I’m happy to report that the era of do-it-yourself video production seems to be drawing to a close. I’m not talking about teenagers making experimental films with their friends. Rather, I’m talking about businesses, organizations, and individuals trying to save time and money by choosing the DIY option over professional video production.
Beginning around 2005 we began seeing conditions that led to a DIY video “perfect storm.” First, affordable hardware and software, capable of high quality editing, appeared in the marketplace. Second, millions of people became accustomed to the convenience of shooting video on their cell phones. Third, the economic downturn of 2008 brought drastic budget cuts, particularly in such “discretionary” areas as advertising, training, publicity, and promotion. And fourth, there grew a cultish faith within the business community that the clever application of technology was the solution to most every problem.
Clearly, many of these factors remain extant. What then was ultimately responsible for the failure of DIY video? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these videos failed to effectively communicate their intended messages, and in some cases, they were actually counterproductive.
You cannot give a highly creative individual the right tools, a little training, and a hearty slap of encouragement and expect them to make a successful video. It’s here that I’d like to draw a distinction between the “creative individual” and the “creative professional.” Creativity, in itself, is never enough to craft a video that communicates effectively. That takes years of study, practice, and critical thinking. Every creative professional started out as a creative individual, and then made the conscious choice to study the language of film & video, master its techniques, and commit to a lifetime of learning.
I love this quote from the great theoretical physicist Niels Bohr, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” A broad grin spreads over my face when I think back over the many mistakes I’ve made during my long career. Fortunately, most of my really disastrous errors occurred while I was in school and during my apprenticeship thereafter. Needless to say, most DIYers fall short because they are simply not prepared.
There’s another reason that DIY videos are unsuccessful. Whether it’s fair or unfair, the standard against which all videos are measured is the one we’ve all grown up on: the production standards of Hollywood films, television programs, and TV commercials. Average viewers may not be able to explain the reason they find a particular DIY video so unconvincing. All they know is that something feels “wrong.” Usually what they’re responding to is the combined effect of many small weaknesses: the music is a bit too loud; the voiceover is somewhat stiff; the graphics are difficult to read; the narrative lacks a beginning, middle, and end; the lighting is bright and unflattering; the onscreen talent appears a bit unsure and uncomfortable; the pacing seems slow, and on and on.
It’s attention to all the tiny details that can make or break your video. Even the most meticulous DIYers are likely to fail, simply because they don’t have the critical skills to find the small weaknesses, and they may not have the necessary knowledge to fix those weaknesses once found (not to mention those problems that are impossible to fix).
Industry professionals have noted that the rise and fall of DIY desktop video is much like the rise and fall of DIY desktop publishing before it. Software like QuarkXPress cut into the business of many professional typesetters and layout designers until DIYers realized that the precipitous drop in quality that resulted was hurting business.
The fact is, my client’s video will likely create a distinct impression on those who view it. Video is the most powerful communications medium ever created, and it is up to you whether you make the most of the few minutes you have the viewer’s attention. Generally, you get only one shot. After watching your video, people come away with a lasting positive or negative impression of you, your organization, and your product or service. And that’s the reason that a truly creative, professional video from Primeau Productions is such a wise investment, paying dividends long into the future.