How to choose a video production company – Tips you won’t usually hear

In continuing the spirit of honesty in these blogs the following is intended as a guide to choosing a video production company. As with a lot of industries video (and media production in the wider context) can be confusing from the outside but underneath the tech and the jargon there are some common sense things to look for. Unfortunately these kinds of blogs are prone to actually being ‘why you should choose us’ rather than a balanced guide. Hopefully I will avoid that, although obviously I will need to refer to our services as we go along. I have also included some suggested questions.

  1. Do they take any business that comes? This is a puzzling thing to me. Some video production companies (and indeed other businesses) will simply take the business regardless of the customer. Surely they must have a target customer? Ask the question – Who do you prefer to deal with?
  2. Do they have the experience and training? This would seem to be a no-brainer because surely they will have this and usually they do. In reality it isn’t always easy to decipher this in relation to your own needs. Working in broadcasting covers a multitude of jobs and it could mean that they have only ever really worked in one area. As far as training goes there is a tendency for experience to be pushed as a selling point. Check this isn’t because they lack formal training in the area. What you really want is a mixture of both. Ask the question – Where did you train?
  3. Do they know your area of need? Following from experience and training comes the question of what that actually means. For example I trained with a major broadcaster for 5 years could mean “I was actually a minor production assistant on a rural BBC radio station” or I have been in media production for 5 years could mean “I volunteered as a hospital radio DJ a lot” Award winning is another potentially misleading statement. Check what the award was for – some of them are easy to get and it may not be in your area of need anyway. The question to ask – Where do you specialise?
  4. In house or freelance? Practically all media production companies use freelancers. If they say they don’t one of two things is happening either they have a big staff (sometimes the case) or they are referring to a casual freelancer as ‘in house’ because they regularly use them (more often the case) There is nothing wrong with this but it is obviously cheaper to produce using your own in house staff. Ask the question – How many permanent staff do you have and what do they do?
  5. Collaborative or pushing a house style? This is really important. The video, podcast or whatever you are having made is yours. Not the production crews – yours. The production house should be listening to you and working with you to create what you want. They should also be being honest if what you want will not work or may not be practical. This is as much about you as it is the production company. If you want to be involved with the video then you need to find a company that will spend the time with you. If you are happy to just get a finished product then just go with the house style. The question here is – How much can I be involved with the production and how many reviews can I have? (and don’t accept the answer as much as you like. For example we usually draw the line at the editing process. The editor needs to concentrate not be distracted explaining the process, sorry.)
  6. What is the website like? Has it been properly optimised for Google for example? If the company you are considering does not show up in a search within the first 3 or 4 pages it could mean that, no matter how fancy the site, they are not getting the visitors or it hasn’t had new content because the company isn’t looking after it. Worse still do they have a site which is basically devoted to slagging off the competition? This kind of bitter response could mean that they are losing business to competitors and this is not usually by accident. For us if you need to be devoting time to whining about how bad your competitors are you probably not projecting the best image to your customers. Still with the website, read the language use. Don’t worry about people saying they are the great or awesome or creative, everyone should be confident in their business but watch for flowery, over done language. You should be able to understand the company and who they are without reaching for a thesaurus.
  7. Look at the products. This is the real test. Don’t worry about the technology used or all the other paraphernalia of production we like to put up, look at the video and listen to the audio. Do you like what you see? Does every product look or sound the same or do the styles vary to suit the production? This will tell you if the production company has taken the time to really understand their clients.

Now, finally, all the above is really secondary to one thing.

Do you like the people who ‘are’ the company and their ethos. At 13 Media Arts we are a H2H company because we operate a human-to-human policy. Not all companies are like this and you may prefer a more corporate approach. Take the time to meet the people you are working with. We think you will instinctively know the right people. As long as the rest backs that feeling up then your instinct is probably right.

Most of our competitors are good producers who are more than capable of producing good products and will do a good job for you – the choice of which one is down to you. We hope you choose us but, as this article is hopefully demonstrating, if we are not right we would be happy to point you towards someone who is.

I am the creative director at 13 media where I am primarily responsible for the day to day production of our video and other products. Blogger, average musician, lover of television science fiction and wearer of baseball boots.