It’s crazy to think how quickly the media industry has evolved. It used to be that “media” meant traditional broadcasts and physical videos you plugged into your television. Today, media—and specifically “new media”—is an ever-evolving form of digital video that is constantly increasing, both in terms of volume and the need for speed. Oh, and the budget to produce is also ever-decreasing, so there’s that, too.
With all that in mind, how do you even begin to wrap your head around the ever-changing landscape of shooting and producing digital video? Where do you start when it comes to figuring out what crew you need? Let’s take a look at this new video landscape and what it means for assembling your team for high output, quick turnarounds, and, often, very little money.
The Essential Digital Media Crew
A lot of your digital media video crew decisions are going to be dictated by your budget as well as the scope and amount of video content you’re going to need. However, speaking generally, here are the crew members you should consider essential in terms of budget and quality of work.
Shreditor: A term I’ve learned to embrace in my career, a “shreditor” (sometimes called “preditor” for producer/editor) is slang for a producer/shooter/editor who can handle a video project from start to finish, often working solo the entire time. While a shreditor may not be right for every project, when dealing with a low—or even micro-budget, it may be handing the reins to one person to navigate the challenges of getting a video planned, shot, edited, and delivered.
When looking to hire a multi-hyphenate, make absolutely sure they have solid producing skills. Even if you end up filling the producer role yourself, having someone to work with who truly understands the project’s needs and has an in-depth understanding of the timeline for deliverables is essential for getting everything done on time.
Camera: While a shreditor can do the job of camera operator, hiring a dedicated shooter can be invaluable, especially if they’re also of the hybrid variety who can manage directing, lighting, and sometimes even sound. If you’re comfortable with this person, you can let him or her make the call on what type of camera and the exact gear needed for your budget point.
Lighting: That said, most productions would—and should—consider a gaffer or chief lighting technician an essential crew member. Unless you’re working on a project that is so low-budget as to only utilize a single light (or none at all), you’ll need someone who can safely and accurately handle lighting needs. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but trust me when I say it will cost far less to pay someone to do the job right on set than to “fix it in post,” not to mention the extra days it’ll add to your timeline to do so.
Sound: Traditionally, a video shoot requires at least two or three people to manage sound. However, as digital media video needs are changing, there are ways to get by without a traditional boom operator, sound engineer, and sound mixer setup. If your video needs are simple enough, you can use just one to handle all the responsibilities.
Hair + Makeup: Finally, we have hair and makeup to round out your essential crew. This may seem like an area where you can cut costs and just ask the talent to do their own hair and makeup, but bad or no makeup/hair design is one of the clearest signs of a no-budget production. Not only does a pro help maintain continuity between shots, but having the right hair and makeup (and costuming for that matter), goes a long way in creating a professional environment for your actors and adding to the polish of the final product.
If your production is larger in scope, has super-high quality needs, or there’s extra money in the budget to go around, here’s a full of who I’d recommend employing as a true, professional-level crew.
- Director of photography
- 1st assistant director
- 1st assistant camera
- Sound mixer
- Boom operator
- Production designer
- Hair + makeup artists
- Production assistants
Hiring Your Crew In-House vs. Freelance: Budgets + Expectations
The next thing to consider is whether your video content needs a dedicated, full-time person in-house or if you’d be better served hiring freelancers here and there. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both.
In-House: An in-house video professional is the best option when there is enough work happening consistently, year-round. The more hats this person can wear, the better. However, the likelihood of finding someone who can expertly handle all parts of production can still be a bit hard depending on your city and the salary.
Freelance: Working with talented freelancers can be more practical if your needs are more sporadic. Freelancers also offer the chance to switch things up from a hiring perspective should a project call for specialization. For example, rather than rely on a jack-of-all-trades for a video that calls for special effects, you can hire someone who specializes in just that but not be tied to them if the next video doesn’t need someone with that skill set. That said, you do run the risk of losing the comprehensive vision of a series or campaign if you mix and match too much. Freelancers may also cost more compared to hiring someone in-house, but only if the amount of work becomes so great that it’s close to year-round.
Whatever route you choose, know that talented digital media professionals are out there and ready to work. You can find these multi-hyphenates in a variety of places: traditional job posting boards like Indeed and Monster; video-specific resources like Backstage and ProductionHub; creative staffing agencies like Creative Circle and Artisan Talent. You can also look a bit more organically into networks like Linkedin or Vimeo to better gauge out relevant skills and experience.
With the state of video changing at its current pace, the need for someone who understands both how video is used and how to produce it is growing, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
For more on how to get work on a film crew, visit Backstage’s crew hub!