Production Company of the Future: part one

As a storytelling medium video is pretty unbeatable. It can be emotive, humourous or informative or any combination of the above.

The format varies hugely — from seven-second pre-roll to 30-second TVC, web series or feature film.

And as a format, when it comes to video, you can do a little with a lot. Viral videos, high profile advertising campaigns and guerilla marketing content made using consumer-grade shooting methods are showing that, as ever, it’s the good idea that’s the thing, not necessarily the tools of the trade.

But how is the changing landscape affecting those do make such content for a crust? iPhone ubiquity has increased the volume of content out there; has it lowered the perceived value of it too? 

“The way people are consuming media has definitely changed,” says Sam Stuchbury, founder of creative agency Motion Sickness.

“There are so many platforms now — social media, YouTube, streaming services — it’s all opened up more room for distribution of video and people are really hungry for it.”

“But it has become so saturated that you actually have to work harder to capture people’s attention — that’s becoming the hardest part, making people actually want to watch your video in the first place.”

“But video can communicate information, or a feeling or a brand in ways that many other mediums just can’t. It’s the classic ‘if a picture is worth 1000 words, then a video is worth a million’.”

The stats back Stuchbury up here: 100 million hours of video watched every day on Facebook. 10 billion Snapchat videos watched per day. 80 percent of all global internet traffic? Video. 

And it’s a format made for commerce.

“Visual content has become a go-to for marketers to engage consumers,” says Glen Real, executive producer at animation and production outfit Yukfoo.

“It can explain a business’s offering, communicate a brand or be used to help people  conceptualise nuanced ideas easily and without pages and pages of written text.”

“For us, the rise of visual content has seen us draw on all our skills as creators, and this, coupled with advances in technology has meant that we can do these things more easily than ever before.”

Marketers are beginning to understand both that opportunity and the challenge that goes along with it. According to Hubspot, 88 percent of marketers using video are preparing to increase their spend over the next twelve months. 90 percent of professional marketers say they feel that the level of “competition and noise” for video has increased over the past year.

“The standard brief has changed,” says Kate Roydhouse, managing director and executive producer with production company Curious Film.

“In truth, there is no ‘standard brief’ anymore.”

“Globally speaking the market has been going through big, tough changes over the last few years,” says Roydhouse.

“Yes, ‘streamline’ is definitely a buzzword at the moment, but this is not specific to production companies,” says Roydhouse. “Clients and agencies are needing to do the same. It’s just part of the industry change we’re going through.”

Always on, video is changing the ‘how’ and ‘when’ we consume content. Viewers have screens big and small vying for their attention 24/7, and different platforms allow for entirely different types of storytelling and engagement, so for producers, it’s rapidly becoming about getting as much as possible out of each and every shoot.

“Not every brand needs a 30’ TVC, not every brand needs a 16:9 spot, not every shoot needs the same type of crew. We are — and everyone else needs to be — agile, nimble, and constantly adapting.”

“The biggest change is the approach — every job is completely different and needs a completely different, out-of-the-box solution.”

“So bespoke solutions are the way of the future,” explains Roydhouse.

It’s disruption baby, and all that flux is creating a moment of unique pressure in the industry as creatives, producers and clients alike rush to embrace the possibilities of the format du jour.

With smartphones like these, who needs movie cameras?

But let’s address the elephant in the room.

Recent years have seen mainstream directors adopting consumer-grade technology in increasingly creative and sophisticated ways, many times resulting in mainstream(ish) releases: there’s Steven Soderberg’s Unsane, shot entirely on iPhone; Tangerine, similarly shot on iPhone 5Ss, and even the Oscar-winning Searching for Sugar Man, shot using an iPhone app called ‘8mm Vintage Camera’ after director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of film for his real 8mm camera. 

And if they can do it, so can the next guy, right? One of the advantages of walking around with a computer in your pocket is the ability to shoot, edit and distribute video instantly and easily. With both the means of production and distribution thoroughly liberated, what happens to the market propositions of those who produce and distribute video at a commercial level?

First up is a renewed focus on production values.

“Today we now find the internet awash with poorly shot junk and sadly companies have fallen into the trap of posting these substandard videos without a thought as to the risk to their brands and ultimately their bottom lines, as customers now associate them with the same ‘poor quality’,” says Patrick McAteer of Nimble fame and executive producer at We Are The Brave. 

“The processes and formulas used by production specialists provide that much-needed balance of transforming an ‘idea’ into engaging, entertaining content. So much is in bringing that idea to life through storytelling…and there are no shortcuts.”

“We see this all the time, where everyone either thinks they can shoot themselves or has have a friend who can supposedly shoot. The result tends to be work that is disappointing, underwhelming or has missed the mark completely.”

Remember, says McAteer: “Even though we’re overloaded with content, it’s still mainly the good stuff that cuts through.”

“In today’s environment, where we are inundated with online content, the quality that is being shared in the greatest volume is predominately the of high-quality work.”

“And this standard has now been set, interestingly, by the consumers themselves.”

And as the tech gets better and cheaper, expect to find increasingly professional content produced via guerilla methods. 

“It’s all down to who’s looking through the lens, says Steve Finnigan, head of sound and managing partner at media production company Images & Sound. “There are some excellent examples of great work that has been shot on an iPhone”.

“Drone cameras for example, are becoming the norm now and they are giving directors really cost-effective options for something that was once only possible on a helicopter.”

“If you look at the likes of YouTube and Facebook there is certainly a propensity to show lower quality ‘home video’ type content, and that not only comes from the culture surrounding those outlets but also the screen size.”

“There’s also a generational factor at play here,” says Aimee McCammon, managing director at Augusto.

“Younger audiences have grown up with a very different relationship to video than their parents did and as a result, a lot of marketing and communication is becoming more casual in its presentation.”

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