From the 1980 beginning of my legacy production business, Florida Film & Tape, we’ve always fought the budget/quality/value battle with agencies and clients, and frankly, among ourselves. It seems like a no-brainer to simply take the position that we’ll only do the best quality, all the time. But there are a lot of factors that go into that. Just take cameras, for example. In the not-so-distant past, there were three choices: 35mm film, 16mm film, or video, in a generally descending order of quality and price. Now that 95% of the work is acquired digitally, there are camera choices ranging from (literally!) i-phone to Arri Alexa without at least 3 dozen viable choices in between, all with different features and benefits and at prices ranging from a grand to a hundred grand.
Being a creative pragmatist, I look first at the final goal to define the needs of the mission. Simply put, that’s defined by who are you trying to reach, under what circumstances, and with what medium? Secondly, I look at the logistics (am I shooting on a sound stage or a remote mountain airstrip in Idaho), which will be a major influence on the budget and, finally, I consider the budget, which is either dictated by the first and second considerations, or dictated. Not so easy, huh?
To help define the issue, let’s say I’m doing a Coca-Cola commercial to air on the Super Bowl in Hi Def or 4k (never mind that I’ve never done a Coca-Cola commercial for the Super Bowl). I’m gonna insist we shoot at least 4K video or 35mm film with a crew of 20 and the budget will be in the million dollar neighborhood. On the other hand, if I’m doing a testimonial for a cooking product that’s destined to show only on the internet, the project’s going to end up on some form of inexpensive digital medium with a crew of 4! Does that mean it sucks? Not necessarily, though the majority of the stinkers are shot cheap for the internet! It just means that the goal of the mission dictates everything else about the mission.
These factors are not just prevalent in the digital production process; these decisions need to be made every day, at every crossroad of the process of serving the client the best product and service for their particular need. I learned a lesson some 40 years ago when I tried to “class up” some cheap retail commercials we were producing for an appliance store. When I showed up with a real grip truck and starting unloading lights, dolly, etc., I was quickly taught that this particular chain of stores was the cheapest option for buying appliances, and anything other than a cheap TV commercial was counter to that message. I put my stuff back in the truck and my video guy continued with his 1 camera ¾” video shoot and they sold a truckload of appliances and happily paid my modest bill.
So define the mission, and refine the approach. And if you shoot the video on your i-phone, please turn the camera on it’s side!