

• Determine a budget range. In many cases, the budget will define the finished product. You will save a lot of time by knowing what you want to spend – even if it’s a range – and sharing this information with the production company.

• Know your audience. Will the program be used to sell a product? To educate customers? To launch a product? To enhance your brand and image? To motivate and inspire employees? To entertain?

• Establish quantifiable measurements for success. What do you want the audience to do, think or feel after they have seen the video?

• Research. Get on the Internet and find out as much as you can about the production companies in which you may be interested.

• Ask business colleagues. A lot of business can come from word of mouth. What better way to narrow your choices that to ask your friends who work at other companies?

• Check social media. Ask your contacts on LinkedIn for advice and their experiences with video production companies.

• Identify internal expectations. What results will persuade your management that the project has been a success? Does your CEO expect to be on camera? How long should the finished product run?

• Will there be travel? Budgets can increase dramatically if a crew needs to shoot in multiple cities. Getting customers and experts on camera can strengthen the message and is often worth the additional cost.

• What are the preferred delivery options? Will the program stream online? Will it be broadcast on TV? Will it be presented at an event?

• Limit the number of bids. Request bids from two or three production companies. When you approach four companies and above you may reach a point where it is hard manage proposals and come to a qualified decision effectively.

• Are there strong opinions for a direction? Sometimes companies think they know what kind of approach they want before they start. If so, they should be made known to the bidders.

• Who is the point of contact?

The Meeting – The first impression can tell you a lot

• How’s the pitch? If the company can sell themselves and understands what it takes to deliver key information, the better the chance they can do the same for you.

• Have they done their research? Is it obvious that they know what your company does or is this the first time they’ve heard of you. It’s (almost) O.K. if you’re a startup but with the Internet, they should have some inkling about who you are.

• Is there chemistry? You are going to be spending a lot of time with these people. You should at least like them. Do you get the sense they like each other? You don’t need conflict before you even get started.

• Do they listen? Do they go on and on about themselves without digging into the purpose of the program and the potential challenges. That’s a warning sign.

• Do they ask good questions? Intellectual curiosity is key to a good proposal and a successful script, shoot, edit and finished product.

• Look at reels. If you haven’t seen their work online, make sure you see it when you meet and ask questions. If you don’t see examples that show the level of quality you expect, it’s probably not going to suddenly show up in your project.

• Take a tour. If they have an editing facility ask to see it. You don’t need to know much about equipment but know enough to find out if the gear is relatively new. If the gear is old, there may be problems.

• Consider awards. But don’t make a decision based on awards. A shelf of awards can indicate a company’s excellence or their competence at filling out award competition applications.

• Be consistent. If you are getting bids from several production companies, make sure they all receive the same parameters and background and budget information.

• Learn about the staff. Do they have in-house writers, editors, videographers, directors and producers or use freelancers? Or both? What is their experience?

• Who owns the footage? In most agreements, the production company owns the raw footage and the customer owns the finished product. Avoid surprises and find out ahead of time.

The Proposal – Do they get it?

• Is the proposal presented in a professional manner? A well-produced proposal demonstrates an attention to detail that will be crucial to the production of your project.

• Is the process clear? A video production is a logistical challenge. Is the workflow well organized? Is there a deliverables timeline that is clear and easy to understand? Is your role as client defined?

• Is the concept appropriate for your audience? Did they pay attention to your input? Does your gut tell you this will work?

• Is the creative treatment attuned to your corporate culture? Can you sell this idea to your management? If not, how can it be revised to make it work?

• Is the production company open to your creative input? This is a preview of your future working relationship. If they are rolling their eyes now they are probably not the team for you.

• Is a member of the creative team present? Account managers serve a useful purpose but sometimes you need to talk directly to the writer, producer or director to get key questions answered.

• Is the budget clearly presented? Did they pay attention to your budget range? Is the payment schedule clear and tied to deliverables? Is there a contingency budget with guidelines as to how and when those funds will be spent?

• How many creative treatments? A good proposal will limit the number of creative treatments. This shows confidence in the proposed approach. A bid with four or more treatments tells you the creative team isn’t sure what you want or what will work (but it’s in there somewhere).

The decision – The moment of truth

• Check references. It might seem like it’s unnecessary, but do it anyway. Assume that the production company is giving you their happiest clients and most successful stories. You can still dig for useful information. Would they use the production company again? What were the challenges? How was the product received?

• Location. Location… etc. How important is it that the production company be local? To some folks it matters.

• Trust your gut. Decision grids are great but sometimes you just know one company will do a better job. Go with that feeling.

Matthew Billings is the Creative Director and Principal at Spin Creative, LLC in Seattle, WA. Spin Creative is a full-service Video production Hong Kong specializing in high-care and high-craft cinematic storytelling for advertising, marketing and enterprise. Spin’s approach is all about crafting eye-catching and meaningful video to propel a business idea.