It seems like most people these days wear multiple hats in their job roles or at least need to be a master juggler to thrive in their jobs. A video professional is no exception! In fact, a single video might be attended to directly or indirectly by a team of 5 or 5,000 depending on the complexity. But why? If we’re in the age of the cellphone camera making promo videos, what gives? While we might not be completely far off from dropping all our gear and switching over to the cellphone as our primary tool, it’s still much of a novelty and there are still real issues they have that prevent them from being the ultimate camera. In this article, we’re going to cover all the variables that MIGHT be found in a corporate video production and explain the division of labor needed to produce high quality video content. You might use this to evaluate your video production vendor so that you can tell what level of expertise they bring to the table and where corners are being cut.
The Video Production Process
Remember from your previous lessons that video is created in 3 stages: pre production, production and post production. Each of these stages require differing skill-sets and in complex projects, multiple video professionals. There are so many variables that need to be paid attention to during the production process that it’s physically impossible for a single person to concentrate on all of them perfectly.
Meet Your Video Professional
Ok meet all of them. Whether you’re making a feature film, a television broadcast or a corporate video, these are common roles you’ll find in the team, although for the sake of this article, I’m writing about the video professionals you’re most likely to encounter in a corporate production. Over the years, these roles have sometimes blended, meaning that, depending on your project, a professional on your video team may be responsible for wearing many of these hats.
The producer is the de facto project manager and should be your only point of contact for a project. Producers come in a variety of flavors, some of them double as editors, some are writers, some have technical skills and some are less technically capable. Producers should be organized, good with people, experienced enough to guide you through your project and able to deal with changing environments gracefully.
Your scriptwriter will serve one function: to write a script. Copywriters can make good scriptwriters, but it helps if they have experience writing for video. If you’re writing fiction, a storyteller is who you want, if it’s a training video, someone with technical writing skills is probably better suited to your project.
Director of Photography/Camera Operator
The Director of Photography (D.P.) or camera operator is the video professional who is in charge of the visual look of the project. A D.P. is a technical classification usually reserved for people who have significant experience with cameras, lenses, lighting techniques and cinematography (the art of making motion pictures). They will come with varying levels of skill and usually work with the production team and producer to obtain the images needed for video. A camera operator is a video professional who has the skill to operate a camera competently and may even be great at framing shots, but their ability to create a cinematic or stylized “look” and “feel” will be limited by their training and experience.
These days, audio engineers are rarely seen in low budget corporate videos because technology has allowed us to get “pretty good” sound without all the tools and skills they bring to the table. If you are going to be moving through a lot of spaces, interviewing people on the street or at an event, having one around enables the camera operator to have one less thing to worry about, meaning that you can be almost 100% sure that the audio will come out clean, unless the audio tech has no skill. An audio engineer will also work in the post production end of things, mixing sounds and dialogue to create a professional sound for your project.
A gaffer is someone who specializes in controlling the light on a set; some of them are even licensed electricians. Unless you’re making a television commercial or a movie, you probably won’t need a licensed electrician. It’s really important to have someone with this skill-set on your crew, because video is dependent on light and because light sources often have different color temperatures which can mess with cameras, a good gaffer will know how to adjust and compensate to get the best possible image. On lower budget productions, it’s likely the camera operator or DP will be in charge of light.
Your trusty production assistant will be your best friend on long shoots. Basically, they are there to help everyone, carry the extra heavy gear and have broad knowledge of the production process. Having an extra pair of hands keeps the crew (and your project) moving on schedule.
Your video editor is the master video professional who will make sense out of all the files, graphics, stills and other stuff that goes into making your final video(s). They will do everything from assembling the rough to the final cuts, apply color effects or color corrections and anything in between. Great editors are skilled at telling visual stories or constructing a story from start to finish.
Animator / Motion Graphics Specialist
An animator often has editing skills, but their basket of skills usually includes graphic design, 2d and 3d design, compositing, color correction or coloring (altering the color of a video for corrective or aesthetic effect).
Talent usually refers to your professional actors/spokespeople or voice over artists, but you can consider anyone appearing in front of a camera.
Evaluating a Video Professional
Ask them. Your primary point of contact when hiring a video team is a producer and they should be able to talk to you about crew composition and what skill-sets they’re bringing to the table. Asking questions around their competencies will help you gauge what level of skill they have. Understanding what responsibilities each member of your crew has will help you have an idea as to which bases are covered.