The axiom ‘you get what you pay for’ still holds true in video production. Today, you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck as video production cost continues to drop.

 

Video production cost has come down dramatically over the last ten years – that’s the good news. The AVERAGE quality of most business videos has also dropped significantly over that same time period. That’s the bad news.

The barriers to entry for corporate video production are now zero. ZERO.

Anybody with a camera can make a video for a business. As a result, it’s getting harder for businesses to know where to go to find good video production help.

Even before you start looking for someone to help you develop your next marketing video, one of the biggest challenges for businesses is determining a proper budget for their next video project.

Here is a link to our video production cost calculator – a tool we developed to help businesses understand the type of costs that go into making a video.

Cost isn’t the only thing that has changed in business video production.

Something fundamental to the success of video production has also changed over the past decade. You’re not hearing about this as much… yet. What matters in business video – the place where all the value is created in video production has changed.

Back in the day the ‘magic’ in corporate video was created by the directors, the cameramen and the editors. Their experience was unique and their day-rates were high. Neither is true today. (High-end broadcast commercial production is the exception.)

The ‘Magic’ today happens in pre-production. The structure of the video, the ideas and the words that go into making video – that’s where the value is created in business video.

While the supply of production talent (those with technical skills) continues to grow as more people enter the industry, we’re not seeing the same growth in pre-production talent. While anyone with equipment and a bit of experience can make a corporate video, very few can make a video that’s going to move the business dial in a meaningful way.

Consider the Dollar Shave Club Launch Video.

Arguably the most effective marketing video in history, it relied on two things for its success:
1. A great script that delivered a pitch-perfect combination of humour and shame aimed at a bloated and closed Shaving Razor industry and,
2. A standout delivery by the presenter/owner Michael Dubin.

What that video didn’t rely on was high production values. It has been widely circulated that that video – which arguably helped launch a billion dollar business – only cost $5,000 to make. That figures ignores the inputs of the founder – a great script and delivery which instrumental in the success of that video.

While good production and post-production skills can certainly elevate a video, you cannot make a great marketing video without great pre-production. Pre-production is where the ‘magic’ happens today.

Video Production Costs Broken Down – 35 Prioritized Factors

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Here are the 35 Factors (in Priority Order) that effect video production cost:

(click on links below to jump to definition)                   

Pre-Production Expertise Actors Direction
Cameraman Editor Animation (Custom)
Animation (web-based tools) Graphics & Motion Graphics (custom) Graphics & Motion Graphics (web-based tools)
Narration Music & Sound Effects Location
B-Roll Footage Production Time Camera & Lenses
Production Equipment Crew Extras
Studio Filming Set, Props & Equipment Stock footage & photos
Geographic Location Teleprompter Length of Video
Direct or Third Party Event-Related Equipment Licensing & Union Fees
Catering Hair & Makeup Digitizing, transcoding, transfers, rendering & uploading
Formats Language & Translation Interactivity
Hosting Miscellaneous

 

1. Pre-Production Expertise (Concept, Storyboard and Script Writing)  

It doesn’t matter that your video looks good.  It only matters that your video accomplishes something. There are many facets of pre-production work: Planning, scheduling, project management… but the one that is critical to the success of your video is the development of the storyboard and script for your video. The ideas, the structure, the style and the language of your video – that’s what your storyboard outlines and that’s what matters.

What’s surprising is that pre-production remains largely a black box activity. Many businesses don’t give it much thought.  Many production companies simply include this into the production costs or they assign a small percentage of the budget to this task.

Pre-production work is the most important part of the video production process by far, and yet it’s often given far too little attention compared with the more technical aspects of production.

This is analogous to constructing a new custom home by rushing though the design stage to get to the ‘real work’ of building the house. Ideas are still (and will always be…) the hardest thing to charge for and yet those ideas are what matter the most – the rest is execution.

What measurable business objective are you trying to achieve?  How is this video specifically going to achieve that objective? And of greatest importance, do the people creating your video have the experience and expertise to create a video that will actually move your business forward?

Video Production Cost:
Expect to spend between $75/hour and $250/hour for an experienced marketing writer and creative team (does it make sense to have an entertainment script writer or video production assistant develop your marketing script?) to develop a concept, script and storyboard that serves as the blueprint for you video.

2. Actors / Presenters

Do you need to hire professional presenters, actors or models to improve the quality of your presentation? Not every video needs a live presenter and not everyone is good on camera. You may need to make some difficult decisions about who should represent your company.

Many companies choose employees to act as presenters to save money or they choose senior management because they believe ‘that’s their job’. Quite often this is a mistake. Most sole practitioners/professionals and small business owners want to be on-camera because, after all, … ‘they are the face of the company’. Quite often this is a mistake.

Steve Jobs, the greatest pitchman to ever grace a stage, was (almost) never in Apple promotional videos. Just because it’s your company doesn’t mean you should be in your video. “Authenticity” is not an excuse for a bad delivery.  ‘Authentically bad’ is still bad. It takes a brave video production company to talk a business owner off of the ‘on-camera’ ledge.

Video Production Cost:
This factor has the widest cost range, by far. Presenters can be free (folks from your company) or they can cost millions (I.e. Morgan Freeman…). Models and actors can range anywhere from $50/hour to $500/hour or (lot’s) more depending on experience, demand, location and union costs.

3. Direction

Once shooting starts who is responsible for the look and feel of the video, for getting the on-screen talent to say the right things in the right way and for making sure everything that needs to be captured is actually captured? That person is the director whether they are getting paid a director’s wage or not. On small productions the ‘Director’ is typically the camera operator. On mid-level jobs the ‘Director’ is often a jumble of people replete with widely varying opinions, priorities. and levels of experience. On large productions it’s a dedicated Director, supported by an assistant.

Video Production Cost:
Many small and mid-sized productions don’t employ an experienced corporate video director and that’s often a mistake. The average cost of an experienced director ranges between $75/hour and $250/hour. Higher-end projects (broadcast commercials or Fortune 500 video projects) can pay day rates of $2,500 or more for Directors with high quality reels.

4. Principal Cameraman / DOP (Director of Photography)

Cameramen can have very different roles on video projects depending on the budget and the supporting crew. As well, the need for cinematography skills will vary depending on the specifics of the job.

Filming a talking head is usually quite straightforward. Filming an action scene is not. Framing a shot, recommending the best use of gear and motion rigs and ensuring the lighting reflects the mood of the video are all skills learned through experience.

Video Production Cost:
Cameramen will range in cost from  $50/hour to  $175/hour depending on experience. If your video project is designed only for an internal audience or if it’s very basic production you can probably get a recent film school grad to shoot your project for between $25 and $50/hr. You’ll normally get better rates on a second cameraman if a two-camera shoot is required as one the second camera operator is usually a junior role.

5. Editor

I would be inclined to place editing higher up this priority list but the reality is that if you don’t succeed with the first four factors mentioned above, no amount of editing is going to save you.

The editing process is highly nuanced. Editing is where you create the style and substance of the video – you sequence all of the available assets into a cohesive story that communicates your key messages in a clear and engaging manner. Editing is a skill that takes time to develop.

You’re also starting to see more industry specific editors emerge as the priorities in editing vary greatly between business sectors.

Video Production Cost:
Typical editing costs run between $50/hour and $150/hour. (You can get off-shore editing done for between $10/hr and $25/hr but that route is only effective on volume work or production videos that don’t require nuance and a soft touch.)

6. Animation (Custom) 

Some videos are entirely animated and some business videos require only a modest amount of animation. There are an infinite number of animation styles you can employ – each available at multiple cost (and quality) levels. Businesses typically end up going with the ‘house’ style of the video production company they hire. (Some animators can create a wide variety of styles while most have specific, identifiable styles.)

Video Production Cost:
You can outsource animation quite easily now to many countries in Asia at very low hourly rates ($10/hr – $35/hr) but you really need experience doing this to manage those jobs properly. (If you try to outsource animation by yourself, with no outside help, for the first time… your project will likely end in hair-loss and tears.) If you are paying video production companies to produce animation for your video in western countries then you are likely paying rates between $75/hour and $175/hour. (Complex 3D graphics or key frame animation can cost between $200/hr and $500/hr or more for Broadcast Commercials and High-end Product Demos).

7. Animation (Web-based Tools)

The internet continues to run roughshod over most industries and Animation is no exception. Web based tools like GoAnimate and PowToons allow anyone with an idea and a bit of patience to create decent, to good quality videos using a variety of web-based templates and animation tools.

These tools will continue to get better and will continue to lower the cost of creating things like presentations and animated explainer videos. Businesses still have to assess whether this activity is the best use of their employees skills and time. (Just because you are able to perform a task doesn’t mean you’re the best person to perform it.)

Video Production Cost:
Monthly licensing costs typically start at $0 for feature-limited trials and then move to tiered plans offering different options that range from $50, $100 to $200 per month.

8. Post-Production (Graphics and Motion Graphics – web based tools) 

As with Animation, it’s getting easier to find web-based tools and templates to help you build things like lower thirds, motion titles and basic graphics for use in a video. Motion graphics and background templates are available from many websites now as creators try to leverage their work by selling components that they have built for themselves.

You still have to know how to manipulate the templates and edit them into your project but if your requirements are modest and you don’t require a high degree of customization then this may be your best route.

Video Production Cost:
Motion Graphic and Graphic templates typically cost between $25 and $200 per item. This cost can run into the thousands of dollars on large projects.

9. Post-Production (Graphics and Motion Graphics Services) 

Most production houses either have an in-house graphics specialists with skills in programs like After Effects or they can easily outsource this requirement to a local expert.

Video Production Cost:
Typical motion graphic development runs between $75/hr and $150/hr.

10. Voice-Over / Narration 

The internet (and technology) has had the affect of lowering voice-over costs by well over 50% in the past ten years. Back in the day, if you needed voice work done you would hire a union voice actor – usually starting at around $1,000 and then you’d also need to rent sound studio time which would set you back another $500 to $1,000.

Today, most voice-actors work from home and work through one of the many web-based narration service providers.  Even if you have on-screen presenters for parts of your video it still may be helpful to include voice-over narration to tie the video together.

The challenge today is that anyone with a computer and a microphone can call themselves a voice artist and it can be very time consuming finding a good and reliable voice for your project.

Video Production Cost:
For lower cost projects you can budget between $200 and $500 for a 2 minute read . On larger budget projects where you need a very high quality read you can be looking anywhere from $500 to $2500 or more depending on the experience / talent of the voice artist.

11. Music and Sound Effects 

Music is very important to the overall mood of your video. Music sets the tone and tells the viewer how to feel as they watch your video. Music complements what is happening on screen and at times music can be the most important component of your video.

Sound effects and sound design is usually only employed on higher-end video productions but these sound elements can elevate your video from good to great if done well.

Many will argue (…and I tend to agree) that audio is more important in a corporate video than the visuals. If the audio is bad in a business video – the video is bad. If the visuals are bad but the audio is good, the video may still be fine. Audio is subtle, it’s subliminal and when down very well, it’s sublime.

Video Production Cost:
A good quality music track for video starts as low as $30 for a two or three minute track. Custom audio can cost $1,000 or more depending on the experience of the musician and what is required. Licensing popular music is prohibitively expensive for all but the largest budget productions. Sound effects can be purchased for a few dollars or custom created for hundreds of dollars.

12. Location 

Video is a visual medium. Insist on strong visuals to support every aspect of your project. Choosing the right filming location is very important in the video production process and yet it’s one aspect of video production that is quite often overlooked.

I am continually having to talk businesses out of shooting in their office. I appreciate that shooting in your own office is cheap and it’s convenient, but most offices look like… offices. Most are dull, and small, and lifeless… sometimes depressing… and… I digress.

If you have a showpiece of an office, super – shoot there. If you don’t, (most don’t) then find a location that looks vibrant and reflects the mood you are trying to set in your video. Ask business associates for a favour,  or go shoot somewhere cool in a public spot until you get kicked out, or get permission to shoot somewhere, or pay for a location services company to find the perfect spot to shoot.

What about “authenticity” you ask. isn’t it ‘fake’ if you don’t use your own office? What if your office just sort of… sucks?, I respond.

How is there benefit in showing the world that your surroundings are dull, unimaginative and lifeless. You can pay your local coffee shop a couple bucks to shoot during a quiet time, you can shoot somewhere that reflects the context of what you do or who you serve, you can shoot outdoors, in a friend’s cool studio, in a museum, on the moon… anywhere but in your insipid, grey, cramped, cubicle infested, {can’t… stop… typing…} Orwellian, soul sucking, creativity stifling…

Video Production Cost:
Location costs vary from free (using your own dull office… I’m working through my issues in therapy…) to anywhere between $200 and $2000 a day for the use of a specific location to use as a backdrop for your story. Permits for access to public or private spaces can run from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars.

13. B-Roll Coverage 

Do I have enough footage to tell the story properly? Do I have enough interesting shots to keep the viewer engaged? Do I have enough transitions and angles to show how something works? Coverage is often the single biggest problem for an editor. Shooting b-roll footage is a consideration for both pre-production (you have to think through and plan this into your production schedule) and production (you will discover opportunities or deficiencies as you shoot, that require you to shoot more b-roll footage than you planned.)

Even simple talking-head interviews can be made watchable if you cut-away to something the person is talking about. Showing the viewer what is being described in the video is more informative (show me, don’t tell me) and also helps to maintain the attention of the impatient viewer. Keep in mind the viewer doesn’t really care about you – they only care about the things you do that can help them. Show them those things.

Video Production Cost:
The length of time and equipment used to capture b-roll footage will increase production costs. You can add anywhere from 10% to 50% of the total shooting costs if you need to supplement interview footage with b-roll footage.

14. Production Time

There is a direct correlation between budget and time. The smaller the budget, the more frenetic your shoot is going to be. Business owners think they are being smart by minimizing the number of shooting days to save a few bucks. They are not. If you’re rushed, you might be able to produce good work, but you’ll never do great work.

How long will each scene/interview/shot take? Are you shooting in one location or many? What are the specific requirements and constraints of each location? Are you indoor or outside? If you are shooting outside is weather a factor? If so, what happens if it rains? How much set-up time is required? Are the locations close together? What if the key executive is late? What happens when things go off the rails (…something will)?

The most important factor is the total amount of time required for production. There are few economies of scale for time – but with good planning you can do a lot within a specific period of time.

Video Production Cost:
Video production shooting costs are arithmetic. Two days of shooting is generally twice as expensive as one day. (If shooting extends for many days or is regularly scheduled then most companies offer a discount). Some production companies charge half-day rates, some do not.

15. Camera and Lenses

Like software, the differences in hardware are starting to decrease to the point of not mattering. Most cameras today shoot 4k, slo-motion, high dynamic range and come equipped with good or very good optical sensors.

That said, the quality and flexibility of the camera you shoot with can still make a difference in the finished quality and editing options for your video. Are you shooting on a a $1,500 mirrorless camera, a $15,000 Full featured Cinema Camera or a $150,000 ARRI Alexa?

The pace of technological advancement and change in videocameras continues at break-neck speed. Spending money on a good set of lenses is a better investment than buying a camera which will be rendered obsolete a month after its release.

Bottom Line: You should be able to see the difference in the final output quality in more expensive cameras. If you can’t, then it’s not worth paying for. Your final delivery channel will also determine the need for specific cameras. Streamed video on the internet (where the vast majority of corporate videos are seen) doesn’t require 4k or higher resolution cameras to capture your content because most of that quality will be lost in optimization for web delivery.

Video Production Cost:
You can spend between $50/hour and $500/hour or more depending on which digital camera package is used.

16. Production Equipment

The more experienced video production companies will have a wide variety of tools and equipment on hand for each shoot. Do you need a track dolly, a jib-arm or a motion rig with a gimbal to create a shot with movement? Do need a drone to capture aerial footage? Do you have a high quality field monitor to know exactly what you are getting (or not getting) as you shoot? Do you have all the necessary audio equipment (lav’s, direction mics, booms etc) to capture the audio you need?

Lighting and framing are everything in video. Do you have lights – lots of different lights to accommodate a wide variety of shooting scenarios? Do you have a variety of lenses to create the specific feel you are after – wide angle, fixed focal length or Cine lenses for narrow depth of field, etc?

While most production companies don’t charge line-item prices any more for most of these various pieces of equipment (drones are the exception here as they require special skills and licensing) these costs will be factored in to the total cost of production.

Video Production Cost:
Equipment cost can run anywhere from $25/hour to $100’s/hour or more depending on what specific equipment is required.

17. Crew

If you’ve ever watched a movie or television show being filmed you’ve likely noticed the need for a rather large crew on the set. Production assistants, camera crew, lighting tech, audio tech, drivers, etc., can all be employed depending on the scope of your project.

Most business web video productions don’t require more than two people (and sometimes one is enough) but depending on the complexity of the shoot you may require a crew of three or more. If you are conducting man on the street interviews as an example, you need a cameraman, a sound man and a directer / interviewer. Concept videos like broadcast commercials will often require a large crew to help with the logistics of handling more expensive equipment and gear.

Video Production Cost:
Expect to pay between $ 25 and $75/hour/person for experienced crew. A field production engineer who has his own equipment (i.e. field recorder, mics, boom pole etc.) typically costs between $50 and $75 per hour. A lighting technician may cost between $30 and $50 per hour.

18. Extras

You want your video to have energy. You want your business or location to have life – to look busy and not like your entire office is out in the parking lot during a fire drill.

You also need the “right” people to be in the background of the various shots in your video. Getting the right people into your shot (aside from the on-screen talent) is very important and yet it is quite often a significant challenge. Businesses typically on’t want to pay ‘extra’ to have people standing around and yet businesses will happily drag their overworked, unwilling employees away from their paid jobs to stand around.

The problem with this is that these co-opted employees (who hate to be volun-told) may or may not (usually ‘may not…’) be the right people you want in your shot. They’re probably going to be grumpy and they’re almost always under some time constraint. Perfect!

A small investment in extras can go a long way.

Video Production Cost:
Hiring extras can run between from $10/hour to $30/hour depending on who is needed and whether you are hiring them directly or going through a service.

19. Studio Shooting

Do you require the use of a sound stage or studio? Do you need a controlled environment to shoot in? Are you shooting green screen and keying out the background in edit? The use of a studio has to be factored into the overall cost of the production one way or another.

Larger companies often add studio time into their overall shooting costs while other companies include it as a line item as studio rental time. Owning a contained video studio used to be standard practice for video production companies but the number of companies that own their own studios has dropped significantly as most have found it easier to rent/book studio time rather than owning a complete sound studio. Studio owners pay for their studio whether it gets used or not.

Video Production Cost:
Factor in between $100/hour and $ 400/hour depending on the size of the studio.

20. Set, Props, Equipment

Are there other special props or pieces of equipment that need to be included in your shoot? Do you need to hire a van, rent furniture, hire a plane or helicopter for an aerial shot or bring in special equipment for the shoot? These all have to be factored in to the cost of the shoot.

Video Production Cost:
Costs will depend on the unique requirements of the shoot and can range from cheap (if you do it all yourself), to moderate (if you rent equipment yourself) to expensive (if you hire a company to perform all of these tasks for you.)

21. Stock Footage and Photos

Do you require supplemental footage or images to support your video? Why pay to shoot and edit a time-lapse video of your cityscape if you can buy a good one for $25.

There are many, many websites that sell high quality still images and video footage. Like everything else on the internet, the quality and availability and price of stock footage and images continues to improve. There are some websites giving free footage away as a loss-leader. (Everything tends to ‘free’ on the internet.)

Video Production Cost:
Stock images start at free and you usually pay between $3 and $25 for a good quality image. Stock footage starts around $30 and can go to around $500 on higher-end websites like Getty Images. As always, you tend to get what you pay for.

22. Geographic Location

New York City is more expensive to shoot in than Traverse City, Michigan because the cost of living is much, much higher in New York. Half-day rates don’t exist in some large cities today.

Small cities won’t have all the equipment and facilities that production companies in large cities do. The same holds true for countries. Shooting in parts of England or France can be very expensive. the cost of living in large western centres is considerably higher than in smaller towns.

Shooting in Shanghai can be very cheap if you find the right local company or very expensive if you (are able to) bring in a production team from outside the country. Often the best arrangement is to have key personnel like the director and DOP travel to your location and hire crew locally.

Video Production Cost:
Expect to pay between 25% and 50% more if you are shooting in a large city.

23. Teleprompter

A teleprompter can save a shoot. Even the most experienced speaker can be intimidated by lights, crew and camera. While it’s true that you can often tell when someone is reading a teleprompter, that may still be preferable to the agony of a shoot spiralling out of control because your CEO couldn’t remember his lines.

The best use of a teleprompter is as a guide to give the presenter queues on what to say rather than having them read word for word. It’s also very difficult to inject emotion and passion into something that you’re are reading verbatim. You will also need to hire an experienced teleprompter operator who can make changes on the fly and keep pace with the read.

Video Production Cost:
Teleprompter and teleprompter operator usually cost between $300 and $600 for a half day.

24. Length of the Video

The longer the video, the more it will cost you to make. Viewership drops off precipitously after a minute on the web. Business videos tend to be around a couple of minutes although this varies considerably depending on the type and purpose of your video.

There are no hard rules for the correct length of  a video on the web but there are some good general guidelines for video length. Keep in mind that filming an articulate talking head (limited editing) for ten minutes is much, much cheaper than creating a 30 second commercial. So…

Video Production Cost:
All things being equal (they never are…) consider longer to be more expensive, but it’s not arithmetic. An extra minute of video might only cost you 10% more if you have planned the extra requirements into your overall production workflow.

25. Are you dealing direct or going through a third party for your video?

Are you working directly with the video production company making your video or are you going through a marketing firm, ad agency or some other middleman – who is contracting the project out to a production company? While many agencies now have in-house video capabilities, many still outsource this work.

Video Production Cost:
You should expect that you are paying at least a 20% mark-up if you are going through a third party.

26. Special event-related equipment

Are you creating a live feed that needs to uplink to a server and the web? Are you doing live mixing on-site to feed on-stage screens? Are there special location-based requirements that your event requires to coordinate video between multiple rooms at your venue? Do you have to get footage to media or event partners on the same day? Events have their own unique requirements and equipment.

Video Production Cost:
You can pay hundreds or thousands of dollars extra for specialized event-related video gear.

27. Licensing/Union Fees

Are you using any media assets that are subject to ongoing licensing or usage fees? The web continues to drive all costs down including licensing fees – but these fees still exist.

Are you employing specialized talent that require you to pay union rates and fees? There is more non-union talent available than ever before but the top strata of talent are usually members of  SAG, ACTRA or some other union.

Video Production Cost:
Costs vary depending on the project and talent and assets required.

28. Catering / Craft Services

Whether your crew is small or large you have to take care of them. Feed them well and treat them well and you will get your best work from them. I’ve worked through many lunches and worked many very long days and I know that when I start to get fatigued and / or hangry, I am not doing my best work.

Video Production Cost:
Costs for catering / craft services will depend on the size of the crew. $25 per person per day is reasonable on a small shoot.

29. Hair and Make-up

On lower budget projects a brush and a container of neutral blush (to remove an oily or sweaty appearance on your talent’s face) can go a long way. If you have both the budget and the requirement then it is a good idea to hire a hair and makeup expert to help ensure your subjects look great on camera.

It’s also a good idea to have them watch the shoot to ensure continuity. These professionals typically work full-time in the industry – mostly on entertainment projects or come from the beauty industry working as cosmeticians specializing in weddings.

Video Production Cost:
Cost vary considerably but a reasonable range is from $35/hr to $75 per hour.

30. Digitizing, transcoding, transfers, rendering and uploading

There’s a great deal of digital fussing with video. Some production companies bury all of the digital handling costs and others break them out. Are you getting footage from your client to include in the video? Do you need to transfer video and create special back-up files based on the clients requirements? How many times do you have to render files for preview and final delivery? How are you transferring the files and where are they all going: your web server, YouTube, The Academy Awards?

All of these tasks may only take a few hours of work each but, depending on the complexity of the job and the known (or unknown) requirements of your client. you could spend many man-days doing this work.

Video Production Cost:
Sometimes these costs are buried, sometimes they are line items. Tape transfers, while infrequent, are very expensive ($100’s of dollars).  Rendering and uploading time are usually buried in the costs but can also be charged out at an hourly rate ($30 – $75 per hour).

31. Formats

How many different formats does your video have to be rendered in? Where is your video going to be seen? Do you need a short version (editing down) and a long version? Does it sit in a multiplayer or is it in three different players? Should you break it up into pieces to make the length of it a little less evident and also to allow the user a bit more control? How many different devices and screens will this be seen on? Do you need to create multiple format of your video for different delivery methods (i.e. 16×9 for web, 9×9 for facebook and instagram and 9×16 for mobile devices?)

Video Production Cost:
Adapting multiple formats for a video can add 5% to 10% to the cost of the job depending on how much editing is required.

32. Language and Translation

Do you need closed captions? Do you need language versioning? Do you need sub-titles for a different language? Do you need to dub in different language narration for different markets?

Video Production Cost:
Language versioning can add 5% to 15% to the overall cost of the job. (Editing and proofing of multiple languages can be very time consuming.)

33. Interactivity

Are you creating linear video or are you building in interactivity? Is there a direct call-to-action that you want to get the viewer to follow? Do you require special programming or a custom player to realize the potential of your interactive video? You can create a video with multiple paths, multiple endings or you can create a video that drives a specific action, such as going to a website to order a product or stopping the linear video to interact with some tools embedded in the player. The options are endless.

Video Production Cost:
Expect to pay between 10% and 30% more to develop interactivity and programming to support the functionality of your video. Back-end, database work will cost even more.

34. Hosting

Is your video is going to live on the web? If so, where is it being hosted? You might end up hosting it on different servers (your own, YouTube, a business portal, etc.) depending on your business needs.

Video Production Cost:
Hosting is either free or relatively inexpensive ($ 5 – $25 / month/video depending on bandwidth usage.)

35. Miscellaneous Fees

Everyone hates lawyers ‘disbursement fees’. Video production has the equivalent in ‘Miscellaneous fees’ which cover things like travel costs, mileage, hotels, transportation, contingency fees, out-of-pocket expenses, etc. It all adds up and someone has to pay for it.

Video Production Cost:
Often in the $100’s
of dollars and typically in the $1,000’s of dollars on larger shoots.

 

Whew! So I need a video produced. Where do I start?

Now you understand the cost of various elements associated with video production how do you develop a budget for your video? Here are some questions (and answers) to help you through the process.

Do you have a budget and are you willing to share that budget?

Every business has a budget and yet most businesses are reluctant to share budget figures hoping they will get an amazing deal if they don’t disclose anything.  I’ve been on both sides (client and agency side) and I always had better results when I said, “Here’s my budget, here are my business objectives, what can you do for me?” If you don’t declare a budget then the production company has to guess at your budget. Does this make sense? Does the company that guesses closest to your undeclared budget win? At some point you’ll have to determine how much money you can spend on your video project.

What if I have no idea what a video production costs?

If you don’t know what different types of videos cost then I’d recommend calling a video production company or two and get them to show you their work and have them tell you approximately what each video they showed you cost and why. You can also show them a reference video that you like and get them to tell you ‘about’ how much something like that would cost to make. Most production companies can provide ballparks like this very easily.

What if I have an idea for a video and I want to cost it out?

That’s another great opportunity to chat with a video production company to determine if they understand your business and your business needs. Having said that, it’s always a good idea to tell the video production company your business problem (instead of the type of video you want) and listen to what they have to say. They might surprise you (in a good way).

How can I tell which production company will do the best work?

I present to you an easy, three step answer to solve this conundrum:

1. Ask people whose opinion you trust for video production company recommendations.
2. Check out the work of those production companies on their websites.
3. Call a few of them and talk to them about your project.

Let us know what we missed or if you have any comments or questions about this post.

 

 

Note: This post is also found in the Top Ten Posts for this blog.

Set, props, equipment, extras. Aside from video production equipment are there other special props or pieces of equipment that need to be included as part of the costs. Do you need to rent a van, rent furniture, hire extras, hire a plane or helicopter for an aerial shot or bring in special equipment for the shoot. These all have to be factored in to the cost of the shoot.
Costs: Depends on what is required.

159 thoughts on “Video Production Cost – 35 Factors with costs explained.

  1. A truly awesome post – The key to good production is time, skill and experience and this is what drives the main cost of a given production.

    Crowdsourcing your creative team means you can tap into a global creative base and reduce this cost quite substantially without scrimping on quality.

  2. Thank you for a comprehensive post. The key point I keep hammering to clients is know your audience. We don’t see many bank presidents communicating with a flip. By the same token, if you are a SMB focusing on social media marketing a flip may be just fine. You can save money by realizing that web video doesn’t need the bells and whistles that drive television marketing. Online people tend to respond to videos that inform, entertain, educate or inspire.

    • Thanks David and Fergus. Video is just another communication medium (albeit a fast growing one…) that will take many forms. Like design, programming or any new form of marketing there will be many different styles and approaches that work for different audiences. Skill and experience will certainly win out, but the subjective nature of what we do will also allow a wide range of capabilities to service the marketplace.

  3. Great video takes planning and professional experience. In order to keep people engaged on the web with video the quality of the content and production needs to meet the viewers expectation and since television and film has already set that bar high you will need a professional finished product.

  4. Great summary… well put and answers the age old question I’ve gotten for years.
    How you respond to this question can be the key to getting the gig… unfortunatley clients too often don’t understand that you can’t just “quote based on a 20 min meeting, and I’ve been at this for over 25 years.
    I think I will forward your post instead… thank you!

  5. Thanks JC – having worked in the creative services industry most of my working life I know how difficult it is to price out various creative services. Add to that the complexity associated with all of the various moving parts involved in a typical video production and the pricing seems to become more art than science.

    What’s a logo worth?, or a jingle?, or a website? or… whatever? It depends.

  6. Good points. You mentioned $/hour to expect for certain tasks, however, you did not mention how many hours to expect for most of these. Many business owners have no idea how long it takes to do this things. Until you’ve actual been on a film or video set, you don’t realize that it takes a couple hours just to set up a shot sometimes.
    I also think that your estimates for talent may be a little low too. Most don’t take an per hour rate, they have a rate based on the type of job, the length of exposure, and media where it will be running. Many decent actors cost $800-$1600 just to get them to the studio for a couple hours.
    This article is a great starting point though to give some idea to a client about why the great deal they want could cost them in the long run.

    • Thanks Jed. You’re right – the number of hours is the other critical factor in the equations, and it’s also the one that is easier to fudge, so quoting an hourly rate is only half the equation.

      Talent charges do vary considerably depending on the location (I.e. New York vs. Grand Rapids), and project requirements (Tom Hanks vs. your cousin Eddy.)

  7. Great Article. As a 30 year veteran of the production business I disagree with the $1,000 dollar minute theory. This is the same number that appeared in film production text books in the 1940’s when bread was ten cents a loaf.

    • Ken, thanks for the feedback.

      As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, you can get decent point and shoot / talking head work done for under $1,000 or you can hire Cameron to do the work for $ 200,000,000… and everything in between. Neither is “correct”. But saying ‘it depends’ would make for a really short blog post… and wouldn’t really be that helpful.

      I tried to make it very clear (but obviously failed) that $1,000 a minute is a starting point for a basic web video. .. then you add costs for extra camera’s, extra crew, talent, etc. as required. I do some corporate video work that takes a day to shoot and a day to edit (a few thousand dollars) and I also do work that takes many days to shoot and many days to edit and may also include many of the other 25 factors in the project cost (tens of thousands of dollars.)

      Most businesses have no idea what a web video will cost them. ‘A thousand dollars a minute for something basic’ is a good place to start a conversation. If the reaction is ‘So what do you mean by basic,’ then you can begin a profitable conversation. If the reaction is ‘oh, that’s not in my budget… then you haven’t wasted anyone’s time.

      And finally, if you are referring to film (movie) costs then yes, absolutely – you are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute. That said, there is even less correlation between movies budgets and movie quality compared than there is with corporate / marketing videos.

  8. I believe this is something that many companies don’t realize. They want their product to be shown really spectacular but they do not have an idea of how much it would be. They usually think that buying a camera and shooting their product and offices would be enough. But they forgot all about the production value that need to be transmitted, and it has a cost.

    Great post, I wish Mexican medium size companies can realize this, because being a filmmaker in Mexico for corporate videos its so hard.

    Carlos Yasik

  9. In the past few years Pepsi has been known for manufacturing and distributing oddly flavored versions of their well-known Pepsi soda. They’ve made their soda clear, white, clear, red, and now they’re going blue with Pepsi blue.

    • Bill thanks for the feedback. I was waiting for someone to call me on some of my categories of video. Animation and motion graphics are styles of video not purposes of video. Humor (humour) as an example, could be used in many types of video and would be best categorized as a style or characteristic of video. A testimonial video, on the other hand isn’t a style of video (I suppose a testimonial video could be animated if you could get Peter Griffen to speak on behalf of your company…) it’s a use or type of video, as are the other types I describe in the post. Some are admittedly a bit more tenuous than others… What I was trying to point out was specific business uses of video. It’s early days yet, and categorizing of video is very new. Even the term ‘marketing video’ is confusing to some.

  10. Pingback: Expensive(?) Video Marketing « Kameel Vohra
  11. Just a quick note. Actors, if they are union have a minimum day rate which for SAG is now just under $600/day.

    As far as who to hire, you don’t have to have been around for many years to produce quality content. There is such a thing as overpaying for a “brand” name when the “generic” is just as good.

    Judge on the quality of the work already done as opposed to how many years someone has been in business and you just might find yourself getting more bang for your buck.

    Thanks for writing this. It is very helpful and hopefully future clients will get a better understanding of what it takes to make a great video.

    • Interesting question Micah. Most business video production projects fall under ‘work for hire’ regulations where copyright falls to the person paying for the work, not the creator. There are exceptions to this rule, but most corporate video production work is performed under ‘WFH’ rules. Video created for entertainment can be much more complex.

  12. Very good article. I think you hit the average target and needs for most of those categories, but think it completely blows at the end. The Bottom Line is where you are off mark here. Go back and look at the costs you have gave to each category and then what is involved in a good video. There is no way the “old” $1000 per minute works anymore. The only way I would see that still working is if the shot is just someone to camera with no cover. I think a closer estimate, which I hate giving numbers like this, since everything is so varied, would be $2000 to $2500 per minute.

    • Michael, thanks for the feedback. I refer to $1,000 a minute as a starting point only – for the most basic production, from there the sky is the limit. I was just asked to provide a quote to record a five minute presentation, no b-roll, limited editing – just capturing a sales presentation that my client wants to use for training purposes. Should I have quoted $10,000?

      I checked your site out BTW – really nice work.

  13. Hi Jim: Great article. Most people don’t understand why video costs what it does. Would you mind if we reposted this on our blog? Thanks again for the great info!

  14. “Asking ‘what does a video cost?’ is the same as asking ‘what does a website cost?’ or ‘what does a logo cost?’ so why even both with guidance – aren’t you just adding confusion?” I get this question quite often from folks in the industry. My answer is that it’s a starting point – a way of saying “You’re probably looking at a two or three thousand dollar base price for something quite simple but professional, and from there the cost will increase depending on the complexity of the shoot. It could be five thousand or twenty thousand but it’s going to be in a multiple of thousands.” For the majority of people who still have no idea about what corporate video production costs it’s a very quick way of framing the costs.

    I still find the most effective way of moving forward quickly with a client is to get them to show me a video they have seen (as that’s almost always what piqued their interest) and to ask me how much ‘something like that’ would cost. This gives you an idea of what the client likes and also gives you an opportunity to cut to a quick chase with regard to pricing so you don’t waste everyone’s time.

  15. I like looking through an article that can make people think.
    Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  16. An excellent summary.

    Having just received an invitation to quote for a three minute film made by someone who can “produce excellent results to a tight timeframe and a limited budget” (but no figures given), this has given me some solace.

    I’ve said on so many occasions, if only clients would just say how much they want to spend, then we could save a lot of time by giving them some clearer idea of what can be achieved with the money they have.

    In addition, I’ve said to many a client (and probably lost a few opportunities as a result) that I won’t make films that are just plain window dressing, or because the client’s seen a rival with a video so they feel they must have one as well.

    Filmmaking, in all its forms should have purpose.

    There’s a lot of great stuff here… thanks again.

  17. Great input. Thanks!

    I never throw out numbers during the first meeting or over the phone, no matter how hard a potential client tries to push me into a corner.

    During our initial meeting, when they ask “So how much will the video cost?” (and they ALWAYS ask), I tell them that’s like a potential home buyer asking the builder how much it will cost to build a new home from scratch after a five-minute discussion.

    It ALL depends on the details. So the more details you can give me, the closer I can get to a workable estimate. But only after I spend at least a day or so putting pencil to paper.

    Then they’ll always ask “But I’m sure you’ve done videos similar to ours, how much did those cost?” I tell them that videos may be similar, just as homes are similar, but the creation process is rarely the same. And the differences can affect the final costs.

    I also tell them that if other video producers do give them a number, they are usually just low-balling it to get your business. They know the cost will increase later and they’ll expect you to pay it.

    I don’t always get hired, but so far I have never had a client tell me they won’t work with me just because I didn’t quote numbers in our first meeting.

    • I understand your approach Kevin but I find that giving rough ballpark prices at the outset can move the conversation forward very quickly. There is no point in wasting time slogging through a detailed quote (which has to include some rough concept idea otherwise the quote is based on nothing…) if you know that the client cannot afford your idea.

      • Thank you so very much for posting this, I hope more small business clients are exposed to this kind of thinking and discussion.
        I found your itemized posting interesting and helpful…. until I got to the end.

        So in the spirit of getting everyone out of LOW BUDGET HELL , if you want… take a long-winded and humorous journey with me through the process as I see it happening more and more.

        READY? Let’s go.

        In my opinion, for even a small company, the very bare minimum should be what I lay out here and the maximum is really unlimited. (I just did a ridiculous 4 minute internal film for Bayer Germany that only people inside the company will see that cost over $500k)
        Why stop at $10k? That could be misleading. In fact after wonderfully proving your point that there is no average why then include that pitifully low budget range at all? Your “bottom line” paragraph is what troubles me as it flies in the face of the rest of the posting and again sets expectations firmly in Low Budget Hell, with no elevator to safety.

        I’m not going to do this exercise, but I imagine by using all your 26 line items at the top of the ranges given… would be more like $70k or more. And that is what experienced companies understand they may pay for something midrange, yet up to standard.

        So… WHAT IS THE STANDARD?
        That’s simple – we see THE STANDARD all the time, just watch TV. We are conditioned to accept that standard, anything less looks and feels amateur.

        Yes as many here have pointed out… people love to ask – ‘What would a video cost?” as though there is a singular set price. There is no way to responsibly answer this other than – “It totally depends on the creative, give me the script and I’ll break it down.” Doing that is an investment of time. Doing a responsible quote takes me all day… more for a huge project. Best to ask them what they expect to spend right away. If they play dumb… I start with 100k or more? 50k -100k? Below $50k? That gives them a chance to indicate while still saving face, and let’s them know these are common ranges. This is the point where the producer decides if the client is qualified and to pursue or not.
        If he/she really wants or needs the work… he/she will anyway. Danger!

        But usually a little further inquiry yields this:

        “Oh you don’t have a script? Just some lame played out cliche’ ideas we’ve all seen too often? You want ME to write it?… even though I really just want to use my new slider for my Canon DSLR and am not a trained writer? Well I guess can write one for you, but I’ll need to onboard a lot of your company information via research, conversations, your ideas etc… then start writing, and then asking for your approval, and then changing, and writing some more.”

        The inexperienced client never thought of this. Wow, this guy must be pro – he works from a script! The last guy just came in with his camera and shot around the building for a couple hours and edited it… but it wasn’t really that good. We payed him $500, that’s why we want to pay a little more now for better quality.”
        So goes the logic. Another reason to never bite on the…. “we have a really low budget this time, but we are planning a lot of bigger projects in the future, and you’ll be able to make money on those”.
        This is all BS. You will be remembered as the low budget guy, and if they ever really do get more work with bigger budgets, you can bet they will start shopping for someone they think is worth more. Forgetting that you were humbled and handicapped by their lowballing.

        “Oh, you can only afford to pay $20 per hour for script development? AND you want to cap that at 5 hours? Wow, well I’d love to get paid $100 dollars to write a script… then I can say I’m a writer AND director/producer!! Woo hoo!
        And…you will accept whatever script results from those 5 measly hours? At least until your wife criticizes it once it’s delivered and makes you doubt everything.
        Great, now we can start breaking down the script, that I had the foresight to write for the cheapest possible execution… now that i know what a cheap B@$tard you are.”

        An experienced commercial film maker will responsibly talk himself out of the job at this point when he/she realizes that the client just thinks they NEED a video, (because a video will solve problems) and wants to get shooting.
        Forcing an inexperienced client to consider a strategic review will most likely end up with them realizing that a video is premature as there is much more essential strategic creative work needed on the brand.

        I see, and mentor a lot of young ambitious people doing corporate style video projects for businesses hoping to gain something from a video for ridiculously low budgets. Note how interesting it is that the company wants use the video to increase their business goals… but they never seem to like paying the vendors to increase theirs.

        Sadly…you are kind of correct when you give the range starting at $2500. For some odd reason this number has some kind of magic quality and seems to be what is expected by the clueless on both sides. However it represents a tragic failure.: The company will not get much for this kind of off-strategy approach and the inexperienced film makers who are selling themselves out this cheaply have not considered a couple key things:

        1. Even the busiest dirt cheap video makers don’t work every day, and will need to bill enough to get them through the non-billable hours in a week or month. Do the exercise. Reverse engineer your billable hours per month and look for all the hidden costs to estimate your hourly worth. Then really be honest about how many hours you will put into the project. You will be surprised, even perhaps frightened by how much you need to bill in order to grow.

        2. Self promotion is very time consuming even if it’s all done one’s self. It can cost money too.

        3. Offering professional services to a business mandates a minimum. They should not benefit from a film maker’s inexperience or carelessness with budgeting because he/she is eager, needs to pay bills and doesn’t calculate the impact of this on a long term career.

        4. The side effect is this pollutes the market with conflicting data and brings down the over all prices making it difficult for real professionals to compete with the less experienced. It creates market chaos that only cheap /greedy clients stand to benefit from.

        5. When wedding shooters make more than someone making a video for a company… something is amiss.

        6. Clients of all types and sizes need to be trained NOT to price shop. They need to be able to see the function and value of the video clearly as well as the limitations. This is the job of the video producers to teach with each and every contact. An easy way to do this is to ask the client to find some similar videos online. Then review and discuss. Talk about what’s going on off camera. How it’s done and why it costs money.
        It’s worth it to educate a good and intelligent client. Some can turn into loyal cash cows for years.

        Unfortunately the inexperienced producers are just excited for a chance to shoot professionally and get it done so they can repeat. I love youthful enthusiasm!

        Based on your formula, I will conservatively budget for a SUPER LOW END style, 1 day corporate video, shot on premises or location provided by company. Probably a mixture of run and gun around the company office / factory and interviews.
        I will use the low to middle end of the price ranges you have given.
        Using the bare minimum of all line items that would not be absolutely necessary to make a video of 1-3 minutes.

        1. Lets assume a minimal shoot crew of 3… call them Director, Producer/PA, Cameraman, and an Editor 10 hours X $100 = $4000

        2. Script writer 5 hours x $20 = $100

        3. Graphics minimum some lower 3rds titles, logo 2 hours x $200 = $400

        4. Let’s assume subjects work for the company, no talent costs.

        5. Lets use your cheapest example DSLR 10 hours x $25 = $250 (though cheap guys include it)

        6. Lets assume no grip or lighting equipment, daylight, just a tripod and reflector

        7. Sound mixer who operates boom himself ( and includes his gear gratis) 10 hours x $50 = $500

        8. Lets assume B-roll is shot same day.

        9. Lets assume it’s all shot at the companies property, with no tech scout before.

        10. No studio

        11. No set, props, extras

        12. No stock footage

        13. Narration VO done by clients daughter for free. 😉

        14. Canned rights free music for $30 (really amazingly average music will fit this video perfectly )

        15. Let’s assume the subjects are interviewed and simply respond, no need for teleprompter, but since they can’t remember what they are supposed to say, or because they are much too self conscious… interviewing them is best.

        16. Let’s assume this is for a small company in the boonies

        17. Let’s assume all material loading, editing, titles, graphics, final render, output to one size is uploaded to youtube within the 10 hours allotted for post production time. (I won’t even mention color grading…oops)

        18. 1-3 minutes TRT is the assumption as it’s the most requested

        19. Let’s assume no licensing or union fees

        20. Let’s assume this is a small young production group working directly with a company. no agency

        21. Let’s assume no interactivity

        22. Let’s assume hosting is free youtube or vimeo

        23. Let’s assume only one final format – youtube or vimeo

        24. Let’s assume no translation or CCs needed

        25. Lets assume these film makers are smart enough to charge $100 for lunch and another $100 for miscellaneous or gas.

        26. Let’s assume they do not provide hair or makeup, or they bring a girlfriend who thinks she knows how to basically make someone pretty.

        27. We haven’t even addressed production insurance. Danger Danger!

        TOTAL = $5280

        Even by your conservative model the final price range you quote could be misleading. And I disagree strongly with the model of pricing per minute of video run time. DANGER! Just as I disagree with the S M L price offers. Trying to explain to a client the 3 different ways a project could be executed for different price tiers makes no sense at all. Of course they will want to spend less for the same idea… putting the onus on the producer to give more for less. Different budget for different creative. period.

        Sure, we could say it’s only a half day shoot, and it’s a one man band, shooting, directing, editing all himself.
        But should / would that producer really be getting corporate work based on his pricing? Only if he/she was very experienced, super talented and kept the concept ultra focused and minimum.

        I’ve actually done some one man band style favors for independent solo / info-preneur type friends who have asked. The few times I’ve done it – and since THEY are the product and it’s usually for the front page of their site or newsletter – I just guided them to do a clean talking head from 2 simultaneous camera angles so I can cut their flubs. Good styling, hair and makeup are strongly recommended and I’ll do beauty lighting on them. The problem with most inexperienced people is – if it is their face and voice on camera… they notice all their flaws and are super critical and very hard to please.

        BTW I’ve timed this out. Working alone in my studio with them it takes about 5 hours total set up, shoot and strike time. They burn out after 2 hours in front of cameras. Post with edit, simple text graphics, and basic color correction is 5-10 hours for a 1-3 minute video.
        So what is that worth? Two cameras, basic lighting, a studio for 5 hours, an edit system and my 25 year expertise for 10-15 hours?
        What ever price you think… it’s worth less than half of that to them.

        It’s always amusing when people look at my work and think something like that is within their range. They get very confused when you explain that those 30 seconds shot on set or location with actors, extras etc… cost at least $150k and up.
        What I have learned over the decades is that unless they have actually been through the process several times, they have unrealistically low expectations.
        Unless you want to be a teacher to them… or deliver something really substandard… avoid these requests at all costs, or at least quote responsible and sustainable price estimates.

        QUALIFY YOUR CLIENTS BEFORE YOU SAY YES OR THROW OUT A BALLPARK or FLAT RATE PRICE.
        But do give them sticker shock as soon as possible so they can get over it. Throw big price tags of other projects around and see how they react.

        Cheap, greedy and inexperienced clients are the absolute worst to work with, they usually micro manage, only know what they DONT want when the see it, and end up costing the producer more than any profit in the end… not to mention… usually nobody is thrilled with the end product.

        If you are a producer reading this and are engaging in the new and super hyped Spherical Video segment, (often mislabeled as VR) now is the chance to regain lost budget territory. BE EXPENSIVE AS HELL! To do proper post production right is very very complex, time consuming and expensive. Most aren’t doing it properly and results are meh!
        Take back the hill!

        • Johann – Let me begin by thanking you for your response. Tough to know where to start…

          And I disagree strongly with the model of pricing per minute of video run time. So do I. But when a client says what do videos cost?’, telling them ‘it depends’ doesn’t move the conversation forward. I tell people that, like a plumber has ‘truck fees’ or ‘service call’ fees, you’re likely paying your production company a minimum of $1000 a minute for the most basic video… and after that, the sky’s the limit.

          DANGER! Just as I disagree with the S M L price offers. The point of creating these levels was to get the client thinking about and discussing their budget and to get them in some sort of ‘ballpark.’ Is your budget small, medium or large? If they can’t even answer this question then it’s a tough conversation.

          Trying to explain to a client the 3 different ways a project could be executed for different price tiers makes no sense at all. I disagree. There are an infinite number of ways to deliver a project. I’m giving some rough outlines for three of them so they understand what factors go into making a corporate video.

          Cheap, greedy and inexperienced clients are the absolute worst to work with … that’s my favourite line in your response.:)

          Using the bare minimum of all line items that would not be absolutely necessary to make a video of 1-3 minutes. What would it cost to drive to an address, set up your camera, audio and lights and film someone doing a 2 minute presentation in one take. Then driving home and putting that up on youtube. This work wouldn’t be for everyone, but someone will do it. And someone else will only work for fortune 500 clients. Good for them.

          I find the best way to begin the price discussion (if you can’t get budget numbers from a prospective client) is to ask them to show you a video they like and then talk about what that video might cost.

          And finally, with regard to “BE EXPENSIVE AS HELL!” remember, you don’t get to set your prices – that’s an illusion, the market sets your price. You only get to decide whether the price the market is willing to pay is something you are willing to accept.

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  19. Film and broadcast instructors teach about the triangle. At each point write these words: Good, Fast, Cheap. You can have all of them, but not at the same time. Good and Cheap takes planning time. Fast and Good isn’t cheap. And usually, Fast and Cheap isn’t good:). Of course, there are always exceptions, but those who expect the exceptions to be the norm are often disappointed.

  20. Great post Jimm quite useful.
    If you don’t mind, I have a question.
    I was hired by this social media company to develop and produce a 2.20 min commercial. It required creating a “heartwarming” story to introduce the company to the audience. We had a meeting, they showed me some sample videos of what they wanted and I asked them what was their budget, they said between 1500 and 2000 EUR, so I told them that if they wanted something that involved a story, actors etc this price was too low, I showed them other commercials of the kind that i had done with a price range going from 2500 EUR spots that i did bénévol for a charity to a 16 000 EUR web commercial for a medium size known brand (in France), both similar kind of videos. And explained them the differences; cheap one’s lighting and image quality is not as crisp as on the other one, the camera movement are more limited because of reduced equipment or its quality, lenses, the actors, (reduced) crew; the sound engineer, editor and colorist pays were also reduced since we all did it for the charity in one way or another. Both videos are of good quality but you can feel the difference that makes the money spent. So having done that, i told them that i could make a huge effort, some sacrifices and charge a couple of favors here and there to produce something that included developing of idea, script/storyboard, 2 days of shooting in 2 locations, city permits to shoot next to the Eiffel Tower (because they wanted to have it as a symbol of international projection), 3 actors, 5 crew members, shot on DSLR at full hd, with just basic equipment 2 full sets of lighting, dolly, steadycam and other bits and bobs, editing and sound recording/production for an amount between 2400 and 2700, if there was the certainty (as they were telling me) of producing many more ads and videos with a higher budget in the short future since its a fast growing company in Europe based in Belgium. They said lets do it. I told them that i’d need an initial milestone of 60% of the lower end and the rest upon delivery they agreed we signed. So we started brainstorming; they had no idea of what was it that they wanted, and couldn’t explain me, because they didn’t even know exactly what was the big benefit of their service that could inspire “heart warmth” They had just seen a video of their closest competitor (that didn’t explain me at the time what was it that the competitor did either) with nice shots a couple of cute hipster girls in a cafe in San Francisco with the typical progressive piano tune, plus a couple of Apple commercials of the same style. They wanted that look, that feel, but also to show 20 features of a product that wasn’t even finished or working (Social Media Management site), it had to be in the context of a touching and inspiring story, quite a challenge since at the moment I didn’t really understand why would someone pay so much money for such thing and how would this make your life better and jolly specially since it was directed to a 25 to 40 entrepreneur/businessman audience. Long story short i came up with a “creating curiosity” concept to first draw the attention of the public to the product, which states that thanks to this services you would get the time to do the things that you really like in life, but too much work prevents you from doing. So i proposed a clip with 3 different scenarios family/friends/couple where the main characters get to enjoy what they normally wouldn’t with teasing cuts to their interface showing it dynamically and easy in an iPad but without entering in details, a warm voice over exalting that this service will give you all these instants that you miss and their piano progressive music. They loved it. I said that it would be more expensive since it would require at least 8 actors, extras, 4 locations more equipment and it was not within the parameters previously agreed. They said 2700 is as far as we can go but is there anyway you can do it? So i pushed my numbers and I thought of it as a big investment, i proposed this premise to my collaborators as well and i said ok. I wrote a script, made a storyboard that they accepted and then made that exact commercial to the smallest detail. I delivered it on the dead line, they said that they loved it; asked me to make a couple of minor changes with their logo at the end but over all they were impressed with the images, sound, music etc. I invoiced them for the completion payment then waited some days but nothing is coming, so I contacted them and tell them that i need the transfer in order to give them the full quality render and the paper work (release forms etc) and they tell me that they are on holidays and can’t do payments until back, but asked me to send the material in any case and paper work plus my rushes because they want to do something different with it since the people that they showed it to didn’t get the point and there was a shot where we see the character doing something else in his iPad (Their interface was not working, we had the actor for a couple of hours, they were not answering so i decided to shoot it like that, it’s a medium wide 2.2 sec cut away shot where we barely see what’s on the iPad and unless you are aiming to fix your attention on that you do not notice it). Now I have been working on this for 8 years and I was never asked for my rushes unless we specifically agree about it on the contract and of course the price increases substantially and in this case the contract specifies that what they get is a final product of a 2.20 min video; but more than anything to take them to cut something else who knows how or what? Because the people they showed it to didn’t get it? I showed it to more than 40 people before delivering without explaining them anything in order to test it, all from different countries ages and background, some of them didn’t even speak English; none of them noticed the iPad and all of them got the message, not because they are geniuses but because even if you didn’t catch it with the images that states it blunt and clearly, there is a voice over that bloody says it!.
    So I found myself in this screwed up situation and now I am not very sure how to deal with it because somewhere in me i still hope of keeping the client but I do not want to be taken advantage of.
    I told them that we could re-shoot scenes if that’s the problem, or if they have a better idea we can re-edit it everything if they pay for it. But previously their ideas where very ridiculous; the kind of ideas that someone that has never been close to a camera or the creativity industry in general would have, and I am not sure if I actually want to shoot or do these kind of things. Or I also proposed them to sell the rushes and rights to them for 8000 EUR. And they are stuck and demanding me to give them to you and not paying me until done.
    Any suggestions on what to do or how to gracefully manage the situation, it is the first time in 8 years that i have to deal with something like this. I hope i didn’t bore you with my tragi-comedy. Thanks in advance for your help.

    Fausto

    • Fausto, unfortunately your predicament is all to common. A couple comments:

      I’ve been providing creative services in various capacities for most of my professional life and any time I hear ‘there’s more work here if you cut us a deal on this first project’ I laugh. If your client doesn’t have the money or is unwilling to pay market value for the first project, they never will. The only work we discount is work done for charity or a cause.

      My only advice to you is to be professional, tell your client exactly what you believe to be fair and appropriate, given the circumstances, and see how that goes. If it goes poorly I’d move on.

  21. Hi Jimm, thanks for your quick answer. This has been a terrible experience. Not yet solved but at least their last communication had a more humble and apologetic approach. And they still talk about future projects together. Although next time if there is one; I will make sure to specify on every single detail. Great blog mate cheers for that!

  22. “Share your budget…” so true! It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and saves us time when we make our quotes. All of the professionals I know (myself included) never misuse that information when we can get it. If we don’t know how much time we can invest in a project, we have very little idea how to approach it with a plan and a quote. I think the fear is that, if the budget is stated, the filmmaker will just take all of it and do the same thing he/she would have done for half the price anyway. But that’s not how it works (amongst professionals).

    Depending on the size of the company and budget, a lot of the items on this list can turn out to be superfluous. But it is a good and comprehensive list. My advice to businesses planning for video content: find your budget and be honest with it, and choose the company that will give you the most appealing result for your budget. And please: unless you are a media company, don’t offer media “internships.” : )

  23. I love the line, Does the company that guesses closest to your undeclared budget win? It is often the case. I have also lost projects based on the budget being too high because of the concept that required much more time and a larger crew over the little video proposals it was being compared to. This is a great article for a potential client looking to do a video.

  24. Music makes a difference & you pay for what you get. So many times I’ve had clients cut this corner to save a lil. It’s not that much more to use a high quality prod. library vs. a crappy stock one – it can improve the impact a thousand times over. It makes a difference to have music that can last a long time vs. something that reflects the capabilities of the past, especially if the corp id/video is going to be the only one for a while!

    • Yep, couldn’t agree more Dusty – music makes a HUGE difference. We sometimes eat the costs of more expensive music on some jobs just to make sure we get the right feel / mood for the video.

      Great music can make an average video really good and a good video great.

  25. I saw you and others mention that you do discounted work for charity… but what would you charge one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world (who generated about $20 million last year in revenue) to produce a 2-3 minute video for an international campaign? Services are mainly post-production and creative consulting. I was recently asked for an estimate and would like to hear what others would have done in my spot.

  26. Thank you for this excellent post. You have helped me tremendously. I am currently looking for someone to create a video for my client, so having been on both sides of the situation — consulting for clients and now looking for video production on behalf of a client, I can say asking “what is your budget” up front is sometimes a silly question, as the client doesn’t have a clue what they get for their money and what the costs are. Rather, when I am bidding, I try to understand what the client hopes to achieve and I try to educate the client as to what my approach would be to meet their goal–then, only when it’s clear to me what they want and that I can provide it, I give them the price as well as options. It is very helpful to break down the cost of the videographer, the script, the actor(s), the location, the editing, etc., etc.

    I wish everyone would stop comparing this to buying a car or a house. Those are both goods, with a lot of transparency as to what the costs are as well as the options. I can go onto public sites and find out how much a house sold for — and the options are a lot easier to understand. Trying to understand the value of various options for a corporate video is not the same.

    • Thanks for the feedback Ivy. It’s always difficult to get clients to divulge a budget… then you’re forced to guess.

      Today, I was talking on the phone to a potential client who I knew was on a tight budget. I told them what I would normally charge for a project like the one they described and then added ‘so why don’t you tell me your budget and let me decide whether we can do the job for that cost. They quickly told me and we are now negotiating to see if we can ‘meet in the middle’. That’s so much more efficient than me sending off a proposal that I know will be rejected.

  27. Jimm

    Great article which I have already shared with a client.
    How would the cost profile change if we just wanted a screen capture video with voice over?
    Kind of a one minute “this is our software service and this is how you use it” kind of thing.
    I assume a lot of the costs like actors and studio time wouldn’t apply in that case.

    Any advice?
    What kind of bottom line price range would you expect from a professional video production company for that type of project?

    • Paul, thanks for that input. Regarding costs for screen-cast with V/O, that’s interesting because that type of video can literally be done for free. If you have screen capture software, a microphone and a simple editing program – it can be done for virtually nothing – and therein lies both the opportunity for businesses and the challenge for production companies. How do you compete with free or virtually free?

      To answer your question the cost would depend (like everything else…) on the quality level required. Do you hire James Earl Jones for voice-over or do you do it yourself. Is your screen capture enhanced with graphics, titling, animations or anything else or is it just a straight screen capture? All that said, I can’t see a ‘professional video production company’ touching many jobs for under $1000 – it’s just not worth their time. So my guess at a range would be from $1,000 – $2500 if it’s relatively straightforward.

  28. Great article Jim, I love how you covered all the cost for any given production. A lot of these cost we forget to charge back to the client. I’d like to share these cost more with my clients and our staff at Integrity Media Corp.

  29. This article is quite a time eater, but yea, I learn new things and ideas here. Thanks and Godbless brother!

  30. Very nice post and discussion! I love the comment about what does a house cost? Very true, a simple 3 min video with a talking head and broll may be shot at one location in one day and another may require a month of shooting at multiple locations. The final videos may look similar, but the planning and time spent to create the video may be ten fold.
    Thanks,
    Shaun

  31. This is an amazing detailed analysis of video production in today’s world.
    You have done a great job in capturing content production.
    My issue it that the price for professional work has been degraded to the extreme.
    A small shop doing a 2 minute web video still has 5k-10k in equipment.
    One shooting day, creative development from the acquisition and editing
    of one day with 5k in equipment selling for $1500 bucks makes no sense.
    Creative skill and experience is like the old comment. “oh yeah I have a
    friend who is an artist he can do it for your for free”
    Thanks again for your very good effort Tom

    • Tom, you’re right. The cost for video production is plunging because of the availability of cheap new equipment and more people entering the ranks. Sadly, this trend can only continue. Adding value beyond simple shooting, framing and lighting will soon become a necessity for anyone hoping to make a living as a video producer. No different than photography. Anyone can buy a great camera, take decent or even good quality photos, treat them with Instagram or some other program and produce reasonable quality photographs. You do not want to be at the low end of either of these two professions.

  32. One way to deal with the complexity and high costs of producing a corporate web video as described here, is using animation. No need to hire any actors – cartoon charters instead, or using expensive equipment. The final result can easily achieve the same impact and even more than that at significantly lower costs.

    • Animation can be effective especially when trying to communicate complex ideas. Animation isn’t necessarily cheap any more than live action is necessarily expensive. It depends on the quality level, logistics, complexity and requirements of either. That said, there are lot’s of online resources like Animoto that can offer very inexpensive templated approaches to producing video.

  33. Jimm,

    Thank you . This is a terrific post. And it’s been five years (and two days!) since you posted it. Have you updated the costs in another post since then?

  34. Jimm,
    This article really puts things into perspective for me; thank you for taking the time to write this post. It’s exactly what I need to develop my rate sheet as my company grows in size and we take on more complex jobs.

  35. Hi Jimm.
    First let me say how amazing this post is. great work and very generous of you to share your knowledge.
    I would like to see some sort of table or spreadsheet detailing the costs of everything you discussed.
    I’ve made a list of my rates myself, and included todays dollars
    In the depressed Australian sector, there are gazillions of highly talented ex TV station employees competing with the newer generation wanting to make a name for themselves at dole rates.
    I am “mostly” retired but still do a fair amount of Audio and Video work for new and old clients.
    My “new” clients have usually come from viewing my current output.
    Thanks
    Chris

  36. Pingback: About | KO Resume
  37. Hey Jimm, I just wanted to say what an awesome article. I have been looking and nothing comes close this. I am completely new to the video production business as I specialize in SEO mostly, but I have a client that wants a 1-2 minute video about their business. It is a small dentist company and if you had to say a # to go no lower than, what would you suggest? We have a 4,000 dollar DLSR camera and my partner is well skilled in video editing… I know this question might be hard to answer, but any feedback would help a great deal! Thanks again for sharing your insights

    • Cyle, yep tough question, but here is a frame of reference to consider your bottom line: What is the lowest hourly rate that you are willing to work for? Multiply that number by the number of hours you will spend planning, shooting and editing the video. (Minimum 10 hours even if it’s simple and likely between 25 and 40 hours when everything is done. That should give you a starting point.

    • ‘Industrials’ – Todd, that term puts you well North of 40 years old…

      In smaller companies, it’s the owner. Mid-sized companies, it’s usually a marketing or communications department typically at the manager / director level and large-sized companies it could be anyone really. I’ve dealt with Product Managers, HR Managers, PR Managers, Marketing Directors, VP’s of Sales… video (fortunately) is becoming rather ubiquitous at larger firms.

      Nobody (… a very small number) has ‘video’ in their title as video is just one of many marketing / communications tool.

  38. actually thats what the company im doing one for calls it.

    we’ve been calling them films. a throwback but I like it. Ive been working with mega companies but youd be surprised at how green some of them are when it comes to productio ( And youre right it seems to vary a lot.

    thanks for the info

  39. Done several projects, over several years, with a person who uses producer/director in credits.
    Really, he’s more of a sales guy, but has alienated some clients after the fact.
    I’m designated as videographer/editor, even though I am also an active broadcast journalist with decades of experience.
    Long story short;
    He brings work my way, but has taken to treating me like a hired hand and takes 50%.
    I no longer attend client meetings as I did at the beginning.
    Doesn’t sound fair, but I hang in as half a loaf is better than none.
    Most recent project 12 grand, I get 6.
    I do everything in the field, plus editing, and voice over too as I am an announcer.
    I own and update all the gear, software etc.
    Started as a loose partnership with some synergy.
    But he has taken over as leader/boss.
    Beginning to resent that somewhat and am thinking of calling his bluff, and asking him to find someone else.
    Does a lot of annoying over the shoulder editing that I tolerate but, in a frog in the kettle kind of way.
    He is also slow to get projects going, and getting them delivered.
    Keeps clients happy at all cost, often at my expense.
    Have had some run ins and he has embarrassed me with clients present.
    Should I seek a new relationship.
    (Feel like I’m writing Ann Landers in the 60s?)
    This isn’t a personal advice column. I know
    But you get the picture, right.
    Time to move on front this relationship I think.

    • Daniel, can you imagine an ‘ideal’ scenario where both parties would be content? ( with regard to roles, percentages, responsibilities, etc.)

      If you can, make it happen. If you can’t, move on. Life’s too short.

  40. Hi,

    This is really awesome post. You have covered almost all the points the needs to be check and covered before starting with good video production. This is surely going to be helpful to many people. thanks for sharing this useful article..

  41. Hi,
    Thanks for this article. We are just starting out as a production house in America, although we were very successful in our home country, and I have been trying to find out about costs. This was a tremendous help.

    Kathy

  42. It was really clear and detailed even for a French like me who doesn’t speak very well English ! If i understood well your article i guess this kind of advertising video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGJGQQVNqjg) would cost something like 4 000 dollars no ? I’m a student and i’m trying to guess the average budget for “touching commercials” like this one. Thank you again for you article and thank you for your help. Have a nice day !

    • Gaho, the average inflation rate has been 1.68% since 2010 so that would affect the prices I mentioned by about 13%.

      Given that competitive forces have driven the prices of video production services down more than 13% (IMHO) since then, I’d say the prices are still meaningful.

  43. Hi Jimm,
    I’m back again. I’m kinda doing research on the highest paid jobs in the video industry. I mean post production jobs. Would you by any chance know which job that would be? It would be great if you could write an article about post production jobs.
    Thanks so much for all the info.

    • Gaho – there is major divide between salaries on entertainment projects and corporate projects. Entertainment projects (film & television ) typically have high budgets and employ union personnel. Corporate projects vary wildly from ‘free’ (or virtually free) to the highest quality productions – nationally broadcast commercials.

      While I hate to respond ‘it depends’… well… it depends. A director is typically the highest paid hourly / daily position on a shoot and would start at about $200/hr and go up from there. James Cameron, as an example, might earn a tad more than $200/hr.

  44. What a wonderfully exhaustive list you have provided your readers. Unfortunately, so many people that wish to have a video produced by a professional of any level do not fully understand what it takes to produce a video from start to finish. And, that is just in terms of time. When it comes to cost there is so much more to consider. Thanks for sharing all of your expert insight!

  45. Wonderful article there. It is really very difficult to say upfront cost in reply to what is a usual cost of making one video presentation.. but with these many parameters may be costing can be justified but the problem again is how to tell people from non-filming background / client about these parameters.

  46. Hi Jimm, I’m a business consultant who was asked to help a local small and broken university create some marketing for one of their divisions who recently acquired a grant. They’re operating on a very tight budget as a State School. So I don’t doubt their sincerity when they claim not to be able to afford marke value prices. I simply want to ask you have you ever known of anyone in your industry working in joint venture projects with someone like myself? If so, what was the outcomes? Desirable or not?

    • A. Let me paraphrase your question – ‘What’s the likelihood of success working with someone on a very small budget job?’ My quick answer is ‘low’ – based on past experiences.

      We now only take on free or low-budget jobs if they are of specific interest to us – i.e. for a charity or to help a friend.

  47. This is a great list put together. We are a photography business, looking to expand into videography (more specifically ads). Your article has answered many of our questions. Thank you!

  48. This is a very resourceful article that outlines the costs associated with video production! Some people don’t understand how much goes into creating a quality video.

  49. I agree with the others. Thank you for creating such a useful guide that is still relevant so many years after you wrote it. You must be quite a pro to work with — you have thought of everything! All the best.

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