Doug Johnson Productions

Pro Bono Work

Occasionally, DJP will take on work pro bono. But it doesn't happen often. We get asked to do work for free, or in exchange for advertising, quite a lot. And most of it we turn down. Here's why...

What it Takes

Let's go over what it takes to produce a professional-quality, multi-camera video...

  • A venue capable of supporting our Mobile Production Unit
  • Professional Switching and Recording Equipment
  • Professional Cameras
  • Professional Audio Equipment
  • Experienced Video Engineer
  • Experienced Technical Director
  • Experienced Camera Operators
  • Experienced Audio Engineer
  • High-Quality, Bright, Even Lighting
  • 3-4 Hours for Setup and Testing of Equipment
  • 2 Hours for Tear-down

DJP is capable of providing the checked items for pro bono events, or nearly all of the above when there is budget to do so. Other items may require a bit of effort to schedule, especially if it is being done without compensation.

Crew

Unlike many professions, live event video production requires a crew of significant size. It typically isn't something that one person can handle on their own. Which means we need to find staff to coordinate our efforts and physically operate the equipment.

It's really hard to find professional, experienced crew members who are willing to work for free, even when given something in exchange. Which generally means that the other option is to rely on less-experienced, or even completely inexperienced people to fill the jobs necessary to put an event together, or put in a lot more time begging and pleading with professionals to take on yet another freebie (we get asked a lot). It's much harder and far more time consuming than finding a crew that will be paid for their work.

Going with an inexperienced crew would be okay if the quality of the work doesn't matter. If we're just sending a video feed to a projector inside the venue, we don't need top-tier camera work -- nobody outside the venue is ever going to see it, and it's pretty unlikely that anyone at the venue would know what company is responsible for the video. But if it's going to be recorded and posted online, the quality of the production starts to matter a lot more.

Why Does Experience Matter?

It may seem at first that it doesn't take a lot of experience to run a video camera. And if you're just talking about following instructions on where to point the camera, that may be true. But there's so much more that goes into making a video look good.

For multi-camera productions it is especially important to have experienced operators -- we need for operators to be able to frame a shot without constant instruction from a director -- after all, a director has enough to do just operating the equipment and watching the video feeds from multiple cameras, and there just isn't time to coach every operator through the process of getting a good shot. There's also an art to framing a shot to make it interesting. The natural tendency of untrained people is to put a subject dead-center in a shot, and much of the time that isn't the best way to go. The most interesting shots also frequently involve some kind of motion -- zooming in or out during the shot, or a nice pan across a scene. And these motions require years of experience to perform smoothly, even with the best equipment available. Much of the time we also need for camera operators to be able to adjust camera settings like exposure and white balance on-the-fly, particularly in outdoor environments or those with changing lighting conditions. Sticking someone on a camera who doesn't have practice doing these things will virtually guarantee that something in the final video won't look right.

DJP's Role

...which brings me to DJP's role in doing pro bono work.

I want the work that we do at DJP to be something we can be proud of. If our name is going to be on a production, I want it to look and feel professional and fully polished. The last thing I'd want is for someone to see us associated with something second-rate. It would be tragic if a potential customer was to see a video with our name on it that features a low quality production -- poor lighting, bad coloring, hard-to-hear or noisy audio, shaky cameras, etc., and then choose a competitor to produce their video. That kind of performance doesn't represent who we are, and to have the DJP name associated with that is counter-productive toward advancing DJP's goals of providing a top-quality product to our customers.

At a very minimum, if DJP does agree to produce your event using a volunteer or inexperienced crew, we're going to require that this be stated prominently any place the finished video is going to be visible: “Produced as a public service by DJP (www.djprod.biz) using a volunteer crew” or something similar to make it clear that the quality of work doesn't represent what we normally do.

Work in Exchange

Very often DJP is offered something in exchange for no-cost production work. This, unfortunately, rarely works out.

The most common offer is ‘exposure’ or ‘free advertising’ -- including our name on a website, in any advertising materials, programs, etc. In my 25+ years in the business, I don't think I've ever gotten a single call from this type of exposure. It's also difficult to justify having my company name on these types of materials if the quality of the work is not up to our usual high standards. If this is the only type of compensation you're able to offer, perhaps working with another video producer is a better option.

Value

These types of offers also cheapen the value of what we do. Video production -- especially live production -- is a very expensive business to be in, and requires a crew with a lot of experience. This is especially important when we only get shot at capturing an event. Asking for pro bono work also sends a message that an organization doesn't consider video production to be a service of value, or the quality of the video something that they care about.

There are also other hard costs for consummables (batteries, recording media, tape, etc.), and wear-and-tear on the equipment -- which is actually more significant than one might think -- it has to be routinely serviced, and is only good for so many hours before it just needs to be replaced. Those costs have to be covered by someone, which is why they're built-into the rates we charge our customers.

Bottom Line

A fully polished, professional video more than pays for itself for promoting an organization or cause. In these days of the dominance of social media, your image is everything. When the right resources are invested, you'll end up with a product that highlights your message and brand in a positive way and will help draw others to you. A poorly produced video, on the other hand, will reflect poorly on you and your message, and push people away. When organizations cut corners they're essentially wasting their own resources creating a video that will probably end up not being useful. If done right, a video can be one of the best marketing tools available.

When it comes to DJP, we have elected to be very judicious in its selection of which pro bono events to take on. And unless you have a very compelling case, it usually doesn't make sense for us to be involved. If you are willing to take on the task of finding a professional and experienced crew yourself, let's have a conversation about putting something together.

Thanks for your understanding,
-Doug