The Best Video Production Companies in the San Francisco Bay Area 2024

I often receive emails from marketers wanting to work with us on their video marketing project. Sometimes, those marketers have a video production company they want to work with, and are just looking for competitive bids to make sure the price is in the right ballpark. Sometimes, the marketers really like the work on our site, and want to produce a video project that falls into some of our strengths (authenticity, documentary-style, big emphasis on storytelling and the human angle over visual polish). And sometimes, they just knew somebody who has worked with us successfully in the past.

Whatever the circumstance is, we’re happy to develop a proposal for our potential clients’ project, or even brainstorm some creative ideas together. In a proposal, we include an overview of the project, some ideas on creative approaches, a budget (or several budgets), a detailed timeline for the project, and info about our company and our team. But the one thing I always tell marketers who have asked for a proposal is, make sure you consider other options. After all, we may not be the best fit for your video project, and there are a few other video production companies in the San Francisco Bay Area that do really great work.

Here’s a list of my favorite production companies in the Bay Area and, based on my observations, the type of work I think they’re best at:

Alchemy Creative

These guys make really brilliant, cinematic branded content and customer testimonials. They have an amazing knack for creating something that feels more like an advertisement, or a film in the movie theater, but is actually a documentary-style story for a brand. This is something Slow Clap is also quite good at, however, our approach is a lot more focused on authenticity in storytelling and capturing authentic moments, whereas their approach is heavily curated and clearly storyboarded frame-by-frame. I especially admire their series for BMW and E-surance about motorcycle lovers:

Avocados and Coconuts

This video production firm has something that most others in the Bay Area don’t: a true voice. Their work is unique, different, and feels very much like it is part of the same body of work, similar to how all of a director’s films might share similar traits, themes, or motifs. While Avocados and Coconuts’ quirky, edgy, and hip aesthetics and storytelling might not be the right fit for every company, when there is a proper fit, the results are lovely:

Corduroy Media

Corduroy’s visuals are excellent, but they also have strong storytelling skills. They’re a great firm to go to if you want help with both creative storytelling and a high level of visual polish. The work that I’ve seen them really excel at has been scripted and storyboarded. They’re almost more of a creative agency than a production company, in the sense that they do everything top-to-bottom and put a huge emphasis on creative. If you’re looking for someone to produce a scripted project and have a big budget, I recommend considering Corduroy. Carl, the founder, is warm, smart, and creative. Here’s a video of theirs that I love:

Heist

This team of high-end filmmakers make some of the most polished, highly produced visual stories in the Bay Area. They partner with a lot of advertising agencies on big budget stuff, but also work directly with brands to tell stories that look as slick as a traditional broadcast spot. If your budget has no upward limit, I suggest reaching out to Jordan and the folks at Heist. This is my favorite video from their portfolio:

Did I miss any great video production companies in the San Francisco Bay Area? Let me know, as I’m always interested in connecting with peers, and watching some great work.

Daniel Lichtenberg
CEO & Creative Director
Slow Clap Productions

How to Maximize Views for Your Video Content

A step-by-step guide to high-engagement videos.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to plan and market your video for maximum views, watch-throughs, and sales.

There’s an old thought experiment that goes like this: deep in space is a comet. Nobody has ever seen, heard, or thought about this comet. Nobody has any memory of it.

So, does that comet exist?

We don’t actually know the answer. But if you swap “comet” for “video,” and it’s your video, then we do know the answer: you’ve got a video that exists, but nobody is watching.

YouTube hosts over 500 hours of new content every minute. Some have big production budgets. Most don’t. But only a handful of videos of any budget get big-time views.

Fortunately, we’re here to help with some ideas on how to increase views and watch-throughs of your video content.

To be clear, views are not the only marker of a video’s success. For B2B, the ultimate metric is the sale, which (without tracking) is sometimes hard to quantify. But views are, of course, the first marker that matters. No views means something is broken. And right after views comes watch-through rate. If the audience doesn’t finish your video, something else is broken.

We focus on views and watch-through because they are easily measurable. If you are using YouTube, Wistia, or many other platforms, their analytics will give you this data. And in some cases, you can use that data to identify the problem, and either fix it or do better next time.

So here is Slow Clap’s seven-step strategy to ensure your video gets the engagement it needs to promote sales.

1. The video lives where your audience travels

Let’s return to that comet. If your audience travels in a particular galaxy, and your comet passes through that galaxy, they are more likely to see it. In internet terms, each galaxy is a particular platform, like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Different platforms serve different demographics. It can be a challenge to select the right one. Age, buying patterns, and other factors will matter. YouTube began as a place of authenticity, so selling directly isn’t as common as, say, on LinkedIn.

It doesn’t hurt to use more than one platform. But when you know one works, put most of your promotion efforts there.

And one thing to know: upload your video natively to each platform. LinkedIn, for instance, will penalize your posting’s rank if it links to anything outside of LinkedIn, and other platforms use similar strategies to try to keep users on their platform longer.

How to choose the right platforms:

Hootsuite has a great article on which platforms attract persons of particular demographics. And, interestingly, on what devices they tend to visit those platforms!

Wherever you choose, invest in it, learn how to use it effectively (learning their tags, posting schedule, etc.), and make it yours. 

And when you do use more than one platform, you can use hub platforms like Hubspot to compare results and automate posts.

2. The video shows up in Search, Feeds and Ads

On any given platform, there are three ways users will see your video:

  1. As a search result
  2. In their feed, through a recommendation or a follow
  3. Or as a paid ad

You have the most control over #1 and #3, where the common denominator is using the right keywords. These are words that audiences search to find answers to their questions.

Understanding how each platform uses keywords and tags is the key to getting it to show up in searches. That’s not to say you’ll rank first right away – sometimes that’s a matter of promotion and engagement. 

But you need to know what words people search so they can find your answer to their problems. 

And when running advertisements, you need to know what words describe those audiences. Age range. Profession. Again, these vary by platform. 

How to track a keyword’s effectiveness

Preemptively, you can estimate a keyword’s effectiveness in several ways:

  1. See if it comes up in Google Search autofill
  2. Compare it to similar keywords for free in Google Trends
  3. Find its CPC cost through tools like Keywords Everywhere
  4. Use Answer the Public to search your niche, and see what questions people are asking

After you begin using a keyword, you can track its effectiveness in several ways:

  1. A/B Posts or A/B videos. Create two versions using different keywords, and use that platform’s native analytics tools to see which one gets more views and longer watch times.
  2. Use a tracking platform like Hubspot to specifically follow that keyword.

3. The thumbnail makes your target audience unquenchably curious

Remember back when we had movie theaters, and you’d see movie posters in the lobby? A good poster could turn your head. A great poster made you hunt for the movie’s release date, because you had to see that movie.

Thumbnail images are the images that overlay a video before you hit play. And functionally, they are little movie posters. Through audience selection and good old curiosity, they bring in an audience better than nearly anything. 

Here’s how to create a great thumbnail:

  1. Plan ahead. Design the thumbnail during pre-production. The thumbnail imagery and story needs to integrate with the video itself. Don’t improvise later.
  2. Your thumbnail should answer the questions Who and What. Let your audience know it’s about them or a problem they have. If you are a secure paper-shredding company, plan a visual of an employee buried under documents. 
  3. Use human faces where possible. They connote feelings. 
  4. But if you can’t use any human faces, consider a simple graphic that explains a relationship.
  5. Words are the last thing you should add. Do as much communication with the visuals as possible. Words should fill in any context you can’t show.
  6. Sketch it, but leave it to a graphic designer or video editor to make the final product.
  7. Brand it. The usual colors, fonts, and other graphic assets.
  8. Test it. Can somebody you know identify who it’s for and what it’s about after looking at it for three seconds? Does it pique their curiosity?

How to track an effective thumbnail:

View count is the primary metric. There are ways to A/B test different thumbnails – you could publish two copies of the same video, but with different thumbnails, and keep the one that performs better. 

4. Write a title that can sell on its own

You can’t always depend on a thumbnail. Depending on the platform you’re on, you may not always be able to use one. On LinkedIn, for instance, videos autoplay in the feed, decreasing the utility of a thumbnail. 

This headline without the photo would still get clicks.

Source: swipefile.com.

Or maybe your topic is simply too abstract to explain in an image. If you’re a company that specializes in API’s (Application Programming Interfaces), you could try to show two pieces of software talking to each other in your video thumbnail. Or you could say “we build error-proof APIs” in a text title. 

And even if your thumbnail rocks, you should still have a title, or “headline,” that can sell on its own. We use “title” and “headline” interchangeably, though in marketing speak, the “headline” is any piece of media that is seen first.  

Great headlines won attention in printing-press pamphlets 300 years ago, and they still work today. A headline is the top text that answers the question, “what’s in it for me?” 

According to The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly, a good headline does four things:

  1. Gets attention.
  2. Selects the audience. This tells people who the media is for, and not for.
  3. Delivers a complete message.
  4. And draws the reader into the body copy. Or in this case, the video.

Sometimes your video title completes the thumbnail, like this:

How to track an effective title:

View count. As with the thumbnail, you can try A/B testing to find out what works best.

5. Hook ‘em in the first ten seconds of the video.

David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather, said the first ten seconds of a commercial are, in fact, its headline.

Ogilvy died in 1998, and did not live to behold the digital age. But even in an age where people have more control over the videos they watch, statistics bear out Ogilvy’s viewpoint. If you don’t intrigue your audience in the first 10 seconds, you’ll likely lose them.

If you’re not sure how to do that, write up a script, and evaluate it according to these criteria:

  1. Do the first 10 seconds give a clear clue that this video is about a problem your audience can appreciate? 
  2. Once you fully define the problem, is it easy to understand?
  3. Do the music, narrative, and visuals mirror the correct emotion? For example, do they show how frustrating it is finding an enterprise-level password manager?
  4. If you watched just the first 10 seconds of the video, would you want to know more?

How to measure your first 10 seconds:

Use your platform’s Watch-Time or Watch-through metrics. If you’re experiencing a dramatic drop in the first ten seconds, the video should probably be re-edited according to the guidelines above. 

6. Cut the fluff.

A problem in any story – be it a book, a film, or news from a chatty friend – is adding story arcs that don’t resolve or don’t matter. For example, you write a script about a pen that can securely and remotely sign contracts. You connect to Thomas Jefferson signing the declaration of independence. 

Source: Ad Age

But attention spans are short. Jefferson’s pen better be relevant or your audience will raise their eyebrows at best, and more likely click away.

Sometimes you don’t realize you’re off on a tangent.  This is why Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the phrase, 

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — wholeheartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

This is best achieved in script revision. Cut, cut, cut as much information as is unnecessary. Cut as many words as you can and achieve the same effect. 

Video editing also uses this process – to tell the best story in the fewest shots necessary. 

How to track attention:

Use the Watch-statistics. Is there a point far away from the end that drops off? If so, you may be able to edit the video to be shorter and tighter.

7. End the video where it should end.

A strong finish is a predictable finish. Once the story arc is complete – once the problem and solution are fully disclosed – that’s where to stop

In your call to action, ask only one thing of your audience. Don’t ask them to buy and subscribe. Don’t ask them to sign up for the email list AND don’t forget to check out our webinar. A video should have one CTA, as once it’s done playing, it’s done. 

There is one kind of video that can shoehorn multiple CTAS into a one-hour runtime: the 3 A.M. sales video. The kind that accompany “funnel” sales pages that look the same everywhere. The kind that use gimmicks to keep you watching. “But wait, there’s more!”

But we don’t recommend you make one of those. Respect your customer’s intelligence. Respect their understanding of story. Be transparent by using a clear story arc. And end it where it logically ends.

OK, and there is one more exception: funny bloopers. But do run them by some honest (brutally honest) friends to see if they’re actually funny.

How to track a strong ending:

Watch statistics that make it through the end at least 60% of the time are a win.

The Slow Clap Hook ‘Em TLDR; Summary

When you need your audience to watch your content all the way through:

  1. Start with the platforms where your audience spends time
  2. Make it relevant to things they search and read about
  3. Make sure they know it’s relevant in the thumbnail and headline
  4. Make sure they know it’s relevant in the first 10 seconds
  5. Cut all the fluff and extra time. People are busy!
  6. And end where it makes sense to end.

And if you want help – a team to translate your understanding of a topic, process, or industry into compelling content – give us a shout


Further reading:

Headlines account for 50% of a blog’s effectiveness

How to Write Headlines: A Step-by-step Guide

23 YouTube Stats that Matter to Marketers

A Complete Guide to B2B Video

500 Hours of Content are Uploaded to YouTube Every Minute

Social Media Demographics that Matter to Marketers

10 YouTube Stats Every Marketer Should Know

How to Create a Great Video Thumbnail

The Optimal Video Length

How to Grab a Viewer in 5 Seconds

YouTube View Metrics

Getting Certified as a Government Contractor

In 2016, Slow Clap became a Local Business Enterprise (LBE), certified with the City and County of San Francisco. In 2019, we got our California Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification. In both cases, we’re considered a Micro Small Business because of revenue and employee requirements. To our knowledge, we’re one of the few video production companies in San Francisco with these certifications. So, what’s this government certification stuff all about? Why did we do it? Who should consider getting certified? And how do you do it?

Slow Clap’s photo of San Francisco’s finger piers.

Becoming a certified government contractor is a great option for small business owners. It offers you an opportunity to bid on government work, and, in some cases, gets you brownie points in the process. Government contracts can include anything from infrastructure projects to civic engagement. Along with the work comes a sense of purpose, that your business is contributing to something greater, to your town, city, state, or country. That’s a great feeling.

Plus, while the margins may not be as high as private sector work, government contracts are often long-term engagements, with steady income. Steady income allows you to make long-term business projections, invest in capital and employees, and tons of other stuff. For a business like video production where each client engagement lasts just a few months, a government contract can provide a sense of certainty to your business.

Getting certified is easy. Well, there’s some paperwork involved… there always is. But, just a simple google search, or visit to your local government agency website, will usually instruct you on the steps to get certified. The SBA website has some great info about federal contracting. The State of California’s Department of General Services administers its SBE certification. And here in San Francisco, the Contractor Monitoring Division handles LBE certification.

The hard part is winning a contract. For small businesses like ours, a great option is to become a subcontractor on bigger proposals, offering just one service or product in a suite of services or products. That’s how we won our first contracts, and continue to win them. As a “sub,” we’ve created videos for the Port of San Francisco, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and other local agencies.

We’ve also recently won contracts directly with the San Francisco Health Service System (SFHSS) and the Judicial Council of California.

Here’s a few of my favorite projects we’ve created for government clients:

Are you considering getting certified as a government contractor? Or, do you work at a government agency that needs videos created for them? Reach out, we’re happy to chat more. The process can seem intimidating, but it’s well worth it from a business and community standpoint.

Daniel Lichtenberg
Slow Clap Creative Director