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The Wondrous World of Video Production: A Unique Guide

Introduction

Video Production, cinematography and videography are three separate disciplines within the wider umbrella of movie making. In Video production and videography, motion is captured either as an analog signal on tape, or digitally. In filmmaking, rushes are recorded usually on 35mm film. The difference between the three lies in the budget scope, media used for recording, and crew size.

For the sake of simplicity, when I use the term video production I am referring to all three sub-categories, since all three share a lot of the same history, consumer benefits and technology.

In this blog post, you’ll find it is not a typical article about video. A lot of the mainstream topics surrounding video production is public knowledge so I’ll either breeze through these, or add a link.

Instead, I want to take you on a journey through the evolution of our visual perception. How did we go from canvas to camera, and what it means for your business.

It is my hope that you will find helpful insights and tips that can truly change the way you think of video as a business tool to influence purchasing decisions. We’ll also talk costs, ROI, CPA, CLV and other nerdy stuff.

So hope you’ll stick around till the end, and without further ado, let’s get started!

Storytelling in History

Storytelling has been used by civilizations since the dawn of time as a means to communicate, entertain and explain complex theories. Anyone who homeschools their children understands this concept more than anyone.

There’s a reason why homeschoolers are now using stories to teach children STEM subjects like math. We are hardwired from birth to remember a good story, but why?

Our ancestors passed down knowledge, shared their experiences, and built strong communities through storytelling. Our brains are wired to process stories in a special way, activating areas that handle emotions, senses, and social connections.

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This makes stories stick with us better than plain facts or figures. With a clear structure—a beginning, middle, and end—stories are easier to follow and remember. (in movies, these are not necessarily in that order).

Plus, they often stir our emotions and paint vivid pictures in our minds, linking new information to what we already know and feel, making them unforgettable.

The Evolution of Storytelling

Videos took storytelling to the next level because they reflect the way we see with our own eyes. They combine moving images, sound, and text to create a rich, immersive experience.

From the discovery of cinema, films were a powerful tool to document ancient lifestyles, capturing traditions, cultures, and daily life in a way that written records could not.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

The early days of cinema were marked by silent films, such as Georges Méliès‘ “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). These films were primarily artistic expressions, focusing on visual storytelling and special effects.

Check out this awesome infographic about the evolution of video.

From Art to Communication

As video technology evolved, so did its uses. What began as an artistic medium quickly expanded into a versatile tool for communication.

Films like D.W. Griffith‘s “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) demonstrated the power of cinema to influence public opinion. Filmmakers created films that not only entertained but also educated and inspired people.

With the invention of television and digital media, videos became an integral part of everyday life, shaping our understanding of the world.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

In earlier years, businesses have used the power of visual storytelling for marketing:

Westinghouse Electric produced some of the earliest corporate promotional films to demonstrate the use and benefits of electric appliances.

Coca Cola used animated shorts, with characters like the iconic Santa Claus, to advertise their beverages.

And Ford created films to illustrate the manufacturing process and the quality of their vehicles.

These early uses of video in marketing laid the groundwork for what would become modern advertising strategies, proving that the effectiveness of visual storytelling in attracting customers is not a fad. It’s hardwired in our brain.

Ingredients of a Successful Video Production

Quality vs Creativity

The link between quality and creativity in video production, and cinema by extension, has evolved with technology. In the past, quality wasn’t as big of a deal because people were simply amazed by the novelty of moving pictures and the newness of the technology itself. But as this technology advanced, our expectations for video quality proportionally grew.

Feast the eyes first

Today, a good quality video without much creativity can feel like a pretty brochure, while a highly creative video that lacks in quality can be distracting and hard to watch.

To really grab and keep our attention, videos need to strike a balance: sharp, clear visuals, smooth camera movements, and crisp sound, together with an interesting story angle.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

Quality leads the way into creativity. What I mean by this is, first we see the video, then we understand the message through creative storytelling.

We need to first feast the eyes, then the story takes the viewer deeper. Let’s say you clicked on a video, if the quality was bad would you stick around to hear the story? Probably not.

Branding quality

In brand marketing terms, the first impression the viewers get from your video can make a substantial difference in how they perceive your brand.

For instance, videos with superior picture quality, clear audio, and creative content can make your company appear more professional and trustworthy.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

On the other hand, videos that seem amateurish will make you less reliable. Over time, our brains developed a link between quality and trust.

Ask yourself this: If you watch a brand video and it was poorly filmed with horrible lighting and inaudible sound, would you buy their product?

I’m going to say something probably controversial with more indie filmmakers here but a bad story filmed very well will keep viewers more engaged than a good story shot poorly.

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This is especially true in marketing where quality of the video asset directly correlates with the quality of the product. It’s like an MBA graduate going for an interview in a bad suit.

Selecting the Right Video Production Partner

I’m going to start by stating the obvious: There is no ideal video production company. The best video agency for you is the one you feel can give you the most bang for your buck, and that can be different for a small business than it is for a large enterprise.

Expensive is not always better

For example, say you’re a small business owner and have a budget of $5k for a video. You meet with a video company that will create a terrific marketing video with all the bells and whistles for you at that price. All is good.

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Now let’s say you’re a large company with a budget of $15k, you find a production agency who will create a video production for you at that price, however they must also pay rent, salaries, buy very expensive equipment, store and maintain that equipment, and pass on that cost to you.

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They charge you per hour for things like changes, over-time, cut-downs, drone, etc. Just because a video production quote is more expensive does not automatically mean you’ll get more.

Most of the time, you can get more bang for your buck by going with a small local video production team.

Humanizing Your Brand

One of the main goals of a marketing video is to humanize your brand. What does that mean exactly? Customers don’t always drive up to a store, meet with your team and make a purchase.

This is especially relevant to B2C businesses than B2B where human interaction is still more present. Think of how many times you’ve bought something online: Electricity, flights, hotels, game tickets, gifts, even groceries.

The world is slowly shifting to a more human-less point of sale experience (think the new McDonald’s order kiosks). With this drive towards a more robotic future, there is a growing counter-trend craving for more, not less, human connection.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

This is exactly where video productions plays a revolutionary role.

Video can humanize a brand by:

  • Showing the real people behind the products: Seeing faces and hearing voices creates a genuine connection.
  • Sharing stories that make the brand relatable: Customers will feel the authenticity and build trust.
  • Bringing transparency through videos: Let people see how things are made and who benefits from them.
  • Turning abstract brands into familiar faces: Make your brand feel more like a trusted friend than a distant entity.

In our digital world, a human touch really stands out. We all crave genuine connection, and simple, real moments in videos can make all the difference.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

To recap: These are the ingredients of a successful video production:

  1. Quality
  2. Creativity
  3. The right partnership
  4. Keeping it human

Make sure your next production delivers on all of these and your brand will sand out like a lighthouse in the fog.

The Power of Video: Science & Stats

Earlier in this article, I have established the history of video briefly and how technology evolved and how our perception and expectations from video productions have also evolved.

Now let’s dig deeper into what goes on in our human brain that makes video so attractive.

The Science Behind Video’s Magnetic Appeal

The reason why videos are so mesmerizing, almost hypnotizing, is because we have an intrinsic need to document moments from our lives and recall them when we need to. This stems from a human feature that is as old as time itself. And that feature is: Survival.

From drawing on walls to painting with light

Our ancestors started drawing images from their everyday life on cave walls. With time, paintings evolved into photography, which evolved into cinema. The driving motive is the same, only the medium has changed.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

Instead of primitive drawings, we later had true-to-life paintings with colors that told stories of struggle, war, love and glory. Photography took this concept to the next level by reproducing reality as it is.

We later discovered that if we take 24 consecutive images and play them in real time back to back, we could reproduce motion, and this is how cinema was born.

Since the dawn of man, we were hardwired to document our life, to tell stories for generations to come, and that need is the most attractive thing about cinema, and later video.

Dramatization techniques

As time moves on like a rolling storm, we developed techniques that can bend time itself, freeze it, slow it down, speed it up; basically controlling time itself, so we can overcome being forgotten.

Cinematic effects like slow motion and time lapse have been used in films for a very long time. With slow motion we can slow down a moment we want to cherish for a much longer time and enjoy it as long as possible.

Time lapse, on the other hand, compresses a long timeline into just seconds giving viewers a much higher overview of what happens to things that otherwise seem still.

As video production evolved into digital, techniques like these became much easier, flexible and accessible.

Other techniques to add drama, are lighting techniques that can intensify specific moments or scenes and add much more depth to characters. Earlier black and white movies excelled in this technique.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

Purists have viewed these controversial techniques as emotional manipulation, and history have seen many artistic revolutions to counter this dramatization of life, from the Renaissance to Post-Modern Minimalism.

Capturing emotions

Artistic styles have changed with time, but what remains a constant is our innate desire to retell the story of life itself, document our emotions and freeze them in time.

So much so that entire advertising campaigns and millions of dollars have been poured into amplifying a single emotion on screen. Whether it’s success, happiness, sadness, or hope, every successful video production have stirred our emotions in a certain way.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

At the end, we are emotional creatures and, as was later discovered, our emotions drive our purchasing behaviors. Business videos that can stir emotions see the best results not only in attracting, but also in encouraging people to take action.

Video vs Other Forms of Marketing

You’ve probably seen this somewhere but the human brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text, and viewers remember 95% of a message in a video, compared to only 10% when read in text. Why?

Just look around you. Do you see words or do you see images? When you dream do you see walls of text or do you see visual imagery?

Why human beings love watching

Our brain processes information, and even stores and recalls it, in visual form. It’s a chemical thing, and every human being is wired the same way.

Some people remember things better than others but still, it’s always visual. Think about the latest book you read. I don’t know if you’re like me, and this might seem childish, but if I read a book that doesn’t have images, I fall asleep.

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I know it’s a shallow thing to say, but I love pictures. I learn by seeing rather than reading, and I know a lot of people out there are like me. In fact, all the marketing agencies in the world know this.

Video production has outperformed every single marketing method since newspaper ads. Videos are better than billboards, better than text ads, better than magazine covers, and better than mailers.

I’m not going to show stats that you can find online, but the evidence is conclusive: people love watching things, not just hear it, see it.

Social Media and Videos

The story of the success of video productions in attracting people continues with social media. There’s a reason why videos are 1400% more likely to be shared on social media than images and text combined.

Digital made sharing videos much faster and easier, where years ago you had to mail a VHS tape to your family, now you can just click a button.

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Even algorithms have given priority to the saved and shared statistics of a video in order to prioritize it in users feeds.

Seems like computers and humans both agree: Sharing life moments is vital to our species, and we crave it.

Videos and Search Engines

Google, the Grand Master of search engines, prioritizes videos over text in search results. Try it yourself right. Search for a topic you want to learn about, what do you see come up first? Videos. Why?

Apparently, people learn more by watching (remember the 90/10 statistic in retaining messages above?) than by reading. Because again, it feels more natural to us. If it mimics the way we see with our own eyes, we’re much more likely to consume it, and connect with it.

Catching up to the algorithms

That is true for businesses as well. I always tell my clients if you don’t have a YouTube channel or any kind of video platform, you simply do not exist online.

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That’s a harsh thing to say but it’s very true. Search engines themselves have evolved and as business owners, if we don’t catch up to the evolution of algorithms, we can easily fall behind.

It seems more obvious today that search engines prefer brands, websites, and businesses in general that post frequent content compared with those who just have a website.

Even creating a single video production and posting it is not sufficient anymore. Search engines reward brands and businesses that educate and engage their audience with fresh, relevant content over those that don’t, giving the former the top spot in search results.

So in short, if you want people to find you, it is imperative to produce regular video content.

Overview of the Video Production Process

I’m not going to dissect the video production process in this article. There are plenty of very good information online about this so I’m not going to waste your time stating the obvious.

I want this article to be as helpful as possible for business owners specifically, so let me touch up on a few things real quick, and move on.

Planning a brand story

We’ve established so far why every business needs to tell their story in as many ways as possible. And it all starts with a good story idea.

This idea doesn’t have to be complex or even thought out completely. This is where raw ideas are brainstormed, sifted and developed into the cornerstone of your video.

And by the way, a good story idea doesn’t have to be the mother of all stories, or the story that ends or all stories. You can be as specific or as broad as you want, but what you need to do is to focus on a single message, which is more important.

Videos that try to say different things tend to perform poorly. We have so little time before viewers lose interest so you have to stay focused.

The story idea can be:

  • A behind-the-scenes insight on how you create your product or what makes you special.
  • The story of a customer, the owner or founder of your business.
  • The history behind your company, etc.

At this stage, the style of the video also takes shape. You must define how you want to tell your story.

That’s where a good filmmaker or videographer envisions the final film and prepares the technical aspects of the video production process.

Filming a brand video

Filming is where the fun begins, and it can go very smoothly if the planning phase was done properly.

Filming can take anywhere from a couple hours to a whole week. It depends on your budget, your idea, the number of locations and the availability of your actors, subjects and filming crew.

Filming and editing are the two stages where your investment will be spent, so use it wisely and hire a video production company that will be efficient with your budget.

Don’t work with someone who does not shoot with editing in mind. Otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of raw footage, a lot of wasted budget, which makes the editing process longer, and the editor might not even have the right elements to complete your story.

Sure you’re not filming a wedding, you can always go back and shoot more, but it can burn a small budget very quickly.

That’s why, for business owners, it is sometimes more advantageous to work with a small video production company that is used to this kind of workflow, rather than a larger production house that is much more structured and less flexible when it comes to efficiently using a small budget.

Editing a marketing video

I call editing the digital kitchen. This is where your idea comes to life.

Raw footage is assembled consecutively in a timeline, and edited with adequate pacing and rhythm that communicates your message and the style that you have established in the planning stage.

Just like a good DJ should also be a good dancer, a good videographer must also be a good editor. A cameraman, who is also an editor, will shoot all the elements needed to create a story.

Otherwise, the editor might end up with plenty of well framed, well shot, well lit shots, without a proper establishing shot or a good ending, or not enough b-roll to cover all the jump cuts in the edit.

This is yet another reason why working with a small video production team is much more efficient. Sometimes more cooks can burn a recipe.

Delivery and Distribution of business videos

Now that you have your final film, you need to get it in front of the right eyeballs, otherwise people might not find it, or you might show it to the wrong audience.

A good distribution strategy is one that can deliver these assets to your exact audience or demographic, at the right time, and in the right format.

I’m not going to talk a lot about how to distribute video on social media or online, because again you can find this information easily, but one important thing to note is make sure your editor knows the different formats and requirements of the platform you want to focus on.

Again, a good small video production company would have a workflow to deliver a single video in different formats, at no or small extra cost so you can repurpose a longer video for multiple uses over time, at the best quality, compression, codec and length for that platform.

Video Production Costs

DIY vs Professional: It’s not all about the money

OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room. The cost of producing a professional video production.

But before we do that, let’s first explore two different methods that are available for you. Any business owner with a smart phone these days can shoot a good looking video.

Just like a backyard project, you can either do it yourself or hand it over to a professional. The former doesn’t mean you can save more money, because if not done properly, a project might end up costing you more in the long run (every wife can attest to this).

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Let’s say you go the DIY route to save some cash. If not done properly, the video might end up being poorly shot, or not interesting, or deep enough to connect with an audience emotionally. Or you might post it on social media, and waste more money on video ads that don’t work, and burn your budget quicker than a matchstick.

That’s why working with a professional video producer to do the job right the first time might cost more in the short term, but will save you much headache, time and money in the long run.

Average video production costs in the US

In the United States, video production costs can range dramatically based on the length and quality of the video.

Freelancers might charge anywhere between $50 to $150 per hour, while small production studios generally range from $75 to $250 per hour.

Large production agencies, offering a full suite of services, can command much higher fees, potentially amounting to tens of thousands of dollars for extensive projects.

At Memory Mill Media, we don’t charge per hour on any video production because we don’t like to nitpick our clients, and pretend a project is taking longer so we can charge you more on your final invoice.

We have streamlined our workflow, and automated repetitive tasks, so we can be more efficient with your budget plus we enjoy less overhead because we’re a small team, and we pass on those savings to our clients.

Cost vs ROI over time

So you spent a few thousand dollars to produce a professional video for your business. Now what!

You might be sweating and thinking “why am I not seeing any return on my investment? Where did my money go? How long do I need to wait to see results?” These are legit concerns for business owners.

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This is where talking about ads and organic marketing is very important because it sets your expectations on what you will define a good return on investment.

Ads vs organic video marketing

There are two major marketing avenues at your disposal. If you have any budget left, and are impatient, you can invest in social advertising, or video ads, and start seeing results as soon as a week from now.

The only problem with this is that it lasts as long as your budget. Once you pull the plug, your conversion rates will plummet. No cruise control here, you just lifted your foot from the gas pedal.

That’s exactly why smart marketers today are investing more into organic video marketing, and search engine optimization, where you can earn your top spot in search results without spending a dime, but with a lot of effort and consistency.

Can you really measure video ROI?

It can be also very difficult to measure an exact video ROI. The reason for that is because video affects every single contact point in your customer journey.

A video can take someone from a search result page, or social media page, to your website, then to your YouTube channel, then back to your website, and then finally convert.

How would you know if a customer converted because they watched a video at any given moment? Unless you link specifically from that video to a landing page, it’s quite impossible to pinpoint exactly how the customer converts unless you survey every customer you have.

How videos convert?

Because of this over-arching effect that it has on a customer journey, video can play a critical role in conversion:

  • At the initial stage which we called the discovery stage
  • At the investigation stage where your customers want to learn more about what people think of you
  • At the conversion stage where viewers are convinced that your product can solve their problem
  • And in the last and final stage, the action stage where customers decide to fill-in a contact form or give you a call to schedule an appointment.

How did you hear about us?

During a typical sign-in workflow, customers usually mention the general platform where they first heard, or last, heard about your brand.

Let’s say they are on Facebook and they saw one of your videos, and then decided to go to your website, and finally contacted you via your contact page.

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When asked “Where did you hear about us?” they might say website instead of video. That’s why pinpointing exactly the ROI of a video is not a good measure of how well a video performs.

The better way to measure video performance

There are other ways that can help measure the effectiveness of a video instead of relying only on ROI.

And that’s video analytics, or the different data points that platforms collect on a video like view count, clicks, and how much of the video they watched.

Relying on these metrics is much more reliable than relying only on acquisition source. This takes us directly to cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value metrics, which we’ll discuss next.

CPA and CLV

Again, because we cannot clearly pinpoint the exact ROI of a specific video, it is even tougher to calculate the cost per acquisition for a video production.

We do know, however, from all the marketing meetings that we had with our clients, since they began investing in videos, they saw a spike in customer lifetime value, and a dip in customer acquisition costs.

There can only be general correlation and indirect effects, and cannot be measured exactly, but from experience, and from all the data that our clients share with us, there is a strong consensus that video saves you from investing money in marketing methods that don’t work.

Because of that, cost per acquisition usually goes down. And because more people are converting at a lower cost to you, and sticking around for a longer time since there are emotionally connected with your brand, the customer lifetime value increases.

This is the real power and beauty of video production for business, where all other marketing efforts fall short.

The Power of Video in Today’s World

Will AI Take Over Video Production?

Just like AI will never replace pilots, writers or surgeons, as of now (and probably the next ten years) I don’t see AI taking over video production at all.

Despite the hype, AI is still in its infancy, with major creative blunders. Even with paid AI tools that use newer and better AI models, the results still can’t match that of a graphic designer, or an author.

Hello AI, how are you feeling today?

Until AI can take on some kind of a conscious form able to analyze and feel like a human being, AI tools will remain in the domain of assistive tools, still requiring human intervention.

Even the best AI imaging models still can’t deal with text, or human form intelligently. Does it help in streamlining repetitive tasks? Absolutely, but it is still far away from completely replacing a creative human.

Just like the job of a cook is safe from being overtaken by robots, video production creatives have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

AI.. please make me a meal

Even with the latest AI video advancements with the recent announcement from OpenAI claiming a new AI model, called Sora, that can create movie scenes similar to a Pixar production, videographers and filmmakers are still safe.

AI is just another advancement in computer technology, which has been already happening in the past decades.

It is making our repetitive jobs, on the computer, better, faster and easier. That’s it. But to claim that AI is going to overtake purely creative roles like that of a filmmaker, is mere speculation at this point.

AI Video Tools

Can AI help me organize my task list, schedule my social media posts or rephrase a sentence? Absolutely. Can AI think like a creative person? Not at all.

That’s why you’ll see all major AI advancements have been made strictly in the realm of computing. While we might never see an AI spit out a Spielberg movie in mere minutes, there exist a ton of AI tools that can help us be more efficient in video production creation.

For example, most AI video editing tools can now help us translate, transcribe and caption videos in seconds. Some can even create highlights from long form video, re-format it for social media, give you a score based on keywords in the video and schedule it on social media, all within a few clicks.

Again, these are all tools, just like a root canal microscope is to an endodontist. It will never replace a real doctor, at least not in our lifetime.

Video Consumption in Today’s Society

Video consumption is at an all-time high especially with the help of advancement in mobile technology and internet speeds. With streaming TV taking over cable, and cloud storage growing exponentially, you can carry an entire season of your favorite show right in your pocket and binge watch it on an airplane offline.

Today is the best time for video production, with 80% of your website visitors coming from mobile phones, there has never been a time where people were as glued to their screens as they are today.

From Canvas to Camera: How Video Production Became the Ultimate Marketing Tool

Despite all obstacles, motion pictures have proven to be trend-proof, war-proof, crisis-proof and even robot-proof.

Video production as a medium is not going anywhere, even as formats change. Instead of investing your money in fads that will die tomorrow, or stop working when you pull the plug, invest in something more sustainable, long lasting, that works for you in your sleep, 24/7, even during a pandemic.

Move making has been around for more than 100 years, and is only beginning to soar.

And remember:

“The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.”
– Kelly Reichardt

Owner of Memory Mill Media and seasoned video producer Zach Nassif has produced videos in Houston and Dubai for more than 20 years. Zach now helps companies attract and convert customers, tell their stories, and increase brand awareness using the power of video.