Finding a Video Niche

In the past year, we’ve done a ton of research trying to prepare for making a viable, and profitable video business. While I was doing that research, I learned about different strategies for improving your price point, and how to pitch to clients, and a ton of other topics, but one thing that seemed to keep coming up, was the idea of finding a niche, within the video world. It becomes part of your brand, and allows you to master a specific subset of videos.

We don’t think that we’re at the point where we need to be heading down a certain avenue, but part of our plan has been to get some samples of our work in those different areas. I personally have been working on a spec commercial, we’ve done some restaurant work, a music video, and hopefully our next ‘portfolio boost’ will be a real estate video. The thought process in not picking a niche right away, is that hopefully through doing some work we’ll start to figure it out what direction we fit in.

The truth is that, I think we would be happy working in any of the niches, and so for right now we’ve got the tail wagging the dog a bit, but at this stage in our infancy, it’s natural. As we get more clients, and start to see where we shine, we will attract more clients within that area.

The one thing that we have gravitated to, and perhaps it will some day become the thing we’re known for, is restaurant videos. In the Raleigh/Durham area, there are a ton of restaurants, and not necessarily just the corner pizza and sub shops that exist in every town in the U.S. (I love those little pizza and sub shops, but they seem to exist and thrive regardless of any marketing, that is why I’m not talking about them). We have a huge variety of foods based on ethnicity and culture, and the abundance has lead to a lot of really great options, and those restaurants understand the power of social media, and many have followings that reach far beyond those of us who can easily eat there on a regular basis.

As consumers of many of these establishments, it has done two things in my mind. First it has familiarized me with the landscape, and how the restaurants were connecting with customers. Instagram pages like “Best of the Bull” connected me personally with dozens of restaurants, food trucks, and eateries that I have tried and enjoyed. But there is so much based on still photography, and when I scroll through the search page on Instagram, so many of the food related suggestions, are videos, something I’m not seeing much in the market around me.

The second thing that being a consumer has put in my mind, are many of these restaurants’ focal points. One restaurant I’ve been to makes what I think is the best burger I’ve ever had, pays their employees a living wage, and is as environmentally sustainable as they can be; another offers amazing Korean BBQ in a ‘Chipotle/assembly line style.’ For the burger place, I’d want to make a short documentary, with the owner talking about how all of the meat is locally sourced, and the bread baked daily, and film clips of the cooking process, the meals prepped on the plate, and someone happily taking their first bite. For the Korean BBQ, I would show glamour shots of the food, intercut with shots of the lids being lifted off the trays and the steam rising. I would probably use K-pop music over it, since their brand has heavily embraced the K-pop genre.

So is food our niche here at Chocolate Diamond Media? I don’t know about that. It’s too early to tell, but we’re passionate about it, and knowledgable about it, and it’s as good an avenue as any to start down. Maybe we’ll make half a dozen videos and find out we’re supposed to be making videos for all of the tech companies, but we won’t know until we start down that road.

The Jump to 4K/Cinema Cameras

There is a common thought in the film and video industry is that “the camera isn’t as important as the cameraman.” I would argue that this is absolutely true, but at a certain level, cameras do become an important factor. If you’re just starting in filmmaking, you don’t need to go out and buy the best camera on the market. Start out with your camera phone, or a DSLR, and start filming, and learning and practicing all the different camera techniques, and get yourself going with that.

Eventually, as a cameraman, or director of photography, your talent will grow into a more advanced camera, with more advanced lenses (if that’s the way you want to go). We’re currently shooting on the Canon 80D, which is an excellent camera, and is allowing us to make some great videos. At some point last year, we considered what was more important, making the leap to a 4K camera, or improving our lens options, and we chose lenses. Lenses are in many ways more important than the camera itself, and with a Rokinon 50mm Cine lens, and several Canon lenses, we started really setting ourselves up to make better videos. In fact, I’d love to fill out just the Rokinon Cine lens collection as my next big equipment purchases, because I like them so much.

As we attempt to grow our company, and work with more clients, 4K is an inevitable jump that we will have to make. It has pretty much become the standard. At some point in the past year, I made the decision that when I finally do make the leap to 4K, I want to leap to a cinema camera. I like my DSLR, it has and continues to serve me well, and I won’t be trading it in for a cinema camera, but rather I will be adding a cinema camera to my equipment list. The truth is, my DSLR will still be very useful on photography shoots, and it will be likely more easy for certain run and gun jobs in which the clients do not need 4K.

When we decided that we wanted to get a cinema camera as soon as possible, I did a ton of research on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. I have still yet to hold one, but after watching hours of reviews, reading about the features, and watching video after video shot on the camera, I was in love. There was also the price, and the size. At $1250, the camera is only slightly more expensive than my Canon 80D; and at 1.59 lbs it is slightly less heavy than my 80D. It’s a no brainer.

We’re not ready to make that jump yet, (financially, I mean if I had the cash in hand, I would in a second) especially as smaller less glamorous spending currently is a higher priority. As we wait on this upgrade, my resolve becomes shaky. There’s now a 6K BMPCC, and I wonder if it’s worth double the price to be up to date, and if 6K footage will help me to have more control over the image. There’s also the Canon C series, and I love Canon and their color science, do I want to wait and spend $6500 on the C200? I’ve only heard good things, so it becomes a tough decision.

My hope is that in the process of working, we’ll get the opportunity to rent each of the cameras, and handle them for a few days each, and get a feel for them. At this point, if a client came along looking for 4K, we would need to build rental into the budget, and so it would be a helpful test run (or two).

I think being in a place where we cannot purchase any of the cameras yet, but knowing that we’re heading in that direction creates a bit of anxiety, with too much time to think, but it also gives us the opportunity to research and really make a thought out and focused decision. But fantasy spending, is one of the things that we’re currently in the place to do, and there is something fun about fantasizing about what we’re going to get, and when.

What about you, if you had the opportunity to buy any camera on the market today, what would it be, and why?

Preparing to Film

Tomorrow, we’re going to be filming a spec commercial, and while it may seem obvious, preparation is key. We’re considering tomorrow’s shoot to be just as important as if we had a paying client, and so we’ve planned and prepared just as we would if we had a paying client.

Brainstorm/Planning Stage

Normally, when you have a client, or you’re pitching to a prospective client, you know their brand identity, and their product or product line, and you have to plan accordingly. It’s your job to come up with an idea to make them realize your vision while remaining within their brand identity (unless your plan is to shed that brand identity).

In the case of spec commercials, or specifically the spec commercial that we’re shooting, we came up with the idea, and then found the product. This isn’t the ideal way of working, but we’re not necessarily making a spec commercial in order to sell it to the maker of our product (in this case it’s going to be an ad for Cheerwine). What we’re hoping, is that we’ll have a sample piece something a little different than our current videos in order to showcase our range, and to show how we can work with a more traditional ‘ad style’ video.

Preparing Equipment

For preparing, there are a lot of things that need to be considered. For our shoot, we decided that we would be hiring a pair of actors, shooting outside on location, and wanting to know we have every shot set up so that we can get them all in the time allotted. These aren’t huge obstacles to overcome, but scheduling actors for an outside shoot with some of our recent weather has been difficult. To be honest, the hardest part about delaying the shoot due to weather, has been the delayed gratification of shooting, so the world’s smallest violin is playing for us.

In addition to those preparations, it’s important that we prep all of our equipment. This means that we need to know that we have everything needed for the particular shoot, not necessarily that we have everything we own. This shoot is going to be an outdoor shoot, so we likely don’t need our indoor lighting kit. Hopefully it’ll be bright outside, so we do need our ND filters.

In this planning, it’s best to have a checklist. Check off all the steps you need to do to prepare your equipment, and make sure that you make it as thorough as possible. You don’t want to get to a shoot, realize that even though you charged your shotgun mic, and cleared your memory cards, that you left them at home. So on my checklist, I’m thorough.

Last Minute Prep

Alright, you’ve got your actors, and your location secured. You’ve got your equipment all ready to go. You’re all set and ready to shoot right? Hopefully, but there are probably last minute details, things that you want to put into your video that you cannot prepare too early, you can’t pack up ahead of time.

For our shoot, I want the Cheerwine to be sweating, I want that feel of an ice cold refreshing soda on a hot summer’s day. I cannot just have them packed in the car the night before (not that I should have my equipment out in the car either), and so I pack everything, and I add ‘grab Cheerwine’ to the checklist, and do not check it off until I have my keys in hand and am ready to head off to shoot.

Go Out and Film

All the prep is to make your shooting experience easier, and more successful. For most of us in this line of work, the shoot is the fun part, and we have to prep to make the fun part as fun as possible. If I realize an hour in that I don’t have something I needed or that I have to adjust my shooting setup to fix some lack of planning, it’s time and effort spent in the wrong place.

Prepare, and have fun filming!