13 Feb Finding a Video Production Craftsman, NOT a Technician
Somewhere along the line, most of us have heard the saying, "It's the craftsman, not the tools," meaning that all the great creations of the world are more dependent on the skills of the artists than the quality of their tools. Or, to put it less elegantly, you could give a room full of monkeys the best computers in the world, running the latest word processing software and still not produce a single Shakespearean play.
We've seen this trend in the print industry.
Never was this more obvious than with the advent of desktop publishing software a few decades ago. I recall with great clarity how print layout artists and designers of the time panicked at the thought of losing their jobs to anybody and everybody with a personal computer. In an effort to at least remain competitive, most of these graphics professionals did their best to parlay their artistry into the computer age, but to what end? In a matter of months, there was going to be no need for their specialized services anyway!
Lo and behold, two decades later, many of these talented artists and designers are still gainfully employed in their field. What happened? The desktop publishing software did indeed revolutionize the print industry by allowing just about anyone to produce high-quality documents without the aid of a professional. Yet professional graphic designers are still in demand. How can that be?
The answer, in retrospect, is surprisingly simple – the market grew. It grew to encompass not only the new rank amateurs and the existing highly skilled graphic artists, but also a whole slew of individuals in between. Where there once existed a clear demarcation between the person creating hand-written or typed pieces and the skilled layout artist creating professionally printed pieces, there now lies a broad spectrum of amateurs and professionals creating not only traditional print pieces, but also designing graphics for the internet, DVDs, CD-ROMs and much more.
With so many people creating graphic compositions, one simple reality is still abundantly evident. It's easy to tell when something was designed by a skilled professional and when it was created by an amateur using desktop publishing software. In other words, it's the craftsman, not the tools.
What are the implications for video production?
So why is a 27-year-veteran video producer talking at length about print? Because right now the video production industry is going through the same revolution. The same video production tools that would have cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars 10 years ago are now available to just about anybody with a reasonably powerful home computer and a camcorder. You need only look to YouTube.com to see the results.
Thankfully, most true video production professionals aren't afraid of this revolution. We've seen it before in the print industry. We've got the benefit of hindsight to recognize that as video tools become more readily available, so too will the market grow to support the newcomers to the field. In fact, unlike the graphic designers of 20 years ago, most video producers welcome the change. New tools emerge almost daily that allow us to better convey the stories we tell by speeding up the production process, improving the quality of the final product and allowing us to distribute our work to a worldwide audience almost instantaneously. Not only that, the low price point for entry-level equipment allows many highly talented individuals to rise to the top in a field that would have been too cost-prohibitive 10 years ago.
Why you need to clarify your objectives .
The people who should be concerned about this new revolution are the consumers of professional video production services. In the past, the mere price of the equipment virtually assured that the people operating it knew what they were doing. Now that's no longer the case.
In any town large enough to have yellow pages in its phone book, you'll find listings for people advertising themselves as video producers. They'll offer to produce anything from weddings to TV commercials and bar mitzvahs to short films – all at prices that'll blow you away! In their mind, since they have the right equipment and they basically know how to make it work, they must be skilled video professionals, right? Say it with me now, "It's the craftsman, not the tools."
Video production is, to say the least, an incredibly complex craft. After 27 years, I still feel as though I've only scratched the surface. There are so many things to consider during the production process, not the least of which is simply telling a compelling story. There are obvious considerations, like proper lighting, camera angles and sound that can be taught in a few years at a technical college. But there are also more esoteric considerations, like message effectiveness, edit pacing and the overall "feel" of the piece that can only be learned through time and experience. These are the skills that can make or break the success of a video piece. And I won't even begin to mention the intricacies of video compression, format selection and data storage.
Ultimately, consumers will be the ones to benefit from this video revolution. And we can expect to see a wide spectrum of video products emerge – just like in the print industry. In the meantime, however, it's a buyer-beware market. Just because people advertise themselves as video professionals does not mean they can craft a message that ultimately accomplishes the intended goals in a cost-effective manner. It simply means they own equipment.
Conversely, just because people are set up as one-man bands working out of their homes, you can't assume they're not qualified to do the job. The great thing about the democratization of video production is that it opens the door for talented people to operate in a realm that, until just recently, was financially off-limits to them.
So in the end, the proof lies in the pudding. If somebody claims to be a video producer, then that fact should be abundantly evident in the work they've done in the past. All aspects of their video portfolio should appear well-crafted and the videos should have a finished, well-polished feel. If not, then perhaps the mantle of Video Producer has been claimed a bit too soon.
And remember, it's the craftsman, not the tools.