Why Your Professional Video Will Have a Minimum Cost

There’s a common misconception with video that because we see it everywhere and consume it on a daily basis, it must be cheap to produce. This can result in sticker shock and cold feet when a video cost quote is prepared, even if it is a pretty reasonable price for a high-quality video. Some companies think it’d be more worthwhile to take a quantity vs. quality stance because they’ll get more individual videos that way, but creating low-quality and cheap videos will only make your brand look cheap. There’s a lot of competition in the video marketing landscape, which grows by the day, so you need to ensure that whatever video content you produce will leave a lasting and positive impression on your audience.

If you think of video production like a nice meal, it might start making sense why creating a high-production video will have a minimum price tag with it. We all eat food every day with varying levels of quality and cost of food you can get. Usually, the higher the quality food, the higher the price. You can’t reproduce a Michelin Star meal yourself, nor inexpensively. This analogy holds true with video. Sure, you can get some cheap McDonald-level video done inexpensively, but is that the best choice for your business?

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Like food, there are certain high-quality elements put into the video that will drive up the cost, but drastically improve the final product as well. No matter what story you’re telling, there will be a core cost of what it will take to produce a video. Below we dive into these various base elements that create a minimum video project cost. 

Creative Development Costs

The creative of a video refers to the outline, storyboard, script, and any other needed elements required to produce a final video project cost and direction for the shoot. Clients usually have an idea of what they’d like for their video when they decide to create a video, but that typically isn’t enough to provide an accurate cost of what producing their video will require. Take Budweiser’s 2015 Lost Dog commercial for example, shown below:

You can parse this creative down into a few simple sentences like, “Family farm dog escapes and runs into trouble with wolves. Horses break out of stable to protect dog and bring him home. Dog is happily back with his owner drinking a Budweiser.”

While this is a good idea to start with, it’s hardly all-encompassing of what the project will need. The costs to rent out a stable, the number of trained animals needed, any CGI after-effects, and more need to be taken into consideration when quoting a project’s creative goals. This video also has no dialogue, so with other video creatives a script has to be fully developed and revised to ensure it will convey your message accurately.

Having a high-end video production company involved in the production process from the very beginning is recommended to ensure your creative is fully developed and feasible. You don’t want unexpected costs popping up during the production because all the needed elements of your video weren’t taken into account in the beginning. Discussing your final video production goals with your creative agency will help ensure an accurate quote and let you know the ballpark figure of what your high-end video project cost will be.

Location Costs

Securing the right location that aligns with the overall aesthetic and message of your shoot can be more difficult than you might initially think. But how? You can just pull up Google Maps, check out a few scenic areas, and start shooting in your favorite one, right? If only things were so simple… We have a whole article dedicated to the importance of film location scouting, but we’ll go over the basics below.

There are four criteria to evaluate any given location on: appearance, availability, accessibility, and cost. Having all four (or, at least 3.5) is crucial to ensuring your chosen location will align with your video’s creative and help your whole video project run smoothly.

Studio Locations: ~$500-$2,000/day

If you’re looking for a blank canvas that you can make into your own for your video shoot while also being mindful of a smaller budget, a studio location is a great option. With studio locations, you can bring the accompanying props and other kinds of decorations needed to transform the space into an appropriate backdrop for your video shoot. This kind of location does have it limits, though. You’re more confined by space and you run the risk of your props looking “cheesy” or out of place. We discuss in-depth the pros and cons of studio locations for your professional video here.

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Private Residential Locations: ~$3,000/day

Finding the right home that fits your creative, budget, size requirements, and with an owner willing to let you use their personal residence can prove difficult. It’s easy to think that the right home will magically pop up through personal networks and referrals, but that this is rarely the case. Most residents with affluent homes need to be more or less “convinced” to rent out their house to you while you shoot. Read more about residential location scouting here to see if it’s the right location for your professional video.

Commercial Locations: ~$5,000-$50,000/day

The kinds of locations that fall under this category, like schools, office buildings, warehouses, and shopping malls, can be some of the most expensive and hard to secure places to shoot in. These buildings are usually owned by larger institutions and business entities, which results in a significant amount of people and paperwork to go through and be approved. It’s also harder to convince these owners that your video shoot won’t disturb their operations or that it will be worth the cost.

Outdoor Locations: Varies

National, state, and municipal parks, downtown streets, scenic landscapes, and other public space locations fall under this category and vary greatly on the ease of approval and cost for video shoots. While some cities are “video-friendly” and make the process of securing the appropriate permits easy, others can be a lot harder to work with. A number of outdoor wilderness areas are also completely off-limits for commercial purposes, even if they are open to public recreational activities. Outdoor location scouting is one of the more more difficult types of locations to get right and usually necessitates the expertise of a professional.

Crews and Equipment Required

The old adage, “It takes a village” definitely holds true with high-quality video production. The crews and equipment required will vary based on the type of video you’re shooting and the creative developed, but there are some that you can almost always factor into your overall video project cost. Although the size of the crew is ultimately up to the client and their budget, we warn about spreading your crew too thin: something will have to give, which can result in a lack-luster final product. Hiring professionals to ensure your video shoot day goes smoothly will pay off exponentially when it comes to your final result.

Keep in mind that the cost estimates listed below are meant to be ballpark figures, and can vary depending on the market and the experience of the crew, so the actual price could be higher or lower than what we’ve approximated.

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Director: ~$900-$1,000/day+

A director is probably the most well-known role on a video production team. A director is responsible for transforming the written words and ideas developed during the creative process into a video that aligns with the client’s vision and goals. This includes directing camera angles, lighting, delivery of lines, and can also include hiring the crew and actors.

Producer: ~$700-$1,500/day+

Although a director can sometimes double as the producer, they are typically two separate roles. This job manages a number of different elements of the video production process. They can assist in creative direction, budgeting, organizing logistic, setting deliverable dates, and ensuring communication between different parts of the team.

Director of Photography: ~$750-$2,000/day+

The cost of a director of photography (DP) t is largely driven by market demand. This position is usually hired for specific kinds of videos, like lighter-content videos, interviews, etc. and their specific duties can change based on the size of the shoot. They work closely with the director to determine the overall look and feel of the video and make executive decisions on lighting and framing.

Sound Personnel: ~$500-$1,000/day+

While having excellent microphones, hardware, and software will go a long way in creating good sound, nothing beats having professional, experienced sound personnel on your shoot. Poor quality audio is one of the hardest video elements to edit post-production, so getting it right during the shoot can save you time and money down the road.

Gaffer: ~$450-$650/day+

Reporting to the director of photography, a gaffer (also known as lighting technician) is responsible for setting up lights, ensuring they’re working properly, framing, color changes, and creating the correct mood, and tear down of all lighting equipment.

Key Grip: $400-$600/day+

A key grip provides support to the director of photography and typically handles all the gear and set-up. They supervise everything from camera cranes and dollies, to the lights, platforms, and all other on-set equipment. With being the first point of contact for the gear, a key grip is also in charge of the safety of the crew by ensuring they are using the equipment properly.

Production Assistants: ~$200-$350/day+

The role of a production assistant (PA) flexes based on what the other crew needs. They can help out with everything ranging from sharing call sheets, helping load in props, to controlling any crowds around your shoot and running errands. A production assistant is usually where people in film get their start and is an essential team player on any video shoot.

The costs of crew sometimes covers part or all of the equipment needed, but depending on the type of shoot, there can be equipment required above what most video production companies include as part of their base package. Say you’re shooting in a low-light location. You’ll need a special camera that can capture high-quality video even with the difficult lighting. This cost will largely depend on the client and their budget to determine what level of equipment will be best to achieve their creative goals.

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Other Video Costs

In addition to the categories above, there are other miscellaneous costs built into the overall video project cost. One that almost every video production company should have is insurance. We say should have because some companies downplay the importance of having insurance, with some choosing to forgo it all together. Deciding to partner with a video production company that has adequate insurance should give you some peace of mind; it shows that that company takes their business and work seriously. The price tag for insurance ties in largely to location, the size of the crew, and equipment used, which is why it’s difficult to provide a cost range.

In addition to insurance, overages and non-billable time is hard to account for upfront. Going over budget is quite common even with the most developed and flushed out creatives. There is usually a miscellaneous line item built into the quote to account for typical overages. If your shoot goes over by a couple of hours, you’ll have that extra padding already approved by your accounting department to dip into to pay your crews. Having that line item gives clients better transparency and assurance things will be covered if something does go over budget.

Deciding to produce a high-quality video for your company is an investment that has the potential to last for years. Taking a quality vs. quantity approach and ensuring that what you’re creating has the best elements put into to create a long shelf life will pay off tenfold with the final product. In the world of ever-shrinking attention spans, it’s becoming more important to grab and holder your viewer’s attention, and what better way to do that than with a high-quality video?

While the costs discussed above might seem overwhelming, they can vary greatly depending on the scope and creative of the video. If you have a video project in mind, contact MarzMotion and we’ll start discussing what your video project cost might be.

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