Cheap, drive-thru video: what little monsters we’ve unleashed!

Being a veteran of the very late 20th century when companies paid an average of £30K / USD $37.5K for a basic “corporate video” and in return received a top-class, professional production, I can’t help but be gob-smacked by the way businesses are whining these days.

Cheap business video on HTWB

Cheap business video: panacea or pain in the *ss?

This of course is about their paying more than a few hundred pounds/dollars for a business video, because they believe – and it’s true, sort-of – that all you need is to shoot it on an IPhone, edit on a laptop, and shove it up on YouTube as well as on their websites. Done and dusted in an afternoon.

And if you want something more sophisticated, you can hire that guy from the next town who just bought himself a fancy new video camera and could put Quentin Tarantino to shame, now that he’s read the instruction booklet.

Is this really the ultimate panacea for getting SMEs into the movies? Or is it the quickest, most monstrous way for those SMEs to flush their professional credibility down the toilet?

Content? What content?

People producing their DIY videos seems to think that writing, design, visualisation etc. don’t play parts in the production of a good business or other promotional video.

After all, if you get people speaking on camera, why do you need a script … or even a skeleton script to make sure everyone is on cue …. but no. And they’re right.

People talking to camera from a script sucks, unless they are professional presenters.

However, it’s easy to use interview techniques, for example, to extract a good promotional message that comes across as natural and – of course – convincing.

There are lots more techniques used by professional scriptwriters, directors, producers, videographers and video editors to create a strong, powerful story that communicates the right message.

But where are they when all you use is a smartphone and a laptop?

New technology has a lot to answer for

I think one of the biggest problems businesses face – usually without realising it until it’s too late – is that there are many so-called video producers around who know how to point and squirt a camera and edit on a laptop, but don’t know know how to tell a story in motion pictures.

And it’s not just in business video.

Last summer I was chatting to an old friend who is a video editor at the BBC. He was spitting fur and feathers about the way young, keen news gatherers are handed shiny new kit, shown how to work it, smacked gently on the bum and told to go out and make news and feature items.

They then bring back a load of near-useless “footage” – no continuity / passing / wallpaper shots, no master shots with accompanying CUs, etc. etc. – and expect the editors to try to carve something useful out of it all.

Happy snapper to Spielberg overnight? I don’t think so.

Another very common issue is that many so-called video producers now have evolved from stills photography – which has diddly-squat to do with video production techniques and certainly does NOT qualify someone to do anything other than unload heavy kit from the back of a car and screw a tripod together (which are about as much as the two techniques have in common.)

For more articles on how to create good video for business and other purposes, click right here on HTWB.

That’s not to say that stills photographers can’t learn to be videographers: of course they can. But as my pal at BBC said, there’s a huge difference between learning how to use a video camera, and learning how to create a video. Yet so many former stills snappers only ever get halfway up the learning curve, and stop.

Cup-A-Soup videos now make even clients cringe

It is encouraging to note, though, here in the commercial world, that businesses are beginning to understand that the point-and-squirt cheap video of a few years ago really is a bit too cringe-making.

The rabbits-eyes-in-the-headlights talking head of the boss who forgot to take the coat hanger out of his jacket … the awkward, scripted interview … the sloppy, lengthy edits … are all becoming a bit of an embarrassment to the more savvy business owner. And more to the point, to the business owner’s customers.

Can an amateurish video look more sincere?

Someone raised a point in a radio panel show I was on recently, saying that an amateurish-looking video can make a company look more real, more touchy-feely than a slick, professional presentation.

Cheap business video on HTWB

A good business video does not need cute Shire horses or a trampolining Boxer dog to be effective.

I’m afraid I can’t agree: there is a big difference between a slickly-produced Christmas commercial and a creative but simple business video. A good business video does not need cute Shire horses or a trampolining Boxer dog to be effective; it just needs to do its job professionally.

And as for the amateurish look: that may be charmingly endearing for a young pop wannabee’s bedroom demo, but we’re talking grownups here.

Aha, but what about live video? Is that crap, too?

No, because it’s not the same as the pre-recorded species.

If you like to mooch around streaming a live video of yourself doing your grocery shopping, walking your dog, attending a meeting, jumping off a blindingly high cliff with a slender bungie rope attached to one of your toenails, no-one reasonably can expect top-quality production values.

This type of video footage is only compatible with marketing communications when it forms part of a video section that demonstrates something relevant in real time.

Don’t ignore the “reality TV” element of what live video can provide, because it’s good.

But, like chillies, mustard, ketchup and more, for business purposes look upon it as a condiment. Not the main course.

Do you think it’s time business video grew up?

Or do you think the point-and-squirt smartphone variety is still good enough? Please share your views!

This little rant of mine is based on a comment I wrote about a brilliant article by Milton Keynes, UK based video producer Andrew Tomlinson of Seekalook, published recently on LinkedIn.

If you want to know what’s needed to create a proper, professional video that truly reflects your business’s professionalism, click here right now and read Andrew’s advice