Video is THE THING right now. It will only consume a larger and larger share of internet traffic. Since the demand for video grows rapidly, we hear this question all the time: “How much does a 2-min video cost?”
Well, similarly like with planning an event or buying a car, there is no one single answer. There are tens of components that are into play. We like to think of a video production as of an orchestra. In order for it to be impressive and professional, it needs many instruments and thorough preparations. A high-quality video production is never a one-man project. The more high-end instruments are used and the more experienced players are hired, the better the outcome.
At the end of this post, you’ll find pricing range into which typically videos for startups and businesses fall. A well-prepared answer to “What would you like to be in the video?” usually allows for assessing a custom, initial range of a budget.
Firstly, let’s eliminate things that do not impact the cost:
1. Duration. It hardly ever matters that a video is 1 minute or 3 minutes long. Unless it’s an animation or an interview that needs a lot of cuts, the work necessary to create an awesome video is not affected by its expected duration.
2. Purpose. Whether it’s a promotional, instructional, Kickstarter, or any other type of a video, typically it doesn’t determine the cost. (Fields of use – yes. If it’s a TV Commercial, the copyrights of actors and purchased media may be even 10x higher than any other video.)
30-seconds video of 30 actors in different cities getting on a plane and meeting in Alaska – is a whole different project than a 3-minute video of two founders in their office speaking to a camera.
Either of them is a video!
When thinking of a video, think of it as of a project. Think of all the components needed to make the scenes and graphic elements happen. The shorter and cheaper preparations, organization, logistics, the lower the cost of a video and vice versa.
SCRIPT IS THE KING!
That’s why the script matters so much. It likely gives an idea of what needs to be organized for a video shoot. This is also why project budgets may drastically change along with changes in the script. If the script originally included some family shots in an apartment, and later there are added scenes of a woman going out with her girlfriends and a man riding a motorcycle, the production crew needs to add costs of scouting and securing couple new locations, casting and paying more actors, renting a motorbike and other props, probably booking a stunt, and renting extra equipment that will help take the best possible shots while on the road.
So which basic aspects are usually taken into the account in every video production?
(The bottom values might reflect a simple interview production, while the middle and top numbers refer to more advanced video shoot.)
How many locations, how easy it is to find them, how expensive it is to have them rented, how far are they from each other? (this largely impacts the overall number of shooting days).
Cost: Can go anywhere from $0 (if easily accessible, like client’s office), through $300-$1,000 a day (Airbnb, commercial spaces) to $10,000 or more for big spaces.
+ scouting costs (a few hundred dollars a day).
+ travel costs if necessary.
+ locations may need to be rented for several days for longer shooting or if the check-ins start in the afternoon (e.g. Airbnb).
How many actors and how experienced we want them to be (acting experience, modeling, on camera performance)?
Cost: $500-$2,000 per day for non-TV promotional videos, to up to 10x for copyrights if a TV performance.
+ casting costs (a few hundred dollars a day in case of online casting to a few thousand dollars a day in case of a casting studio)
Is there a ready script, or is there just a rough or no idea so all the creative work is on the production company side? The latter option obviously involves time and experience, so this will be an extra cost of the production. Some general ideas may be brought up before deciding on working together, however, not really any specific details.
Cost: Starts with $500 for draft scripting and ideas, through $1,500 and up for a detailed scripting by a copywriter.
– PROPS & STAGING
Huge production aspect! Sky is the limit, so this really depends on the exact ideas. If for example we do a video for an IoT device and plan family shots in a house, we need to verify whether all the props we want to show in a video are already there. Do we need to buy/rent anything, like specific furniture, a blanket, candles, groceries, silverware? If yes, they need to be calculated in. Also, props should be managed by a Production Designer, who makes sure nothing is missed and sets up everything properly
Cost: Starts with $1,000 for a production designer that does preparations and works on the set + hard costs of purchase/rentals.
Lighting is another key determinant of how the video will look. Lights are almost always necessary, so the quality, types, and amount of lights are really a key to making sure the images are of high quality.
Cost: Starts with $500 per day for two basic lights, usually goes around $2k-5K/day for a bigger set of studio lighting + min. $500/day gaffer (lighting expert).
– CAMERA AND GRIP
Cameras, lenses, a dolly, sliders, cranes, steadicams – all of these things extremely contribute to how the shots are made and how the images look. Cameras and lenses are key to the quality and type of the images (colors, softness, details, frames per second), and the external grip allows for different camera movements which is super important in telling a story.
Cost: Super wide span, no rules here. Starts with $300 per day for a cheap camera rental with one lens to over $10k-20k/day for a full film set equipment.
Audio equipment is crucial if there are dialogues on the set. Also, needs to be taken care of thoroughly while recording (usually constantly monitored on headphones but a sound operator), in order to make sure that everything sounds properly, there are no necessary sounds in the background, and that everything is getting recorded.
From $50/day for a simple audio recording device with 2 microphones (works for very small production sets) + min. $500/day sound operator.
– FILMING CREW
A camera operator is always necessary, though there also needs to be a director, who will be guiding the actors, a sound operator to take care of audio, gaffer to setup and operate lights, assistants to help to carry and move things. In case of a bigger production, often times multiple people are needed for each role. Mind you – everyone needs to move fast, and there is a ton of moving around!
If there is no or a too small budget (which we never decide to go for), the crew needs to be cut down or less experienced staff is getting hired. Likely, the attention to detail as well as the creative part will suffer because of limited time and skills.
Cost: Medium-experienced specialists charge $800-$1,500/day each, superstars that work on commercials for big brands like Airbnb or Uber = $2k-5k/day.
– MAKEUP AND STYLING
Makeup is crucial for every video. Both men and women ALWAYS need some touchups for on-screen performances. If there is no makeup, viewers’ attention will likely be taken away from the actual story. Skin rednesses and minor imperfections get even more exposed by the camera. You want to avoid comments like: ‘Look how tired he/she looks!’. Even for a simple interview people need to have some makeup. Women usually also need their hair being done and kept in place during the shoot. So – do we want to have professionals take care of it? We should.
Cost: It usually costs $500-$800 to hire a makeup artist and another $1000-$1500 to hire a stylist who will prepare and help with some clothing options.
Shooting days tend to be long, so it is in good manners of the producer to provide at least lunch to the crew and actors. This is usually budgeted in the overall cost of the production, or the client often offers to provide lunch on the set.
Cost: $15/per person per meal
Something not to be missed on any film set. Productions need to be insured and production crews often buy dedicated insurance for each day of shooting.
After pre-production and production process, another huge aspect of a video is the post-production, namely – editing, graphics, animations. In this process, an editor needs to take all the recorded shots and put them together in order to create a story. Next, usually, all shots need to be polished with certain processes like color correction and other adjustments. It’s also important how much of graphic design needs to be involved, like logo animations and possibly some other graphics, overlays or special effects. It all sums up to many hours of work, often times performed not only by one person, but a few specialists.
Also, post-production involves working on the sound! Normally, the sound should be taken care of a sound engineer, who will adjust all sound levels as well as add sound effects (like squeaking doors, water splashes, steps, etc.). Usually, there needs to be some music in the background for everything to be more appealing, so a music license needs to be purchased. Often, there is also a voiceover (hiring a voiceover talent!).
Cost: Min. $150/hour for basic editing (often a flat amount is projected in the overall budget)
Voice over: Min. $150 for short amount of text
Someone needs to oversee the whole thing! On one hand, the producer serves as a bridge between the client and the production crew, and on the other she/he makes sure everything happens on time with desired quality. Hires the crew, hires the specialists, and works on the progress assuring that it leads to the expected end effect.
Cost: Priceless! (just kidding).
This is usually budgeted as a flat cost depending on the complexity of a production. No rules or specifics here.
– …AND MANY MORE!
There is no one good way to do a video, possibilities are limitless.
One good tip here – examples help! Doing some research and finding things that you already like, help production crews have an idea of what you’re looking for and of the amount of work needed.
So, it’s hardly possible to make a professional, high-quality video with a $2K budget (unless an amateur iPhone video that hopefully will go viral is what you’re looking for). The most typical price range for a high quality, professional video with actors and on locations would fall into $10K – $30K budget. There are projects that may require less cost, there certainly are ones that need a lot more. Depedning on what you’re looking for, we can assure you that we’ll calculate the most effective budget that will match your needs!