Is Video Production a Good Career?

The Rise and Rise of Video Content

Across the globe, video is booming. 

Each day, more than 500 million hours of video are watched on YouTube alone, and it’s estimated that by 2021, 1 million minutes of video content will fly across global networks every second. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, consider this:  every 30 days, more video is uploaded to online platforms than was released on major television networks in the United States over the last 30 years.

This boom is fueled by a parallel explosion in broadband speeds, with 95% of premises in the UK having access to superfast broadband connections of up to 300 Mbit/s. 90% of consumers watch videos on mobile devices regularly, with the strongest showings on social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter, where 93% of videos uploaded to the platform are viewed on tablets and smartphones. 

People have a growing love for video because it has the potential to convey story, tone, emotion, and information quickly and engagingly, grabbing viewers’ attention and holding it while encouraging them to watch more.

What Are These Millions of Hours of Video Content?

Some of the material being uploaded and digested is entertainment which once would have been viewed in the cinema or on home media. Much of it is also what used to be traditional fare on TV networks, now finding an outlet online, often in conjunction with a terrestrial, cable, or satellite service. Lastly, video-on-demand (VOD) services like Netflix and Hulu have become major distributors for video content.

With easy access to the public through the internet, every brand has the potential to be a broadcaster, resulting in a wealth of quality corporate video production content. This could be branded content—interesting material that captures an audience’s imagination, but quietly sponsored by a brand—or it could be more plainly corporate content meant to promote products or services.

And, of course, much of this material is now user-generated content (UGC), sometimes posted in hopes of becoming a source of income, but much of it—most of it—mobile footage of holidays shared with friends and family  or other personal events (‘home-video’).   

With all this in mind, in many ways the statistics surrounding online video is only part of the picture for those looking to make a professional career out of video production.

What Does This Mean for Careers in Video Production? 

Amid all the noise generated by UGC and home video, it’s clear that there are nearly limitless new opportunities. The public has a voracious appetite for video, including everything from bingeable drama box-sets to universally-popular product explainer videos. In our desire for quick answers and easily-understood information, most people would rather watch a video explain how something works these days than read any text. On top of that, a demand for more content in the entertainment and business sectors inevitably means more people are required to make it. 

What Do We Mean by Video Production?

But before we have a closer look at whether or not video production is a good career, it’s best to be clear about what, exactly, we mean by video production.

Once upon a time, every inch of footage was shot on film. Then, videotape became the medium for television due to its low cost, while movies continued to shoot on film stock. Now film is restricted to auteurs and videotape is all but gone, but the name lives on in (digital) video, now used to shoot everything from ten-second ads to blockbuster movies. So really, video production covers the creation of every sort of video, from Game of Thrones sets in Croatia to YouTube influencers recording themselves with a ring-light and an iPhone in their bedroom.

Here’s a (brief) list of the different sectors of video production:

    • Film, including both studio feature films and independent productions.
    • TV productions such as documentaries, factual reports, dramas, and childrens’ shows.
    • Commercials for broadcasting on traditional television as well as for inclusion in online platforms like YouTube.
    • Corporate video on topics like events, training, recruitment, and product explainers
    • Wedding videos
    • Social media influencers who create their own content in the hopes of attracting lucrative followings.

 As you can see from even this short list, there’s a wide range of fields and options for a video production career, from feature films to commercials to creating your own Youtube channel.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the size of productions can vary wildly: a feature film might be made by two people, while a corporate video might involve a team of 15, so the genre to which a video belongs doesn’t necessarily determine its complexity or number of contributors. 

Stages and Roles in the Video Production Process

Most people looking to get into video production already have a feel for the sector that draws them, whether that’s in action movies, animated children’s content, or becoming a YouTube influencer. 

While wedding videographers and Youtube influencers may be a one-man band managing each process, for most video productions there are distinct phases, each handled by a range of specialised professionals. 

Let’s break it down.

The phases:

  • Pre-production involves the practical planning of a project, handled by producers, account managers, writers, storyboard artists, and others.
  • Production is the process of capturing footage, light, and sound by the director, camera operator, grip, lighting director or gaffer, riggers, and boom operator and sound mixer.
  • Post-production covers the shaping of footage into a finished film, overseen by the producer, director, script supervisor, video and sound editors, and digital imaging technician (DIT).

The range of choices within each stage is perhaps one of the most attractive parts of working in video production. By its nature, it requires all sorts of skills, from make-up and stunt-work to editing and graphics. Just like a rugby team, there’s a role for everyone, and it’s hugely collaborative. Nearly every role is going to rub up against other roles. Some of the production staff—the producer, the director—will be involved in the whole project, while others play a role in just one area. 

Other Factors Making Video Production a Good Career 

There are many influences on video production that make it a good career choice and which have democratised the industry.

First of all, having access to a distribution platform is no longer the preserve of big-hitters with broadcast licences. The internet has become the great equalizer in this respect as it has for other creative industries, removing intermediaries and other obstacles between the product and the consumer. 

The cost of equipment—and with it, a major production expense—has steadily dropped over the last decade. Whereas previously a video production company would hire a cameraman who’d invested in a camera worth £20,000, now a few thousand pounds can place a good quality camera body within the reach of recent graduates. Powerful computers and editing software (especially Apple Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro) are now also more readily available, varied, and affordable for professionals and prosumers. Additionally, technology and tools including digital libraries of music, sound effects, and stock footage make it possible to run a video agency from anywhere you please.

 Anyone can make a video now and get it online. There are even people making features on their iPhones. What matters most is storytelling and performance, rather than high-grade kit.

The advantage of this democratisation of kit and platform and resources means there’s a lower barrier of entry for companies (especially in corporate video production), but it also means that students and those looking to break into a career in video production can get their hands on the required tools and make content, experiment, improve their craft, develop a showreel, and find meaningful work. The ball is in their court as never before. 

More Choice Than Ever to Become Skilled Through Study

Since 2012, the number of students in film and media courses has risen from 5,000 to more than 50,000 per year as UK universities work to meet the demand of the growing industry. Universities now offer a more expanded selection of far-ranging courses, including film studies, film production, television and broadcast media, and digital technology and editing.

Before you select a university degree in any part of the broad church that makes up video production, you’ll need to consider what area appeals to you most. Often those who are technically minded already know this and are gunning to be a camera operator or an editor. 

Film studies degrees offer training in the basics of film and video production, as well as a thorough grounding in film theory and technique. These degrees are often a good prerequisite for jobs such as directing, writing, video editing, producing, and production design. Depending on how you decide to specialise, this can be a reliable degree for working in all three stages of video production. Media and broadcasting are aimed more at the informational and commercial sides of production for those more interested in writing and research in the pre-production phase. 

To work in the production and post-production phases, you’ll need to undertake training in some of the more technical aspects of film production. Editing, computer usage, camera operation, and sound recording will all require practical, hands-on experience, as found in a degree in film studies, film and broadcast television, or digital film technologies. 

Opportunities for Work Experience

It can be daunting working out which part of the industry to aim for. Fortunately, there are excellent opportunities to get work experience while studying at a video production company or video agency, often as part of your course work, or as an experience which you seek out independently. If these are part of your course, they won’t necessarily be paid. Otherwise, the national minimum wage applies.

Signing on with a production company to work on a feature film can be tricky to time correctly if the company in question is in the middle of a production. However, you’re likely to find some options with post-production houses, allowing you a chance to become familiar with the back end of the process.

For those technical-minded individuals who have ambitions of working as camera operators, sound technicians, or in lighting departments, it’s worth applying to work with equipment hiring companies. Handling the kit used to create video is a great way to get familiar with variety, specifics, and operation of a bewildering array of tools.

Many of the traditional broadcasters, such as the BBC or Channel 4, offer internship and work experience programs, but there’s often a high level of competition for these spots.

The many independent production companies of every size across the UK also offer similar placement opportunities. You’ll likely need to make speculative applications for these, particularly if they don’t have any open positions publicly listed, which is where a showreel and portfolio comes in handy. 

Getting work experience not only helps students determine where their skills and interests lie, it also helps to get their first job on leaving university. A successful internship or placement under your belt is an excellent foundation for your professional reputation, and the people you meet in the course of your experience can prove to be useful contacts.

Entry Level Jobs for Non-Graduates Exist

However, you may not find yourself drawn to a university degree. Luckily, not every job in video production requires one. It’s hard work, but there are plenty of opportunities for getting onto the beginning rungs of the video production ladder, so long as you’re willing to prove yourself.

There are different entry points into different types of video production, including:

  • Runners for feature films, TV, and corporate video productions. The most junior role on a set, runners are responsible for fetching items and tools and carrying out odd jobs until they’ve learned enough to take on more responsibility.
  • Editing assistants in post production who will help the lead editor gather and organize footage as well as assisting with the lists and instructions that will determine a video’s final form.
  • Technical work in rental houses requires practical thinking and skill to maintain, operate, and advise on the use and care of cameras, lights, sound equipment, and other tools and resources.

Are There Opportunities to Go It Alone?

Yes! As we’ve already seen, a few basic investments in kit, computing, and software can allow you to set yourself up in video production at any stage of the career journey. However, making the transition into self-employment might be easier for those who’ve managed to gain experience and contacts while working under someone else.. 

There are some success stories for individuals straight out of university, making their own materials straight away, and of course there are influencers and Youtube stars doing a more-than-respectable turn of business. 

But for every PewDiePie there are a million uploaders with just a couple of hits on their videos.

Truth be told, many people who try this approach end up leaving video production altogether. 

Studying, work experience, and apprenticeships maximise your chances and stand a better chance of providing you with the tools and the resources needed to succeed, either independently or collaboratively.. 

Prospects in Video Production

The truth is that video production has no real ceiling on your prospects. It may take some time, and quite a lot of work, but there’s no ceiling on how high one can rise in video production. You could end up running your own company, as a respected specialist, a major director like Steven Spielberg, or as an executive or head for a major TV studio.

Remember that the field is growing, and growing fast, but it’s also competitive. You won’t get hold of every opportunity that comes along, but remember that there are plenty more available.

Along with this expansive range of chances come great opportunities for financial reward, with entry-level video production professionals frequently earning an average minimum of £27,000 per year. You can find out more about basic pay rates as established by BECTU, the union for media and film professionals.

Additional Benefits of a Career in Video Production

  • The greatest prospect is perhaps the satisfaction it offers to creatives to produce meaningful work in an engaging industry.
  • Skilled individuals in this industry will find plenty of opportunities around the UK and abroad. A strong work ethic and the technical know-how for your chosen specialty will make you an asset to any production house, allowing you to fit in anywhere as part of a team of consummate creative professionals.
  • Teamwork is not only an essential in video production; it’s the norm. Just like a rugby team, a production crew consists of people with different, but overlapping, skill sets, each supporting the other in the effort to deliver a great product.
  • Finally, at the end of the day no matter your field, you’ll have something concrete to show for your efforts, a corporate video, feature film, television documentary, or any other piece of video in which you can take pride. And that’s not too shabby.