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The top 8 types of video production company: An in-depth review

Make your own video for pennies? Hire a top agency team for thousands? 2020 is a buyer’s market and video suppliers offer opportunity & choice for every level of budget. 

Video suppliers fall roughly into 8 types, so we’ll evaluate these eight supplier routes to business video, comparing their outcomes, merits and disadvantages.

The journey starts with DIY in-house and ends with high-end corporate agencies, with all shades in between. Ready to compare? Here goes.

1: DIY video

Top of the DIY video tree are Toonly for animated video and Lumen5 for stock footage style video. There are others as well, each with their own relevance, such as whiteboard video style.

These are all cloud-based online video production systems.

DIY video has become the new Powerpoint for both individual marketers and internal training & comms departments.

Like Powerpoint, DIY video uses template styles which are instantly recognisable to audiences everywhere.

So if 5 years ago a Powerpoint would have done the job, then a DIY video will do it today.

The images you use are from their stock libraries, which may be vast, and regularly updated. But you need to consider that the good stuff is always well used and commonly seen by millions. 

Your message might be original, but your look & feel most likely won’t be, so you need to consider carefully how important this is to you.

The big advantage is very low cost, especially if you regularly need tons of video for social media, Facebook or vlogs.

The disadvantages are threefold:

1: It’ll take a lot more time than you think. And the more expert you become, the longer it can take as you seek to improve your video skills.

2: DIY videos look very samey, just like powerpoint. So if you don’t have a captive audience eager to learn, then you won’t make much more impression on them than a Powerpoint did five years ago.

3: No voiceover. If you need narration, you’ll have to buy it elsewhere, or use the person with the nice voice in the next office.

2: Using a DIY producer

There are lots of freelancers who’ll make your DIY video for you using cloud-based monthly subscription (SAAS) systems, as mentioned above.

Often they’ll be voiceover artists, who can supply professional voiceover for a low cost DIY video.

Supply them with a script and they’ll make you a video. Couldn’t be simpler.

And the better DIY producers will always have something special they bring to the project, and probably charge accordingly.

The advantage is low cost, as they’ll charge a lot less than a regular video production company, which is great for a tight social media budget, and similar short term campaigns, like a software update or technology upgrade.

They can do a more professional job of your cloud-produced video than you, while reducing your time requirement dramatically. For many this is worth it.

They can also customise the video more using their own editing equipment.

The disadvantage is that you won’t get any special insight or help, or originality.

Your video will still look samey, as you’re using the same artwork and animation as millions of others. Yet you’ll still expect your website teaser video to last 2-3 years? Maybe not.

3: Freelancers – low cost

A video services freelancer will be able to make your video, whether animated or filmed, depending on their specialisation and skillsets. 

They’ll probably be using Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, the international gold standard for quality video production.

As an example, you can expect an illustrator with design and animation skills to put together a good-looking video for you.

But they won’t add any business intelligence to the project. They won’t solve your problems. That comes from you, unless the freelancer has special knowledge or experience of your video topic, and a proven track record to support it. 

Look for 3rd party proof of any claims – client reviews & testimonials, actual videos – you don’t have to believe everything you’re told.

The advantage is still price.

An Upwork freelancer located in Kiev may well be able to produce a professional video for less than the cost of a specialist in the UK.

And they can customise it to your particular needs.

The disadvantage is that they tend to only do what you tell them. And they’ll expect the video script to be supplied as finished, done.

Additionally, you have to ask how accountable they are if something goes wrong. Will a remote worker reply to your complaints? Will they be around in 3 months when you need an update? They’re mostly accountable to reviews & reviewers, so check these carefully.

And if you’re a difficult client who wants to keep making lots of changes & improvements during the project they’ll expect to be paid more. 

This is key, as all clients are difficult when it comes to video. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is true.

In reality this is the New Truth of 2020. A constant stream of client changes is the new norm as increasingly creative clients keep thinking up more things to change or customise as the project progresses.

So keep a flexible budget in mind when working with a low cost freelancer.

4: Freelancers – high cost

The best freelancers often end up as outsourced labour, working for downtown producers, or marketing agencies who appreciate their great specialist talents & skills.

A high cost freelancer can make you a brilliant looking video, so long as your requirement falls within their skillsets, which you’ll need to check first.

The disadvantages are that they cost more, sometimes get overbooked, and are more difficult to find in the first place.

It’s the high end agencies, who take the trouble to find & keep them, who make the best use of high cost freelancers. 

5: Local video company

A local video company or producer will have a solid range of skillsets, from camera to design to editing and animation.

You need to know their skillsets, or how they outsource skillsets they don’t have in-house.

For example, a local video producer who also does weddings & events, as well as business video, will be good at filming & editing but may be weak on graphics, scripts or animation.

For example, a local web developer with design & copy skills may well have learned how to animate, and can offer animated video services, but is often more an operator rather than a talent.

The big advantage is they’re local, and at a local price, because their overheads are less. 

They can produce a good video for you if the fit is right.

They’re also accountable. You can see their face for real! 

The disadvantage is often lack of business insight, or lack of script writing ability, or other core skill you need. You need to be certain of what skillsets they offer before committing. Do they really understand your business, your customers, your competitors, your goals? Or maybe this isn’t necessary to you?

Being local can be good, but in these days of webcam, it’s becoming less & less of an advantage.

6: High volume production companies

“We’ve made 5,000 videos in the last few years” is how you can recognise a high volume video producer.

They have the process & method to output a lot of video, mostly animated video (which doesn’t require travel, only webcam)

These production efficiencies are passed on to you as cost reductions. You’ll also be given a dedicated account manager or director.

They’ll have a scale of charges depending on the type of video you want, the length of your video, and the level of skills you’ll need to produce your video.

You’ll be offered a few samples and invited to choose the style you like for your video. This is how high volume production mostly works. The business model is often based on a local sales office and, say, a large Indian or Asian video production studio.

The advantage is you can have a professional production, to a proven method, which will cost you less than the equivalent elsewhere.

If your needs fit in with what you’re specifically being offered, then you may have the bargain you’re looking for.

The disadvantage is, you’re dealing with a large organisation that’s possibly expanding fast, possibly with a high staff churn.

Growing at a fast pace means they may lack internal quality, production or training standards.

The outcome of this is lack of creativity. 

Creativity always suffers first.

It’s not that they’re not creative. But are their best creative people working on other projects, not yours? Or they’ve moved on? Or maybe they recycle their clip art too much?

How do you know your project isn’t assigned to an office junior or an already overstretched employee? You may well have no direct contact with the production people, only your account manager/director.

To get the best from a high volume producer, it’ll pay you to fit in with what they offer, and not stray from this, or you might end up in trouble (at one extreme) or at least with a very middling result. 

You need to follow their rules, and look closely at your contract to be sure of what you’ll get.

7: Your marketing agency

Your marketing agency are already your trusted colleagues, have all your artwork, and will know your company, customers, competitors and goals inside out.

Many marketing agencies produce great videos. In-house they’ll have great copywriting and graphic skills, and be able to outsource the rest on your behalf from their pool of proven talent.

The advantage is they’ll produce an effective video that’ll work for your marketplace, giving you the results you need to reach your targets. They’ll be accountable for this.

The disadvantage, compared to other video suppliers, will always be higher cost. But this can be acceptable for a proven result.

8: High end video agency

When creativity matters, the high end corporate video agency is where you shop because you’re buying creativity to make you stand out, to raise brand awareness and engagement levels.

Like marketing agencies, downtown video agencies can do a brilliant job because they can attract the talent to deliver brilliant, original work for you.

The advantages: They’ll offer everything you need, and be able to prove it many times over. Business insight will be part of the package.

They’ll offer you concepts, sketches and storyboards, with discussion at every production point, ensuring everything is on track, and consistently delights you.

You’ll be able to collaborate closely with the people doing the actual work, and build a relationship over the project.

All these changes and contributions will be allowed for in their initial proposals, so costs should be reliable.

The disadvantage is high cost.

Low-end video buyers often ridicule downtown agency high costs, but this can be a mistake, as costs are easily recouped from a successful video.

The cost v effectiveness issue

It’s obvious that cheaper video production routes are chosen because they’re … well … cheaper. Money matters to us all.

Broadly, the cheaper the video, the less effective it’s prone to be. But not always.

The result of lower cost is usually middling quality work. But for short term use like social media and blogs it may be perfect, especially if you have something exciting to say.

A middling video will also work fine for a captive audience, so if you have an unbeatable proposition, then there are savings opportunities to be had here.

On the other hand if you have tons of fierce competitors then don’t expect your middling video to say anything more than me-too. You may end up as just another site with a video.

It’ll pay to research your preferred video supplier thoroughly.

Your goal is the right company with the right track record at the right cost.

The two key questions to ask are:

1: Can I afford what I want?

If the budget is tight, then double your research efforts to find that perfect video supplier at lower cost.

2: How much extra income will a brilliant but more expensive company bring me?

If you stand to make a great deal (millions?) from an effective video, then why cut corners and get less? An inability to spend when required can be short term thinking.

One last personal thought: I once knew a company that spent a whopping £120,000 on their video, which I thought it was a duffer, ie, beautiful, but ineffective & unfocused in its goals. While one of the cheapest budget TV adverts I ever saw made an incredible fortune for its company!

Summary

The broad summary is the more you pay, the more attention you’ll get. You’re buying time after all.

A low cost supplier can be perfect for you if you’re confident, have a clear plan, know exactly what you’re doing, have some video experience, and adopt a flexible approach to your visual solution.

A higher cost supplier team is needed if you have a unique idea, or tough competitors, or a compelling need for the video to work without compromise, or if your video must generate a lot of trust, or your goals are big.

A larger video budget buys you more time, knowledge and the skillsets needed for a surefire winner.

Author Kevin Rossiter has been producing business video for 30 years, won 14 awards, worked in many countries around the World, and is a regular blogger on business video topics.

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