You know buyers crave videos. You want to be making more videos. But you’re blocked. Should you invest in in-house video production or pay for outside professionals?
It’s an ancient debate, but you’re not alone.
Learn more about where each option shines—in-house video production vs. outsourcing—and when to use them, straight from the Vidyard experts on the Video Island Podcast. Hosts Mathew King and Blake Smith tackle the topic, using their combined 20 years of video production experience to provide you with practical advice.
TLDR: Use both, and trade off depending on the situation.
In-House Video Production vs. Outsourced Videos
Let’s define our two options here. Doing things in-house is the DIY option: You buy video equipment and either hire or assign your marketing team members to be the video production team. There are fewer people involved, but they’re your people.
If you choose to outsource, you do the opposite: You hire freelancers or, more commonly, a video production agency, to manage video projects for you.
The video production process typically involves:
- Writing a video brief
- Storyboarding and script writing
- Location scouting
- Acquiring and maintaining equipment (cameras, lights, mics, and props)
- Pre-production setup
- Production (the actual filming)
- Post-production (editing)
- Animation, motion graphics, or special effects
Both in-house and outsourced production have their own unique advantages. Building your own video team, you have the opportunity to accrue talent in-house, draw from a deep knowledge of your brand, and keep and reuse the equipment you buy. In the long run, in-house is almost always cheaper on a per-video basis.
“Filming in-house is about being quick and scrappy,” says Video Producer Mathew King. “Maybe all you’ve got is a smartphone and a handheld mic, but you get the subject facing a window with natural sunlight and you hit record and that’s all that it takes. Getting the video done same-day is often better than overthinking or overproducing it.”
But outsourcing has big benefits too. You get a partner with a neutral, outside perspective, lots of experience, and a ready-made team. “External video agencies have the benefit of a larger, often more well-rounded team that’s produced a lot of videos,” says Mathew. “They know what they’re doing and it means they’re often better at estimating timelines and budgets.”
Agencies can also often bring in specialist equipment and a full suite of hardware and software that it doesn’t make sense for you to own—for instance, a $50,000 RED Digital Cinema camera rig which costs more than double Vidyard’s entire in-house equipment budget. “And even if they only have the same video editing software you use in-house, they may know how to use it better, and may have post-production specialists on staff, like 3D animators,” says Blake Smith, Creative Director at Vidyard.
Pros of Producing Video In-House
- Deep understanding of your brand
- Knowledge of past brand videos
- Full creative control
- Own the equipment
- Easy to schedule reshoots
- Set own timelines
- Output is directly tied to team size
- Imperfections can create a sense of authenticity
Cons of Producing Video In-House
- Difficult to be unbiased
- Initial investment in equipment can be expensive (but not always)
- Salaried team members make downtime costly
- Scheduling team members as actors can be disruptive
- Team size limits production capabilities
- Your team members have to wear many hats
Pros of Outsourcing Video Production
- Unbiased, outside perspective
- Expert storytellers and writers
- Professional actors who look natural on camera
- Videos designed for conversions and optimized for search
- No need to source and buy equipment
- Experience working with a variety of clients
- No need to hire a full-time headcount
- No need to distract employees from their work
- Experience with special effects and animation
Cons of Outsourcing Video Production
- Time spent interviewing freelancers or agencies
- Less refined understanding of your brand
- Limited creative control
- Project timeline out of your hands
- More expensive on a per-video basis
- If using freelancers, managing them can take extra time
Both strategies have downsides as well. If you go with your own team, you’re taking a bit of a gamble that you can assemble the right people with the right skills to get things done on schedule. “The last thing you want is a missed timeline plus added expenses for unforeseen revisions because the team hadn’t done it before,” says Mathew.
In-house teams are also liable to get stuck speaking in their own company jargon, says Mathew. “It really helps to have somebody outside to bounce ideas off of.”
If you choose to outsource, you’re gambling that someone else can handle the production process better, and that they can faithfully bring your ideas to reality. Sometimes, agencies are busy and you’re competing with other clients for their time.
Plus, it can be harder to control reshoots and edits. “Say you do a two-minute product video, then the product changes,” says Blake. “It’s harder to get that agency back for a quick reshoot.”
And of course there’s cost. Agencies’ specialized equipment and people come at a price that’s higher on a per-video basis, and you don’t get to keep anything except the video (and sometimes, the raw footage) when they’re done.
Should You Produce Video In-House or Outsource? When to Use Each Option
Which method is better? Consider a few scenarios where each is a great fit.
In-House Production: When to Use It
For many businesses, in-house means less polish, which can be exactly the feeling you want for some productions.
DIY video is usually scrappier, but it can have a lot of heart.
Having your internal video team take on a project makes the most sense when you need someone who knows your brand, knows your product, and knows your people inside and out. It’s also great if you need to get videos out there fast so that you can see how your audience responds.
Video Types Where In-House Production Shines:
- Company culture videos
- Social media videos
- Product explainer videos
- Nurture videos
- Informal customer testimonials
- Educational videos for customers
- FAQ explainer videos
- Internal communications
Here’s an example of an in-house video:
Outsourcing Production: When To Do It
Bringing in the outside experts is the way to go when you’re looking to produce a set number of videos and want high-quality production for all—for example, when you have a biannual video campaign and need those videos to map back to a strategy that drives leads. Also, outsourcing is great when you’re on a tight timeline and your team’s already swamped with other projects or you need a lot of videos all at once.
Video Types Where Outsourced Production Works Best:
- Brand films
- Homepage videos
- Advertisement videos
- High-profile product explainer videos
- Customer testimonials for the website
- Animated, whiteboard, or stop-motion videos
Here’s an example of an outsourced video:
The Best Strategy? Do Both
With pros and cons to each approach, the best video production strategy is to do a bit of both: Build a team in-house, but have external agencies do the things your team can’t.
The majority of companies (76%) either go all-in with in-house production or use a mix of internal and external resources, according to the 2019 Video in Business Benchmark Report. Only 27% use exclusive external resources.
At Vidyard, our team mixes in-house and outsourced production constantly. Once you get good at managing the trade-off, it can lead to serious cost savings.
“Sometimes we hire an agency to shoot the film, then take the edits back in-house,” says Mathew. “Our agencies have all the people and equipment needed to produce real, real high-quality footage. Then they give it to us and we save thousands by editing it ourselves.”
Having your in-house team work with your agency also makes both groups better over time. Your agency gets a better feel for your company and your in-house team learns high-end production tricks.
“Working with our agency was a real eye-opener for one of our in-house writers,” said Mathew.
“She’s used to writing blog posts. When she saw actors reading her dialog live on set, she realized it felt disjointed. She tweaked the dialog and it’s made her a stronger writer.”
In-house and outsourced both have a time and place. It all depends on what you need to do.
For each campaign or video, ask yourself:
- How much content do I need to create?
- What quality level do we need?
- What video formats do we need?
- What’s our deadline?
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