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How iMovie is destroying the art of video production – you get what you pay for.

Nowadays many people fail to see that there is a level of artistic knowledge and talent associated with video production. They believe that if someone can grasp the fundamental skill set for editing, the technical side of cutting and laying in tracks and effects, then that will suffice. This is killing the industry and leaving few choices for consumers.

How iMovie is destroying the art of video production and how customers should realize that you get what you pay for.

Last week on the fantastically satirical “Colbert Report,” Stephen’s invited guest author Andrew Keen. The eloquent author was promoting his book that discusses how new fangled technology, especially the internet was destroying art throughout the world. He claimed that there are no more original ideas in the world and everything is sampled or stolen from something else. Essentially, “art” is being cheapened by technology and our culture is degrading because of it.

Video production is headed down a similar path, or slope as it seems. For the better part of the last decade computer manufacturers have been pushing all sorts of “hip” new media into software to market to a young, tech-savvy, I-want-to-have-the-latest-and-greatest-toy crowd. It’s a huge market for Apple, HP, Dell, Gateway, Microsoft, etc. Programs like Garage Band, iMovie, whatever Microsoft’s version of iMovie is, and so on have allowed amateur videographers edit nice little movies together for the benefit of their friends and family. It is quite beneficial to be able to cut out the shots of Dad’s feet as he walks away or the inside of a lens cap and keep only those priceless moments on an easy to watch DVD! Yay technology!

Well that’s where it was supposed to stop.  Nobody was supposed to see these shaky, simply edited movies except your closest friends and relatives who already make fun of you and your lowly attempts to be the next Hitchcock.  Video productions for companies and schools, commercials and marketing were to be left to the professionals.  That small group of people who had the technological and artistic expertise to deliver high quality productions.

Somewhere though, that logic was lost.

Too many amateurs spurred on by mild success of their YouTube submissions (a couple thousand views maybe, all of which are the same friends and family that could enjoy the DVD quality clips at home, but instead is forced to watch a small, over-compressed family video over their 56k modem connection).  And not only ascertained a false sense of production know-how, but have literally ripped off the artist ideas of other popular videos.  Just look at Saturday Night Live videos like “Lazy Sunday” and “D#(K in a Box.”  There are literally thousands of imitations of those willing to pick up a camera, but unwilling to be creative with it.

The barrier of entry has become too low.

You can buy a camcorder and computer with editing software for at or near $1,000. That is insanely cheap, considering the lenses on most decent camcorders run closer to four or five thousand.  This has opened up a new generation of wanna-be editors who are definitely tech-savvy, but not nearly as artistic.  Video production is part art and part science.  Just because you can cut clips together does not mean that you can cut them together in a visually pleasing manner.  But, here-in lies the problem.  Video production has never been cheap.  But there must always be a value that is associated with a high level of quality.  An Italian sports car would never been sold for just a few thousand dollars, there is a higher sense of craftsmanship in the work and that’s what people are paying for.  Video production holds the same truth.  Nowadays many people fail to see that there is a level of artistic knowledge and talent associated with production.  They believe that if someone can grasp the fundamental skill set for editing, the technical side of cutting and laying in tracks and effects, then that will suffice.  In the last decade legitimate production studios have been forced to set themselves apart from those who have taken advantage of the low entry barrier and undercut the established studios.  However, these discount editors, usually working out of a basement or backroom, are void of any formal training and usually any eye for art. There is a reason established studios must charge more, they have acquired the best talent and technology available and showcase them in a well-maintained studio for clients to work and feel comfortable in.  Those working out of their basements have little or no overhead, usually just the cost of tapes.

So, established studios have adapted and gone after the needs of high-end corporate clients.  But for the rest of the industry things have become dismal.  The drop off in quality has become rampant.  People with no formal training are saturating the market.  Sorry, but editing your fraternities recruitment video doesn’t make you an expert, let alone good.  There are literally thousands of small “production houses” offering deep discount rates, because they have no value associated with their work and no overhead and they also have no polished talent.  Sadly, the public has become used to this quality of work and may not differentiate between average and great productions.

However, this problem should concern the client.  While you have a ridiculous amount of choices for production the quality of the work can, and most likely will be, disappointing.  Don’t sell yourself short.  You know what a quality video should look like.  Just because someone put your favorite song under family video doesn’t mean the production quality couldn’t be vastly improved.

The point is that you get what you pay for.  Think about the value of your project and consider your audience.  Are you having a video made that you’d like to hold onto for years to come?  Well a few hundred dollars more might seem like a lot now, but the quality and value of the final product might be well worth it down the line.  You’ll forget the price you paid for a video long before you forget or be able to ignore bad quality.

So do your research, ask lots of questions (especially in regards to experience and education) and always ask for samples.  There are a strong few companies left that provide excellent work at a fair price.  Good luck and happy shooting.

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