Do we always have to have “the best”?
Over the weekend Dylan Reeve published a blog post IN DEFENSE OF ‘GOOD ENOUGH. We are so attuned to always wanting/having/striving for “the best” that we can get bogged down and miss appropriateness. He completely nails it at the end:
Don’t think of good enough as settling for something inferior or imperfect, think of it as striking a perfect balance.
Is the most expensive gear the best, or will something less expensive still allow you to tell a story? Must you shoot on an Alexa when a DSLR might be good enough? It’s not that there is really an objective standard to “the best”: what is the best in one context will be out of budget or inappropriate in another. Like Dylan said, it’s about the perfect balance.
I made the same point in my book The New Now in a chapter headed “How to produce more Cheaply”, which is largely about choosing appropriately rather than going for “the best” all the time. While there’s a lot more detail in the book, the basic points are:
- Don’t pay for quality your clients won’t see. Or are not paying for. Camera, sets, talent all depend on making appropriate choices.
- Put the money where it gives the best payback. Good quality sound trumps improved lighting (if you have to compromise).
- Maximize the value of your hardware and software. Probably more relevant in the days of expensive software upgrades than now, but you don’t have to have the latest, greatest (the best) camera, NLE version or really, anything. Cameras, software and computers continue working for years beyond their “latest and greatest” burst of fame.
- Stay away from bleeding edge technology (unless there’s a huge payoff). There might be a point to being early to a technology curve, but unless there’s a huge payoff (as, say there was for the early users of the RED one camera) then stay away from the bleeding edge.
- Learn from Guerilla Filmmakers, who know how to cheaply add value and shoot with minimal impact (and approvals).
- Go for the B talent. There are so many talented actors (and technical folk) that you can get better value out of the lesser known, but equally talented, players.
- Step out of the mainstream for locations, also remembering that forgiveness is easier to get than permission in many cases. Forgo the real location completely if it’s too complicated and use a green screen.
- Use Templates as starting points. Not so much those that ship with your NLE (they’re likely to become over-exposed) but there are many third party choices to use as a starting point. Do some simple customization and the piece is uniquely yours in a fraction of the time.
- Go “cheap” on stock, 3D models and music. Television special effects are, almost by definition, budget constrained compared with their film cousins. Such that, according to an article at Post magazine, Master Key, buy in 3D models from TurboSquid or 3D Export for the new Knight Rider TV series. It is substantially cheaper to buy a model than to model an object from scratch. If you look, there are also free 3D models on the Internet. Similarly stock and music.
- Use smart software tools to save time and therefore money. We make some of these smart tools, but we’re not the only ones. Tools that save you time and effort improve your bottom line.
“The Best” is what is most appropriate for the project in hand.