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Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?

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Ned Miller
Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 2:54:54 am

Just when I thought The Recession was over. In just the last week or so:

• Long time client in his mid-forties, very experienced producing videos for Fortune 100 dog n' pony shows (big conventions and trade shows), throwing in the towel and getting certified in optometry. Cited the "aging out" of his clients who were axed due to their age (high salary level).

• Local competitor, early forties, small prod co but also does weddings, is throwing in the towel, cites "cheapness" of clients now. In biz at least ten years, diversified.

• Experienced producer, early fifties, former CNN anchor covered the first Gulf War, always had a lot of sales, mktg & PR videos for me, just got certified as a financial planner and is selling mainly annuities. Cited DIY client trend and clients drying up.

• Two local competitors, early fifties, DPs in all levels with top of the line cameras, going for their master's degree so they can teach production. They cited all the young competitors willing to work for nothing (See Chicago's Craigslist: Gigs: Crews)

These are besides the production companies that have gone under in Chicago, these are guys my size (one man bands). They do not include the others who I was not surprised had to leave. These were "stable" guys. Am I the only one seeing this? They made it this far through the recession...

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Rob Grauert
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 12:58:33 pm

"Experienced producer, early fifties, former CNN anchor covered the first Gulf War, always had a lot of sales, mktg & PR videos for me, just got certified as a financial planner and is selling mainly annuities. Cited DIY client trend and clients drying up."

I've actually tried to exploit companies' ideas of DIY video. I think for young people like myself, right now is a good opportunity to find steady work. I've begun contacting places to see if they would be interested in a full-time "video production specialist." I think it's a good idea because I personally don't like sitting behind a computer day after day. I like to move around. And who isn't interested in video these days? So I contacted a zoo and said I'd help out around the zoo (cause I'm an animal lover) and I could do their video work - anything from research and training videos to web videos. I really think it's a good opportunity for young people. Unfortunately, that probably doesn't sound very appealing to all of the other folks around here who have way more experience than I do.

Rob Grauert, Jr.

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Neil Hurwitz
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 2:31:23 pm

I offer two reasons seasoned "long timers" are leaving this industry.
The first being economic, the second being the very nature of what
this biz has matured into. Let me explain in reverse order.

1.In the days of linear editing there was a tactile feel to
what one did. In the old on-line linear bays one had to know
many different machines. Watching a good on-line guy was like
watching a symphony conductor. Their hands had to fly over a big
switcher punching buttons, they had to drive the joystick of the
DVE, they had to bang away at the chyron or had to communicate to the
chyron operator what they wanted, they had to get all this working
on the CMX, they had to bark orders to the tape operator and when
they hit the go button all these machines would lock up and make something happen. Tape ops would have contests on who could change
a reel of 1" on the VPR3 the fastest. In a nut shell it was just more
fun than it is today. Now the same guy is locked in a room
staring at computer screens all day. All of the above has been
replaced by a mouse, trackball and keyboard. It has become way more
solitary. Also they way of thinking has changed. It used to be about
flow, how is the signal (video) being routed through the gear.
It was like thinking of water being routed through a series of pipes
and valves. Now it's all file based and this has been replaced
by IT talk. I will let it be up to the sages here to say whether it is better or worse But for sure it WAS more fun. I was envolved
with a Company called "Video & Photo Enterprises" we kept two
cars out at night hunting news. We had a radio room where we
monitored just about every service channel on the air and would dispatch our "stringers" by radio. These where big beefy guys
dragging around a HL79 and a BVU 50 with 20 pounds of batteries.
We would go for Perp walks, Blood and Fire. It was fun, you had to be tough, gung ho, know the cops & fireman. How can this compete with
everyone that has a flip camera in their glove box? In short
this biz is just less FUN than it once was.

2. The Money is Gone.
Mark-up on equipment was always a big contributor to profits
in the industry. The high cost of equipment was a barrier to
entry and the complexity of the gear was also an intimadating
factor. Now both are gone. I know their will be many flames about
"it's the Skill & not the toys" and I agree to a point.
Hacks will get weeded out and stars will rise to the top but
the vast majority will languish as digital slaves.
There is an evolution happening now. The Big Iron guys (CMX yada yada) were replaced by most here by AVIDS. 80,000 was a whole lot less than the 500,000 plus it took to build a linear suite.
Latter came FCP and yet another reduction in the buy in.
This led to another round of houses opening. All this led to
real competition which we all know from a Money Making point of
view is not so good. Let me offer some numbers on the Mark-Up argument.
Lets say my big old Linear bay cost 10,000 a month to finance
Lets say I paid the editor 100 an hour.
Hey lets throw in another 50 an hour for overhead
Now lets assume we bill 160 hours a month @ 400 per
I assure you these numbers are well within the real realm and
if anything are on the low side. 400 an Hour for a Dual Twin Deveous
was a wonderful thing.
So do the math:
160x400= 64,000 revenue
(10,000) Financing cost
(16,000) for the Editor Who makes this now?
( 8,000) for misc overhead
30,000 PROFIT
And if you ran a second shift IT WAS LIKE PRINTING CASH

So for those who say "Mark up on Gear" is not important
I say BULLSHIT. Mark-up on gear always was and always will be a big
part of Profits. Lets not even talk about things like taking a
75.00 reel of tape and turning it into a 200.00 reel of "Basic"

So in Conclusion, It's the LEACHING OUT OF THE FUN
and the DRASTIC REDUCTION IN PROFITS that are Driving most
long timers out of the Business.
No Fun, No Money SCREW IT

Neil Hurwitz

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Nick Griffin
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 4:01:47 pm

I have a somewhat similar perspective in the "rant" portion (4th to 8th paragraph) of my review at:

I'm not quite as negative about all of this as because I was the one renting time in the on-line rooms, not owning them. Yes, the business has changed and yes, many of us are competing with those with little "skin in the game," let alone experience. But that's life. Mark correctly points out that the best position to be in as one who drives the business. not just waits for it to come to you.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 2:54:14 pm

You're just a regular Mister Sunshine, ain't you, Ned? :-)

You could also look at it in this way: those guys have chosen not to chase the work as hard as they used to/need to. And there's no reason to knock that: retirement or semi-retirement in your 60's means you still have a body and mind working well enough to appreciate and enjoy it for a while. Be a shame to work like a dog to a ripe age and then only get a year or so to enjoy the fruits of that before you stroke out, get an M.I., or start to lose faculties. Probably the happiest people are those that can enjoy some of those aspects of retirement all thru their career, instead of patiently waiting to get it all at the very end.

I remain convinced that there is lucrative work to be found for pros to do, but you have to be exceptionally dogged and creative to find it and develop it. Take a hand in generating it. That is not for everyone's taste, nor need it be. I am not much interested in running around shooting skaetboard and snowboard footage since I'm not as spry as I was in my youth. But I remain very interested in many otehr forms of production. Even after I retire, I expect to keep a hand in the biz in some capacity, but I'll be more picky about what I want to work on and why.

Ned, you should look at those old guys bailing as a thinning of the herd that creates an opening for yourself.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.

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Dan Asselin
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 8, 2010 at 10:22:33 pm

This thread reminds me of my broacasting teacher in the 70's who used to say "I got out of the biz and into teaching because it stopped being fun once they invented videotape". No matter how much things change they really remain the same........

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Ned Miller
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 9, 2010 at 2:45:38 am

Well, I asked if anyone else noticed Long Timers leaving the biz and since the respondents didn’t mention it I guess it’s an anomaly of the folks I know in my area.

Mark: The people I cited, besides the DPs, really know how to find new biz and have been doing it since they got out of college. I’m starting to see patterns though of how one can make it so long in the biz, almost make it through this recession, then throw in the towel. For One Man Bands it’s critical that one’s spouse is pulling in good, steady dough. One husband/wife editing team I know has only one client who gives them several full days of editing every week, it’s a giant computer company. When I asked what would happen if this one client left his response was that they now have so much money in savings from them that they could weather a very long period of no new biz!

Others have gotten into bed with 800lb gorilla clients, often just one, then when the gorilla rolls over they’re screwed. I think it’s best to have several Golden Gooses that are loyal, pay decent and ON TIME and have a recurring need for video. Presently I don’t have any, just a zillion small and medium size clients who don’t have a repetitive need for video, lots of one offs and total strangers I’ll never see again.

So I am glad to see no one else is seeing competent, experienced video people throwing in the towel, except around here.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Chris Blair
Re: Notice Long Timers leaving the biz?
on Jun 11, 2010 at 8:03:47 pm

We're not seeing individuals or companies "throwing in the towel" so to speak, but we are seeing a definite change in budgeting and project logisitics.

Projects where clients had no problem spending $25-$30,000 are now budgeted at half that amount. Yet they want the same quality on their $15,000 project that they were getting on their $30,000 project. Clients are combining work during a project, meaning still photography takes place DURING the video shoot. The client thinks they're saving money (maybe) but in our experience it just complicates and lengthens the shoot and creates a scheduling nightmare when there are many setups.

Travel budgets are being trimmed with more expected to be done in less-time because it saves hotel and meal expenses. Clients are wanting to log and transcribe interview footage (rather than us do it or farming it out to a transcription company) because they think they're saving money. When in fact, it just delays and complicates the project because the client doesn't know what they're doing and takes weeks or months to do what could be done in days. It also takes us longer to edit because the transcriptions are poorly done.

Clients are shooting their own corporate video on prosumer HD cameras then wanting us to edit it. Never mind the video and sound quality (framing, heavy compression, mic'ing) are awful. Their audiences don't seem to mind. Corporate clients have actually asked to make their internal videos look amateurish because they don't want their employees to think they're spending a lot of money making videos when they're slashing expenses and salaries and staff size everywhere else.

We actually had a client want to produce a roughly 25-30 minute training video that was going to be used internally to help staff meet continuing education requirements. We estimated the project at $45,000. The client had budgeted $12,000! Obviously, the video didn't get produced.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
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