The million-dollar question in our business is always “how much does a video cost?” – the answer is … “it really depends.” Video production can be especially challenging to price, with quotes often varying wildly; “why?!” we hear you cry… Here is a useful overview with a few handy tips to give you a better understanding of what drives production costs, how to select the appropriate investment for your content and how to get the best from the budget.
What drives video production cost?
There are many things that drive costs on a production. You can probably guess some of the more obvious ones:
- Time. The more time that is spent in pre-production preparations, scripting, storyboarding, location scouting, shooting and editing the better the final production quality will be; but ultimately: more time and or more people, equals more money.
- Talent. Will your content feature people? If so, do you have contributors who will take part or do you require casting? A recognisable voice, a renowned actor, or just a room full of extras can all add enormous value to a piece of content. As with any other business: talented and experienced people tend to cost more.
- Travel. How many locations will be featured? Do you own these, or will permissions be required? Using multiple locations can help you tell a richer story, and moreover, controllable environments can ensure that you achieve the shot framing, lighting and creative approach set out. Location requirements not only impact on the preparation time needed in terms of research and negotiations, but also crew hire time – which as noted above (and as the old phrase goes…) time is money.
But less often considered because it’s less tangible, but no less important is Production Value.
We’ve all watched that film that looks amazing versus a bland alternative. As the technology of cameras becomes democratised and the entry level cost to making a film has decreased it is invariably other factors that make the difference – the right creative ideas grounded in brand strategy, storyboarding to ensure a good idea actually works in film, innovative camera techniques, lighting and specialist DP/gaffer expertise, a dynamic and well considered edit, sound mix and sound design, grade – these elements all contribute to the final output and whilst individually might not feel that significant, collectively can be the difference between lack lustre and stand out.
What are the different investment levels when producing content?
So, with the cost driving factors in mind; what constitutes a ‘low-cost’ approach, and what approach means a ‘bigger investment’, plus how do you decide which to use, and when? You can (roughly) group video investments into five levels:
1 – DIY
The do-it-yourself approach, generally self-taught and using basic video equipment. Think UGC, live social media streaming as well as simple talking-heads style video blogs.
- Benefits: Fast and inexpensive, as well as potentially appropriately authentic.
- Risks: The results will often look DIY and could erode your brand credibility if not used appropriately.
2 – Semi-Pro
Requires someone with experience using somewhat sophisticated camera kit and video editing software. Think events filming, standard talking-heads and sometimes internal training content.
- Benefits: Better quality, while still achievable in quick turnaround timings and very affordable.
- Risks: Wide variations in quality, often more ‘functional’ content with a simple and un-dynamic camera setup.
3 – Professional
Solid professional crew and edit studio using professional kit. Think typical ‘corporate’ film and help content; e.g. case studies, service/product films, or recruitment videos.
- Benefits: High production quality using that conveys your brand’s credibility.
- Risks: May limit the creative opportunities as often working within tighter budget and or timings.
4 – Premium
Add top-level talent, high-end kit, and more time to the ‘professional’ to elevate your production to something exceptional. Use this production level to tell a compelling story and capture maximum attention. Think “Wow!” hero pieces such as brand videos, credibility-building case studies, recruitment videos or service/product introductions.
- Benefits: A ‘stand out’ piece. This is the kind of video that generates buzz, sets you apart and wins awards.
- Risks: Greater cost means you must have confidence in the team and their ability to produce the quality you expect.
5 – Hollywood
Top level, top talent, no-compromises approach. Think premium movie trailer, Superbowl; high-end advertising or a compelling signature piece of hero content. Likely to include other techniques and disciplines like CGI, VFX, SFX and complex motion graphics.
- Benefits: (as per ‘premium’, but) more likely to include a stand out idea that’s never been seen before that can add significant stand out for your brand
- Risks: In light of the costs involved, you must be clear and certain of the purpose.
How do you set your budget?
Before you can set a budget for your video content you need to be clear on what you want to achieve and determine what resources you have available to you.
For instance, do you want to increase credibility, build your brand, attract new customers or recruit new people? Do you have an interesting story to tell? For these types of content, you’ll typically need professional or premium level of quality to get a satisfying end product. If your brand has sufficient resources and wishes to compete at the highest level, a top-drawer production will tell your story with incomparable style and class.
If you are simply conveying information to an interested audience, the professional level is often sufficient without sacrificing brand credibility.
Smaller firms or independent practitioners with limited budgets may have to accept lower production values, but even at these levels video can provide real impact.
As you make decisions about video, be realistic about your expectations. Do not expect to pay a semi-pro rate and get a professional product.
How to get the best from your budget?
If you haven’t been involved in a video production before, it’s natural to feel a little daunted by the process. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience (and your budget).
1 – Be sure you know what you want to achieve
One of the biggest reasons a project falls short of expectations is that the client (in this case, you) can’t decide what they want and keeps moving the target during production. This adds cost and erodes quality because the time is invested in all the wrong parts of the process.
2 – Choose your video producer carefully
Look at their past work to make sure it is compatible with what you want. Have them show you pieces that have budgets similar to yours. Make sure they know your industry and understand marketing — not just video production! If your producer simply shoots video without understanding the broader context, your product may miss the point.
3 – Be available to supply the resources that the producer needs
They may know marketing and may know your industry, but no-one can ever know your brand better than you. This can include everything from access to people, locations, relevant logos and photography to the prompt review of concepts, scripts and rough edits.
4 – Review the budget breakdown carefully and make sure you understand what will be invested in your production
There are many significant finer details that elevate the production value of a piece of content, such as art department, motion graphics, music, sound design, colour grade etc., that make a huge difference to the quality of a video. One person cannot be an expert in all these areas, so you need to have confidence that your producer will be investing at the right level for your brand.
5 – Know your customer journey
Depending on which point of the customer journey you are adding content to will determine the appropriate level of investment to make. If you need to inspire your audience and establish your brand: be brave and aim for a really standout hero piece, versus simple informational content which can be just as effective with a lower level investment.
Video can play a fantastic role in engaging your audience and provide real impact for your brand, whatever your budget there is a great video opportunity out there for you!