Since we refer almost all production inquires (occasionally, we’ll help out a charity or friend with a project), we hear this question on a regular basis: How much does it cost to make a video? That’s easy! How much does a home cost? How about a car? Or dinner, for that matter? The answer is: it varies. However, by answering a few key questions, you can easily narrow down the figure to something that fits your budget. Even if the budget is $0.
Many Key Questions
- What’s the purpose of the video? Who will watch it?
- Where will they watch it? On what kind of screen?
- Do you plan to pay for ad placement?
- Have you seen a video style you want to emulate?
- How long do you think the video should be?
- Do you have a script?
- Do you plan to hire actors or voiceover talent?
- Do you plan to shoot in-studio or on-location?
- When is your deadline?
- What’s your maximum budget?
One Key Answer
The answer to the last question about budget often overrides a lot of the desired answers to the earlier questions. In others words, people can’t always afford what they want. That’s where we can help folks find the balance between wants and needs. In the end, unless you have an unlimited budget, video production can be a series of compromises. The budget limitations are also important when referring someone to the right freelancer, production company, or marketing agency for the job. If the budget is extremely low, then a DIY project may be in order.
Since budgets have such a great impact on the outcome of a video project, it’s important to convey to the producer a clear vision of what you want your video to look like. One of the best ways to do that is by sending examples of other videos with notes about what you like and don’t like. Through those examples, a producer can begin to determine the level of production value you require and more accurately form a production budget. This early communication is a crucial step toward ending up with the video you want, not the one you wish you hadn’t paid for.
Bells and Whistles
Most video projects can benefit from some post-production flare — motion graphics, cool effects, transitions. When it comes to your bottom line, those bells and whistles can be budget busters. It’s important to consider what’s worth the money to you and what isn’t. If you’re terribly uncomfortable on-camera or don’t like the way your voice sounds, you may want to spend the money on an actor or voiceover talent to do that for you. If 3D animation is on your production wish list, but you can demonstrate a product or service on-camera for 1/10th the cost and still achieve the desired result then why spend the extra money? Again, it can be a series of compromises.
In-Studio or On-Location
We have no bias when it comes to shooting in-studio. We certainly hope you’ll shoot at our place some day if your project calls for it, but we realize not everything is meant to be shot in a studio. Unless you’re Hollywood, which can basically recreate anything on a sound stage, there are some things that simply cannot be done in a studio. There are also some things that can go either way like product demos, interviews, testimonials, and hosting. Each case is different. You have to ask, is it more cost-effective to bring yourself to the studio or to bring the studio to you? Don’t forget to figure the cost of travel, setup and breakdown for the shoot, and the cost of convenience if you’re moving items from one place to another.
Cost and Pricing
It goes without saying that you can find video creators of all skill levels and price points. This is your ultimate compromise. Pay full price to an established producer or production company and you’re basically guaranteed to see your vision come to fruition. Once you start taking shortcuts, you begin to put the project at risk of not fulfilling your expectations. So how much does a video cost? We use a few different methods for creating rough estimates. One is the “per-minute” method. Another uses the overall budget as a guide. This is generally the most helpful (see figure A).
The per-minute philosophy estimates costs based on a certain level of production value. A 30-second commercial with a local celebrity talent, can cost upwards of $100,000 per minute. Compare that to Disney’s 2019 live-action version of Aladdin which cost $1.4 million per minute to produce! When it comes to your average video production, we think the per-minute philosophy is a good tool for estimating videos longer than ten minutes like online learning segments, product demonstrations, speeches, and other presentations. These typically require less intensive post-production than your shorter commercial or marketing projects where style points matter more.
The budget-range approach looks less at the specifics of the content and gets right to the bottom line. It’s better for short videos to be used in sales, marketing, and commercial advertising. For example, if your budget is under $1000, you will have trouble finding a full-service production company to take your project. With some research, however, you might find a talented freelancer still building their business who will give you more value for your dollar since they’re still growing their portfolio. Just don’t forget to set your ad budget separately!
Unless a video project is your main sales presentation or an annual obligation to donors or shareholders, don’t let a single project eat up too much of the video budget. These days, most organizations should be posting video content weekly, if not more often. The videos don’t all have to be professionally produced but they need to be shared regularly. If all this budget and production talk is overwhelming, just remember: you can always grab your phone, shoot some video, and post it to social media for free! Be authentic and show passion for what you do and your audience will forgive the lack of production value for a while. When you’re ready to spend money, call some production companies for proposals. Tell them what you want to achieve with video and how much you’re willing to spend. You’re not looking for a deal, you’re looking for value and quality for your dollars. If you’re having trouble finding the right match, we can recommend a few options.