So I’m the office a few weeks ago and the phone rings. I answer.

It’s a sales inquiry. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Bullhorn Media, this is Chris speaking.
Potential Customer: Hello, my company is looking to start doing video. We’d like to start out with a 2-minute clip to go on YouTube. How much do you charge for that?
Me: Okay, based on what you told me that could be anywhere from $2000 – $200,000
Potential Customer: ……….. <click>

Okay, the conversation went longer than that but you get the drift.

Stepping into professional video production for the first time can feel like flying blind. You don’t know how much this stuff costs, or even how much it’s supposed to cost. On the one hand you want something that is good quality, but on the other hand you don’t want to get screwed or feel like you’re overpaying.  Building a video is a bit like building a house. You can build a 1000 sq ft mobile home or a 15-room mansion by the lake. Each one serves a purpose but each carry very different price tags.

I wrote this post to give you a set of guidelines for what variables affect video pricing. Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Shoot Time Required

This one is fairly self-explanatory. The more time that is required of your crew to gather raw footage for the video, the higher the price will be. Most video crews will work from a “day rate” and will charge the same whether they’re working a 6 hour day or a 12 hour day. This presents a good opportunity to maximize time on set. Oftentimes you can reduce this cost by scheduling shoot days tightly and getting as much done in one day as possible. Hey, if you’ve got a crew for a whole day you might as well put them to work!

2. Crew Size

Different filming scenarios require different crew sizes. a simple 1-person interview can sometimes be accomplished with just 2 people, whereas a complex scene with actors, camera moves, and set changes might require 10 people or more. The goal in any production is to crew up with as many people as it takes to get the job done reliabily and at your desired quality level, but no more than that.

Below are some examples of crew sizes and typical budgets attached to those crews.

(click on the tabs below to see pricing differences)

• suitable for events and other scenarios where audio is not critial
• $500 – $1200 per day (depending on experience)
• suitable for simple interview setups for most corporate video
• Producer/Camera Operator/Production Assistant
$1000 – $2200 per day
• suitable for complex shoots, regional or national TV spots, or big brand corporate films
• highly specialized roles such as Focus-pullers, Line producers, Makeup artists, Grips and Gaffers
$8000 – $12,000 per day

3. Length and Complexity of Finished Video

Editing timeline for a 4-minute video featuring 3 interviews.

As a general rule, the longer the video is the longer it will take to shoot and edit. A 1-hour documentary is more expensive to produce than a 5-minute mini-documentary. This is a general rule and not an iron-clad one and there are exceptions; complexity is also a factor. A 2-minute video created from 3 hours of raw footage with lots of editing, graphic treatments, and a custom music score takes much longer to edit than a 1 hour seminar with no edits and will carry a higher price as a result.

 

4. Music

Most video projects have some sort of musical score. There are a variety of different ways to acquire music for a video project and at different prices. Below is a list of music sources along with common budgets:

(click on the tabs below to see pricing differences)

Cost: $0
Examples:
YouTube Audio Library (free with artist attribution)
Free Music Archive
Pros:
• It’s free!!
Cons:
• Very limited selection
• Sometimes free music is free because it sucks 🙂
Cost: $20 – $75 per song
Examples:
Premium Beat
Audio Jungle
Tune Fruit
Pros:
• Wide selection
• Low cost per song
Cons:
• Limited ability to edit and re-arrange songs to fit into video
• Can sound more dated than more expensive or custom music

Cost: $150 – $350 per song
Examples:
Music Bed
Marmoset
Pros:
• High quality music that sounds current and fresh
• Wide Selection
Cons:
• More expensive per song than other libraries
• Limited ability to edit and re-arrange to fit into video
Cost: $1000 – $3000 per song
Pros:
• Highly flexible
• High Quality
Cons:
• Cost

5. Pre-Production Time Required

Some videos require more pre-production time than others. For instance, a national TV commercial with 5 actors, 3 locations, and an 8 person crew carries the following pre-production requirements:

  • Casting call and script reads
  • Location scouting and procuring
  • Location Permits
  • Crew scheduling
  • Logistical and travel planning
  • Scripting and approvals
  • Storyboarding or shot listing
  • Client approvals for script and storyboards

Other types of shoots such as a simple 1-person interview in one location can be accomplished with minimal pre-production work. The more complex a shoot is, the more pre-production time is required.

6. Camera and Gear Package

The camera industry has exploded with new options in the last few years. In the past you could not achieve a professional result for any camera that cost less than $30,000.  Now all manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, and Canon make affordable cameras that cost less than $5,000.

Lower-end camera packages can run for as little as $200/day.  High-end packages like those from Red and Arri can run up to as much as $2400/day. There are definitely advantages with shooting on these high-end camera systems but you need to make sure the costs associated with those advantages produce  the corresponding value in the end product in order to justify them.

There are also other gear requirements to consider. Larger shoots might require more lighting and grip gear along with the accompanying people to operate them.

7. Experience and Skill

Experience and skill will always reflect in pricing for all types of professional services, including video production. Experienced producers will be more equipped to deal with the changes and challenges that often present themselves in the course of a video production. The larger and more complex the project is the more important it is to engage with an experienced team that can manage the project and keep it from going off the rails.

In terms of skill, different production companies carry different areas of expertise. Some specialize in weddings and events, others are strong in animation and motion graphics, and others have niches in television commercials or long-form television programming. Companies will typically charge a higher price in the genres for which they have the most skill and experience.

Other Variables

Location Fees Many locations carry a rental fee. These can range from a few hundred bucks for a small location to several thousand dollars for a high-traffic retail location that must sacrifice business to accommodate a production.
Stock Photography/Video – Oftentimes a production must supplement original footage with licensed stock video because it’s impractical or too expensive to send a crew to capture the footage. Stock photos cost from $5 – $500 per image depending on where it is used. Stock video cost from $50 – $1000 per clip depending on use.
Talent – Professional talent add cost to any production and most times it is well worth the cost since the right talent will give you a better result than amateurs and will allow you to move the production quicker. Below is a quick breakdown for talent costs in a typical corporate video.

  • Principal Talent (speaking) – $400-$800/day
  • Supporting Talent (speaking) – $400-$600/day
  • Supporting Talent (nonspeaking) – $200-$400/day
  • Extras and background Talent – $50-$150/day

Travel and Lodging – Included in this is hotel, car rental, per diem, and airfare

All these factors together contribute to the cost of any video project. If you would like more information on video pricing or even samples of real video projects with real pricing, please contact us. We’re here to help you understand the process and feel comfortable navigating the waters of professional video production.