Our time in the production business has made us witness to incredible advances in the tools we use for acquisition, processing and delivery of video programs. Years back, we marveled at the first "portable" video cameras, which included a camera head weighing in the neighborhood of twenty pounds, a camera control unit housed in a metal-framed backpack of another twenty or so pounds, and a separate video recorder, fondly known as the "bozo-box" because that's what you looked like schlepping it around. These days professional camcorders are small and portable and produce superior images in good conditions and bad.
"Punch and crunch" tape editing, which involved manually rolling both a player and recorder simultaneously and hoping you had cued them up just right, was replaced with time-code editing which provides frame-accurate precision and a record of your decisions. Non-linear systems which store full-resolution video on hard drives now allow random access to your precisely organized source material without the need for paper logs and endless winding through tapes.
Video recordings have evolved from being housed on reels the size of a pan pizza to digitally recorded cassettes the size of matchboxes, and onto ever more affordable and portable memory devices.
All of this has had its impact. The creative process is easier, quicker, and of course, less expensive. High production values, in terms of technical quality, are within the reach of even the most casual user. The effect on the business of production has been to cause periodic shake-outs in which organizations with heavy capital investments in technology are replaced by leaner and meaner producers who can create dazzling programs at lower cost utilizing the newer, less expensive gear.
But let the buyer beware! Because inexpensive, highly effective equipment is now widely available, there have been many entrants into the production field who come bearing gear, but not much in the way of experience. The ability to communicate with precision and impact through the medium of video is not sold in a box. It evolves out of an innate talent, through years of experience, into something of great value to the client. When reviewing budget proposals, look beyond the cost of the tools to the acumen of the people who'll be working with them.
The most cost-effective video is one that delivers your key messages. This is not achieved with special effects, but with a specialized effort at targeted creative development, process management, and client services. Technology is an important piece, but it's not the only piece.