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HOW MUCH DOES A VIDEO COST?

(It’s a favorite question of all video production companies!)

How much does a video cost? Well, how much does a car cost? Or a house? There is never a single answer, right?

It’s the same with a video. There are many things that contribute to its cost. Similarly, like with a house (location, size, surroundings, interiors: flooring, cabinets, ceramics, etc.), there are lots of aspects that impact the cost of a video production.

As a video producer with 7 years’ experience, I’ll break down for you the most important things that affect a video production cost.

(Originally posted at http://www.denimvideo.com/how-much-does-a-video-cost/)

FIRSTLY, LET’S ELIMINATE THINGS THAT DO NOT IMPACT THE VIDEO’S COST:

1. Duration. It hardly ever matters that a video is 1 minute or 3 minutes long. Usually, the amount of work necessary to prepare the production and do the shooting is not affected by the expected duration of a video. (In terms of graphics and animations, yes, it may often impact the amount of creative assets that need to be produced. But in terms of the pre-production and production work — no.)

2. Purpose. Whether it’s a promotional, instructional, Kickstarter, or any other type of a video, typically it doesn’t determine the cost. (Fields of use — yes. If it’s a TV Commercial, the copyrights of actors and purchased media may be even 10x higher than any other video.)

Creative example:
30-seconds video of 50 people all in different cities across the globe deciding jumping on a plane and meeting in Alaska — this is a whole different project than a 3-minute video of two founders in their office speaking to a camera, right?

Either of them is a video!

SO…?

When thinking of a video, think of it as of a project. Think of all the efforts needed to make the scenes and graphic elements happen. The shorter and cheaper the preparations, organization, and logistics, the lower will be the cost of a video.

SCRIPT IS THE KING!

That’s why the script matters so much. It likely gives an idea of what needs to be organized for a video shoot. This is also why project budgets may drastically change along with changes in the script. If the script originally included some family shots in an apartment, and later there are added scenes of a woman going out with her girlfriends and a man riding a motorcycle, the production crew needs to add costs of scouting and securing couple new locations, casting and paying more actors, renting a motorbike and other props, probably booking a stunt, and renting extra equipment that will help take the best possible shots while on the road.

SO WHAT BASIC ASPECTS ARE USUALLY TAKEN INTO THE ACCOUNT IN EVERY VIDEO PRODUCTION?

(The bottom lines of the below pricing might be relevant to a simple interview production, while the middle and top to a more advanced video shoot, where the quality really does make a difference.)

– LOCATION

How many locations, how easy it is to find them, how expensive it is to have them rented, how far are they from each other? (this largely impacts the overall number of shooting days).

Cost: Can go anywhere from $0 (if easily accessible, like client’s office), through $300-$1,000 a day (Airbnb, commercial spaces) to $10,000 or more for big spaces.
+ scouting costs (a few hundred dollars a day).
+ travel costs if necessary.

– ACTORS

How many actors and how experienced (acting experience, modeling, on camera performance)?

Cost: $400-$1,000 per day for non-TV promotional videos, to up to 10x for copyrights in case of a TV performance.
+ casting costs (a few hundred dollars a day of work on casting)

– SCRIPTING

Is there a ready script, or is there just a rough or no idea so all the creative work is on the production company side? The latter option obviously involves time and experience, so this will be an extra cost of the production. Some general ideas may be brought up before deciding on working together, however, not really any specific details.

Cost: Starts with $500 for draft scripting and ideas, through $1,500 and up for a detailed scripting by a copywriter.

– PROPS

Huge production aspect! Sky is the limit, so this really depends on the exact ideas. If for example we do a video for an IoT device and plan family shots in a house, we need to verify whether all the props we want to show in a video are already there. Do we need to buy/rent anything, like specific furniture, a blanket, candles, groceries, silverware? If yes, they need to be calculated in. Also, props should be managed by a Production Designer, who makes sure nothing is missed and sets up everything properly

Cost: Starts with $1,500 for preparations and work on the set + hard costs of purchase/rentals.

– LIGHTS

Lighting is another key determinant of whether a video will look good or not. Lights are almost always necessary on set, so the quality, types, and amount of lights are really a key to making sure the images are of high quality.

Cost: Starts with $500 per day for two basic lights rental, usually goes around $2k-5K/day for a bigger set of studio lighting + min. $1,000/day gaffer (lighting expert).

– CAMERA AND GRIP

Cameras, lenses, a dolly, sliders, cranes, steadicams — all of these things extremely contribute to how the shots are made and how the images look. Cameras and lenses are key to the quality and type of the images (colors, softness, details, frames per second), and the external grip allows for different camera movements which is super important in telling a story.

Cost: Super wide span, no rules here. Starts with $300 per day for a cheap camera rental with one lens to over $10k-20k/day for a full film set equipment.

– AUDIO

Audio equipment is crucial if there are dialogues on the set. Also, needs to be taken care of thoroughly while recording (usually constantly monitored on headphones but a sound operator), in order to make sure that everything sounds properly, there are no necessary sounds in the background, and that everything is getting recorded.

Cost: From $50/day for a simple audio recording device with 2 microphones (works for very small production sets) + min. $500/day sound operator.

– FILMING CREW

A camera operator is always necessary, though there also needs to be a director, who will be guiding the actors, a sound operator to take care of audio, gaffer to setup and operate lights, an assistant to help to carry and move things, and in bigger productions even a single person in each role is not enough. If we’re doing a simple interview, then a director is not always necessary. If there is no or very small budget (like a few K dollars), the crew needs to be cut down to max two people in a crew, who need to take care of all that stuff. Likely, the attention to detail will suffer simply because of the limited time and skills.

Cost: Medium-experienced specialists charge $800-$1,500/day each, superstars = $2k-5k/day.

– MAKEUP AND STYLING

Makeup is a huge thing in a video. Both men and women ALWAYS need some touchups for on-screen performance. If there is no makeup, viewers’ attention will likely be taken away from the actual story. Skin redness and minor imperfections really do show on camera and it doesn’t look good. You want avoid comments like: ‘Look how tired he/she looks!’. So even for a simple interview people need to have some makeup. Women usually also need their hair being done and kept in place during the shoot. So — do we want to have professionals take care of it? We should.

Cost: It usually costs $300-$800 to hire a makeup artist, and another same amount to hire a stylist who will take care of clothing options.

– CATERING

Shooting days tend to be long, so it is in good manners of the producer to provide at least lunch to the crew and actors. This is usually budgeted in the overall cost of the production, or if the budget is on the lower end, the client provides lunch on the set.

Cost: $15/per person per meal

– POST-PRODUCTION!

After pre-production and production process, another huge aspect of a video is the post-production, namely — editing, graphics, animations. In this process, an editor needs to take all the recorded shots and put them together in order to create a story. Next, usually, all shots need to be polished with certain processes like color correction and other adjustments. Here, we also need to know how much of graphic design needs to be involved, like logo animations and possibly some other graphics, overlays or special effects. It all sums up to many hours of work, often times not only by one person, but a few specialists.

Also, post-production involves working on the sound! Normally, the sound should be taken care of a sound engineer, who will adjust all sound levels as well as add sound effects (like squeaking doors, water splashes, steps, etc.). Almost always there needs to be some music in the background for everything to be more appealing, so a music license needs to be purchased. Often, also a voice over needs to be added (hiring a voice over talent!).

Cost: Min. $100/hour, though often a flat amount is projected in the overall budget.

– PRODUCER

Someone needs to oversee the whole thing, right? On one hand, the producer serves as a bridge between the client and the production crew, as well as make sure everything happens on time with a proper quality. Hire the crew, hire the specialists, and work on the progress assuring that it leads to a desired end effect.

Cost: Priceless! (just kidding).
This is usually budgeted as a flat price depending on the complexity of a production, so totally no specifics here.

– …AND MANY MORE!

There is no one good way to do a video, possibilities are limitless.

TIP TIME!

One good tip here — examples help! Doing some research and finding things that you already like, help production crews have an idea of what you’re looking for and what’s the amount of work needed in order for it to be created.
 
 
 
So, my dear readers, hope you’ll agree that it’s hardly possible to make a professional, high-quality video with a $2K budget (unless an amateur iPhone video that hopefully will go viral is what you’re looking for). This type of budget may be possible only with the simplest productions like a few hours shoot of interviewing someone in their own location. Thanks to our experience and automatization of a few processes, we have a special offering for startups that includes a founder video for only $1K, like this one for Nomiku (they got just recently featured in Shark Tank!!!). However, all the other projects are a completely different scope of work and need to be budgeted individually.
 
Hope this breakdown helps in thinking of your next video! Feel free to reach out to us about YOUR PROJECT!