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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023

ABOUT THE LIST–Internet Stretches Limits of Video Production Capabilities

If video killed the radio star in 1981, several members of this year’s List of Largest Video Production Companies hope the Internet kills the old-fashioned video production company in 2000.

Businesses on The List said the profit boundaries for video production companies are no longer confined to commercials, documentaries, marketing or training films.

Instead of putting a face to the brand name, they open doors to employee profiles and product inventory, laptop Web conferences and mobile uplinks, and instant availability through the Internet.

Joe Healthcare missed the regional roundup Tuesday? Have him download it Wednesday. Thirty seconds not long enough for the San Diego Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to say its name twice or publicize upcoming events and visitor information? Continue the commercial at its Web site.

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This is where San Diego video production companies are headed, many said.

And they’re making all sorts of changes. One company hired a new CEO without a day of video production experience but a lifetime of marketing knowledge. Another is betting a truck designed to produce, uplink and Webcast multi-camera video shoots from isolated locations will make the company profitable again.

Not long ago, The Dakota Group, Inc., No. 3 on this year’s List, was strictly a commercial, marketing and training film production company. Now the group can customize commercials to fit their clients’ Web site or customize the Web site to fit the commercials.

– Production Goes Beyond

Basic Video, Film Projects

“All we were two years ago was predominantly a video and film production company,” said Dave Roberts, Dakota Group’s chief operating officer and executive producer. “We didn’t provide any content. So either A, an ad agency hired us to execute a commercial for them or B, a corporation hired us to execute a training or marketing video for their company.

“Now besides doing commercials for dot-com companies, we may have a company that is approaching us for their corporate video but then it’s taking it a whole step further: Whether we’re developing either CD-ROMs for them, whether we’re developing their Web sites, whether we’re getting their video and streaming it on their Web site for them.”

Currently, the Dakota Group sports a full-time staff of 13 employees , half the company works on Web sites and not standard video production.

“We can host the Web sites for them,” Roberts said. “We can stream video for them. It’s bringing a design element, as much as anything, to it. A lot of companies’ Web sites are call them flat, bland. There’s not a whole lot of artistic (flavor) or integrity to it. So we help them be a little bit more user friendly visually , easier to read, easier to look at, easier to find things, easier to navigate your way around their Web site.”

The added diversification of the company product meant Dakota could market itself as an all-around image provider and technical supporter. The company needed to hire somebody with marketing and sales experience. That person needed to refine the company and explain its necessity to prospective clients with outdated Web sites, Roberts said.

The three founding members , Roberts, and executive producers Tonya Mantooth and David Zeigler , hired Dwight Gould as chief operating officer. A career marketing and salesman who was most recently senior marketing officer for Cendant Corp. headquartered in New York City, Gould had no experience in a video production company. But with the industry changing, a client needed to know how today’s video production companies could help, Roberts said.

– Web Sites Back Up

TV Commercials

“I think you’re seeing things like Nike, is one thing that comes to mind immediately,” he said. “Where they’re running these TV commercials and then their spot is continued at their Web sites. They’re just running people to these Web sites and then taking them to other areas. So our industry as a whole is changing no matter what company you are.”

One company willing to bet the company vehicle on it is SDTV San Diego Teleproductions, No. 11 this year. SDTV specializes in satellite teleconferences, live multi-camera productions, and streaming live television to the Internet from various locations.

The one thing that will propel SDTV into a video production powerhouse and Internet streaming innovator, according to president and executive producer Mark Yancey, is actually a truck. And it’s on its way from Chicago right now.

“We’re going to develop a satellite-based way of getting connectivity to the Web where the truck would go out to do a multi-camera shoot, stream it, and then we’ll be uplinking it (and) data stream back to the Internet,” he said. “That way we don’t have to wait for phone lines to get built out in the field.

“So in other words, a company can call us up and within three hours they can be streaming the camera shoot. So even breaking news can be done that way.”

After watching revenue drop 14 percent in 1999, Yancey, who likens the Internet to the beginning stages of the invention of the light bulb, said he believes the truck will increase net sales by 30 percent.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into this new truck,” he said. “It might be discerned as a bit of a gamble to build a truck for just Internet streaming, but I think that the market is there. In other words: Build it and they will come. It’s hard to estimate how much of a market there is, but that’s why we built it and I’m sure they’ll come.”

– Truck Expected

To Lower Costs

The truck will allow SDTV to cut costs by eliminating satellite uplinks through ground-based analog stations. That, Yancey said, would compel clients to hire his company.

“Instead of uplinking in analog, we will be uplinking in digital and then with this Internet streaming we’ll be uplinking in a digital compressed file mode,” he said.

“Our new truck can hook up to (high speed Internet access lines like) an ISDN line, DSL line, a cable modem line, or as an uplink as a compressed file which would make it very cheap.”

Lenny Magill, chief executive for Lenny Magill Productions/Time Zone Video, No. 6 this year, sees the biggest change coming from the types of producers entering the video production field.

“A lot of guys jump into the business with the low-end computers and we’re kind of more computer guys (now) than we are producer guys,” he said.

Everybody starting out in the video production industry has the same type of gear, so the playing fields are level for the most part, he said, and anyone can take pretty pictures.

But outdated equipment creates problems when pre-Internet recorded videos are moved online. It can be jumbled or scratchy or just awkward.

That’s not the impression a company wants to give prospective or current clients. If a customer can positively visualize who and/or what they’re dealing with, they’ll instinctively feel more comfortable, he said.

– Internet Seen As

Interactive PR Package

Magill envisions the Internet acting as an interactive public relations package. This, he says, is part of the natural progression of the Internet.

“First it was just let’s get a page up , kind of like a Yellow Pages ad,” he said. “Level two was let’s go ahead and be able to take orders and have some interaction back and forth and consummate a sale. Level three is going to be this live, moving video thing.”

Level three is where Magill believes his company will benefit the most from the Internet.

“It will do several things,” he said. “It will sell the product more effectively and it will also communicate more information.”

Magill has watched the industry change since 1983 when he started his company. Yet, as parts of the industry around him change, the core , the building blocks of video production , remain the same.

“So the business has changed in some ways and it has stayed the same in others. The method of distribution, that’s all changed because now it’s going to be on the Internet. But the content still has to be written, it still has to be created, it still has to be produced.”


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