Does Content Trump Quality in Video Production?

A popular topic on the videography boards I frequent is the issue of content vs. quality. Which is better: a flawlessly executed production where lighting, camera movement, composition, etc., are all spot on, or content: the story if you will. The characters.  Whenever I hear a topic like this, it always reminds of what the Stanford college recruiter said to one kid’s question: “What’s more important: getting straight As or having a lot of extracurricular activities?” To which he replied, “Getting straight A’s AND having a lot of extra curricular activities. (Disclaimer: FWIW, I went to the superior UC Berkeley.)  In a perfect world, you’d have excellent production values AND great content.

But, we don’t live in a perfect world. For whatever reason, there are times when production values aren’t as great as they should be. Or, particularly if you’re shooting a live event, you may have to grab a shot of the 99 year old grandma hugging the bride when you were just in the process of shooting the best man and groom giving each other a high five. Judging the dying grandma shot is more powerful, you whip around to grab the precious few seconds. But, in the editing room, you notice it’s shaky and a little out of focus. So, do you include it in the final edit? That’s the question. I say include it.

We’ve all seen $100 million+ blockbusters with state of the art effects and killer cinematography that absolutely suck! You feel like you wasted 2 hours of your life. Then we’ve seen those $100,000 independent films that make you laugh and cry that you watch over and over and over.  In the grand scheme of things, if you HAD to pick one over the other, I’d say content trumps quality every time.

CASE IN POINT

Below is a link to a video from a very “disturbed” yet well known wedding and portrait photographer out of the Pacific Northwest. His photography is off da hook (as his multiple award winning record will illustrate). His video production skills need a little work. (I say that in the nicest most caring of ways.🙂 But, his content always kills. Below is a link to a video he posted on Facebook and the comments on it are non-ceasing. Why? Because it’s hilarious. Poor quality. Great content. Enjoy. (Warning: some of the content gets a little racy.)

Check out the video here.

7 thoughts on “Does Content Trump Quality in Video Production?

  1. I think it is a ratio. For a movie for entertainment, I have sacrificed quality (usually in forms of acting or plot) for the quality of the effects or b/c I just had to see it. GI Joe which comes out soon I am sure will have a not so great plot. But hey I played with GI Joe till I was a teenager, I can’t help but want to see the movie.
    I have also sacrificed quality for content but not as often and in those cases, it has been something where the information is important or a documentary.
    Now if it was me and it was a video of my wedding since I am the characters and I control the script and such I would expect the videographer to only sacrifice quality only to capture the raw moments that will make me play that portion of the video again and again.
    Nevertheless, you are right the ideal is both. Case in point why would people sit in a theater for 2 plus hours to see not one but all three of the Lord of the Rings.
    Same rules applies to photography. You can have great content capturing the moment and horrible lighting and if it is special enough people will accept it. That would work for photojournalism but not editorial, fashion or commercial work. However, an editorial, fashion or commercial photographer can have surberb lighting, okay subject, and get away with it.
    Neither could get away with both.
    Case in point. PDN posted an image of the Obama’s snuggling in a freight elevator. The lighting was horrible but the content was excellent. So excellent the lighting issue is understandable and forgivable.

  2. Content vs. Quality

    My opinion is that it comes down to expectations. This can be very subjective. Content has so much power, which if utilized correctly can move your audience to look beyond a poorly composed shot. Many documentaries out there have some sub par shots because they often have to rely upon footage from someone else. But if the story or the content pulls you in, those shots fade more into the background. Look at some of the viral videos on YouTube. Some of the worst footage anywhere yet they rank high because it is funny, interesting, shocking, etc..

    The problem with anything creative, from an imagery standpoint is that it is very subjective. An opinion about a certain film is decided for the most part on “personal” taste. Look back on some of those independent films that came out of no where to win an award. The imagery was good but nothing off the charts. It was content that propelled it.

    For a live event, content can be challenging but certainly is available. It takes more time to edit a piece with content in mind because there is more thought behind how and where it fits and deciding if it moves the story forward. Jaw dropping imagery is still very important and you should always push to achieve that in balance with content. It’s my opinion that you are always chasing that carrot to raise the level of production and how you do that as an artist is a journey.

    So, the question as to whether content trumps quality. My answer is that it certainly can. When we shoot and edit, we are always on the prowl for audio. I call it, “listening 360”. You have to train your mind to sometimes ignore what you see in front of you because what you hear behind you may have incredible audio content and you have to force yourself away from the awesome shot in front of you.

  3. I think it all depends on your target audience. We live in a world where people love anything dealing with “Real”, “Reality”, and “True”. Sometimes in order to give that, you have to give it raw. For me this has taken a lot of the stress away when I do short videos about the latest things going on with me and my business. BUT for a video I am using to market to potential clients, I want to give them an even mix of quality and content.

    I think you have to have an understanding on how to manage peoples expectations. Once you do that you just need to be consistent in your delivery method.

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