How Did the Pandemic Impact the Video Production Industry?
It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic forced global lockdowns, ultimately shifting the way we all work. We wanted to understand how the video production industry was affected by the coronavirus pandemic. How did the outbreak of COVID-19, and the ensuing lockdowns, change the way brands, production companies, and freelancers create content?
We decided to look inward at our own data to try and answer this very question. With more than ten thousand unique projects completed on our platform every year by thousands of unique production companies and freelancers around the world, we have a very large data set, perhaps the largest in the original content production industry. We felt that an analysis of our data could be instructive for all participants in our ecosystem trying to plan for an uncertain future.
Our methodology was simple. We examined all projects done on Storyhunter from April 1, 2019 — March 31, 2020. We then compared it to all projects completed during a full year of the pandemic, from April 1, 2020 — March 31, 2021 to see if we could observe any changes in terms of most popular service types. We also looked at specific quarters to see if we could gain any insights there.
We first looked at the raw data from the Storyhunter platform. Which services rose in popularity? Which services declined? We then analyzed the data. We tried to figure out what story the numbers told. We discussed our analysis with our community members who represent brands, media companies, production companies, and/or are individual freelancers to validate our understanding of the data. Finally, we summarize our learnings and made some inferences about how the industry at large has shifted due to the pandemic.
Graph 1: This was a sharp decline from normal (30–40%) year over year growth in projects completed on Storyhunter. We saw brand marketing effectively come to a dramatic halt in April 2020. Original editorial production slowed as well.
Graph 2: We saw a rebound in production in Q3 and Q4, though still not at normal levels. Production was coming back to life slowly.
Graph 3: We saw an increase in services such as post-production manager, creative director, and production company, as clients were looking to centralize their production during the pandemic. The increase is also a function of Storyhunter Select launched in 2020, a premium service for clients that offers full-service content creation.
The Story Behind the Data
Employees had to work from home, and many companies had a strict no-travel policy. But the need to create timely, high-quality content that spoke to their audiences still existed. So, companies turned to Storyhunter to hire and discover creative talent. A majority of the services that increased relate to video production: there was a 285 percent increase in demand for a post-production manager, 233 percent for a full-service 360 production, 161 percent for a creative director, 140 percent for full-service live production, 88 percent for an on-air reporter, and 72 percent for a production company. These companies had a real need to hire crews through Storyhunter who could handle a production from start to finish, streamlining the process.
Brands across industries used Storyhunter last year. A major reason for an uptick for services is due to Storyhunter Select. Launched in 2020, Select is a premium service for clients who want to work with an elite group of producers and production companies. Clients are matched with a vetted creative producer who can see the project through. The increase in services such as post-production manager, creative director, and production company is a function of this newly launched Select service that offers full-service content creation with budgets higher than $5,000.
What about the services that declined? In 2020, there was a notable downturn in services that require one to be on-set. For example, an HD live operator, grip, production assistant. This is because productions were reduced to a limited number of people.
There was a 12 percent decline in the number of completed projects on Storyhunter in April, May, and June of 2020 (See Graph 1) compared with the same period in 2019. This dip came during initial global lockdowns. However, as companies settled in and adjusted their workflows, there was an uptick in production. The final quarter saw the highest number of completed projects on the platform even compared to pre-pandemic months: there was an 18 percent increase from Q2 2020 to Q4 2020.
We chatted with our community to learn more about how their content production changed in 2020. For starters, all brands today are media companies, constantly looking for ways to capture and convert audiences across platforms. In the past year, many of them turned to Storyhunter to hire a creative director. In 2020, Tel-Aviv based mobile apps developer Lightricks needed to find a way to hire people in various parts of the world to come up with a marketing strategy. Using Storyhunter Select, the company hired Creative Director Eric Hinojosa to execute a digital marketing strategy that resulted in 20 TikTok videos, a television commercial, and specialized graphics for its mobile apps. Lightricks’ Video Production Team Lead Matt Veysberg told us using Storyhunter saved the company time and led to a leaner remote production process.
Graph 4: Most of these services fall into the video production category. Many companies are using video in their marketing strategy and needed to continue to leverage this powerful visual medium to share their brand story.
Graph 5: Storyhunter clients mainly hired executive producers and creative directors using our Select service to oversee production and streamlining workflows during the pandemic.
There was an 88.2 percent jump in demand for an on-air reporter/host, which can be attributed to American language-learning software company Rosetta Stone’s need to “tell more authentic stories.” Despite the pandemic, they started a new series called “How To Say” based on SEO search volume. They hired 35 freelancers in 22 countries, across eight languages to create more than 75 videos. Plus, they used the raw footage from the series to create more content based on their editorial calendar, for example, a Valentine’s Day promotional video about the language of love.
The pandemic changed the way Rosetta Stone produces content. “The money dried up. Productions froze. We could absolutely not do anything face-to-face. And doing it via Skype or Zoom wouldn’t have been the same look. It just didn’t feel right,” Ian Young, Rosetta Stone’s Senior Content Producer told us. “We had a full travel lockdown. So, no video production at all. Now with Storyhunter, we can tap into the network to provide those insights into language and culture and still have a source into that world. Storyhunter has been awesome in trying to find creators who can keep the content flowing because we want content. People want content. Everybody loves content,” he said.
The company is now looking to hire more freelancers around the world to write 40 blog posts. “No one could believe that we created that much content in that amount of time and that many countries for that amount of money,” he added. In this way, Rosetta Stone ramped up content production and championed its customer experience despite the pandemic.
But it isn’t only brands who continued their video marketing efforts. Media companies heavily relied on Storyhunter to report on major news stories such as the Black Lives Matter protests and the US presidential elections. Business Insider hired 236 news shooters and 70 documentary DPs to share these stories. McClatchy is another media company that increased its use of Storyhunter: they hired 307 reporters, 58 news shooters, and 15 creative directors.
Summary of Learnings
The pandemic taught us that storytelling must continue. Despite an initial setback in content production, many companies started thinking outside of the box by asking questions such as, “How can we find ways to create content given limited resources?” and “How can we best employ new remote technologies?”
At Storyhunter, we’ve defined “remote video production” as a “real-time video production in which the creative team participates from two or more locations.” So, as we outlined in this blog post, it doesn’t mean sending a crew to a remote location of the world. We’ve been doing that for a century. It’s when crew members can be halfway around the world, or just in another room, from the subjects or talent. It can only be feasible today because of technological innovation. We believe the industry is moving toward a hybrid remote video production future. If production companies want to survive the next disruption, they’ll need to have multiple tools in their toolkit.
Our data shows us that the pandemic emphasized the need for companies to adapt and only accentuated the need for honest and relevant content.
What is the future of the video production industry? Firstly, teaming up with production crews around the world is a viable model. It saves costs in terms of time, money, and travel. Plus, these partners have the local expertise and, from a logistical standpoint, can more efficiently see a project through. Secondly, some form of “remote video production” will continue to play a huge role in content creation. We believe the industry is moving toward a hybrid remote production workflow. Creative directors, for example, can remotely manage a limited production crew on location. Companies can also send “studio in the box” remote production kits to subjects and then use newly available software to remotely control, direct, and collaborate on video projects from a mobile device or webcam globally. Lastly, while we are all anticipating the return of in-person events, hybrid events will play a role in the future. Customer expectations have changed, and therefore companies need to find ways to offer and market virtual events.
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