Posted By:
Craig Newman
January 12, 2012
Filed Under:
Business Video Tips
6 comments

How iMovie is ruining professional, creative Video Production

This post may seem a wee bit negative but please my dear reader, understand my heart in this; I want to see creative video production flourish and although there is an exponential boom in “video producers”, I fear that creative, professional video production is doomed.

Why? Nowadays many people fail to visually perceive that there is a level of artistic knowledge and aptitude associated with video production. Many believe that if you have a PC, half-decent camera and a basic aptitude for the technical elements of editing (i.e. cutting, laying tracks, effects, titles, etc) then they are a video editor. This mentality is dangerous as many customers are looking for video producers and are ending up with a kid with laptop.

“The number of video producers is booming. The amount of creative video production is declining… rapidly.”

Andrew Keen said, ” New fangled technology, especially the cyber world is destroying art throughout the world.” In his book,  he claims that there are no more original conceptions 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.

It seems that Video Production is heading the same way.

Please don’t take me wrong! Like the desktop publishing revolution of the 80s & 90s, programs like GarageBand, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker and their like have inspired a generation of creators! Neophyte videographers who 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 before burning a DVD to immortalise those memories. Likewise there are a plethora of fantastic skits and video blogs emerging onto YouTube that are fun, creative and engaging. This creative boom is amazing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, that’s where it was supposed to stop.

Nobody was supposed to visually perceive these shaky, simply edited movies except your most proximate friends and relatives, to be the next Spielberg .  Video productions for companies and schools, commercials and marketing were to be left to the professionals, that is,  the diminutively minuscule group of people who had the technological, but more importantly, artistic expertise to distribute high quality video productions.

“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 more proximate to four or five thousand.  This has opened up a new generation of wanna-be editors who are definitely tech-savvy, and are often quite creative, but they don’t have the experienced eye of an artist.

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 European 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.

These days many people fail to visually perceive that there is a level of artistic knowledge and aptitude associated with video production. In the last decade legitimate production studios have been coerced to set themselves apart from those who have capitalized on the low entry barrier and undercut the established studios.  However, these discount editors, are void of any formal training and conventionally any ocular perceiver for art. This is particularly challenging for experienced video producers who are trying to make a start as they are often working from a home office and are therefore confused with these amateurs.

“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 plethora 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 composition under family video doesn’t mean the production quality couldn’t be vastly ameliorated.

The point is that you acquire what you pay for.  Contemplate 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.

6 Comments

RobertApril 14th, 2012

Let me play advocate’s devil on this

I’m old school. I’ve seen Oshima’s Violence at Noon (1966) which – at the time – had the most cuts of any film ever made (1500+) & Skolimowski’s Walkover (1965), which had 23 (IIRC). Both were wonderful, albeit in very different ways. Neither cut was traditionally professional, as you seem to define it – Violence was excitingly ragged, Walkover had a punch drunk lyricism – & you had to take their approach or leave it

I took it (i still do)

The biggest problem – at least in mainstream filmmaking – is that the audience has accepted bland excellence in place of real storytelling. I much rather something that’s sloppy but true to something proficient but empty; & – to cut off the usual protest – i do think this dichotomy is real. Which is why you find me looking for films on IndieGoGo rather than Hoyts, no doubt

(By the way, i’ve physically projected prints of the films of the great Lev Kuleshov. A true master. The extraordinary events of Mr West in the land of the Bolsheviks is one of my favourites

(I said i was old school)

Craig NewmanApril 16th, 2012

Robert, I whole heartedly agree with you. Upon rereading this blog leaves some ambiguity as to what areas of creative video production I was referring to.

I agree that mainstream modern film making has lost it’s way. Check out this blog from Short of the Week (http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2012/01/05/has-hollywood-lost-its-way/) for a good picture of how banal and lazy creative filmmaking has become. In 2010, I helped organise Sydney Underground Film Festival, a film festival in which I have had films featured before and since.

I fully support and encourage creative ammeter filmmaking in any medium and although a large portion of experimental or indie films have poor production values, they have creative narratives and concepts that will help birth the next generation of film makers.

That said, I disagree with the same filmmakers proclaiming themselves as “video producers” without first learning the industry. Mechanics, Carpenters, Panel Beaters, Electricians, etc, have an apprenticeship to learn their trade. Why not cinematographers? You would not trust a marketer or accountant who did not have any training or decent experience. Why would you trust an editor in the same position?

I have a personal connection to this blog in that I used to be the kind of “kid with a laptop” that I’m talking about.

I started editing when I twelve years old and I have been a part of the industry since a young age. At the “grand” age of 17, I launched a creative design business only to discover that while I was creative and while I was technically proficient, I was not practiced in the art of “professional video production”, by which I mean, the art of knowing how to make videos that work.

It’s only after attending Sydney Film School and then working under other video producers, cinematographers, editors, compositors and directors that I learnt how to create professional, creative, targeted videos that work for both my client and their target audience.

Please remember that Nagisa Oshima worked at Shochiku Ltd. for five years before he started making his own films.

Finally, as I said at the beginning, please don’t think that I’m coming down on technology or discouraging people from aspiring to be great filmmakers or video producers, if anything, I want to promote it, but I fear that without a raising of the standards, the move towards cookie cutter, technically proficient but bland professional media will continue towards entropy.

Businesses, please do your research, ask lots of questions (especially in regards to experience and education) and always ask for samples.

Anyone who wants to produce media for professional purposes, please, do the hard yards in the industry first. You’re work will improve and you will be enabled to reach new levels of creativity in your love projects and in your corporate videos.

Craig NewmanApril 16th, 2012

By the way… Lev Kuleshov is incredible isn’t he?

The reason for the name “The Kuleshov Rants” will become apparent in future posts when I start a video blog next month.

Thank you for your reply.

Kind regards,

Craig.

RobertApril 16th, 2012

I accept that what you appeared to be arguing wasn’t what you meant to say but i’m not sure i can let go of the bone. This may be the Warhol in me escaping but after sitting through a dozen thoroughly professional OH&S videos during a recent period of unemployment, i would argue the opposite position to you: that iMovie’s problem – apart from the fact that its by Apple, a company whose business practises i loathe – is that it makes the professional look too easy. It encourages perfect formulas & suppresses the quirky, the eccentric, the mould-breaking approach which reinvigourates these formulas. Give me Hollis Frampton or give me death, as someone probably never said

Its an old argument. More than a generation ago, Lord Snowdon wondered about his role as a photographic artist when surrounded by amateurs carrying $1000 cameras around their necks. Naturally Andy nailed the issue, in the most anarchist – you may feel nihilistic – way possible. He recognised that the greatest trick with the technology was subverting it to take bad pictures. Any fool can do that once – it takes brilliance to do it consistently & well. Oshima himself said it took him years to unlearn the lessons of his training (Violence at Noon & the even odder Death by Hanging were part of that process) & Shochiku was probably a more creative environment than anything you’d find now. Skolimowski’s training was art school, of course; & during the long hiatus in his filmmaking career, supported himself through art

Beyond the basic business skills – which are not that much different if you’re talking video production or warehouse management – its not clear to me what professional training would do to improve the standards of the industrial OH&S videos i sat through during a recent period out of work. All were perfectly constructed for the purpose & all were thoroughly tedious – one longed either for genius or totally incompetence, & didn’t really care which. People can either run a business or they can’t. They can either tell a story or they can’t

The analogy with other licensing is wrong. If you drive a forklift (as i’m licensed to do) without training you can kill someone, probably yourself – the worst that can happen if you frame yourself as a video producer without even the basic organisational skills of production is that the video can’t be completed for preventable reasons & you’re sued for breach of contract. Due diligence by the client should deal with this potential risk in advance. What has the producer done previously? Who were the clients?; & were they happy with the results?

(There’s a pro cycling team out there which is wondering why it can’t attract additional sponsorship despite winning races & claiming to ride clean. The possibility that this might be because its Directeur Sportif was previously the DS of one of the most infamous teams of dopers in the peloton – not mentioned on the team’s website but easy to find out if you’re doing sensible precautionary homework – doesn’t appear to have sunk it yet)

Hard as it may be to believe right now, i’m not unsympathetic to your position – i just can’t see how your solution matches the problem (except on the most simplistic guilding level). You might not like the work of these toy producers but i’m sure they’re technically proficient – as i said before, the problem with iMovie is that sorry accolade easy – & fulfilled the clients’ need/s. Certainly was true with all those OH&S videos

By the way, i really preferred Vertov – probably not a surprise to you in this context – & maybe even Pudovkin, though Kuleshov certainly needs to be better known. The Soviets of that period were brilliant montagists, albeit in a language which is now as extinct as Linear A. Not so long ago, i downloaded an old favourite – Jean Vigo’s A propos de Nice – & watched it on my e-reader at work (& how confusing would THAT line have been to M. Vigo when he made the film?). I still loved it – the funeral profession (one of the most unknowingly ripped-off sequences in film history) is still a classic – but even as i enjoyed it, i could see how alien the film language would be to contemporary viewers. The voice is too messy, not professional enough – it’s not linear (as one of my favourite SF films would say), though it may be Linear A

The digital print of A propos de Nice had survived; but for all intents & purposes, the film itself was lost

Sad

Very sad

Doubly sad. Its time to go to work…

With apologies
Robert

Craig NewmanMay 17th, 2012

Hi Janean, what do you blog about?

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