At WorldWise Productions, we get this type of question a lot. Clients tell us approximately how long they’d like their video to be, and then ask us to give them a quote based on the length. That’s when I like to put on my Video Production Professor hat and take them through the following explanation.
“It’s not the size of the grocery bag that determines the cost. It’s what you put in it.”
You could walk out of the grocery store with a giant shopping bag. But if it’s stuffed with ramen, pasta noodles and lettuce – that would have cost you very little compared to a tiny bag that contained filet mignon and caviar. This is similar to how video production is priced.
It’s not the length of a video that’s necessarily going to determine the price – it’s what goes into making it, and also – who makes it. We all know a 30-second Superbowl commercial shot by a big-time director could cost millions of dollars to produce. We also know that a 2-hour film produced by a novice filmmaker could be done on a shoe-string budget. But generally speaking, how much a video is going to cost is dependent on what goes into these three buckets:
Pre-production, as the word implies, is all the work that happens before production begins. This is where meetings, concept development, research, emails, calls, scheduling, story-boarding and some script writing frequently occur.
We typically try to bill this as a flat fee, knowing that sometimes we’re going to have more calls or meetings than what we anticipated. But we find that clients relax and feel free to approach us with new ideas or questions when they know they’re not going to be nickeled and dimed.
Sometimes if it gets excessive and scripts need to be re-written or storyboards go out the window on a whim, we might need to bill beyond our proposal. But we always let our clients know in advance and the reason is super clear to all parties.
Production is typically the actual shoot – if it’s a live action video. We’ll explain what live action is in a separate article, but generally, it’s where you see real people and real locations. This is the primary category our videos fall into with our clients – although increasingly, clients seem to want more and more animated videos too.
In production, the pricing is mostly dependent on how many days we’re shooting, and what kind of crew members, talent and equipment need to be on set to make that shoot happen. At WorldWise, we pride ourselves on a pretty lean crew, mostly consisting of three people: the shooter (also called Director of Photography, videographer or camera operator), an assistant (also could be called AC, grip or PA) and the producer/director. Our production price also includes what we typically need to accomplish most of our shoots – a 4K HD camera, lights and basic audio.
At times, if more than one person is speaking at a time or we’re doing an outdoors shoot where noise levels can’t be controlled, we’ll have to include an audio operator. Other production costs could include makeup artists, actors, additional camera operators, additional lights, additional cameras, backdrops, green screens, studio or location rentals, teleprompters, steadicams and jibs. The list goes on, but what I’ve mentioned here is usually the extent of our extraneous costs.
After we shoot what we need to shoot, we bring all the footage back to our office and begin the process of turning it into a video. This is called post-production.
Post-production primarily refers to editing, but before our editor can edit, he or she needs a roadmap in the form of a script. The script needs to reference what goes in what order, where to find interview sound bites, where to find b-roll (video that does not interview), whether there are any graphics, what kind of music to put in the background, etc…
In order to do this, we frequently need to send all of our interviews for transcription (with reference to time code every 15 to 20 seconds) and our writer needs to spend a good part of the day going through those transcripts and viewing the interviews again – before beginning to weave the story together.
In addition to editing, transcription and script writing, there’s also the cost of purchasing royalty-free music, any stock footage or images, voiceovers, graphics or animation and increasingly – translation services. Many of our clients ask us to produce a video in English – and then produce that same video in Spanish or another language.
Animation is a whole ‘nother subject. Depending on what kind of animation you’re looking for – whiteboard, infographics, 3D, cartoon, etc… - a 100% animated video could actually be MORE expensive than a live action video. Typically we tell our clients to expect to pay $2500 to $3500 per finished minute for the animation alone – not including script writing, voiceover, music or pre-production.
I could go into much more detail – but hopefully, this has helped you understand why video production is one industry where size doesn’t always matter!