One big change over the last five years is that now colleges and universities have their own sophisticated in-house video teams. Since video is in-demand on social media platforms and in communications, most colleges (and corporations, for that matter) have broad internal capabilities to address the various video projects that arise. This is a good development as it allows them to work quickly and efficiently but relying on internal resources exclusively has some drawbacks.
In cooperating with in-house teams we’ve been fortunate to talk to a variety of college/university videographers to find out what they think--details they may not always share with supervisors or project leads in communications, advancement or admissions.
All video is not created equal and thinking it is does a disservice to the videographer’s expertise and to the project. This is where frustration can arise.
Some projects require a fast, loose style--documenting a college event or interviewing a professor about new research, for example. But a project that’s more narrative, utilizing multi-cameras or specialized equipment, and content that’s tasked with showcasing the institution’s brand or helping to raise millions of dollars requires a different approach altogether.
As video professionals, we empathize with some of the challenges that in-house video departments often face; it’s our goal to assist our clients in whatever way we can to make the most effective work.
Consider the following challenges and the questions you can ask yourself when embarking on video projects with your internal team:
Challenge: Small or one-person in-house teams are often crunched for resources. These include equipment, time, budget, personnel--you name it. That your in-house team is available to you as a resource to you does not mean they're exposed to the resources required to do the type of work you’re expecting.
Ask: Is this a realistic project, given the scope? What demands are you placing on the video team and where can you help to add resources to maintain the integrity of the project?
Challenge: Internal teams are distracted by the day-to-day requirements. There's so much video being made that a lot of the "news" style shooting that goes on on college campuses (introducing a new professor, heralding a sports accomplishment, reporting on the listeria outbreak in the dining hall), that asking them to do a complicated narrative video will be an obstacle to do the day-to-day work.
Ask: What is the best use of your internal video team’s time? What do they excel at and what is on the schedule? Adding larger video projects (that take months, rather than hours or days to complete) must be accounted for in the project planning. Be cognizant of the workload and the ways you’re adding to it.
Challenge: Large video projects usually require many skilled practitioners, for example: a director, a writer, an editor, a producer, a director of photography, production assistants, an audio person, etc. To ask one person or a small team to wear all those hats is a tall order. Each of these jobs is an important professional skill that requires some measure of expertise. It is possible to find an exceptional person or small team that is skilled at many of these jobs, and often videographers have been trained in multiple areas, but it can still be a stretch.
Ask: Just because you can give this project to your in-house team, does this mean you should? Consider the broad range of skills that are required for your project. Will it require casting or extensive up-front creative work? Does the complexity of the shoot require an outside producer? Think about your project in terms of the expertise that will be required to be effective.
Challenge: They don't feel valued. One of the most common issues we've encountered with internal videographers is rather sensitive: they feel like they're not valued as a true partner. This manifests itself in project leads tinkering too much, asking for too many changes, and not letting videographers show their hard-won expertise and do the job to the best of their ability.
Ask: Are you micromanaging? Work to treat your in-house team as a respected partner. Treat the relationship as a consultative one and be aware of how you’re tinkering with the project and if it’s getting in the way of success.
Challenge: Most college/university in-house teams are full of smart people who know their capabilities and limitations. They know when they need help and can also counsel you about when it's appropriate to go external and hire outside resources.
Ask: Are you asking your video team’s advice and counsel on how best to allocate resources? Use your in-house video team as advisors and view them as experts in their own right, not just do-ers. Instead of giving them assignments, learn about how to work best with them so the final outcome is the best it can be. Your production staff will thank you.
In the end, it’s best to foster a creative relationship based on clear communication and respect. If you can make your in-house video team look good, they’ll make you look even better.