When you pay top dollar, you expect the highest quality.
In television production, the delivery of quality is a subjective and often nebulous concept and one that is often used to drive up the cost of production with negligible improvement in value.
There have been numerous examples of where budgets have had the latest, and therefore the most expensive camera equipment, where a suitable less expensive version was available. Like the director who wanted the latest high speed film camera to shoot talking heads to camera in a studio. Or the producer who loaded the quote, but presumably not the truck, with every lens available. Or the director who still insists on shooting film and then allows stock shoot ratios of 500:1.
So here are a few ways to ensure your budget delivers every cent in quality on the screen.
In many discussions about production quality, the production house will justify costs with the comment “Doesn’t your client demand the very best”.
This retort usually ends the conversation as the implication is that every production needs to be the highest quality. For the production house the measure of quality is not the effectiveness of the execution in achieving the marketing objectives, it is achieving the highest possible production values, which means using the latest technology, embracing the latest techniques, allowing time to experiment, being able to cover multiple shoot options as insurance if one of these “new” techniques fail and having the latest equipment.
What they are really saying is “Doesn’t your client demand the very latest and therefore most expensive”. The answer to this should not automatically be yes, because each of these is adding cost, but is it adding value?
A culture of spending
There seems to be a culture within the TV production industry of using (and using the client’s money to pay for) the latest equipment and/or technology whether it’s required or not.
The people that benefit from this culture of “the latest” are the equipment hire facility who hire out the top of the line stuff, the production house who get to mark up the top of the line stuff and the technicians who get to use the top of the line stuff. So there is a strong lobby to maintain this culture.
The knowledge to know better
Some agencies are often complicit in this culture as often agency personnel don’t fully understand some of the technical aspects of production and post-production – whether there is actually any “value add”.
When confronted with the question “Doesn’t your client expect the very best” they have to nod in agreement, and are often coerced into using high-end hardware to keep the director and production company happy, and is in many cases, over and above their client’s expectations and needs.
The expansion of this culture relies on the client’s and sometimes the agency’s ignorance and production pre-ambles full of esoteric jargon and unfathomable technical terms.
So how do you discourage this culture? By having someone “on-side” that:
Instead of simply advising clients on their production costs we manage their production costs for them. After all, the director has his producer to look after the interests of the production company. The Creative Director has the agency producer to look after the interests of the agency. So why shouldn’t the advertiser have a producer to look after the interests of the client.
It is very common in North America and Europe and is becoming increasingly so here.