Mike Fromowitz
Mar 14, 2012

Anyone can make video films, right?

Anyone can paint, cook, design, write, sing, art direct, dance, run a marathon, right?I just came out of the Golden Phoenix where the meal cost a fortune, and the food was dreadful. And they ...

Anyone can make video films, right?

Anyone can paint, cook, design, write, sing, art direct, dance, run a marathon, right?

I just came out of the Golden Phoenix where the meal cost a fortune, and the food was dreadful. And they claimed to have gourmet food! It made me wonder about the chef’s credentials?

And it gave me an idea for this blog post.

With all the new digital gear on the market, just about anybody and everybody can make a video, especially now that the tech barriers and costs have come down? The once exclusive service offered by high end post houses or boutique facilities have been eroded away by video editing software, and just about anyone who believes they have what it takes to edit and post video films.

What’s the point in hiring professionals?

If this is truly the case, and consumers don’t care how good or bad the quality of the video or film appears, what’s the point in hiring highly trained professionals who do it for a living?

I jumped on YouTube and looked at a good number of random videos. I was hard pressed to upload a video with a shred of originality, a decent script, and production values that made it worth watching.

I was exhausted after viewing these random videos, even though some featured subjects that were of interest to me. It made me wonder: What must be happening to all the professional video directors and post-production houses if just about anybody can make a video film today without having years of experience and bonafide credentials? After all, doesn’t everybody have a small video camera; a camera built into their cell phone. Looks to me like the resolution on the Web doesn’t have to be that high.

Most videos are a commodity

All these poorly made, amateur videos have become a commodity, and many are a poor reflection of a video or film maker’s ability and of a company’s image.

Shooting a video film is not just a matter of shooting some footage. There’s a lot involved in the process. There should be a script, with a good concept. Talent that can act, and lighting that enhances the overall film are important. And most important of all – editing and post production. All these factors contribute to the final outcome of the video, even if it’s planned to appear only on the web.

What’s with all these “home-made”-looking productions? I must admit, I am getting tired of friends and colleagues sending me so many dreadfully produced amateur videos. The shocking thing is that many of these so called “video films for the web” are made for companies big and small.

It appears to me that a good number of companies are forgetting Rule #1: Your online video is all part of your image and your brand. That’s why using a professional, instead of a do-it- yourselfer, makes a whole lot of sense. The same holds true when you need a surgeon. You don’t go to some hack, do you?

Telltale signs of the real stinkers

The first telltale sign of a bad production is often the lighting—poorly lit, too many highlights and shadows. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. A well-produced video will do more for your company image than the cost involved. Retaining professionals to produce your video film is a return on your investment.

I think the relentless drive to shoot and post a video faster and cheaper has had the greatest impact on all production recently, but it's particularly felt in post where it all ends up. Technology has helped as clients demand more/better and faster/cheaper. But it's more than just having the right equipment. You have to have the right talent. Not everyone makes a good editor or colour corrector. It's an art, and the skills that are needed are not learned overnight.

To find out a little more on the subject, I called on Tony Morias, owner of Chateau Post, a post- production studio in Bangkok known for its work on Nescafe, Olay, P&G, ABN Amro, Lipton, Crest, and Tiger Beer. For the past forty years, Mr. Morias has been at the forefront of the post production industry initially having run one of Hong Kong’s top ‘finishing’ facilities, The Post Production Shop which supplied everything from editing to mixing.

Today, as the owner of Chateau Post, he provides film production and post production service to his overseas clients. Not only has Tony’s work won awards from around the world, but leading creative directors point to the fact that his technical prowess and editing skills could not be faulted.

The impossible becomes the norm

"I think the greatest change in our business has been the speed at which we're all expected to work,” said Mr. Morias. “We're always pulling off the impossible for our clients, and before we know it, it's become our new norm. Creativity takes a little thinking time, but these days, we're not often given the time we need. Being good has always been a prerequisite in this industry, but you have to be good and fast to survive these days.

“The overall level of sophistication and knowledge among our clients has played a role in this trend. Everyone, seems much better informed about the capabilities and possibilities of post production. Creatives are writing scripts and directors are creating treatments that incorporate the latest technological trends, and also the latest style trends. It's our job not just to keep up, but to have solutions already in place for their ideas.

When I asked Mr. Morias about the future for post-production houses, he told me: “Looking ahead, the picture for most post-production companies seems optimistic. Relentless change has a habit of creating more talented people. For me, and Chateau Post, every day still feels like we are a brand new company. It’s great to see our people leaving their mark on the work they do while helping clients achieve their goals.

The trend is collaboration

For the post industry as a whole, Mr. Morias thinks we will see more companies partnering and collaborating as well as offering services they wouldn't have dared just a few years ago. “Trends in our business”, he told me, “are arising quicker and disappearing faster. Only a few years ago we didn't have YouTube, Facebook, Google or Vimeo. Now that's our daily diet."

There are videos produced for fun and others produced for commercial purposes, like advertisements, movies and music videos. It's practically the norm now for post houses to deliver for TV as well as for web and interactive.

All the technology advances in video equipment and in production has given rise to many new film makers and has made it possible for many more people to jump into this field and become overnight directors. A few have become overnight sensations.

Note, I said “a few”.

The good, the bad and the awful

What separates most good videos from bad, is what happens at the post production stage. I suppose, it also separates the good directors from the bad ones. More often than not, many young directors spend years thinking about their video films, the ones that they hope will put them on the map and make their careers. Unfortunately, considerably less time—if any—is given to the grueling hours they’ll spend in pricey editing suites, with equally pricey equipment, putting the video together

All told, post-production for most ad industry videos cost between 10 and 20 percent of their budgets—and that’s if they’ve managed to do everything right the first time. For many, those costs spiral upward because of poor pre-planning, leading to time and money wasted in the post-production process.

Post production without breaking the bank

Here are a few tips that can help you make it through post-production without breaking the bank.

1. Think it All the Way Through

Sure it’s obvious. But the most common complaint post-production supervisors still have about video film makers is that they just don’t plan ahead. They just don’t do it. Before you start shooting, know what your film should look like.

2. Cut a Deal

As in the production process, a post house may make deals with a video maker who is willing to experiment—either with a new facility or a staffer who wants to move up the ladder.

Keep in mind that everything’s negotiable. If you’re lucky, you may even find a post house that loves your project enough to give you a discount just to work with you. If you are doing something from the heart, people want to be a part of it.

3. You Needn’t Use Every Technical Innovation

Just because your post house has invested in a new digital equipment doesn’t mean you’ll need it for your video. In post production, there are so many new and different machines out there that people think they’ve got to have it. The best post production houses will tell you that they can do the same thing with a smaller, much cheaper system. At the end of the day, it’s really not about the technology, it’s about the experience and the creativity of the people who use the equipment.

4. Don’t Plan To “Fix It In Post.”

If anything gives a post production supervisor the hives, it’s “We’ll fix it in post”. Without a doubt, it makes sense to get it done right on the set, especially if you are on a limited budget— and who isn’t these days? You have to realise that there are limits to what you can technologically achieve in post-production. Doing it right in front of the camera the first time may seem expensive, but may turn out to be the least expensive way to go. Still, a good professional cinematographer will know when a post fix will help and when it will not.

5. Find yourself a great Post-Production House

Here’s a few that won’t let you down:

CHATEAU POST (Bangkok)

58 Soi Inthamara 39 Yaek

2 Sutthisan Winitchai

Din Daeng, Bangkok, 10400 Thailand

Tel: +662.691.8551-3

FLY FILMS (Shanghai)

888 Changle Road 7C,

Shanghai 200040 PRC

Tel: +86.21.6248.4644

INFINITE STUDIOS (Singapore)

28 Bukit Pasoh Road

Singapore 089842

Tel: +65.6222.7888

DIGIT DIGIT / TOUCHES (Hong Kong)

1/F & 2/F Catic Plaza

8 Causeway Rd

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Tel: +852.2882.4939 / 852.2895.5399

BLACK MAGIC DESIGN (Singapore)

26 China Street

Far East Square #02-02

Singapore 049568

T: +65.6338.2696

PIXELPOST Sdn Bhd (Malaysia)

D-5-01 Block D2,

Jalan PJU 8/2 Ritze Perdana,

Damansara Perdana, 47820,

Petaling Jaya, Selangor D.E., Malaysia

Tel: +603.7725.7328/29

MIKE FROMOWITZ

OCTANE

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