I don’t know why, but everyone I’ve ever met loves hearing about disasters that happen to someone else. We have a collection of horror stories because we have clients come to us due to debacles they’ve experienced with other vendors. So I’m disguising identities and sharing with you the horrors of video production gone sour.
1. Live streaming video that wouldn’t stream
One of our clients had a corporate presentation by their CEO that they wanted to live stream. The company had never done live streaming before, and they didn't know how to find a vendor. Our client, I'll call her Lisa, asked internally if anyone knew someone who could do this. Someone suggested a friend of theirs, who assured our client that live video streaming wasn’t that difficult. He and two of his videographer buddies could do it in their sleep.
Turns out they had done it, once or twice, for weddings – but with a MUCH simpler set-up.
This would have been a red flag, had Lisa thought to ask. But being a very busy person, she took the videographer at his word and assumed all would be OK.
On the day of the meeting, the videographers showed up two hours early to set up their equipment – three cameras and associated gear, plus a laptop onto which they’d downloaded live switching software. From this laptop, they would send the video stream up to the cloud.
But - when they turned on the cameras to test the set-up, they couldn’t get a signal through to the streaming service.
They tried everything. Checking cables, wiggling connections, changing camera settings, re-booting their laptop, re-downloading the software. Nothing worked.
The meeting was delayed while they continued to troubleshoot.
The CEO was on hold, checking his watch, tapping his foot. After 10 minutes, the client gave up on live streaming and started the meeting. And everyone who had registred and logged on to watch him got, instead of the CEO's live presentation, an email with an error message and a promise to send the on-demand link later..
After the meeting…
…it emerged that the company's IT department had a robust firewall which stopped the video stream from connecting with the streaming service. The videographer had never run into a firewall before, so he didn’t know to check for one before the meeting.
Experience matters – especially when it comes to something as complicated as a live multi-camera streaming video shoot.
2. He stopped taking the client’s calls
One of our clients had a daylong conference with several important speakers, and hired a videographer to record all the presentations. After filming, the videographer would add in the PowerPoint slides to create TED-style videos.
The videographer wasn’t great about returning phone calls or emails. And he wasn’t particularly friendly. But the client assumed that because videography is a technical field, all videographers were probably so-so communicators.
It’s impossible to know what actually went wrong.
After the conference, the videographer delivered about half of the presentation videos to our client. Then he emailed the client, saying there were technical difficulties he was trying to sort out. He blamed an AV tech “who must have unplugged a cable.”
When our client asked for more details, she was met with radio silence. The videographer stopped replying to emails, and stopped answering the phone.
Though she kept trying, there was no alternative but to accept the fact that she was never going to see those missing presentations. And she would never find out what happened.
It doesn’t matter if there was an equipment failure, a lapse in attention by the videographer, or an AV tech (or someone else) who unplugged a cable. Refusing to communicate is a hostile act, and a video malfunction pales in comparison.
A track record of successful work is not enough. Make sure your video vendor is a good, friendly communicator - and that means they return your emails and phone calls in a timely manner. Poor communication can be an indicator of deeper problems that you don’t want to get caught up in.
3. The scary side of memory cards
In the old days, video was recorded onto tape, and each tape was labeled as soon as it was recorded. Tapes also had little tabs you could pry off, to prevent recording over material.
Today’s cameras are different. They record onto in-camera memory cards that offer huge advantages over tape – in image quality, file size, and re-usability.
Unfortunately, those cards also pose one significant hazard: If your videographer forgets to offload the video he just shot, he can record over it without even realizing it.
One of our clients hired a videographer to film an important live presentation. He set up his camera, checked audio, and recorded the presentation. All good.
But it was a very busy week for the videographer, and he was distracted.
Somehow he didn’t realize that he’d forgotten to offload the video files.
The next day the videographer had another shoot, so he set up his camera and pressed ‘record’ - and recorded over our client’s video files. Though he tried everything, the files were permanently lost.
It’s critical that your video production vendor have processes in place that minimize the possibility of an accident with your video files.
4. What the heck is that sound?
When most people think about video, they can forget that audio is just as important. And just like video can go wrong, so can audio.
One client hired a videographer to record a series of interviews with some very important people. The client doesn't know what went wrong – only that large portions of the audio were “garbled” and “sounded like a robot was talking.”
There are many possibilities:
- The interview might have been recorded in an area with a lot of electromagnetic interference
- There might have been interference from nearby cell phones
- The videographer might have used a wireless microphone – they’re a lot more susceptible to interference
- There could have been equipment failure, such as a bad cable or a worn input on the camera
There could have been mismatched equipment
But to our client, the reason didn’t matter. What mattered is that much of the interview material was unusable because of bad audio.
Vendors must have video and audio equipment that’s in good condition, and they must check their equipment on a regular basis for integrity.
How we do things
We’ve been around since 2001, and so we’ve had time to develop systems and processes that minimize mishaps and keep our clients happy.
When it comes to production:
- We’re dedicated to keeping our equipment up-to-date
- We are constantly checking our equipment to make sure everything is in good repair
- If something isn’t working properly, we send it out for repair or we replace it
- Immediately following all shoots, memory cards are removed from cameras, and not put back into cameras until the media has been downloaded and backed up
- We are always cognizant of potential failure points – and going into shoots, we prepare for them
- Clear communication with our clients – and within our team - is a top priority
I’m not saying that we’ve never had a problem on a shoot. That would be a lie – because once in a while, things do go wrong. That's the nature of this business.
I am saying that we’ve learned to prepare for disaster, so that when things do go wrong, they’re not horror stories.