How much does video production cost?
The number one question I get asked regarding video production is, how much does a video cost? That is like asking, how long is a string. Well, a string is however long you wish it to be. The truth is a video can cost anywhere from zero dollars (shooting and editing it on your phone) to 33 million dollars. That’s right, the most expensive tv commercial was produced for 33 million dollars. Click here to see the top ten most expensive commercials in history.
I am going to assume that if you are reading this, your budget is not in the millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, let’s examine some of the different lower price brackets.
Video is Broken Down Into Four Budget Categories
$10,000 to $50,000 micro budget
$50,000 - $100,000 low budget
$100,000 - $150,000 average budget
$250,000 and up big budget.
You may be asking; can I get anything for under $10,000? Yes, of course you can, but I will visit this no-budget price bracket later in the article.
When asking how much does a video cost? I think a better question to ask would be, how much should I spend on video production? Learning how to analyze the costs and benefits of this medium will put you in a very powerful position to get the most for your money. Let’s get into it.
When deciding on a production budget two key questions must be answered. What is the purpose of the video, and how will this video benefit my business? Having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish will help you decide on a realistic budget.
Benefits of High Quality Video Production...
The benefits of a well-produced video can be incalculable. A video that gains traction on social media or has people talking about something that excites them can do wonders for your brand. So, let’s say for a moment that you see the value in producing a high-quality video. You are launching a new product and you plan to promote it, and your goal is to generate 5 million dollars in new sales. You already know that you want to do a social media blast followed up by some local TV.
Hiring a Video Production Company and what to look for...
Your next step would be to hire a production company. There are many different types of production companies varying from small to huge. However, beware! There are a lot of imposters with an iPhone, or DSLR Camera, a light and a microphone posing as a production company. You want to stay far away from this freelance option. That is if you are seeking to make a great impression and seek predictable results.
Now I know I am going to get a lot of push back on that statement. Yes there are there some talented cinematographers shooting on mini gear. However, it is very rare to get a high-quality video from one of these guys. The reasons are simple. The camera is not able to generate a high-quality video image. Working with a one- or two-person crew is not enough personnel to tend to all the details that need attention on set. Finally, not having enough gear physically limits your shooting options.
Well, you may say, my video is for the internet, and I don’t need all that quality and expense. It doesn’t really matter. It does. It matters as much as your customer service, the quality of your product and your commitment to your customers. Caring about how your present your company to the world, is caring about how your customers feel. However, my goal is not to invent value in your head regarding your own brand. My goal is to get you to understand how much a professional video should cost.
It's a Balance Between Budget, Quality and Purpose
The trick is to strike an honest balance between a real investment into your brand, while getting the maximum quality video production. This will bring you the highest rate of return on your video production investment. The whole point of making a commercial video is to strengthen your brand through storytelling. This means, great actors, a flattering set, appropriate lighting, a clear vision and a team who has their act together. No pun intended. This level costs money.
I have seen very well produced; broadcast quality videos produced for under $50,000. Once you get into this price point, you can make a video that will be indistinguishable from videos that have much larger budgets.
Once your reach this level of production, your production company will be using cinema-grade gear. You’ll see multiple cameras, multiple lighting rigs, maybe some dolly tracks, advance stabilization such as steady-cams and large gimbals. This type of gear is what is used to shoot movies and television shows.
You can also expect to see between 10 – 25 highly experienced crew members on set. People who know what they are doing and are efficient. This production company will have insisted on hiring professional actors, there will be catering on set to prevent losing time with people leaving and returning late. You will see makeup artists, wardrobe options, props and a set design that matches your brand colors. At this level every detail is thought through. And if your team is creative enough, you can shoot multiple versions during the same production yielding even more value for your investment. Production companies who can pull this off are masters at their craft. It takes impeccable planning, great acting talent, and a director whose vision is so clear, every decision feels like a reflex.
You can expect to receive one to five or even several different cuts or different videos at this price point. You may ask, how does a 30 second commercial blow up to millions of dollars then? This sounds like a contradiction. I can get a broadcast quality video for under $50,000? Yes you can. There won’t be any stunts, or car chases, or celebrities or even any custom-built sets, however, with a good message and tight planning, you will have a video that stands up next to the national brands.
Video Production Elements That Blow Up Your Budget Are...
1) Multiple locations - multiple locations can easily double, triple or even expand the budget by several multipliers. For example, if you are advertising a beer and the idea is to show beer drinker in different climates and cultures. You may want to shoot in the desert, a blizzard, a tropical island, and maybe in a log cabin. We have all seen commercials that do this. This will get you into the hundreds of thousands in flash.
2) Public places – shutting down city streets and bringing in heavy gear can be very expensive. These types of shots can quickly increase the budget.
3) Celebrities – putting a celebrity in your commercial comes at a hefty price.
4) Special effects – practical effects on set and digital effects in post can be also add a tremendous amount of money to the budget.
5) Running over – actors who don’t know their lines or are not pulling it off can force extra shoot days, and they get paid for the extra days too. Therefore the talent is very important.
So, if you can take a conservative approach in these areas, you can absolutely make an amazing video or series of them for under $50,000. However, you can’t do it at the no budget level.
The No Budget Option...
Let’s talk about the no-budget level. Videos that have budgets for under $10,000 are considered no-budget. The productions usually just look and sound like crap. You know the ones I’m referring to. Those law firm commercials where they think it’s a good idea to put their star attorney on camera, and he just comes across as some arrogant……….. How about the moving guy, who has the whole staff standing in a warehouse filled with boxes and crates, or what about the nursing home? You know the one that starts out like a bad horror movie. And finally, there is the local dentist, who thinks it a good idea to film a patient strapped to the chair has he pokes inside their mouth on camera. Eeeeeeeek, not really killing it are they.
Car dealerships and local restaurants are also guilty of airing low quality videos. The picture is usually faded, blurry or low res, the highlights are blown out, and it really just looks unprofessional.
The sound is usually unbalanced or strange, or you may have heard the music in another commercial. These crap productions can be produced for as low as a couple thousand dollars. I have seen some guys produce videos for only $500. You can only imagine what that looked like.
Believe it or not, some of the biggest offenders are the cable tv advertising departments. I sat in on a sales meeting between a client and salesman from our local cable company. He told the client for around $800 they could produce the video, and that he would only need some bullet points to create the script. The client balked, so the salesman threw the production in for free if he would sign a six-month agreement. This company stopped advertising after only one month, and the feedback was so bad, it actually hurt his business.
Ok, so I illustrated how bad the production value was, but what is even worse is that all those examples were lacking a strong message. There wasn’t a professional writer or creative director to craft a message, exact a vison, and write a script. This is a huge problem with freelance imposters. It’s all about turn and burn. There is a very important and standardized process to making any video, and it must be followed. To learn more about video processes click here.
So, what does a video cost? A professional video should cost between fifteen and fifty thousand dollars depending on the idea and the script. You can always go up from there by adding shoot days, features and even locations. The sky is truly the limit. However, the real answer to, how much does a video cost? Is, as much as you can afford. That is the best answer I can give you. Good luck with all of your marketing and advertising ventures. I hope you gained some valuable information.
Creative and Film Director
SM Media Group