In a nutshell
- You should have the equipment you need to complete the job
- It’s best to invest in your business and get long-lasting gear
The kingdom of video production has many realms. Hollywood films with A-list celebrities are the first and most elite and difficult to reach. Next comes broadcast production. And then – drum roll please – corporate video production, the bread and butter for so many of us small companies and entrepreneurs.
Speaking as the author of this article, I’ve been the Vice President at San Diego’s longest-serving video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions, for 40 years, serving both corporate and broadcast clients. So let me tell you how we got to where we are today. Our path to high-end corporate and event video production can be a helpful map for all you aspiring videographers now.
Let’s get into it.
What is corporate video production?
In the 40 years I’ve been involved in corporate video production, I’ve witnessed breathtaking innovations in gear, types of production and the configuration of various teams to bring a company’s vision to fruition. In the beginning, companies wanted to show the world who they were and what they could do for clients. These identity videos ranged from 10 to 20 minutes. Today, you’ll find a company requesting 10 to 20 one-minute videos to advertise their products or services on social media or present training segments to their employees. Some are even requesting 20 to 40 half-minute videos.
In the 1980s and 1990s, people were willing to sit down and watch a long video. There had never been anything like that before and content was rare. Now, there’s so much content out there that the competition for a viewer’s attention is fierce and unrelenting. To break through takes creativity, expertise and diligence.
Standard operating procedure for a corporate video production today revolves around one or more interviews of a CEO, scientist, doctor, educator, sports figure or spokesperson. The videographer also gathers B-roll to support whatever the on-camera person is talking about. Graphics, music and SFX are elements added in post-production.
Having the right gear
Events, conferences and seminars call for a corporate video production videographer who ideally is the owner/operator of necessary camera gear. This gear includes a broadcast-quality camera with XLR inputs for good sound, a long “zoom” lens for distant shots, a “studio kit” with rear zoom and focus controls, as well as other items that the property may not be able to provide. You, the videographer, need to be ready for all potential problems. This is, after all, a trouble-shooting industry first and foremost. Your goal is to make the client look and sound great. For example, if the house audio mixer line out to an XLR cable(s) has a terrible buzz, you can save the day with a ground lifter and always, as backup, bring your own lav or handheld mic system.
If there is a black stage drape as a background and the main speaker is wearing a black jacket, and if there is no backlight or main stage lighting so he looks like a floating head, you can save the day with a 1K spotlight and stand with a sand/shot bag for safety that you brought. If you are supposed to be stationed at the back of a room, and you know that the hotel won’t provide a riser, bring your own (3’ x 3’ x 24” high) or rent a ”Spider Pod” to avoid a sea of heads in your shot.
Your corporate camera package should include but not be limited to a broadcast-quality camera, sound mixer, boom pole, lavalier mics (both wired and wireless, if you can), proper three-point lighting kit for professional interviews, C-stands, light stands and necessary cables. Additional gear that makes your life easier:
- An Easyrig takes the weight off your back and puts it on your hips, and you can make nice stable moves with it
- A good fluid-head tripod
- A DSLR camera for photographs
- A gimbal to stabilize your DSLR or smaller camera rig
- A trolley to move your gear around at a location
- A set of colored gels
My partner, Mark, recently acquired a drone which he now takes out on corporate shoots to grab beautiful establishing shots of buildings, both outside and inside (if spacious enough and no people are present). He also sometimes brings a step stool to capture higher angles.
My advice: Invest in yourself. Buy the best gear you can from the get-go. Our Sachtler fluid-head tripod, Magliner and Easyrig have all been “good and faithful soldiers” for 30 years now. If you decide to buy cheap, you’ll be replacing your gear more often and spending more for it in the long run, and many clients know the difference.
How San Diego’s longest-serving corporate video company achieved success
In the early 1980s, we were among the first in our city willing to invest in ourselves and our future by purchasing insanely expensive “broadcast quality” video gear for corporate video production. Video production was in its infancy. Because gear was so pricey, the competition was almost non-existent. We started out recording weddings, birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, using a little-known technique these days: in-camera editing. We soon realized that all of our weekends were tied up. Our game of predicting how long a marriage would last based on the cake smash in the face was getting old. It was time to move on.
Remember, this was a period of learning on the job. It was also a time when we had to make hundreds of cold calls to companies in the yellow pages, an annual tome that contained every business in the city. We “let our fingers do the walking,” and it’s a good thing my partner and company president could, as his mother once quipped, “Sell ice cubes to Eskimos.” It was our job to persuade company principals that video would be good for their ROI.
Non-profit organizations were the lowest fruits on the branch back then. Because we believed in the work they were doing, we offered substantial discounts. Peering back now, it allowed us to get our foot in the door and build our demo reel. We produced public service announcements (PSAs) for small non-profits. Believe it or not, “Get Smart About Toxics,” a 15-minute video we produced for the Environmental Health Coalition, still holds up.
With our reel of PSAs, we were now ready to reach for the higher-hanging fruit: corporations. More cold calls ensued. The seemingly impenetrable door to the corporate realm began to creak open. Our first big corporate shoot was for a law firm called Latham & Watkins. They wanted a training video for their staff that explained computer processes in relation to their cases.
Since then, we have produced hundreds of corporate videos.
What will you do?
Now that you’ve seen what it takes to create a stellar corporate video production, what do you want to do? There are divergent pathways into the corporate video realm. You can be an entrepreneur and run your own company, assembling and directing teams as needed. You can learn different aspects of corporate video production as a freelancer and be ready to go wearing different hats: camera operator, audio mixer, boom pole operator, teleprompter operator, grip, etc. The more you know, the more gigs you can get.
Or, you may want to be part of a team as an in-house corporate videographer. This last option is “safe” in that you are guaranteed a salary. But your scope will be more limited to the kind of work generated by that company. Another option is to be on-call with various crewing agencies (i.e., Crews Control) that are strung across the country. If you don’t mind doling out a piece of your pie – 15 percent is the norm – then this could be an attractive option, at least when you are starting out, and can show that you do great work.
So now that you have your treasure map in hand, a proper camera package with sound and lighting and a demo reel of your work on your website, it’s your move. Go ahead and climb up that ladder. The view is spectacular.