Whether you’re a single-person video producer or a full-fledged production company, everyone needs production tools and assets to get the job done. These include cameras, software, hardware, lenses, animations, project planning...all of the different elements needed to create a successful film or video. These tools and assets are vital to making each step happen.
That said, it’s very easy to get stuck in the tool trap, the one that says, “If I just get this next tool or asset, I’ll be better! My work will be better!” It drives us to upgrade software, get faster hard drives, buy new cameras and lights, start flying drones...but is this rationale legitimate?
Sorry to point it out, but that illusion is created by the marketing department at every tool and asset company. If you admit it, you already know this deep down. When you believe the hype, you spend money. Don’t fall for it. Making better work happens as you practice and grow as a producer from project to project. That doesn’t mean you won’t outgrow your tools or your production needs won’t change. But if it’s time to get a new tool, you have to decide what’s the most ideal option for your needs.
What is a Production Tool or Asset?
Often, it’s the time and cost for a project that makes clients walk away from our proposals. Production time can increase cost estimates, and push project completion well past projected deadlines and cause our clients to spend more than expected. Good tools and assets save you and your clients valuable time and money.
The challenge is that the tools needed to complete one production can look different from another project. In addition, they can be different based on user preference, style and approach. What tools and assets I need may be different from yours. Or, you might need mine because you don’t have them yourself.
This need for tools and assets goes beyond equipment and software. Another production professional can be an asset. Sometimes it’s a skill that you lack to complete a project. Whether you need creative direction, a better planner, a colorist, or an audio engineer, it can often be more beneficial to work with another professional rather than do it all yourself.
For example, my company offers full-service post-production to producers. But I don’t do the animation or sound engineering myself. I have two people on my team to accomplish those tasks. Why? They have more expertise and training in those skills than I do. In addition, they have the full suite of professional tools to get the job done, tools that would take me hours and hours of valuable time to learn. These two team members are my assets. And they’re very much appreciated and needed.
How to Evaluate a Production Tool or Asset Before You Buy
If production tools and assets are essential to producing quality work quickly, how do you know if a tool is the right one for you?
The place to start is by defining what you need your tool or asset to do. What problems are you trying to solve? Where are your pain points? What do your clients wish was better about your work? What do you wish was better about your work?
After defining in detail what you need out of your production tool, evaluate the potential of the offered product. Don’t just buy on the hype that “everybody else” is using it. Does the tool provide the solutions that you need? Ask yourself, do you need all the bells and whistles in the product? What do you need it to integrate into? Are your systems even compatible? Do you have time to learn and train on the new tool? Is it a product you need to grow into and you’re okay with that?
Taking the time to discover this information is crucial to confirming if you need that new, shiny thing in the first place.
If your answers to these questions confirm that the tool is the right choice, go ahead and buy it! But if your answers don’t line up with the features of the product, perhaps it’s time to pass, or find a different option to solve your problem. This goes both ways, whether you’re looking to save money or you need a more powerful tool because you outgrew the capacity of your current one.
As an example, I have worked in Premiere CS6 for the past three years. And no, I have not upgraded to Premiere CC yet. Why? How!? Is that possible in the production world today?
Yes it is!
I often work on projects as the sole editor. I don’t have to share my files with another person’s workflow. Even when I’m working with my animator or sound engineer, they’re working with other files and sending them to me, not integrating into my NLE. And when I have worked on timelines with another editor as a client, their systems were running CS6 as well. CC is not backwards-compatible, and project files created in CC are impossible to open in CS6. It’s only in the last few months that my new clients and projects are demanding the jump to Adobe Cloud. Now that I need it’s capabilities, it’s the ideal time to move to CC.
Every good production tool and asset is something that provides processes to save time, facilitate clear communication between you, your team, and your clients, as well as create fewer headaches than your old tool. Anything else is not worth the investment.
It’s All About Delivering Quality
Every time you or your company producer a video, your name is on the product. It doesn’t matter what production tool or asset you used to create it. A client doesn’t care if you carefully adjusted the color by hand or if you used a LUT. They care about your ability and consistency to tell a story that’s engaging and converting viewers.
All this boils down to your reputation as a producer. Do your videos live up to the testimonials of previous clients? Does your work confirm your reputation to a new client? I often say you can’t make up your own reputation. Instead your reputation is created by what your clients say about you and the videos you produce. Your name is only as good as your last production for a satisfied client. Your tools must enable you to deliver videos that live up to your name as a producer, each and every time.
A tool or asset that will help you craft a quality video every time is worth it’s weight in gold. If that new tool will save you time, great! If that new asset will help you deliver consistent quality videos to your clients, fantastic! Every tool, new or old, must empower you to craft better stories, better quality videos and better results. Any production tool or asset that does that is ideal for you and your production company.