Higher Education in the Film/Video Production World

Greetings and salutations. My name is James Moore and I am a staff member here at FiveSix Productions in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada; my role with the company is somewhat of Jack-of-all-Trades. I have thus far served in the capacity of production assistant, grip, media manager, audio mixer/technician, camera operator, assistant editor, and editor; oh, and I am awesome at going on Starbucks runs. I graduated from Full Sail University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Film Production, have interned with Atlas Media Corp. in New York, worked for L.A. based Bunim Murray Productions, and am a freelance photographer and writer on the side. I have been with FiveSix since July of 2014, and am happy to share my thoughts, experiences, and insights with all who are curious.

This is my first blog post, so I think it is fitting to share my journey from deciding to work in this field to now, my first full time, staff gig in the biz. I will be as brief as I can while trying to impart as much useful awesomeness as I can.



As more time passes since I've graduated from college with a shiny, new Bachelor's Degree in film production, I speculate more and more over the value of the degree as related to working in the production world. Every person's situation, experience, desire, and especially opinion is different, so I will simply pass along my observations and experiences so as to aid anyone who is looking for such things.

My original collegiate ambitions were clouded in the uncertainty of not only what career I wanted to pursue, but also the socioeconomic realities I would face having grown up middle class, and without any "scholarship-worthy" attributes, trials, or tribulations. By the time I was ready to pick a school and major, I was already blindly and foolishly certain I was going to be a famous actor gracing the stages of Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately for me, as I found out very quickly, actors are typically one or a combination of good looking, talented, and funny; so acting was out. In my mind, I had to go to college and get a degree, it's what people do after high school- so, what next? I resolved that if I couldn't be in front of the camera, I would learn to work behind it; I loved photography, writing, and the beautiful idea of Hollywood glitz and glamor, so it would be a perfect fit. Goodbye practical, University of Colorado, hello fancy, Full Sail University.

Let me take a moment to make a very serious and important note, as it relates to this rant. I don't regret anything that I've done, as I am blessed to be where I am now, but if I could go back and tell my younger self about my experiences, I would probably have done things somewhat differently. That being said, I would have told myself to understand student loans and the repayment process. $100,000.00 isn't a small amount, especially when you need to pay a mortgage/rent, car payments, health insurance, etc. All the sudden, that $800 a month isn't so fun. If only I had been so lucky as to have the forethought and common sense to do some research and not just listen to college recruiters and morally-sound student loan agents. I would have also stressed the value of a degree, but passed along the idea that a degree from any accredited institution of higher knowledge is worthy. Stanford and Harvard look wonderful on a piece of framed paper, but many community and state colleges provide exceptional educations, and a lot of employers are impressed that a degree was earned at all.

Before I get too opinionated and off-track, here are some nuggets of knowledge and experience to wrap this up:

  • Full Sail offered an incredible experience, and education. They are very expensive, but those students who try to get everything out of their tenure there will get a great education in the film/television industry. I can honestly say I feel more confident on set that I have even a base knowledge of the industry that I earned there.
  • If I made a decision now, I would not go to Full Sail, I would go to a state or community college instead. (Again, Full Sail is a great school, it just wasn't the best financial decision for me in retrospect.)
  • A degree is invaluable. It represents commitment, hard work, and most employers I've tangled with are happy to see someone with one- regardless of the prestige of the institution.
  • Most people I've ever worked with on set didn't go to film school, and they do just fine.
  • You can learn a lot about production, and many trades, from just getting out there and trying.
  • Never underestimate the value of working hard and having a good attitude; those are as important on set as knowing how to light a set or edit a video.
  • Start at the bottom if you need to... because usually that's the only way to get in. It took me over half a decade to find the right fit, and it ended up being an entry level position, despite previous experience.

That's about as generalized as I can get without telling more of my life story. I hope this has painted a clear enough picture and been as factual and useful as possible. Best of luck in whatever path you choose.


Explainer Videos

Explainer Videos - Getting Lost in the Shuffle, #explainervideo

Explainer videos, when they first popped up in popularity a few years ago they were inventive, new, fun, edgy.  They filled the important and specific role of telling an audience what a company was all about in a fun way rather than in a 'read this page' kind of way.  They worked.  They engaged people because they were a new way of presenting information.  But here we are, a few years down the line and explainer videos have gone from inventive and fun to 'I've seen this type of animation before, I don't care to watch it again.'  Click away, I'd rather read a page and move on with my life.  The formulaic explainer video has become old news and as such, has lost some impact.

The problem is that explainer videos became so popular that a cookie cutter approach was developed to creating them and they were churned out as fast as possible.  Throw up some stick figures, or a white board with drawings or some graphics/text whipping in and out, use a voice over, add a logo and kick it out.  It's no longer cute and new, its just another video to watch.

Now, we can't just abandon the explainer video.  The purpose for creating such a video isn't going away.  We know that video is the preferred method of digesting information for a large percentage of the population and no company wants to miss out on communicating effectively.  The goal of these videos in the future is to standout and not to get lost in the shuffle. This means to steer clear of the cookie cutter animations and do something that is unexpected or do something that is live action.  Clever, thought out, pre-produced explainer videos will not only garner more attention and shares and likes and thumbs ups, but they will deliver a better message in the end.  Effective explainer videos can't be done in an afternoon, like most things, they need to be done well, not just done.

Put on your creative beanies and try to stop regurgitating what the last guy did because each time the same video is created with a different logo, it becomes less effective and less desirable to watch.

There are only a few around but production houses like us here at FiveSix will help develop a concept from the very beginning and be sure to follow through so that the end product reflects the company in a unique and effective way.  We'll also have some fun.

Las Vegas Video Production

Video Production Budgeting, #corporatevideo

We send out an incredible amount of estimates for video production here at FiveSix, ranging from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand.  But when it comes to requests for corporate videos that will end up playing on the web, the question we get the most is, how are these prices decided upon?  How much should my video cost?  Now I was going to lay out the reasoning and prices behind the industry but I remembered a post I read awhile ago that was comprehensive and right on the money.  So why retype what was already done well.  It tackled this subject and even gave dollar amount ranges for specific jobs in the industry.  The guys over at OMM listed the 25 factors that affect video production costs, and they did a good job.

Of course things involving camera technology and equipment have changed a bit since 2010, but the main message of experience and professionalism has remained a constant.  Budget is often times the driving factor in the creation of a video when it should truly be what is the video supposed to accomplish, and then let's go ahead and see how that fits into a budget.




Las Vegas Video Production

Renting Video Production Gear

There are only two possible choices when deciding on gear for a shoot.  Own it or rent it.  Be it cameras like the C300, RED, Sony PMW 300 or Arri Alexa, cine lenses from Canon or Zeiss, or grip gear and lighting or even audio.  But who really cares about audio, right?  Renting gear is the way most productions tend to go.  This is because, first off, the gear is expensive and requires a good chunk of cash.  But there are other reasons too, you don't have upkeep costs as a renter or a depreciating asset and you can be more versatile and not locked into a single camera/format.  If you travel, you don't have to lug it around or keep up with firmware and updates.  These are all problems of the gear's owner.  But when renting, do you rent from a big rental house or a local production company or a local freelance owner/operator.  There are pros and cons to each of them.

Rental houses - They will usually have whatever you want in stock and available.  They will normally be a bit cheaper since they deal in bulk.  There is no negotiating on prices/dates, pick up times and drop off, they are locked in.  If something breaks on the shoot, it is difficult to get a replacement in a timely fashion. The gear has been highly used and is beaten up a bit.  Every add on is extra.  No real specific point of contact.

Local Production House - Depending on the size of the facility, camera availability may be an issue.  Prices are higher than big rental houses since they are only dealing in a few cameras.  Price/days/times are negotiable.  The gear is usually well taken care of and includes extra items in the package.  Add ons are negotiable and sometimes thrown in.  Replacements, if needed, are usually quick.  There is a known point of contact and someone is almost always available.

Local Owner/Operator - Camera availability can be an issue.  Prices are higher than rental houses and many times the owner will require they be on the shoot.  Price/days/times are negotiable.  The gear is well taken care of.  Add ons are negotiable, if they are available.  Replacements can be difficult.  There is a known point of contact but not always available since it is a single person.

With all this to take into account, when we here at FiveSix need to rent gear somewhere not in Las Vegas, we tend to try and find a local production company to help us out.  We like the upkeep on the gear, having a point of contact and the flexibility.  It may come with a slightly higher price tag but the benefits are worth it.

Las Vegas Video Production

High Demand for Independent Music Videos, #musicvideos

It's interesting to see the high amount of forms sent to us inquiring about producing music videos. Often times these are solo artists, with a song or two, who wish to break into the industry. They figure a video is a good way to show off their music as well as their style/look at the same time. They're right, it is. However, often times the idea is to shoot on the strip, in a grand suite, or in the middle of the desert with sweeping sand dunes. This all takes much more than what they envision. At FiveSix, when we do something, we like to do it right. Unfortunately, doing a music video right is expensive. With costs that include creative, pre-production, transportation and props as well as the time it takes for multiple locations, extras, crew members and hours of post including graphics and effects, doing a music video right isn't cheap. This is our conundrum. We want to help, music videos are fun to produce. But these solo artists often times are funding the video themselves and have a few hundred dollars to spend. Because of this, the video ends up as a cell phone video taken by their friend. This not only doesn't do justice to the music they've created but the visuals as well. Unless these artists can find someone to help fund a production, my suggestion would be to just stick to getting the music out and forget about the video until a budget has been established. A poorly shot video with weak sound and no editing, costs the artist credibility and rarely will launch anybody's career. We welcome all inquiries as far as music videos and will talk through costs and ideas and hopefully send an artist on the right path. There are ways to produce high quality and keep the costs down such as reducing locations and keeping it simple. But in my opinion, in regards to music videos, holding off on creating a video is better than a putting out a poorly produced one.

Las Vegas Video Production

Long Shots - The Popularity of the Single Shot Video #videoproduction #singletake

We talk about videos most of the day around here and we don't always agree on everything, however, one thing that nobody can argue against  is that videos that are done in a single shot or have that illusion are quite impressive.  I've seen this being done more often, complete with elaborate sets and with elaborate choreography.  In these videos the camera is as much of the star as those people it is capturing.  Being handed off to one person and then another, lifted over buildings, through windows, flying amongst debris or simply following action, the camera movement stands out.  This style of one take, no cuts, really grabs a viewer's attention and often times, if done right, creates buzz and achieves the desired result in the end, often times it goes viral.  These videos could be considered a type of dance, by that we mean the entire process is choreographed and practiced and practiced again.  Everything has its place and rehearsal is vital.  And though you may only see a few people on camera, there are dozens behind the scenes.  It's getting more popular especially with music videos as seen with the new videos from OK Go and even Weird Al.  But it can also be done with any type of video given the correct pre-production, space(which tends to be overlooked in these scenarios) and budget.  These videos could be a good fit in commercial or corporate work, even video contests or book trailers.  Let us know if you see any more of these out there or better yet, we'd love to put one together if you have an idea.



Las Vegas Video Production

Script Writing, Every Video Needs a Script, #scriptwriting

We always talk about video acquisition.  We yap on about the new cameras, the new formats, how to get a shot with a Movi or a drone or where to use a close up.  It's all about the image.  What often times gets left behind is that all great videos, be they small :10 sec ads all the way up to features, have a script.  The ideas and content are first written down and organized in a structured way so that capturing that all important visual image will be done correctly and efficiently.  So what makes a good script writer, a good script, how does one get into that side of the business, who writes all of them?

We use a number of different script writers, why, because one person can't write every type of script out there in an effective way.  A comedic viewpoint takes a different mind than a dramatic interpretation, in most instances.  Car commercials, social media videos, book trailers and promotional ads all have script writers but the same guy isn't writing them all.  One thing is certain, a good script writer needs to be able to adapt.  This is because normally, when dealing in videos, there are many different opinions and the initial script is going to be changed multiple times by the end.  A script writer who knows how to let go and swing with change is going to be much more successful in gaining more work as well as having leverage to argue their point.  If they let little things go, often times they can keep in the script something that is more dear to their heart.  But I'm not a script writer, it's just what I've seen.  Below are a few a good articles and such on script writing to take a look at if you're interested.




Script writing may not be the most glamorous part of creating video but it is essential.  Having someone who loves to write and knows how to craft a script is as important as the people hitting record.  It's good to remember that at all levels of production.  We appreciate all the hard work that goes into each script and want to let all the script writers out there know they are appreciated.




Las Vegas Video Production

What makes a good Producer, in the sense of corporate video? #videoproducer #producer

Putting together corporate videos takes a leader, someone has to be in charge of the project or usually nothing ends up happening, well nothing good anyway.  These people who are put in charge are often given or anoint themselves the title of producer.  What does that mean?  Well it means you oversee every facet of the production from start until finish and make decisions on everything from budget all the way until the final edit and deliverable.  Oh I get it, they do everything.  No.  Stop right there.  Bad producers do everything. Bad producers micro manage every part, stifle creativity, and frustrate everyone else involved.  Often these are new producers, they take to their role like a child with a new toy, they don't know what they want but it's mine and I'm not letting it go.  They tend to alienate members of their team and the product suffers as a result.

But what makes a good producer?

A good producer is someone who knows what they want.  If it's a car commercial, a green screen interview, a behind the scenes shoot, high end real estate, or even a convention video, a good producer will do their homework and find out and strategize what the client is looking for.  They will then form a team of the individuals that can best perform each duty that will be needed such as camera, sound, editing, lighting, etc.  Then, they will provide direction to the team and let the team do what they do best, create.  A good producer will allow each member of their selected team to have input and coordinate with them to make sure the client's needs are being met.  They will address problems as they arise instead of create them.  The producer themselves can be creative but their role is more of the coordinator and facilitator of the whole project and good producers know that this is their primary focus.  Being the liaison between the client and the video team is extremely important, we all know nothing gets done well and correctly without good communication.

Too often producers want the role of creative, or the role of director or director of photography, or they think they are entitled to  make creative decisions.  True they are the lead on the project and they should have a great deal of input into the final look and feel of the video they deliver to the client, however, too often they hold onto too much.  The best results often come from a diverse set of ideas and not from a single person and a single view point.  A good producer knows when to let go and when to take control.  That is the most difficult part of the job.  So to all those good producers out there, thank you.   For those producers still learning, relax and let your people do what they do and most of the time they don't disappoint.

Oh and the best producers always feed their crew, on time.

A Fun Look at a Couple Video Production Crew Positions, #cameraassistant, #videoediting

Sometimes it's enjoyable to take a look at a few of the positions in the production world and poke fun at what they have to go through.  Every position has its challenges and Camera Assistant is one in particular that has so many responsibilities they are bound to get frustrated at least once per shoot.  Over at theblackandblue, a great resource for camera assists, they put out a list of gifs that sums up some of these instances.  Take a look, we found them to be amusing.

And then there are the jobs that everybody assumes they understand and therefore can comment about and make judgements about quality of work.  Video editor sounds quite self explanatory but its tough to put into words what exactly these unsung heroes do for video production.  Insidetheedit made a great video that elegantly describes what an editor does and shows how they have more power over the final product than what people may believe. Check it out.

We here at FiveSix Productions appreciate all the crew positions and know a production doesn't go smoothly if the tools are in place for everyone.  Be in corporate videos, training videos, commercials, or green screen production, there is a lot that goes on with every job to make a video come out great.


Las Vegas Video Production

Modular Videos Cut Future Costs, #videoproduction, #corporatevideos

So, how do you make a video last, make it stand the test of time and show an incredible ROI.  You make it so that if one part of the video happens to become obsolete for any number of reasons, let's say due to upgraded product, new location, new spokesperson, a closure, a renovation or anything else, that portion can be simply removed and the gap closed or that section replaced.  What am I talking about?  Modular videos.

A video that covers more than one product, service, location, idea, training technique or whatever, often times are built so that it is very difficult to replace something if it changes.  Do we need to get the host again to say something, do we need to hire talent to repeat a new process, do we need to go in and maneuver shots around all over the timeline to cover up something that is no longer there.  All of these issues are time consuming in post production and thus are expensive changes to make.  Often times the expenses don't justify the small change and the video ends up being left as is without the poor visuals or information still reaching the consumer of the video.  There's a simple solution, these longer videos should be set up and shot as modular pieces.  In this fashion, when something isn't right, it's a simply lift and splice together and the web video is back up on-line without the poor information.  Then, with the video up and running, there is time to decide how to best replace the module that was taken out or if it even needs to be replaced.

FiveSix has been tasked to do a few of these and it's a great way to run a video that is supposed to stay relevant for long periods of time.  The video is treated like a dozen small videos strung together and the replacement is so simple that it barely takes any editing and thus any resources.  So don't let anyone talk you into a lengthy video without discussing the ability of making it modular, they're just trying to pad the change requests when they come in down the line.