“I need a 3 minute video. How much will that cost?”

Why one-size-fits-all solutions don't work

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

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:

  1. Pre-production
  2. Production
  3. Post-production

Pre-Production

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

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.  

Post-Production

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!

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About the Author

Jinah Kim
Jinah Kim
Jinah Kim is currently a part-time correspondent for NBC News in Los Angeles, reporting primarily for NBC News Channel and MSNBC. She is also the owner and executive producer of WorldWise Productions (www.WWPVideo.com), a video production company specializing in education, training and marketing videos for corporate and healthcare
clients. She's also an inventor, having created several patent-pending commercial products, including the NIKO Easy Wash Children’s Car Seat Cover ( www.NikoCarSeatCover.com ), which is the “Amazon Choice” for children’s car seat covers.

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Comments
  • Orlandovideo said…
    Monday, February 11, 2019 3:20 AM
    I appreciate your blogs, they are really informative and useful. Getting a lot of video production pros information with your post. Thanks for sharing such kind of useful information. You can check our website we are Orlando video production companies.
  • Amy Weis said…
    Tuesday, February 12, 2019 2:19 PM
    Great Article! I absolutely love the 'grocery bag' analogy; it's a great way to make your point. Many people just aren't aware of everything that goes into creating a video and this is a wonderful overview.
  • Stasia Lenhart said…
    Tuesday, February 12, 2019 2:56 PM
    Well articulated. I work for a good size video production house. I often wish there was more transparency in cost in our industry. We have not adjusted our rates in over 8 years, should we, are we competitively priced? It is not like you can go on Amazon and price compare. I know that rates can change from market to market given cost of overhead, salaries, and such. You were transparent on the animation cost, but what do you charge for the basic 3 person crew, and editing? Also wondering if others are willing to share that as well. Our industry has seen a lot of disruption with 1 and 2 person shops, people filming on their phone, or with reasonably priced cameras, and editing on laptops. I what does the market expects to pay for a high-quality live-action video?
  • Cre8tiv Werks said…
    Tuesday, February 12, 2019 5:52 PM
    I've been producing videos in the Bay Area for over 25 years and have always used the analogy of 'building your dream home'....how many rooms, style, flooring, etc. I love your analogy...simple. Same concerns, they want to have a T-Bone steak in the bag but only willing to spend enough for one burger patty!

    Same holds true in the 'home' scenario...I wouldn't hire a brick masonry to build a kitchen. So I hire talented craftsmen/women that specialize in their field. Production go better and smoother for all including the talent.
  • Terry Wall said…
    Wednesday, February 13, 2019 6:51 PM
    Nice article, Jinah! The one I often get is, "can you give me a 'ballpark' quote on that?" As if we're all throwing the proverbial spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. That said, my typical answer is, "it depends......" The responses to which are exactly what you've said in your piece. I also take the time to unpack what REALLY goes into a production, and by then, it's not hard to see if someone really values what goes into a project, or if they're just looking for the cheapest price.
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