Pros and Cons of DIY vs Professional Video Production

There are a lot of reasons to create videos to promote your brand. Much like building a space shuttle or removing a brain tumor, producing your own marketing video is relatively easy, if you know what you’re doing. My purpose here is to teach you the basics so that you can gain a better understanding of the mechanics and process of video production, and have a basic roadmap to help you get started with your own productions. That said, knowing how to do it doesn’t necessarily mean that doing it yourself is the best plan of action. You may find that your circumstances make it more practical to hire an outsider, either an amateur or a professional video production studio. There are pros and cons involved with each approach, and this section is about helping you understand what those are, so that you can make the decision that is best for your situation. If you’re still not sure which direction to move in, let us know and we’ll help you assess your situation.
Pros of Do-It-Yourself Production
Doing it yourself can have its advantages. In some cases, it can absolutely prove to be the right choice, regardless of what your budget is. Here are some of the best reasons to take matters into your own hands.

  1. It can be faster. If you need a new video immediately, with the right knowledge and a bit of practice, you can get some great results.  Keep in mind, however, the same could be said for writing your own press releases, painting your own house, or pulling your own teeth.
  2. Nobody will care about your video more than you will. Nobody. Meaning, that if your passion is strong enough, you are likely to put in the effort needed to produce a quality result. Professionals, while certainly (hopefully) being committed to quality, are also committed to efficiency and making money, and may not have the ability or interest it necessary to do 47 takes of that joke you just love, so that it’s just the way you love it.
  3. It can be less expensive. Professional video producers are expensive. A high quality 30-second spot can cost anywhere from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand dollars. Even with amateurs, it’s gonna be tough to spend less than a few grand. So, doing it yourself can cut down on the cost. By shooting with a phone or other decent, consumer camera, featuring yourself, or your staff instead of professional talent, and doing your own editing, your production costs can be significantly lower.
  4. There’s no need to get your producer “up to speed” on your organization, its goals, missions, brand standards, etc… It can be time-consuming to explain your corporate culture to an outsider.
  5. You’ll gain a sense of pride and satisfaction. You’re bound to spend at least 30-40 hours of your own time, minimum, on a video production. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to bond with whomever is working on it with you. If it turns out anywhere close to what you had in mind, you’re gonna feel pretty cool about having gotten it all together. That’s gonna be a big deal when it comes to the distribution phase, because you’re gonna be really excited to share your work with anyone and everyone you can find.
  6. It really can be fun. If you’ve ever watched the out takes at the end of a comedy movie, you know how much fun it can be to make a video. You’re gonna spend a lot of time, and you’re gonna shoot a lot of takes, many of which will be terrible…and terribly funny. If you take all the stress and anxiety in stride, you’ll likely find yourself, and your crew, having a really good time.

Cons of DIY Video Production

Doing it yourself has its downsides. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to take longer, make more mistakes, and waste a lot more money than a professional crew would. Here are some things to watch out for when doing your own production.

  1. It will be more difficult than you expect. At first, it can be easy to be fooled into thinking that it’s not such a big deal. I mean, the whole point of this post is to make it seem like something that’s within the reach of the common mortal. Which it is, technically. But let me be plain- producing a video of even moderate quality is a complicated, time-consuming endeavor. It will give you headaches and cause you stress and your hair might change color. It’s not easy. That’s why it costs so damn much to hire professionals. It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, creativity and patience. This post will give you a big boost, but you’re still gonna need to invest a lot of effort.
  2. A good production takes a LOT of time. Even if you know what you’re doing, a short, relatively simple video, maybe just 30-90 seconds long, can easily take 200-400 hours to make. The planning, writing, shooting and editing really adds up quickly. And, of course, this is in addition to your usual schedule, and the same goes for your crew. You, and any employees involved, will be distracted from your usual work responsibilities.
  3. Doing it yourself won’t necessarily save you money. As often as not, a DIY production can ultimately prove to be much more expensive, if you account for money wasted on unnecessary equipment and materials, as well as cost of the time lost by you, and your crew, that could have otherwise been spent doing business.
  4. Your end result might really suck. If you don’t know what you’re doing, chances are better than decent that you’ll end up with something that isn’t very good, that would be better off getting shelved, or requires so much editing and reworking that you ultimately spend more time and more money…and may still have to hire a professional, who will likely scrap what you’ve shot and start from scratch.
  5. You’ll need equipment…maybe a lot of equipment, and that can be a real hassle. Acquiring equipment, whether by borrowing, purchasing or hijacking, can be extremely confusing, time consuming, and expensive. Not to mention, felonious. Shooting with phones and basic downloadable hardware is a great way to save money, but the outcome isn’t going to be the best quality. If you feel like you need professional-grade equipment, your budget is going to balloon, and you’re going to need a much more complex skill set. Professional cameras, mics and software are not nearly as user-friendly as what we’re talking about in this post.
  6. Video production can distract you from your primary job objectives….which can lead to much bigger problems. Not only are productions big time suckers, they will consume every spare molecule in your brain, and likely invade many of the others, thus preventing them from accomplishing their previous job functions. You will eat, sleep and breathe that video. You’ll obsess about the script and the set and the lighting and which take was the best and whether you should have applied more mascara to give you that sexy vampire look in the scene where you introduce Lola, the secretary. Balls will start to get dropped. Checks won’t get signed. Employees and vendors will begin to grumble.  Then one night, around 4 a.m., while you’re obsessively editing scene 25, where the delivery guy does his bit about how much he loves the dog-friendly atmosphere and the clever use of tiki torches in your corporate office, the lights suddenly go out, along with the power to your computer, causing your precious edits to disappear suddenly, forever lost to the ether.

Pros of Hiring Professional Video Production 

In a perfect world, hiring a professional will almost always result in a better end product. After all, that’s what professionals are for. The right producer will swoop in and capture the essence of your company image, then translate it onto the screen in an effective, imaginative way that will wow your customers and make them multiply like rabbits in a meadow. Here are some great reasons to consider hiring a professional.

  1. The end product is almost always going to be of much better quality. This is pretty obvious. Pros are pros for a reason. They know what they’re doing. They have a thorough understanding of proper lighting and sound recording and scripting and editing and all of the other skills required to make a high quality video. They also have better equipment than you do…or at least, they know where to get it and how to use it. Their expertise and production fluency also affords them the added benefit of being able to be more creative, stylistically. Not only will the overall production quality, in terms of sound and lighting and flow, be better, but chances are that the end product will just be a whole lot cooler than anything an amateur could produce.
  2. Production is usually quicker. Professional producers have been doing this for a long time. They have learned the tricks and processes required to work efficiently and effectively, to avoid mistakes and hang ups, and to deliver on a deadline. After all, they want to get paid, which theoretically means delivering on time, and they want to move on to their next project, which also means delivering on time.
  3. It can be less expensive, when you factor in time and the cost of therapy. Remember, doing it yourself can take significantly longer than hiring a pro, so you need to figure out how much your time, and that of whichever employees are involved, is really worth. Though the initial sticker shock of a producer’s bid might make you gag, the reality is often that the time-suck of a DIY production actually ends up being more expensive…and then there’s the stress and whatever steps you have to take to recover from it, the costs of which can be difficult to measure.
  4. An outside professional can see your organization, product, or message with fresh eyes, giving them an ability to offer a consumer perspective; a perspective that you, as an insider, may no longer have. This is a big deal. After all, a good production company does more than simply shoot and edit video. They are also marketing experts. This expertise gives them the ability to carefully and diligently analyze your business and brand, then craft your video in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of your message. They can provide highly valuable market and demographic data that, combined with a fresh perspective on your brand image, can greatly increase the impact of the resulting video.

Cons of Hiring Professional Video Production

Hiring a professional, especially the wrong professional, could lead to premature aging and a number of significant physical and psychological ailments. Professionals are expensive, not all of them are very good, and even the good one’s might not necessarily be good for you. Here re some reasons that hiring a pro might not be the best thing for you.

  1. It can actually take longer, if communication isn’t good. Before, during, and after a video production, communication between you, or your team, and your producer is of monumental importance. There are a million decisions that need to be made before production, schedules to be set, bills to be paid, and countless other details to go over, so if communication is not optimal, time will be wasted, and so will money. Gray hairs, on the other hand, could well be in abundance.
  2. Pros are expensive. Like…really expensive. This should come as no surprise, though. If they were cheap, I wouldn’t have written this post and you would’t be reading it, because it would just be far too easy to get videos made if they didn’t cost very much. You should expect to pay, at the very least, $10-15k for a reasonably talented freelance videographer to do a single video. Hiring a full-sized production company can easily cost 2-10 times that…and it goes up from there. Commercials you see on TV can easily cost $50-100k, or more. Those national broadcast commercials that you see on TV, those cost $500,000 – $1,000,000.  That’s because they look good. Really good. And they work. But still, if you ain’t got the green, it ain’t on the screen.* *Note: Not an actual industry expression. I just made it up. Just then.
  3. Good producers tend to be really busy. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can make scheduling difficult, especially if you end up loving the first project and decide to do more. Falling in love with a particular producer can become problematic if that producer gets more and more successful. Their rates will go up and their availability will decrease. Then again, if they’re that good, it’s probably worth it.
  4. You may like them so much, you’ll create additional projects for them to work on. This follows from #3. It isn’t necessarily a problem, per se, but it can become one if your budget doesn’t line up with your growing addiction to video production. You might find yourself trying to spend money you don’t have, then getting stressed and/or depressed when you realize you can’t have all the toys you want.

But What About Amateurs?

There is a middle ground here that I haven’t mentioned. Amateurs. Amateurs are a mixed bag, to say the least. You really never know what you’re getting. You might be getting someone with talent who is young and on their way up. You might also get a washed-up hack who couldn’t hold a real job because he’s unreliable. Or worse, untalented. You might save some money, you might not. It can be a real crap shoot, so be careful.

Pros of Hiring Amateurs

  1. Amateurs are cheaper. After all, they may be taking on the work so they can add to their own portfolios and skill sets, so they’ll sometimes work for food or high-fives. Oftentimes, recent art school grads with decent skills can be had for significantly less than their seasoned counterparts.
  2. They’re often a lot more flexible than professionals. After all, they don’t really know what they’re doing, so they can easily be talked into starting earlier, staying later, and just generally putting in more time than they’d originally agreed to.
  3. You might discover the next Martin Scorsese. Not all amateurs are starving artists or talentless wannabes. Some of them are genuinely gifted, and choosing to work on freelance gigs to subsidize their artistic projects. These are the guys you’re looking for. They know what they’re doing, and they’re willing to compromise on rates and terms because they need to maintain enough flexibility and income to produce their passion projects.

Cons of Hiring Amateurs

  1. You’re more likely to find the next Ed Wood than the next Martin Scorsese. Unless you have a soft spot for angora sweaters, this is a bad thing.
  2. Amateurs will take longer, and you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and money. Remember all those tricks that pros know that help them stay on time and on budget? Yeah. These guys don’t know those.
  3. Communication may suck. These guys don’t have an office you can call. There’s no secretary monitoring their appointments, invoices, file sharing, or anything else. They probably operate from a smartphone and an old Mac book that smells like desperation. They may miss calls, forget to return emails, and keep you in the dark as to the likelihood of actually making their deadlines. The result being that…
  4. Your stress level will skyrocket. These aren’t the employees you’re used to dealing with. Sure, you could fire them, but you already paid them half up front…and they already took up two whole days of your company time shooting interviews and B-roll, which they still have on their hard drives. You’re really kind of stuck, unless you want to just eat that money and start all over again.
  5. Your results probably won’t look like what you asked for. Remember how you wanted a clean, simple, behind-the-scenes tour with a nice little interview where you talk about your corporate culture and the way your employees love their jobs more than their Teddy bears? So what’s with the psychedelic rainbow patterns and weird tribal music in the background? Was that a Hobbit riding a unicorn? What the Hell is going on here?  The dark side of artistic license, that’s what.  But seriously. Amateurs love to talk themselves up during pitch meetings. They have to. That’s how they get new gigs. The problem is they don’t necessarily have the skills to deliver what they promised. They also tend to lack the fine-tuned marketing savvy that professionals offer, which can lead to awkward divergence from the original plan in favor of a more “artistic” approach that doesn’t necessarily deliver the brand message you’d agreed upon during pre-production.

That was a lot to digest. We know. If your head’s spinning and you’d like someone to talk it out with, give us a call and we can help guide you in the right direction.