HOW-TO FIGURE OUT VIDEO PRODUCTION COST
Pricing out video production can be tricky. Ask someone in the industry for help and you’ll likely get the typical answer… "it depends." Not very helpful when you’re planning a budget and trying to figure out your video production costs.
Maybe that’s why so many production companies don’t advertise their prices. It drives me crazy when I can’t find pricing information at a website, so we at least try to give some ballpark figures. We’re also happy to prepare a quote for you anytime you’re planning a budget. While I’ve had plenty of clients and prospects thank me for that. This is a detailed break down of what is involved when determining the total production cost..
While you’ll probably still have to contact me or another video producer if you have specific questions, but this will give you more insight into what goes into producing a video so you know where your money is going.
OUR “DAY RATE”
First things first, we don’t charge by the hour. We’re sometimes asked for a 1-hour video shoot; however, customers don’t see all of the pre and post-production activities that take place. Things like travel time to and from the shoot, color correcting the video in post-production, and converting the files into something they can use. In short, video production takes a lot more than an hour.
We charge by using day rate, some estimated figures would be:
$700/day, for single camera services.
$1000/day, for 2 man crew
$1200/day for 3 person crew
$400/half day, $600/half day 2 man, $750/half day 3 person
Post Production cost is determined by the amount of time estimated to complete on a $500 per day scale.
Basically, we figure out how much time will be spent on a project (how many days), then we apply the day rate to come up with our total cost.
The most frequent question we get is "how much does a 3-minute video cost… or a 2-minute video… or a 60-second video?" Regardless of the video length, the answer is always… "it depends…" and here’s why.
Let’s use the 3-minute video as an example. The finished video might be 3-minutes, but each 3-minute video can vary greatly in how long it takes to produce. We’ve had 3-minute videos that took just a few days to produce costing about $2000. We’ve also had a 3-minute video take nearly 2-weeks to complete costing over $6000. It all depends on what has to be shot and how much time we’ll need in post-production.
Let me walk you through the process for how we breakdown our time to help you understand it better.
The first thing is simply getting on the same page with the customer to make sure we’re producing what they need to meet their goals. At this point, we’ve likely already met with the customer before preparing their video proposal, so this concept planning meeting typically only takes about 30-minutes to 1-hour and can be done in-person or over the phone. Depending on the type of video, We do things like:
outline the approach to the video
discuss with customer the subject matter and raw video that must appear in the video
discuss how many on-camera interviews will be conducted; select interviewees and discuss plan for contacting and coordinating each person
brainstorming session for art projects that involve more creative concepts.
Next, we start to assemble all the things we’ll need during the shoot. This can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. Preparations include:
create any necessary shot lists (based on the concept meeting)
prepare interview questions (based on the concept meeting)
prepare equipment (checking/testing the camera, lights, media cards, tripod, Steadicam, drone, cinema camera, photo gear, dollies, jibs, etc.)
The day of the video shoot is the most obvious to people because we’re on-site so what we do is on display. This is a big part of the “it depends” aspect of things. How many video shoots will be required to capture what we need for the video?
It’s talked about and decided in advance when the video proposal is being prepared. Sometimes everything we need to shoot is in a single location and all available on the same day. Perfect.
On the other hand, sometimes there are multiple locations involved, someone critical to the video needs to be interviewed on a different day, et cetera. All of these things add-up.
As far as the shoot itself, here are some of the things we do:
videographer visits each site to shoot everything on the shot list
videographer also shoots other raw video he/she finds relevant or beneficial
videographer interviews predetermined people
Most videos only require a single videographer, but there are cases where additional resources are needed or requested. We have helped coordinate things like additional videographers, sound technicians, an live online streaming coordinator, a teleprompter operator, hair and makeup, etcetera. Adding professionals like these does increase the production’s cost.
Luckily I am a music composer as well, but in a lot of cases, this is outsourced or done through the purchasing of royalty free music.
This is where a lot of the time gets spent that the client never gets to see. It’s the other “it depends” variable. How much time gets spent in post-production varies depending on the amount of raw video there is to sift through and how complicated the story is to tell. It could take anywhere from 2-5 days in most cases. Some of the things that need to be accomplished are:
Logging Raw Video
review all the raw video that was shot
transcribe sound bites from interviews
notes regarding sound bites and raw video are reviewed
sound bites are selected, then arranged into story form to create a script
script is emailed to customer
minor changes are discussed by phone, changes requested by client are made
edit video according to the approved script
relevant graphics are created
preview video is provided to customer for viewing
minor changes are discussed by phone, changes requested by client are made
digital files are created
Taking into consideration each of those phases… concept planning, pre-production, video shoot, and post-production… most projects take on average 2-5 days to complete, costing about $1200-$6000 then the client has to factor in actors, props, food etc.
Price is always agreed to in advance with our clients, so they know what the cost is before production begins. We have had a few situations where a project takes longer than anticipated and the price has changed during the process. In all of those cases, the customers added shoots, or other components, and then agreed to an accordingly higher price. Communication is the best way to avoid any potential cost issues.
We do produce low cost videos for small business owners with tiny marketing budgets for $1,000.
Those videos are all about keeping a very strict production schedule. From beginning to end, the entire production needs to take us less than a day to create the video, with a half day for 1 round of revisions. We do that with a 2-hour video shoot, in which we ask a string of questions leading to answers that essentially create the script on its own, then we edit everything together. Example: For business commercials, a quick run through of important imagery that explains the business is all that is needed on film.
These customers also relinquish creative control to us and trust we will deliver a video that’s on-message. They do not get a script to approve, but we do allow for 1 round of revisions to go over titles, fonts, music choices, transition effects, lower thirds, credits, etc It is the clients job to get all necessary materials over to us prior to shooting/editing.
This cuts down on a lot of the time it takes us in post-production. If a customer wants editorial control in one of these low cost videos, we recommend our full-service storytelling instead. Our customers who have purchased our low cost videos have been thrilled with the end result and, of course, the cost!
BREAKING DOWN YOUR VIDEO PRODUCTION COST
Those basic steps for how the videos are produced should be pretty universal from company to company. Of course, every production company prices things in their own way, but that’s how we determine the cost of a video. I hope this at least gives you some understanding behind the process.