Eight Things to Consider Before Investing in an In‑House Video Studio

Jun 27, 2012

Topics: Retail, Technology

The growing popularity of online product videos can be attributed not only to consumers’ long-established preference for the medium, but to rapidly declining production costs.

Since 2008, the development of “prosumer” cameras and third-party distribution platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook has put online video production and distribution within reach of independent retailers. As a result, nearly seven in 10 online retailers now use video on their sites, according to the consulting firm e-tailing group.

“The equipment costs aren’t that high,” notes Tim King, owner of Backcountryedge.com, which has been producing its own videos for five years. “The time resource is the one thing that becomes most expensive over time. A well-done video production requires considerable time to prepare and script.”

King advises retailers ask themselves three questions before deciding whether to begin producing product videos in-house:

  • What do you want to achieve with video? Video can be an expensive endeavor that’s unlikely to result in quick sales increases. So, you have to have a good reason to produce videos, such as bolstering your brand.
  • Do you have the attention span to make this an ongoing part of your business? Videos shot for product this year will become obsolete when the product is updated next year. Completed video content represents a lot of hard work and creativity. It’s can be painful to have to de-activate content because it’s become outdated.
  • Do you have the technical expertise to produce quality video content and keep up with changes in technology? While producing videos for Flash-enabled Web browsers has become simpler in recent years, the explosion of smartphones and tablet computers has led to a rapidly changing set of competing technical standards for the increasingly important mobile commerce channel. Thirty-eight percent of North Americans say they watch mobile video once a month, up eight points compared to 2010, according to a global survey conducted by Nielsen in August and September of 2011. Be sure to consider which devices you want to reach before selecting your video production and editing tools.

If after answering these questions, you feel compelled to establish an in-house studio for shooting product videos, experts advise you to consider the following guidelines:

  • Studio. Find a quiet space with a high ceiling and no windows that you can dedicate to a studio. This will reduce the setup and tear-down time for each shoot. Consider using a banner to provide a unique backdrop. Online product videos that are shot on indistinguishable tabletops do little to promote the retailer’s brand.
  • Equipment. You can set up a rudimentary studio by buying a “prosumer” quality Digital HD video or DSLR camera for about $800, said Brad Kopitz, director of e-commerce marketing for Summit Sports Inc., which produces about 1,500 product videos a year for its various e-commerce sites. If you venture outside to shoot action sequences such as mountain biking, skiing, paddling or other activities, any of the HD helmet cams sold by the outdoor industry are adequate. A professional quality studio, including microphones, a three-piece light kit, audio-mixing equipment, advance editing and compression software and a dedicated PC or Mac with lots of hard drive capacity could cost between $13,000 and $15,000, estimates Bryan Moore, owner of Lights and Colors, a Salt Lake City video production firm that recently helped Toughstake produce its flagship product video.
  • Scripting. Develop a process that enables you to produce product reviews and other video content in a way that brands your store. Consider hiring a professional video production company to help you develop templates for storyboards and scripts as well as brand guidelines that you follow on all videos, advises Moore. Incorporate your brand message in the lead-in by always introducing the presenter as a store employee, citing relevant employee or customer anecdotes or including some other element that is unique to your business. “Explain why you are the experts,” advises Kopitz. “Sometimes we do this by saying ‘a lot of guys in our ski shop like this product because…’” Finally, a product video for something like a stove, water filter or car rack should go beyond describing features and include a step-by-step demonstration of how the product is used in the field. The willingness of people to watch online videos for more than a minute drops from 87 to 65 percent when the video lacks a product demonstration, according to the market research firm Nielsen.
  • Selection. Start with your most important products and categories from a gross margin perspective. If you can’t improve on a vendor-supplied video, don’t waste your time. Once you’ve honed your production skills, you can branch out to how-to videos to establish your expertise on selecting and sizing a backpack or mountain bike, packing for an overnight kayaking trip, selecting components of an avalanche safety kit or some other category.
  • Duration. Keep videos about a single product to two to three minutes, but consider going longer for how-to videos. Nielsen’s research indicates 37 percent of Internet shoppers are willing to watch videos of more than three minutes if they include good educational content.