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How to manage analog expectations in a digital world

12.5.16

Frances Peterson, Production Coordinator at Abernethy Media Professionals, connects clients with just the right crews to create a final product that’s the perfect mix of what they want and need. In this blog Frances shares how she’s learned to manage client expectations in the ever-changing video production industry.

 

I’ve been the production coordinator for camera crews at AMP for over 10 years. I’ve seen our business evolve through Betacam to Red Dragon, through SD to HD to 4K, and from handing over a videotape at the end of a shoot to uploading editable files via FTP. With every advance comes the inevitable managing of a client’s expectations for their next project.

When I work with clients, a fair bit of my conversation is about managing expectations. While it’s always a good idea to go into a conversation knowing what you want and need as far as your crew, equipment, shoot, etc.; it’s my job to make sure your wants and needs will get you the right end result. Oftentimes that means moving away from a client’s tried-and-true methods, or perhaps working with a bigger crew or different equipment. It all boils down to having an honest conversation to manage expectations and deliver on the promise of the right crew and gear for your production.

 

But we’ve always done it like this!

The more things change, the tighter some hold on to the same way of doing things. The switch from SD to HD was brutal! I had to convince one client that no, I really couldn’t get that particular type of video tape any more and to please just try this new fangled solid state media. But little by little, the most stubborn hold out could see the difference in quality and appreciate the improved ease of moving footage into an edit system. That was my most convincing argument for digital cameras—while you may pay a little more on the front end for a higher quality camera, you save when the project goes to post. It’s the same conversation when I put together something that somehow doesn’t exactly meet the client’s norm. My job is to help them out and show them exactly why the status quo may not be the best for the outcome of their shoot!

 

Curse of the camera du jour

When the DSLRs with their 35mm imager came on the scene, everyone wanted the Canon 5D for that sharp foreground, out-of-focus background in HD. While the 5D was a great camera, the early models could only record for 12 minutes at a time and audio had to be recorded outside the camera a la film. Picture and sound had to be married in post and not everyone was set up to do that. That led to big surprises for many clients and lots and lots of managing expectations for me. Luckily today many cameras can create that look more efficiently and are available in a wider price range. Now I spend more time talking someone down off a RED for a corporate green screen interview. Even with different gear, it’s the same conversation. The most expensive equipment might not be the smart choice for your shoot, and it’s my job to know when that’s the case and to let you know what to use instead.

 

Building the right crew for a successful shoot

Speaking of the RED camera, some cameras simply necessitate more gear and more professionals to run that gear. External digital recorders for video and audio don’t monitor themselves! You will never regret adding more crew members to a shoot.

A one-man band can shoot b-roll all day long and transfer media at the end of the day. However, he can’t take the place of two other crew members. It’s just not feasible to expect a single cameraman to set up for a day of back-to-back interviews, be able to guarantee the quality of an audio feed run straight to camera, and have time to stop to transfer files to clear cards without ever holding the roll.

No one notices the audio unless it’s bad. If good audio is a vital component of your project, book an audio op with a field mixer and mics and the know-how to use them. On shoots with day-long rolls or two or more cameras running, it’s important to have a digital media manager transferring footage carefully from cards that will be wiped to use again. Because when the cards are wiped, the files are GONE. The digital recording world makes the protection of your footage and audio imperative. Always have two copies; always hold an archive. What might look like a bigger front end cost actually is a risk mitigator that ultimately leads to shelling out less money if something goes awry.

Managing your expectations doesn’t mean lowering expectations. It means offering my expertise on using a client’s resources wisely and appropriately to make sure the product delivered is the product requested. Because really—aren’t we’re all only as good as our last shoot?

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