Everyone owns a good camera. Today, anyone can shoot a decent video just like anyone can take a decent photo. As well, the support services for the industry – music, motion graphics, animation tools, editing tools, etc. are all getting better, cheaper and more accessible.
You don’t want to be at the low-end of the video production industry today. Video production here epitomizes the ‘Red Sea’ (shark filled waters of hyper-intense, cut-throat, shark-eat-shark, race-to-the-bottom, nasty, bloody competition) that Kim and Maubourgne describe in their business book ‘Blue Ocean’. The returns are now approaching minimum wage rates in some geographies at the low end of the market.
Businesses will find cut-rate deals here but the quality of the product, in most cases, is going to be average, at best. If ‘average, at best’ is the quality threshold then your business likely won’t be around long enough get to the next level of ‘pretty good’.
Sadly, hundreds of community colleges across the country are only too happy to take in eager would-be film makers who after a few years of technical training have virtually no opportunity at gainful employment.
Level 2. Experienced Videographers.
(Trend – the growth here is slowing a bit as the market continues to saturate and production prices are driven lower.)
Because the equipment costs are now so low you are seeing younger people developing expertise in video production and editing, even out of high school. The small percentage of people who work hard enough to emerge out of the sea of equipment owners continue to feed the ranks of this first level of video professional.
Experienced videographers are typically one man bands who either freelance for brands and other production houses or they start their own small businesses and provide full video production services. The numbers here are still growing but not like they were five years ago. This group continues to be squeezed by the equipment owners on price at the low end and are also having to compete with larger traditional video production companies who are being forced to sell down-market to keep the doors open.
Many of the video professionals in this group are not choosing the traditional path of evolving into larger production companies but instead are choosing to work for a different group – the hybrid production companies.
Level 3. (Pure-play) Corporate Video Production Companies.
(Trend – this numbers of these types of companies continues to shrink.)
The traditional video production companies (two or more staff and lots of experience) are getting squeezed from both ends. They are seeing tremendous price pressure and are not able to sustain the same high rates that used to comfortably pay their overhead. Big studios, lot’s of expensive equipment, layers of management and admin are all luxuries that few production companies can afford today. Most people in this group started in video – doing sound, doing lighting, etc. The entrepreneurs among them eventually started their own production houses.
Having experience isn’t enough, however. Sure, the market will still pay for experience – but what it will pay is a moving target. The other challenge this group is facing is that they are seeing people with other talents and backgrounds (i.e ad agencies, marketing consultancies, online media companies, etc) gain traction in the industry.
The traditional corporate video production companies will argue that these new entrants don’t have the requisite production skills but the reality today is that the market places more value on ideas and application rather than on technical competency.
Shaky camera, focus hunting, imperfect lighting and a litany of other video transgressions are not only acceptable today, they are sometimes preferred. New entrants often shape a market in strange and wonderful way.
The other challenge for this group is that traditionally they have held a service roll to either agencies who ‘owned’ the client relationship or have worked directly for brands that control the message. Either way, the value of being a pure-play video production expert is not what it used to be.
Level 4. Hybrid Video Production / Marketing Agency
(Trend – this group continues to evolve and grow)
The ‘value’ in the video production industry used to be in the expensive equipment and the experience in using it. A few years ago ‘corporate video’ meant either a TV commercial or a ten minute video containing a whack of superfluous motion graphics. The number and uses of video are growing quickly. (here are 33 different types of video being used by businesses today).
The value today is in how you apply video to your market, not in how you make the video. As such, there are a number of new market entrants to video production who are not only creating video but coming up with new ways to apply that video to specific business objectives. Social media, interactive video and mobile video are all examples of purpose-built content to solve a specific business problem. One size doesn’t fit all.
Anecdotally, many of the new companies I chat with that are doing corporate video are also doing websites, graphic design and other creative and marketing work. If they have the client’s trust and own the client relationship then they will continue to do as much of their client’s creative work as possible.
You will start to see video production companies specialize in the creation and delivery (creating the video is only the first step) of video. You will also start to see video production companies specialize in certain types of video (like HR/PR, branded entertainment, branded docs, etc.) and specific industry focused productions as vertical knowledge becomes more important than general video production skills.
As such, new hybrid companies with marketing and social media capabilities are entering the video production industry and you’re also seeing very tight collaborations (sometimes evolving into new business entities) between creative/marketing agencies and video production companies.
Ultimately, all of these companies are trying to get to the top of the food chain:
Level 5. Regional Market Leader
(Trend – Little change here, every region has a one or two leaders)
By ‘Market Leader’ I don’t mean “Our firm is a Market Leader that provides cutting-edge expertise in…” Anyone can lay claim to leadership but there are only a couple of true leaders in every market.
Market leaders command the largest budgets. They are the regional go-to companies for the biggest brands or government agencies. Every creative services company looks to become the market leader.
Commanding the largest budgets means not having to compromise and also means having the greatest latitude to do the best work.
Sure, everyone is being asked to do more with less – but more is better. The market leaders are usually easy to find. Their body of work speaks for itself. The reason they got to where they are will (most likely) be the reason they will also be able to adapt to new trends and changes in the video production industry.
Technology continues to run roughshod over the corporate video production industry. Marketing video producers have to move beyond reliance on equipment and technique and find new ways of adding value to their video productions.