So, how much did that video cost?

Bellow is a blog post I wrote for Notch video for a series titled “So, how much did that video cost”. It highlights the idea that having interesting subject matter is the key to an engaging video. While viewers always appreciate professional sound and quality images, in the end people gravitate to others who show passion for what they do regardless of the subject matter. The key to a good video is simple – enthusiastic subjects.

Notch Video Blog

I am always searching the web to see how different subcultures and groups use video to highlight what they do.  These searches not only yield potential new streams of clients but often reveal innovative filming and editing techniques.

As someone who generally produces videos with a run and gun streamlined production, (i.e. low budget productions with minimal pre-production time, lighting and setup), I am usually drawn to videos that are able to successfully document interesting content in a minimalist fashion.

In my ongoing quest to find such content I stumbled upon “The Perfect Barber Shave” by The Nomadic Barber.

This video is part of an ongoing series from The Nomadic Barber in which he visited different barber shops across 5 continents over the course of a year.  This particular 10 minute video is the first that I came across from the series and takes place in a Hong Kong barber shop. In the video, Kam, a Turkish trained barber from London methodically takes us through the steps of giving a straight razor shave.

As someone who gave up on the idea of the “perfect shave” long ago (I now sport a beard which I occasionally trim if it is getting out of hand) I was initially drawn by the title of the video.  The idea of getting a straight razor shave, or even having a straight razor used to tighten the edges of a haircut, appeals to my sense of what a man of character does. Based on the traffic and number of comments the video has got, it would appear that others share this feeling.  This video elicits an emotional response from the viewers and is more than simply an instructional how to guide for hipster barbers.

As far as video costs go there is a pretty big giveaway in The Nomadic Barber’s one line bio, namely he lets us know that there is one cameraman accompanying him.  This is something that is not hard to decipher after watching the video – it is evident that it is a one man crew equipped with a DSLR camera and a shotgun microphone.

It is also apparent that this shoot location is a very confined space so things like a dolly or any sort of light setup would not be prudent.  Considering they are travelling I would imagine that they want to keep the amount of equipment and setup time to a minimum as well.  I would guess that the length of the actual shoot would not have been much more than 1 hour.  Perhaps the cameraman had a quick pre-interview, checked out the space and light situation prior to the actual shoot, and likely Kam the barber took a few pauses to let the cameraman know which step he was doing next once shooting began.

As far as post production, it is the sort of video that could be edited in a couple of hours.  It appears that there is some sort of quick colour correction or the addition of a film filter.  The editing is simply straight cuts and jump cuts that help boil down what might have been a 15 minute process down to 10 minutes.  There are no graphics or After Effects – just a simple bumper of the Nomad Barber’s logo at the introduction and conclusion of the video.

My guess is the video is likely shot and edited by a traveling buddy of the Nomad Barber with some DSLR skills and that he/she filmed and edited this video along with the other videos in this series  for free travel and food.  Theoretically to hire a local DSLR shooter / editor freelancer to produce this sort of individual piece you might be looking at a budget of around $1000-$1500 with the costs split evenly for filming and editing.

As a run and gun videographer / editor who often times works as a one-man band, I always try to think of how I would have put together the same subject matter.  One could argue that the video could have increased its production value and made more “cinematic” by adding a second coverage camera, some slider shots, and taking a few minutes to get some added b-roll footage, establishing shots, and shaving sound effects – something still feasible in a one person operation.

However after reading through the nearly 500 comments on the video at the time of writing, nobody discusses or even mentions the nature of the filming or sound quality – this is a good thing.  The comments are focused on the barber’s techniques and prowess.  There is something inherently pleasing about watching a highly competent craftsman taking us through a process, showing a distinct “before” and “after.”  What truly makes a good video is if the subject matter and presenter is compelling.  After watching this video I was razor close to getting my beard shaved!  Afraid of what might be revealed underneath, I decided against it at the last minute.  However, I did go to my barber the next day to get my hair cut and showed him this video letting him know I could make a similar one for him.