In the past, professional-grade video has been an expensive proposition. Shooting, editing and production required specialized equipment and expertise. Now, you have many more options, from low-cost do-it-yourself video blogs to polished corporate overviews. Fortunately, advances in technology have made even professional videography more affordable than ever.
While the bromide “you get what you pay for” still applies, businesses today can get a higher quality product for their money. At the same time, our plugged-in business world is far more receptive to video messages. Online video is gaining momentum every year, and it has entered marketing’s mainstream.
You can borrow an iphone , shoot some video and upload it to YouTube – all for free. Or you could hire James Cameron to write, produce and direct your video where you’d be looking at a budget just shy of half a billion dollars when you include marketing costs and Hollywood accounting. Both options would result in a finished video but you’d probably need special glasses to watch the the more expensive option.
How Much Will it Cost?
That’s the new first question that professional services firms are asking about online video. It wasn’t always that way.
The question used to be “Why would I want to?” or “How would I use it?” But with the explosion of online video the questions “Why?” and “How?” no longer come up very often. The benefits and uses are becoming self-evident.
The correct answer to the cost question is always… “It depends.” Let’s look at what drives a video production cost and how to develop an appropriate budget for your needs.
What Drives the Cost of A Video?
There are three basic factors that drive productions costs. These factors eventually get reflected in dozens of small budget decisions that impact the quality of the final product.
- Time. The more time that is spent in pre-production planning, scripting, location scouting, shooting, special effects and editing the better the final product will be. Adding more people to the production team also increases the total time spent on the project. More time, from more people, equals more money. Doing video for the sake of video is a waste of money (although it’s great for the video production industry!) 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 or guidance to create a video that will help move your business forward? Lighting, sound, framing and editing are all important but they don’t matter in the least if what you are creating has no value to your intended audience. Most videos benefit from the addition of footage that supplements what is being said on screen. If you are interviewing a business owner who is talking about their new equipment you should cut away to shots of the equipment as they speak. Showing the viewer what is being described in the video is more informative (show me, don’t tell me) and also helps to keep the attention of the impatient viewer.
- Talent & Expertise. The greater the talent of the people working on the project, the better it will be. In video production, as with most things in life, talented and experienced people tend to cost more. Doctors, mechanics, lawyers, videographers… whatever profession you care to mention, experience and expertise matters more than any other factor and, all things being equal, you do tend to get what you pay for. There are many, many moving parts in the creation of a video but at the end of the day you are paying for the expertise and experience of the key people responsible for your video. 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. Editors arguably should be the most highly paid (and skilled) in the entire process – quite often they are not.
- Tools. You can produce a video with your cell phone. Or you can use a high-end camera with a professional lighting kit and sophisticated cost-production motion graphics and animation. Sophisticated tools and the top-level professionals who know how to use them add cost. The more experienced video production companies tend to have a wide variety of tools and equipment on hand for each shoot. Do you need a track dolly or a jib-arm to create a shot with movement? 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?
- Location. Where are you shooting? 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? 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.
Taking these cost drivers into account we can identify five distinct levels of quality and cost.
Five Levels of Video Quality and Cost
1 – Amateur
Description – The do-it-yourself approach using basic consumer video equipment and self-taught talent. Think YouTube.
- Benefits – Fast and inexpensive
- Risks – The results often look amateurish and can erode credibility if you’re not careful.
- Best Uses – Internal training and personal blogs.
- Cost for 1-2 Minute Video – Free, once you have the basic gear (and these days, who doesn’t?).
2 – Semi-Pro
Description – Requires someone with some experience or training using somewhat more sophisticated tools (e.g., prosumer camera and video editing software). Talent level is variable and time commitment is often low. Think part-time wedding photographer or hobbyist.
- Benefits – Better quality and very affordable.
- Risks – Wide variations in quality. Often boring to watch.
- Best Uses – Video blog posts, capturing educational events, internal training.
- Cost for 1-2 Minute Video – $2,500 – $3,000
3 – Professional
Description – Solid professional team using professional tools and average level of time. Think typical corporate online video.
- Benefits – Predictable quality that conveys basic credibility. No apologies needed.
- Risks – May not be exceptional or stand out from the growing crowd.
- Best Uses – Case studies, profiles, service or process descriptions, recruiting video.
- Cost for 1-2 Minute Video – $3,500 – $20,000
4 – Premium
Description– Add top-level talent, high-end tools (such as motion graphics, high-end cameras, a studio) and more time to the mix to elevate a professional production to something exceptional. Use this production level to tell a compelling story and capture maximum attention. Think “Wow!”
- 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 seek.
- Best Uses – Signature pieces such as overview videos, credibility-building case studies, recruiting videos or service introductions.
- Cost for 1-2 Minute Video – $25,000 – $50,000
5 – Hollywood
Description– Top level, top talent, no-compromises approach. Think ultra-premium movie trailer, Superbowl.
- Benefits – Competitive at the highest level. Suitable for the largest global firms.
- Risks – In view of the costs, you must be clear and certain of the need.
- Best Uses– High-end advertising or compelling signature piece for a firm.
- Cost for 1-2 Minute Video – $100,000 – $1,000,000 plus
Selecting the Appropriate Budget Level
Before you can set a budget for online video you need to clarify what you want to accomplish and determine what resources you have available to you.
For instance, do you want to increase credibility, build your brand, attract new clients or recruit new staffs? Do you have an interesting story to tell? For these types of tasks, you’ll typically need professional or premium level of quality to get a satisfying end product. If your firm has sufficient resources and wishes to compete at the highest level, a top-drawer studio 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 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 What You Pay For
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 get the most out of the experience.
First, be sure you know what you are trying to accomplish. 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.
Next, 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.
Finally, be available to supply the resources that the producer needs. This can include everything from access to people, locations, relevant logos and photography to the prompt review of concepts, scripts and rough edits.
Most video producers want to produce a good product. Help make it easier for them and you will benefit.
Taking all of the above into consideration there are reasonable ballpark figures that you can use as a guidepost for budget purposes. A two to three minute web-based corporate video presentation might cost between $3,500 and $10,000 if you consider the mid range of variables mentioned above. For more professionally produced web-based corporate videos you should consider between $5,000 to $20,000 as a starting point, that will give you a reasonable idea of where to begin in the budgeting process.
Pricing for video production is a consultative process. This ensures that the video production company is made aware of all of the necessary details about the video project in order to give an accurate price quote. As a video project gets defined and client budgets are to some extent revealed, all parties move to a certain point of agreement on price. Sometimes the client gives in on production requirements and the production company gives a little on price or hours to complete deal.
Budgeting Tip # 2: Share your 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 will have to guess at a budget. (I recently lost a job because the budget I guessed at was too high – even though the client really liked the concept that I had proposed. Does the company that guesses closest to your undeclared budget win?)
Budgeting Tip # 3: Be open minded.
Many businesses begin the video development process with;
1. A specific video type or style in mind,
2. A prepared script and/or
3. Specific creative approach in mind.
Be careful not to base your decision on price alone. Make sure you know what is included with every quote you receive. Insist on a breakdown of the budget items before signing a contract. This will make it easier to compare prices and services of different video production companies.
That said, it’s still a good idea to listen to alternative approaches – presumably you are hiring a video production company because of their experience and expertise.
Source: OMM, HingeMarketing
How We Can Help
THEVIDEOCOMPANY has developed a comprehensive plan, to address these issues and more. We are marketers ourselves with more than 10 years in the marketing arena and video production (we know what sells). We will sit with you and customized your video plans and identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.