Breakdowns and martini shots are not what you might first imagine in a film production. Sure, every profession and every industry knows strange terms that even insiders have to juggle on a daily basis. This is especially true for the term Production Value, which we will take a closer look at in this article.
While most of the technical terms used in video production may sound interesting for clients and image films, product films and web videos, but are only of limited importance, there is one term whose correct understanding and correct handling is absolutely essential for every single production in the communication with film and video: the Production Value in film.
What Does Production Value Mean?
Terminology is one thing in filmmaking. Like many film terms, the Production Value in film and the idea behind it comes from the Hollywood film factory. Because American filmmaking continues to shape the global feature film landscape today, there is no correct translation for the German language. “Production value” it could be, but it sounds awkward.
More purposeful is an approximation of the content and functioning of the term via the word components “production” and “value”.
The production is the film production or the video production. Value is commonly understood to be the difference between production costs and sales price (producer/seller view) or the difference between purchase price and the effect achieved by the purchased product (buyer view). However, the Production Value in the film is limited not only to a bridge function between production and value. Correctly understood, it optimizes costs and increases impact. What more could you want?
The difference between film and video does not change the importance of value.
Production Value As a Designation of the Quality Level
When a film is said to have a high value, in the majority of cases this means the quality of the work. If it is high, the production value in the film is also high. This, to a certain extent linear view, examines under the “value” how high the standards were set and achieved, whether for individual divisions or for the entire work.
The term refers to the quality of the film or video compared to other projects. This view also means: high budget = high production value in the film. That’s why agencies and producers are always happy to advise their clients during budget negotiations not to neglect the perceived value of the competing products in the advertising market.
Especially in TV spots, the production value in the film is almost as important as the brand of sneakers the director wears and the music he listens to. Where the value is not right, the campaign is already half dead in the eyes of the creatives.
This type of definition dominates in European latitudes. As a critical thinker, however, with this “linear” definition one may rightly ask oneself whether not only the forest has been lost here for the trees, but also the trees themselves.
For our optic nerves and the gray cells wired to them, seeing films means processing information as optimally as possible. When it comes to efficiency, our thinking organ follows the same motto as our legal system. When it comes to efficiency, our thought organ follows the same motto as our legal system.
Equal must be treated equally, unequal unequally.
Once the quality has been recognized and catalogued, our brain punishes the linear definition of the value of a production with loss of effectiveness. The quality is consistently high? The brain responds: All right, it’s good – and good is.
Production Value In Film as an Allocation Principle
With an effect-oriented view of the production value in the film, the trap of wear and tear and conformity can be avoided. It is the deliberately different allocation of resources that is decisive in this type of definition.
Production value in film is the weighting and allocation of production resources within a project. It is not the difference to other films that counts (other films are usually about as far away from the viewer at the moment of visioning as the American candidates for the presidency of Mother Teresa), but the skilful allocation of budget funds within one’s own film.
The principle can be well described with the principle that classical music has been successfully applied since the Middle Ages, and even today. A classical musical instrument naturally has a limited volume without any aids, unlike an electric guitar with amplifier. If a passage in classical music is to sound particularly loud, composers and conductors resort to a trick. They let the orchestra play extra quietly before a loud passage in order to increase the effect through contrast.
Production Values are those drivers with which the quality objective of a moving image communication measure can be achieved with optimal use of resources
Carlo P. Olsson
This also works for moving image production. This requires the right crash barriers: Content, dramaturgy, wish for statement and audience guidance. These four factors, together with the director’s vision, are responsible for the allocation of funds in a joint dialogue with the producer. You should find direct access to the calculation scheme.
In a game plot, information and emotions can be transported over a certain number of scenes, for example with the development of two characters. The same development can also be illustrated in a dialogue in a single scene. The cost difference between the two variants is striking.
But watch out! Starving a film out of budget has nothing to do with production value in the film. Optimised resources should not be saved, but should be used in a different location that is more effective for the film and the viewer.
An Example of Use
If an image film is to show an industrial production line of the customer, the author and producer can consider, for example, whether a part of the processes should be summarized and explained in an animated graphic. Instead of a small crew working its way along the assembly line meter by meter without being able to convince with a really strong image, suddenly the possibility is open to film a really great moment of production at a few locations. Hollywood calls this the money shot.
There are two philosophies for the communication with the customer in the effect-oriented handling of the production value in the film two philosophies for producers and production companies:
- You can either keep it like the Hilton Hotels with their staff area. The guests need not and should not know about this. It is enough if everything works smoothly and to the satisfaction of the guest.
- Or you can do it like the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz (not only Alfred Hitchcock was a regular guest): This opens all doors to interested groups. And reveals that what happens behind the scenes is just as important as the guest area.
Irrespective of which variant is preferred for moving image production: it is definitely not a good idea to decide on the allocation of resources only on the way. This procedure is similarly likeable to those short films whose opening and closing credits are twice as long as the actual work. For once the path is not the goal.
The producer and the line producer plan the allocation of the production value. The production manager is responsible for the implementation.
★Discourse: Story Value
The fact that the difference makes the difference, unlike Gleichschaltung, also applies to other cinematic disciplines and subject areas, even to 360 videos.
In storytelling, too, quality can be weighted over value, that is what the term story value stands for.
Behind a great feature film is always an author who has understood that there are no great lives, but there are great moments in a life! Without contrast and without differences no great stories can be told. Only in advertising film is chewing gum for the eyespermitted, in exceptional cases also for image film production.
No Limit, No Movies?
The Polish master director Krzysztof Kieślowski (* 1941 in Warsaw; † 1996) understood like no other that limited budgetary resources and creativity are not contradictions. Kieślowski went so far as to claim in an interview that he could not and would not make films without limits.2
More About Production Values in Film
An overview of prices for different types of film, including concrete guidelines, can be found in the article What does a film cost. It is even easier to determine the video costs or the costs for an image film with the Online Film Cost Calculator from Filmpuls. Based on experience from the last five years, the online calculator is able to give a guideline for budget and production period depending on length and genre.
Production Value in film is not a synonym for magic potion and not a panacea. Movies have to work. Not only do they do this, but also thanks to virtuosic emphasis. Without viewer guidance, where today it is essential to ensure that Web videos survive in social media for more than 3 seconds, is the most beautiful money shot for the foxes.
The value of a production is only indirectly linked to the question of how many of the means of a production “land” on the screen at all in the end and are visible to the viewer as an experience value.
Value in production can be found in all film genres: from image film to product video, from testimonials to web video and CEO video.
In short: The way production value is handled in the film distinguishes the professional from the would-be. It is a clear indication of experience, expertise and talent. If there were a standardised quotient for production video marketing in the film business and competence, such as Standard and Poors or Moodys for creditworthiness: the production value in the film would certainly be a focal point in the calculation formula necessary for this.
You have to know that
- The Production Value stands either for the overall quality of a film work. A high value indicates high, mostly technical, quality.
- Or, alternatively, high / low Production Value can also be understood to mean that the maximum / minimum has been “extracted” from a film budget for the film production.
- It makes more sense to use the term to evaluate the allocation of resources for a film production. In this case, the aim is to allocate budget funds specifically to individual film elements instead of proceeding according to the watering can principle.
1 Link with respect to the author only available on request
2 Projections 4 1/2, by John Boorman (Author), Walter Donohue (Contributor), 1995
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