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In Production: Always Shoot for the Client, Not for Your Reel

1 Sep, 2012 By: Frank Battisti Response


ProductionIt’s a simple and understandable trap to fall into, especially in the age of smaller, more efficient cameras that are constantly being upstaged by the latest and greatest toy. You find yourself champing at the bit to experiment with a camera you read about and now you’re looking for any reason to try it in order to stay aboard the technology freight train.

It’s not a bad mindset, but before you pull the trigger, ask yourself the question: “Does this particular project or specific shoot day call for this new technology, and what are the possible pitfalls?” I recently heard a horror story of a producer shooting an entire testimonial interview day with a Digital SLR camera unaware audio was not being recorded. Even though there were some obvious quality control issues there, he didn’t realize just how “audio challenged” those cameras can be.

The result was beautiful, unusable images — but, hey, it looks great on his reel! The point here is that any producer must truly understand the product, category and client’s financial situation before making decisions on equipment that could ultimately wind up in a lost job.

We all know beauty productions call for higher quality images, so whether you choose 35mm film, Arri Alexa, Red Epic or other cameras, producers know the added expense associated with those cameras is necessary. However, many shows in the housewares, tool, business opportunity — even fitness — spaces can look great and meet the client’s needs using less expensive cameras and light crews. In fact, if you take a look at the IMS or Jordan Whitney top-50 short-form reports, I guarantee most of the spots shown were shot with inexpensive P2 cameras, using minimal lighting.

In the age of reality television, the public has grown accustomed to the authenticity of reality-style footage, and often this can even help a campaign. Don’t price yourself out of the market based on what you want on your reel, as opposed to what’s best for the client.

This especially applies in today’s economy. The client is never going to say, “What a shame! Our campaign is pulling a 3:1 MER, but we’re disappointed the images didn’t turn out a lot better.”

The emphasis with successful marketers is always on product, scripting and execution. They know that if the camera captures what they are communicating, then regardless of how it looks (within reason, of course) they will be successful. They hire very competent producers who understand that they have to test multiple campaigns in order to find that home run. These producers keep costs low in order to accommodate the marketers who are spending millions of dollars in testing.

When someone asks how a short- or long-form campaign you produced turned out, stop and think about whether or not it met the client’s goals and answer accordingly. I’ve heard far too many producers make statements like, “The show looks great.” But when you dig a little deeper, you find out the campaign never rolled out. Hey, that’s okay; most campaigns don’t make it past the testing stage.

Here’s the bottom line: if you cater to each and every client’s individual needs, the work will follow and before you know it your reel will expand to heights you never imagined! 

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