September 30

Outsourcing a Video Project: How to Find and Manage a Crew

Sometimes the most practical way to get a video project off the To-Do List and actually DONE, is to call a professional crew.

The purpose of this blog is to teach people how to make their own videos, but I am practical enough to realize that sometimes the most efficient thing is to hire someone who already knows what they are doing. I always warn people not to spend a ton of time and money learning how to make video if all they want is a few marketing videos.

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Start by finding the right crew for your project.  My guess is you don’t want to spend a fortune.

What sort of crew you need is largely determined by your budget and their style level, which is related to quality in a way, but not completely. The world’s greatest wedding photographer could never charge as much as a huge video company that specializes in music videos for big stars. That’s because he won’t have the capacity to do what the expensive crew could do, but he still produces an incredible video, and it might be just what you need.  In fact, anything more might be overkill.

Video has a reputation for being expensive, and there’s good reason for that.  Video production can be incredibly time-consuming and require lots of people.  On the other hand, it’s possible to do excellent videos with smaller crews, too.  Many production people wear multiple hats.  I always did.

So you do not necessarily need a high level, complex video production that uses a huge crew to still get professional quality.  Honestly, experience has taught me more than once that people without any experience in video production usually grossly underestimate how long videos can take to create, so they will dream up ideas that are impractical.  You can avoid that by using the tips below.

How Much Will It Cost?

Prices for video production crews vary, of course.  No doubt you’ve read about big-name projects that cost a staggering amount.  That is real.  I have seen novices rack up ginormous bills for what might be argued is a paltry amount of work.  Let me give you an example.

Most of my career was in Nashville, TN.  I remember a hopeful country music wanna-be spending his entire inheritance, 20K, with a crew used to producing music videos for big stars.  I heard the director complaining bitterly backstage about the budget, and how he felt it was not enough to even make a video.  The finished project was embarrassingly horrible, IMHO, uninspired and dull.  I felt sorry for the guy and thought he would have been better off hiring someone who didn’t feel it was beneath his dignity to do a 3-minute music video for JUST 20k.  Trust me, there are plenty of such video crews, you just have to have the right perspective on the budget relativity of video making.

I worked at WSMV in Nashville for about 15 years.

In our modern era, video equipment proliferation and digital automation have both worked to decrease the perceived value of professionally produced video.  In other words, because everybody has a cell phone camera and video editing software is cheap, basic economic market forces have brought professional production prices down.  That’s good for you.

I think the best way to save money on a video project is not to automate or rely on Uncle Jimmy with his cellphone and free editing software.  Rather, I think it’s best to keep the video simple from a production standpoint and use techniques that are quick and easy, but still create a quality video.   This post will help you work with the right kind of crew to do that, so you can achieve your video goals without breaking the bank.

Consider yourself the Executive Producer, who makes all the major decisions, sometimes with the advice of others, but then lets others handle all the leg work.

The video making process is broken down into three basic stages known as pre-production, production and post-production. Those names are fairly self-evident, but knowing the distinctions is important.  If you want to read more on the particulars, here is a post for you.

Look locally for a crew that specializes in things like weddings, events, and small budget corporate videos. A more expensive company will turn it into a massive production and have the super-expensive equipment. For something simple, none of that is really necessary.


Many local TV stations charge much lower rates than a video production house. Plus, some local TV stations let their employees freelance on the side. Some of them do it without permission, but either way, call the chief photographer in the news department of a TV station and ask if he knows anyone. Try asking the production manager of the commercial production department as well.

PBS stations and small government stations are also a pool of potential talent. The employees might freelance on the side, and PBS stations often do a knock-out video for you for not much at all.

Check out local schools with video programs to see if they have a teacher or student willing and able. Most colleges and many high schools would be good sources for this.

Whoever you find, ask to see a video demo reel, or portfolio of some of their work.

  • Does it match the style of video you want?
  • What did they actually do on the videos on the reel? Video is a group project and I have known folks who did nothing much more than carry the equipment later put the show on their reel, and claim it is theirs, so be careful.

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When you work with a crew, there is a pecking order of command. Consider yourself the top dog who decides on the overall plan. You turn to the crew manager for advice, but results will be best if you have a vision that you convey to them, and they translate onto an onscreen story.

You do not need to concern yourself with what your video will look like yet. The most important thing in the beginning stages is to know how you want your video to function.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the target audience for your video?
  • What do you want them to know?
  • What do you want them to feel?
  • What do you want them to DO?
  • What appeals to them?
  • What do they already know?
  • What will inspire them?

It’s quite possible that something really simple, like you speaking directly into the camera on one plain talking head shot is all you need to convey your message.

If, after answering all those questions, you can not translate your message into a VIDEO, stop what you are doing and go watch TV.

Seriously. It’s research.

What kind of TV shows or commercials have already been made that would work for your message? Borrow ideas. Trying to sell a product? QVC is nothing but people sitting around talking about the product enthusiastically, with lots of product close-ups.

Informational videos are often just one or two people talking. Talk shows, Oprah, the Tonight Show, are nothing but people sitting around talking. If that works for Oprah, it just might work for you. Tell your professional crew you need a talk show format, and they’ll know what to do.

Probably the single most common form of video is what’s known as the talking head video. For detailed instructions on how to produce a talking head video, read the linked post. A talking head video can be the base of almost every video. They are very versatile, yet easy for a professional crew who will have a professional light kit, one of the most important elements.

You might also consider asking your crew for a documentary style format. This is where you interview one or more people and then put it together with narration and support video depicting your subject. If that’s weight loss, go take video of juicy hamburgers and carrots. Add some shots of people exercising and there you go. You can expand that out as far as you want. A full length one-hour documentary might interview ten “experts” and shoot video of twenty different activities. Most likely, a good length for your video is five to ten minutes, so clearly you would not need that much.

  • TIP! Video of any activity or product is referred to as “B-roll” by professionals. If you want to learn why it has such a silly name and other video jargon, read this post.

The classic form of video that people most often think about first is the fictional story. This type of video would be the most complicated and time-consuming. But wouldn’t you know it, it’s also the most effective. Human emotion is what pulls viewers into a video, so no matter how bland, I promise your topic could be made into a riveting story with characters, real or imagined. Human or animated. Characters and storytelling with video is GREAT fun, but it can also translate into a pile of work, so be forewarned.

Here is a post on character building and storytelling.


Once you have a good idea how you want your video to FUNCTION, you can plan out what you want your finished video to look like. The professional crew can guide you here. Or, contact me.

Making video is a process. The crew leader can help educate you on what specific steps your individual project needs. That’s the benefit of hiring a crew, you do not have to figure it all out. If you have the big picture down, they will fill in the details.

I hope this helps you. As always, drop me a line if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading,

Lorraine Grula



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  1. most of the time it’s better to outsource post production as it’s way faster and definitely with excellent output

  2. Well, it sure would be faster, no doubt about that! Video editing has a huge learning curve, if someone does not want to learn a fairly complex program, then outsource. If you find a good editor with his own equipment instead of a large company, it will not cost too terribly much. Before computers, it took so much equipment to edit that it was dreadfully expensive. I have paid up to $500 an hour to edit and bear in mind editing is terribly time consuming. Today, you could find rates of $50 an hour.

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