Educating the client…

I’m back in the real world and finishing up my first gig – a series of short video’s for the clients website – and I wanted to go over the steps to producing a simple video for a client unfamiliar with the process.

First, of course, is initial contact – checking each other out online and the client’s first concept of what they want. Today that often includes links to video they like and a rough idea of their budget.

Now their education begins. I’ve worked with folks who had a grip on what video production involves and those who knew very little. This client initially tried, with the help of a friend, to produce their own videos. Fortunately for them they realized that it is much more complex than they imagined and went looking for help.

Ideally I would be able to meet with the client personally to discuss their needs and expectations. Since this was video of the client speaking in front of the camera, this step is very important. I needed to be able to assess their personality, which in turn determines my shooting and editing style. That didn’t happen, but I’m a quick study and my client was equally a quick learner and very accommodating. As we worked, we adjusted to each other’s style.

I learned that the client was quiet but firm. S/he very much believed in what s/he was presenting. Three scripts were ready to roll – so we taped those in order. I’d suggested a couple of changes of clothes so that it wouldn’t appear that everything was taped on the same day…and we changed locations in the building to also give variety to the setting.

As we worked, I got to know the client more as a person. A person very comfortable at public speaking, it became clear that the video camera and mikes and lights had once again became a barrier. Mostly of perception. This is not uncommon…many people become nervous when confronted by a camera and the job of a video producer is to educate them and make them comfortable in front of the lens.

So that was part two…getting to know the client…but at the same time I had to explain what I was doing and why. Why should the mike be invisible. Why are lights placed where they are. Why did I ask them to turn their body slightly. What at times did we break the script into sections and why did I keep changing the location of the camera/tripod. Fear of the unknown – and by explaining, I was making my client understand what I was doing and at the same time making them more comfortable in front of the camera.

Oh – and I did play back the first video for the client. Once a client sees how good they look on tape, they become more confident.

Once the shooting is done (took a couple of hours), I take it home to begin the final process – editing. Below is part of the letter I send to the client with their initial version of the videos:

I didn’t get the opportunity to explain my work process to you – generally I try to have time to get to know the client before shooting. However I think our shoot went smoothly on Sunday. Next I capture the video to the computer and edit it, adding titles and other effects. You then get a “rough cut” to review and make a list of suggested changes. I do a final edit, which you approve. One you give final approval, I create the media in the format you request and I bill you.

Right now I’m rendering and exporting to Quicktimes, which I will create a DVD with and then mail to the client (who lives and works about an hour away). I was unhappy with the fourth video – the client’s energy level was low. Another part of production most don’t understand is the amount of energy used in presenting in front of a camera…being up and focused…turned on. That plus repeated takes to get it just right. This was not the client’s fault or mine…it just was.

I’ve offered to meet up again and redo that segment – hopefully the client will accept. I want this project to not only make the client happy – but also me. It must meet MY standards.

Now if you’re in this to make a living (this is part time with me and I’m very selective about who I will work with) you may want to ask for 25% up front for costs…kind of a down payment. You should also consider limiting the number of times you will correct or change the video (I put in one opportunity).

I did this with my students at school by the way. Advanced students were my personal production company. If the music department or special ed teachers asked for a video, I would have them meet with a team of students who would question them about their requirements, while at the same time educating them about the process. The result was a staff who learned how difficult video production could be…and students who were very confident when they knew had to work with clients.

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