Video Production: Why Your Client Needs to Make Only One Decision

Why simple, when you can make it complicated

Video Production: Why Your Client Needs to Make Only One Decision Video Production: Why Your Client Needs to Make Only One Decision

Rumour has it that for a video production, producers solve the problems they bring on themselves. Of course this isn’t true. It can often be the case however that a client talking to a self-proclaimed film expert is left feeling like the task of producing a video is nothing short of rocket science. I say: A client really only has to decide one thing when it comes to making a film or video. No more and no less.

Here are some basics for filmmakers: There are three ways in which a film project can be conceptualised: A video can be created in the form of a „filmic register“, it can be „made into film“ or „fictionalised“. The end result differs greatly in each of these processes. That is why, for the client – the decision of which of these three forms applies to the film project they commission – should stand in the forefront. This decision is not a super-hot topic, but should be a priority, because the success of the video then depends on choosing the relevant agency or video production partner.

Each of the three methods of how to approach the realisation of a film or video2 is a justified means of communication in their own right.

registerA filmic register of real events. Most commonly produced and realised by one single person (Cameraman/VJ).
make into filmTranslation of a message into moving image. Targeted delivery of emotions and information through film and video.
fictionaliseLike the category “make into film”, but executed with additional fictional elements, often times with an entertainment factor.

What type of video can a client expect from these three categories, their final outcome and the processes behind them ?

Method 1: A filmed register

To register means to hit the “record” button, capture something on film and edit it. And, hey presto, you have your video. With this way of working and viewing films, the storytelling arises on location at the time of filming. The takes are more or less left to chance. That is where a filmic register differs from simple documentary style coverage of events. Films with a documentary purpose also depict reality, but incorporate editorial perspectives that relate to its content. It thereby doesn’t fall in the same category as a simple filmic register – contrary to popular belief – but instead belongs to the second category; “to make into film”. The author of a visual documentation (be it through video or photos) purposefully chooses the storyteller and the camera’s point of view with a target audience in mind.

When “registering”, a technical command of the camera suffices; all you need is the ability to be able to “register” an image. Even when the image happens to lose focus, it only adds to the authenticity of the video. If the video’s sound lacks clarity due to background noise, you can choose to include music (as long as you steer clear of the kind of ambient music used in supermarkets or elevators in American business hotels).The method of a filmic register provides the viewer with answers to questions that were never raised. A video in the style of a filmic register is justified by the resources and budget available. It often suffices when the talent of the cameraman or the video journalist 1 lies in, not interfering with the events covered. Common usage of this method within a professional framework would be with corporate events, interviews, testimonies or special occasions that a client or co-workers wish to capture on film for company archives or for posterity.

Creating a filmic register is not very costly and highly efficient. And even though it is hard to predict the final outcome: when it comes to this method of production not everything is necessarily recklessly left to chance. Choosing this simple register – depending on the objective and task at hand – can be a viable option for a video, provided you find the right person for the job. A register isn’t primarily about talent.

But that’s where the crux of the matter lies: Any cameraman or video journalist with an ounce of common sense, talent and a few months of experience under his belt, will want to do more than simply register events. Instead he will want to incorporate scripted or staged elements. Because essentially it means he’s doing a better job; gaining more respect in the film and video industry, bettering his income and ensuring he will be assigned more stimulating jobs in the future. If you choose to commission a simple register, the danger therefore is that you might find yourself working with an extremely eager and driven novice or a lesser motivated, frustrated film worker, whose lack of talent have meant he’s never quite managed to work his way up the film career ladder.

Filmed registercost effectiveDoesn’t set itself apart with unique characteristics

Effect is produced by hazard, rather than planning

Method 2: Make into film

To “make into film” is here defined as the translation of an already existing starting point into moving image. This initial point of departure can be the message the video or film aims to express (which will lead to an image film), an existent text (for example an employee video that explains the correct usage of a Code of Conduct), a subject (CEO-testimonials) or an object (for example a production line in the manufacturing industry). As opposed to a simple filmed register, the process of “making into film” involves more than just a technical portrayal of facts by means of a technical register.The method of “making into film” applies when the purpose of the moving image is not just to simply capture but to come across with a controlled effect.

That’s why this method of “making into film” also always implies storytelling and a narrative. For which a certain know-how, experience and talent is required. Transmitting information and emotions through film and video is not something for beginners (for the difference between film and video see article: Why films are the better videos).

With this method, the camerawork could be compared to a situation in which someone has lost their wallet in the streets at night and is now desperately searching for it under the glare of a streetlamp. Not because that’s where they’ve lost their wallet, but because it’s the only place in the darkness of night they can see something. When “making into film“, to capture what simply happens to pop up in front of you and your camera is not an option.

To create content on a whim and upload it to YouTube is not enough. In order to guarantee an equivalence in effect3 when “making into film”, scripted or staged elements have to be implemented. “Making into film” means editing: The editing process and the editor – unlike with a filmic register – not only has to organise and reduce the material but also introduce a narrative aspect.

„Making into film“ requires know-how, experience and talent. That is why this working method is more cost intensive than a simple filmed register. And the outcome is also much more effective. The message, communication and moving image here are on an equal footing. A “filmed register” could here be compared to a rubber flip-flop you buy at a supermarket: Cheap, unoriginal and replaceable. Those who choose to “make into film“ are instead investing in a tailored, perfectly fitting shoe. They choose a more precise, original, distinctive and self-sufficient tool of communication. It does however come at a cost.

But keep in mind, that an ineffective film always ends up being more expensive than a film that succeeds in transmitting the right message to the right audience. The content of this method has to live up to high expectations.

If you choose to “make into film” but don’t have the budget to work with professionals, your best option would be…- to not produce a video at all.

Make into filmEffective communication through targeted translation of the message into film or video.Only feasible with a professional partner, who can provide experience, know-how and talent.

Method 3: Fictionalise

The term „fictionalise“ in this case, doesn’t apply to feature films or TV movies. But instead to all film projects that rely on fictitious, narrative elements included in the video making process. „Fictionalising“ thereby differentiates itself from „making into film“ first and foremost in its creative process. In this category an existing message is not only effectively translated into images, but new elements are added.

A motivational video can for example be filmed in the style of a documentary film using a company’s real co-workers („make into film“). Alternatively the same message can be brought across effectively by scripting and using actors. („fictionalising“). Unlike with amateurs, typical workplace situations can thereby be carefully planned out in front of the camera and transmitted clearly. And unlike “made into film” documentation, if a key co-worker, who appeared in the video, leaves the company, a “fictionalised” video remains unaffected by personnel changes in real life.

By implementing elements of fiction, content can be emotionalized or accentuated for added effect.  When “fictionalising“ in general, emotionality comes before authenticity. Be it during filming, subsequent image postproduction (editing) or on a sound level: when it comes to “fictionalising” all aspects of creative filmmaking come into play. Specialised hardware and software go hand in hand. It’s not without reason that this category performs best on YouTube with regard to the amount and duration of reproductions.

The scripting of fictitious content obviously comes at a greater cost than “making into film”. Know-how, talent and experience are here again decisive success factors. From the point of view of the spectator, these fiction videos are no longer comparable to other videos of competitors, but rather to productions from the TV, Film and entertainment industries. Specialised writers, actors and directors, who understand both the industry of the client as well as the fiction film industry, come – much like an experienced editor or music composer – at a price.

FictionaliseHighly attractive for the viewer, high emotionality.Cost intensive, driven by talent

Conclusion: Video production and clients

We agree that one decision alone does not make a film. That is why a client normally calls upon the expertise of a specialised film agency or a production company. Which one he choses, then becomes the second most important decision, after deciding if information or emotions should be “registered”, “made into a film”, or “fictionalised” to be brought across with powerful, lasting effect. After all no client wants a partner, who solves problems only he himself generates.

Those who have chosen the right category and partner for their project, will have the same experience the viewer will have when watching the final outcome: Everything seems to come together effortlessly and naturally to something greater than the sum of all parts combined. And that’s the way it should be. Quality of process and outcome go hand in hand in today’s professional film and video production.

The reward for all those involved is a film, whose appeal and elegance leave the viewer or client oblivious to the fact that both the creative and production processes behind it, were hugely demanding amid complex communicative guidelines.


1 The term video journalist (abbreviated to VJ) should be understood as that which one single person can achieve with one camera. In reality on the open market, few people, who hold the job title VJ have an educational background in journalism.  Those who work as cameramen or camera assistants in TV productions don’t automatically qualify for journalistic or directorial work. A qualified video journalist, on the other hand, can be perfectly capable – in certain fields – of producing simple assignments in the category of “making into film”.

2 Photography can also be categorized by the same methods by the client.

3Equivalence of effect means the transmission of effect from one form of communication to another, for example from text in film or storyboards into moving image.

© filmpuls, translated by Nina Kaelin

About Kristian Widmer
Kristian Widmer (49) is Executive Producer and CEO of Condor Films Ltd. He has been advising customers on film and video for 23 years.

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