News From The Woods.07


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 17, 1997

"Video Production Notes"

I can always tell when Spring is near. The lake "turns over" and gets as muddy as the Mississippi; I hear more fishing boats than usual racing up and down the lake at ungodly hours of the morning; and "my" eagles disappear for another year, along with all my free time.

Yep, as soon as I see little buds appearing on all the trees I know I'm about to get busy. In my video business, winter has always been the studio's "down time". Nobody wants a video where you see no leaves on the trees, everything looks brown or colorless, and people are all bundled up in their overcoats. As they say in the biz: it's not a very "romantic sell".

So I sit here during the winter months and use the time to schedule audio recording sessions that I was too busy to accommodate during the peak summer months, and to "bone up" on that computer learning curve. I have more time to do tutorials and review new production techniques. I do studio maintenance, send off mics and gear to be repaired, and do my re-wire jobs. But around the end of February I start getting production calls, and by April 1st I'm usually booked up a month in advance.

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not complaining about the work, but it DOES get pretty hectic around here in starting in March and continuing well into the summer. By mid-summer I've pretty much played "catch up" with my client's needs and can handle the scheduling easier. But the biggest problem I am having is educating my clients to get wise concerning pre-production.

I always get calls from clients in December and January who want me to produce videos for them in time for spring. An example would be a boat manufacturer who wants a promotional video to play in their booth at all the boat and sports shows held during the spring. Well, that's just great except where am I going to get footage of their product in a sunny and bright setting where everyone shown in the video is having a great time on the lake water skiing, catching fish, and in general spending "quality time" on a family outing ? You get the idea. This is where pre-production comes in.

Whenever I meet new clients whose products and services are seasonal I have a heartfelt discussion with them concerning their future production needs. I always point out that if they are going to want to have a video ready to show in the spring we are going to have to utilize footage shot during the previous summer, otherwise their video is going to look pretty drab, while their competitor may have a more colorful looking video if they planned for it ahead of time.

Sometimes it's just not possible to get the footage shot ahead of time. A case in point would be a client that contacted us for the first time in January, during their slow months. It's not exactly a best-case scenario but I will usually try to "push them back" a year in their production plans and shoot all necessary footage during the coming summer months for use in production during the slow months of the next winter. Most clients don't care too much for this idea, but this really doesn't leave much room for discussion. You either have the footage in the can or you don't. It's no problem if the client's services or product is in an indoor situation or environment. "Store front" shots can be close ups and sometimes we don't even include a exterior location shot in the edit. We shoot videos for banks, restaurants, manufacturers and local industries all year 'round without a thought of what the weather conditions are. But if the client is a fishing guide service, golf pro shop, or jet ski dealership for instance it would look a little strange without any exteriors. Of course I can go to the studio's library of stock footage shot by us over the years and get some shots of relevant exterior footage, but again, if it's products and/or services catering to "fun in the sun" or whatever, all new footage will have to be provided.

I have had client's say "We don't have any choice, so go ahead and shoot what you need right now and we'll have to use it." And I do because it's what the customer ordered, but I don't have to like it and will always attempt to find a "work around" solution if I can. Sometimes a CG (computer generated) page will do the trick, or some nice product stills flown in and out will eat up some time, but ultimately I'll have to how, for example, that ski boat skimming down the lake in the dead of winter with the driver all suited up like an Eskimo. Yuck! It's a grim reminder that I need more planning with the customer for the next video.

Also, by educating my customers concerning pre-planned shooting, I can shift some of this busy spring production back into my slow winter times, making for an overall smoother and more balanced yearly production schedule. This will also do my bank balance a lot of good around February, when I'm usually getting downright edgy around payment time.

Naturally this plan has it's flaws. You can't do much about the first-time client who STILL needs a video in the springtime. But at least I can head him off for the next time. It's a slow process when you have such a shifting client base as we do. At least our "regular" customers are now wise and plan accordingly.

At least my musician clients can be more relaxed when it comes to schedules. I tend to arrange more recording sessions so that they accumulate to "mix time" somewhere within the dead of winter. Musicians and songwriters tend to be less busy in the winter months as well, so this lends itself well to my production time schedules.

And speaking of recording schedules we are about finished with the latest CD offering from "Whiplash Gumbo", with only a few overdubs to go before final mixing/mastering. I will post a final session report in these pages just before release of the CD. We also recently received the CD release of "Penetration" by BLOODSHOT I, containing 9 original songs recorded here at Cedar Crest and produced by yours truly. Film at 11...........

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