Guide to Outsourcing Video Production in Switzerland from Abroad
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Helping partner production companies based abroad is something that we have been doing at SmartCuts since our incorporation in 2009. We’ve notably had, the BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic reach out to us to shoot solar impulse elements at the Blecherette Airport in Lausanne. It was with Bertrand Piccard, André Borschberg the two Founding Pilots of solar impulse. National Geographic was doing a documentary about them and needed a DP and crew in Switzerland. See the reference letter they kindly left us.
This has been going on over the years, but it has intensified since COVID. Numerous production companies based abroad have clients in Switzerland that they provide various services to, namely video production, live events video and webinars. But with the pandemic, they have not been able to send producers and crew over as before, and they also cannot have their clients come to them. The solution? Reach out to a partner, ideally a reliable one, on location to do the work for them.
Here are a few recommendations for production companies abroad when selecting a local partner:
Make sure to get some references from local or foreign companies that have worked with this company before. Reference letters say more about the company’s ability than just samples on a website, which can be samples that don't necessarily reflect what the company has done. Often these samples can reflect productions they've participated in but maybe not played a big role in the producing.
Make sure that you get somebody at the company that can speak English well. Otherwise, you might end up with a communicate breakdown.
If possible, send over a producer to make sure that everything on the ground is going well.
When the productions are live, go through a checklist of the technology, the capacity that the company has, such as got encoding and transmitting the video feeds. Are they using an old-style encoder? Are they using new systems like Vmix. Can they send you SRT? Are they able to patch these things into meeting software like Zoom or Skype, which is an increasingly popular way of doing Live Events;
In pre-recorded elements it's important to consider how you are going to obtain the footage from the company in that country? Sending hard drives by mail can be slow and it can be expensive and it can be a bit risky. However, that may sometimes be the most reliable way if the company does not have a proper file transfer system. One of the issues that comes up in that when video files are relatively small (and by that we mean between 10 and 20 Gigabytes), most file sharing or file transfer systems like Dropbox work fine, but as soon as single file sizes start to get to 50 GB or above, these systems fail. And files that big are really pretty common when shooting 4K video. So, don’t get stuck in situations where some of the files won't transfer while clients are waiting at the other end.
These things need to be considered. Foreign production companies looking to outsource should check what they have as a file transfer protocol and if this protocol or system allows for such big files.
Make sure you devote plenty of time to a proper pre-production process. Don't just assume that the company in any other country is going to get everything done right and in time and then just start to ramp up the requests and demands and details at the last minute. You need proper planning and to make sure that you’re getting competent engagement and management from the company at the other end.
In the last year or so, we've struck up a number of ongoing relationships with other production companies from abroad. Outlook creative in the UK is one for which we've done a number of webinars and live events including using virtual sets keyed in from our video production studio in Bussigny, Switzerland. For those of you wondering, that last bit means streaming live from a green screen studio, all the while inserting a full virtual set around and behind the talent, to make it seem as if they’re in some fancy venue or wherever the client wants them. We've also produced webinars for Outlook Creative on location, for example at Medtronic in Tolochenaz, Switzerland.
We're also working with a company called the Fox agency based in the UK. For them we’re handling a lot of production with one of their main clients, Bobst, based in Mex, Switzerland. We have been doing a lot of webinars and pre-recorded content, among other things.
The T!LT group in the US is another agency we’ve become a provider for. For them we ran a week-long webinar sending video feeds from our studio for a webinar organized by the pharmaceutical company Galderma.
These relationships are ongoing and developing, and there will no doubt be more to come with COVID. For those looking for a reliable production partner in Switzerland, here’s what we can offer:
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