During the first contact with many clients I’m often asked, “How much does it cost to produce a video?” Often the person inquiring has been pretty vague sharing something such as “We want a 20-minute training video” or “We’re looking for a 30 second commercial — how much will that cost?”
There are so many variables involved that I often liken it to being asked – “How much will it cost for me to build a house?” Well, you could build a mansion on the ocean, you can build a shack in the woods, or something in between. There are many elements that affect your final price, and it’s important for you to be aware of them so that you can make educated choices (and avoid shell shock). I will share several of the most important here, along with my thoughts on what you really need, and perhaps what you shouldn’t waste your money on.
One of my peers in the video industry wrote the following satirical note:
“Dear sir, I can create your video from start to finish with a total length not to exceed 15 minutes for $1,000. Other determining factors such as content, scripting, video capture and creative design will add to this base rate exponentially and could go as high as $13 million depending on the overall product and the speed at which it is to be accomplished. For a more accurate quote, we can arrange a meeting to discuss the specifics that determine the overall cost and I can give you a highly detailed estimate.”
I still chuckle every time I read it. It’s so profoundly true! The cost of a video can widely fluctuate! Most folks don’t realize what goes into creating a video. So what’s involved with determining a reasonable price? The following are some of the elements I consider most important, with some tips on what to consider when choosing.
Production Company’s Prices Vary – How Should I Choose?
First pay close attention to the experience, reputation and talent of the producer, director, editor and crew.
These days everybody and their brother feels that they can produce a video. After all they produced that “great epic” called “My Disney Vacation”! Video cameras are relatively inexpensive and easy to come by. There are even home editing systems. My niece just created her own video recap for her college graduation party! Although it was cute to the rest of the family, would I show this level of quality at a conference, use it as a marketing tool, video news release or training video? Ahhhhh no (but don’t tell her I said this!).
There are many weekend warriors and even full time video producers making a career in wedding videos, who are attempting to break into the corporate market. There are also companies with full studios and great equipment that have been in business for some time, but keep in mind that this does not guarantee you’ll get the quality and service you need.
Consider the fact that owning a gourmet oven doesn’t make you are a gourmet cook. On the other hand, I’m sure there are some folks out there who can whip up a gourmet meal using nothing more than a pan and a hotplate!
As I discuss in the article “The Secret to a Successful Video: Why Quality is Key and How to Get it!”, having at least a minimum level of quality in a video can make or break the success of the video. When a viewer sees a low quality video, they will generally be so distracted and turned off, they won’t be able to receive the intended message. A quality video has a look and feel that enables the viewer to pay attention and get the message. It will also create an image that will influence the viewer. Creating a quality video, even with a relatively simple show, requires a great deal of knowledge and experience at every stage of the process.
Although it may cost a bit more, I strongly recommend that you start with a company and crew with proven experience, a history of satisfied clients, and a good reputation. Be sure to view their demos. Each company will give you a different level of quality and type of style. In this age of viewer sophistication, you’ll most likely be able to sense quality and style or the lack of it. It may cost a bit more for a company with more experience, but the results are worth it.
Does choosing the most expensive company out mean you’ll get the best video? Not necessarily. Some of these folks are priced high to give the impression of success and exclusivity. Some are priced high because they need to cover their high overhead costs and business expenses. Keep in mind that having the latest equipment, the most attractive office, or even the largest company does not guarantee a good video or great service. Going with the most expensive usually doesn’t get you more than going with the folks around the middle. By doing some research, you can find competitively priced companies that will give you the same level of service, equipment, talent, experience and resulting quality.
What about the least expensive? These folks are usually the ones who are not very experienced and knowledgeable, and lack a proven track record. Some folks will come in with extremely low prices in an effort to get started in business, or to take customers from other companies with the intention of raising their prices later. With prices well below industry norms, for a variety of reasons, they generally don’t survive very long. Also, chances are that you will not be satisfied with the results.
More often than not, you’ll either toss the video away, hire another company to “fix” the low cost video. The end result is that you’ll often end up paying more than you would have, had you chosen the right production company in the first place. As you compare rates between companies, keep in mind that going with the cheapest companies can open a can of worms and lead to problems. It is rare to end up with quality, service and a long-term relationship with this pricing strategy.
Price Can Impact The look and feel of your video
A 30 second commercial can be made for $1,500 or for a million dollars. To a large extent, your budget will determine how far you can go with your video. It comes down to you as the client deciding what expenses are reasonable to achieve your objectives, while balancing that with the reality of your available funds. If you have Dom Perignon dreams and a beer budget it may be necessary to scale down in some way. Of course, there are many tricks we use at BMI to get the look of a more expensive video while staying within the client’s budget. Some things simply take time and resources, which can increase your costs.
It’s important to be realistic with what your budget can get you. In addition to the expertise of the professionals working on your show, the look of your video will be influenced by many elements. For the most part, you have the power to choose.
The following are items that have the potential add to the cost of your video:
- The number of locations – Multiple locations can increase the time needed for the crew to set up, break down and to travel. The locations themselves may have costs involved.
- Set location – If you have a place to shoot this can save you a lot of money. Shooting in a studio or other rented venue can add cost.
- Set design – This can vary from $0 to millions. Will you be shooting in your existing office, or do you require a set built from scratch?
- Type of cameras used – Depending on the type of shoot and the final use of the video, this can vary widely. For example, will your video be shown on TV? If so you must have a broadcast quality camera. Will it be shown to a small audience on a TV screen in an office, or on a massive screen during a conference? The larger the screen, the better the quality must be.
- Number of cameras – This is a topic I plan to write on in the future. For our purposes here I will say that for many of our shoots one camera is sufficient. Many shoots do require two and even three cameras. Occasionally even more are necessary.
- Lighting – For some shoots, a few portable lights will be fine. Depending on things like the end use of the video and the set, there can be a need for more extensive lighting.
- Actors & voice over talent – Professionals cost money, but they are often well worth it. Click to see our article entitled “Choosing Acting Talent: Professional Vs. Amateur”.
- Titles, graphics & animation – A few simple titles and inserted graphics shouldn’t add much to your cost. Costs go up if there are many of these, if your graphics need work to be adapted to video, or if a graphic artist is required for more involved work.
- Music – We pay for the rights to use music each time there is a “needle drop”.
- Editing variables – There are many things that can impact the number of hours needed for editing. For example, two and three camera shoots can take longer than a one camera shoot to edit. The length of the video can impact editing time needed. A fast paced video with many edits can take longer to edit than a slower paced show. Most production companies charge by the hour, so this can make a big difference to your end price.
- Deadline – If a quick crunch deadline is necessary, at times it could mean higher production costs in order to get the job done on time.
Within most of these elements the costs can vary widely. As the customer, you have the ability to impact your final cost by making the decisions for your project with the guidance of your director.
So how much should my video cost?
As you can see, with all of the variables involved, it takes a lot of information to create a price estimate. A good director will spend time with you discussing your vision for your video, along with your needs, objectives and budget. They will then make recommendations offering the best possible alternative. In the end, your video will cost whatever you choose based on what you wish your desired results to be, along with your budget.
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