Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Video Gear: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need”
-Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Video Equipment

The best video camera for the job doesn’t have to be the most expensive

I like to think that I practice what I preach, but sometimes I forget.

That situation slapped me in the face last night.

Here’s my story: I confess that I am a video equipment nut, a nerd, geek, a “v-idiot” or whatever you want to call it. If money was no object I would always have the latest, coolest, flashiest shiny objects of video production. I just like owning it, plain and simple. You never know when you’re going to need that $3,000 tripod, right? Good thing money IS an object because my house isn’t that big.

I feel that in my role as special interest video blogger, coach and evangelist that it is my duty to stay on top of equipment and software developments in order to keep my followers informed. Therefore I get to indulge my equipment fantasies by going to a lot of video conferences and equipment expos, such as last week’s Streaming Media West in Century City and Createasphere (formerly HD Expo) in Burbank, California.

So I just returned with sugarplums dancing in my head: 3D cameras and monitors, follow focus and support rigs for HD DSLRs, prime lenses, video switchers (loved the NewTek TriCaster), raid arrays, viewfinders for my Canon T2i, stock footage, software, led lighting, video servers; the list is long and very expensive.

Then last night I popped in a DVD I had just purchased from a very successful fellow special interest video (SIV) producer whom I admire. In fact, I’ve belonged to Bill Myers membership site* for 6 years but have never seen one of his productions. I ordered this particular DVD because a week ago he revealed to me that he consistently nets $5,000 a month on the sale of 10 of his DVDs, which are several years old, on Amazon.com’s Advantage program. Mind you, Amazon is just ONE of his outlets for selling his DVDs. Since I sell on Amazon Advantage too, of course I wanted to see what he was selling and how he was achieving those sales figures.

Watching his DVD (which is filled with no-nonsense, practical information) I was reminded once again that most people are buying SIVs for the information they contain, regardless of how fancy (or not) the production is. His DVD was very simply made. It was basically him sitting at a desk talking to the camera with a few cutaways to still frames and Camtasia clips to illustrate his points. Nothing fancy at all, yet he makes a very good income selling a whole series of similar instructional DVDs. He kept his production expense to a minimum, which was perfectly appropriate for the subject matter… and a very good business practice.

In my zeal for new equipment I sometimes forget that in my own DVDs I tell viewers that people usually buy SIVs for the information they contain and that the production value, although important, is secondary.

There are exceptions of course.

If your SIV is a documentary, edu-tainment or travel video, then the production quality should be high, but if it is about how to operate a piece of equipment or software, tie a fishing fly or change a spark plug, then your customer is primarily seeking information and you probably don’t need that camera jib arm or doorway dolly or other fancy video gear. Just shoot it in the best way to provide the information and call it good. Then go out and make some money selling it, hopefully for many years.

The good news is…less may in fact, be more…

So because I was snapped back to reality, I feel obligated to remind you that you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get started in the SIV business. Turn a deaf ear to the siren call of overly expensive and complex gear. Any camcorder you buy today will be far better than an equivalently priced camera just 5 years ago and may likely be less expensive. These small HD palmcorders we have today are fantastic. For less than $1,000 you can get a perfectly fine camcorder, a lavalier or shotgun mic, a good tripod and some simple lighting and you’ll have what you need to get started.

There are also other far less expensive options as well, especially if you are only going to be doing web videos or even screencast videos.

Heck, maybe you can rent or borrow the equipment. Julie Clark, who produced the Baby Einstein videos that she made millions on, did just that. She shot the videos in her basement and spent more on the graphic design for the cover than on production.

Most computers today come with some form of free video editing software so that should’t be a big expense, or you can spend a few hundred dollars and get some really great editing programs.

My point is, equipment should not be a stumbling block to getting started producing your own SIV as I wrote about last summer. The skills to do it are a topic for another day, but for now, remember that the less you spend on the front end, the more will end up in your pocket. Save your money for that independent film that is burning a hole in your wallet.

* Being a member of Bill Myers Online has definitely taken my business in areas I wouldn’t have dreamed of 6 years ago. I am an affiliate of his program because I really recommend it to you and I only affiliate myself with people and companies I do business with and get great results from.


3 Responses to “Video Gear: You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
  1. Joe says:

    Amen to that Rick…I’ve just used a small taste of B. myer’s stuff but keeping it simple and getting to the point for (well they are “how-to” videos are’t they) most of your video productions is the way to go..

    Seen so many that tell how great the presenter is or let me give you a history of..blah, blah, get to the point and give me the info.

    Great post you have become a good disciple of professional, good sounding information-packed products..good for you..I am a true fan.

    • Rick Smith says:

      Thanks, Joe for that kind comment.

      How-to video producers have to remember that they are not so much in the entertainment business as they are the education business. Get to the point, tell me what I’m here for, and be done with it.

      I appreciate your enthusiasm. What projects are you working on?


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