The most asked question at the inception of every video project is of course “How much will this cost?”. Wouldn’t it be great if video production was like lumber; “Give me two dozen 2X4’s, eight 1X4’s and six sheets of  ¾” plywood”.  Then you would just make sure the quality and price are agreeable and you are on your way. Unfortunately video production is not quite that cut & dried.

In terms of budgeting there are really only two ways to approach it: either match the creative to the budget or match the budget to the creative. So what does that mean? Well, back to the lumber analogy; you can go to the lumber yard and purchase affordable lumber, fasteners and paint then build the nicest flower planter you can with what you have. Or you can design the ideal planter, create a materials list, procure any needed specialty skill labor and accept the resulting end cost in order to get a very specific outcome (and the most customized flower planter on the block!).

Obviously there are many more factors to consider when undertaking a video production project than the typical flower planter, but the general principle still applies. Here are the top 10 factors that affect the cost of producing a professional video:

  1. Video Production Expertise & Geographic Location – Much like any other service related profession, the cost of videography services can range widely depending on the experience and expertise of the company or individual offering it. And much like other industries, you generally get what you pay for. If your project’s outcome is of the utmost importance you must ask yourself if saving some money is a reasonable risk to take in awarding your project to a relatively inexperienced entity. On the other hand, if you have a relatively basic project that does not require the capabilities of a seasoned video production team, you can find many individual freelancers who will work for a lesser rate and accomplish an acceptable outcome.Your geographical location will also impact costs. Different areas within the country will often charge different rates for the same services. Larger cities on the coasts tend to cost more for the same services than similar companies elsewhere. The cost of living in those areas is higher so the trickle-down effect of that tends to be reflected in the costs of their services. Location fees, permits, lodging and other ancillary costs tend to be higher in larger cities as well. Expect to pay somewhere between $75 to $150 per hour per person involved with video production tasks.
  2. Pre-Production (Concept / Script / Storyboard) – Good starts lead to good finishes! The pre-production phase of a video project sets the tone for the entire project. The pre-production team must take into consideration the audience, goals and expected outcome of the video in their preparations. The budget will be a strong consideration in terms of how much and to what degree the pre-production effort will be undertaken. Expect to pay between $60 and $150 per hour for pre-production services.
  3. Talent (Actors/Presenters/Extras/Narration/Licensing/Union Fees ) – Do you already have the talent in-hand for your video or do you require professional talent? This is a very important consideration since all the planning and video production expertise in the world cannot make a poor actor or spokesperson perform better. Some people just do not do well in front of a camera. In some cases it is essential to have a company representative or subject expert as the actor/spokesperson. This should be thought through very carefully and you should be completely confident that the individual(s) can pull it off. If you do need professional talent there are many agencies that do a fine job of providing talent that fits the role as well as the budget. Voice talent is another consideration and falls into the same category. Talent costs are wide ranging for many reasons. For planning purposes you could budget anywhere from $50 to $500 per hour (potentially more!).
  4. Video Production Crew – The video production crew is another area that can have a wide range depending on the shoot requirements and objectives. Crew size can be as low as one person for a b-roll type of shoot with no audio or the shoot may require 10 or more crew members for a location shoot with several moving parts. There are many types of crew members that may come into play. Every shoot will require a camera operator (DP) beyond that typical roles include: Producer, Grip, Gaffer, Electrician, Audio Tech, Production Assistant (PA), Hair & Makeup and other specialty roles as needed. As you might guess the costs of these roles can vary widely and are too diverse individually to list here, but typically each of these roles will cost between $30 and $150 per hour.
  5. Video Production Gear – There can be a lot of gear involved in a professional video shoot. It all starts with the camera(s) being used. Just like anything else, the higher end cameras come with a steep price tag and will definitely garner a higher cost to utilize. Most video production companies can offer different camera packages to best suit the project and the budget. Professional cameras and lenses can range from $100 per day up to $500 (or more). Along with the camera comes the potential for camera accessories, lights, carts, dollys, jibs, stabilizers and on and on. Beyond the camera there is the potential for lights, audio gear, teleprompter and a plethora of other gear as needed. All of these elements will be a factor in the cost of your video shoot. Gear costs can range as low as $100 to thousands per day depending on the needs and available budget.
  6. Video Production Amenities (Locations/Studios/Set/Props/Equipment /Catering & Craft Services)  – This is a wide ranging area and can be as little as $0 or as much as the shoot budget  requires or has allocated. Many of the decisions made in the pre-production phase will determine these needs. Locations and studios come with a wide range of associated cost. Possibly as little as nothing if you have your location secured! If your video requires shooting in a public place there is the possibility of needing to acquire permits which can come with a cost. You may already know where your video needs to be shot or you may rely on your video production resource to locate and scout potential locations in order to provide you with options. Studio space generally starts around $400 per day for a very basic studio and upwards from there. Unless your needs are somewhat extensive, you can generally find an adequate studio for under $1,000 per day.Does your video require a set, props or special equipment? If so, these need to be on the budget and planned for as well.And don’t forget that people get hungry and will need to eat! For a full day shoot it is good to keep everyone on-set for the duration of the shoot. Chow time is generally planned into the shoot schedule and food provided on-site to keep things on track. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to plan for, but it should be added to the budget.
  7. Post Production Editing – Once you have your footage it is time to put it all together in the editing phase of the project. Editing consist of getting all of the footage organized, reviewing all of the “takes” to find the gems, following the script to assemble the video takes as well as adding graphics, charts, graphs, text, titles, audio, music, or other assets needed to the video timeline. Editing can be relatively basic or very time consuming if it is a complex or long running video. The effort will be a result of the pre-production plans, project deliverable and allocated budget. A typical process would have the editor assemble an early/rough edit for review and feedback. The next edit will be more fully realized taking into consideration from the provided feedback. This process of proof-review-proof-review will continue until the video meets the objectives and passes final approval. Editing generally ranges between $60 and $160 per hour.
  8. Post Production Graphics – Graphics for video can either be stationary or moving (motion graphics). Either iteration of graphics will require a graphics specialist (or an editor will both skill sets). Some videos do not rely on graphic elements, in which case this role would be minimized or removed altogether. However, nearly every video does have opening and closing screens which will require some effort to build out. Even basic titling requires some effort and will be a consideration in the cost. More and more videos are integrating, if not heavily relying on, a considerable about of graphical elements. It is important to realize that creating custom graphics (especially motion graphics) requires a different skill set than editing and in many cases a separate individual to handle those efforts. Typical graphic design costs range from $90 to $180 per hour. There is also the possibility of utilizing 3D elements which are generally even more costly – generally between $100 and $300 per hour.
  9. Post Production Assets – Most projects require some form of stock elements. This would include music beds, stock imagery, stock video, texture maps, etc. In many cases stock elements can be utilized as an effort to reduce shooting costs. Whether you need a shot of a firetruck racing by with sirens blaring or a butterfly landing on a flower, it is generally easier and more cost effective to purchase these existing elements rather than try to recreate and shoot them yourself. Music falls into the same category, all but the most high end videos do not have budget for the creation of a custom music score. There are many good resources available to provide stock elements and they are usually fairly economical to acquire.
  10. Length of Video – The final cost driving factor is the overall runtime of the video. Although it is not always in direct relation to the cost, with everything else being equal it will be a factor. Clearly there are 30 second TV commercials that have costed hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as hour long presentation videos that can be had for a couple hundred bucks. But they were both budgeted and planned for based upon their perceived value and available budget. Many of the other factors discussed will also require more effort in order to fill out a longer runtime (i.e. scripting, storyboarding, shooting, editing, graphics, stock items, etc.). There is no hourly cost or formula for taking runtime into account, but it is something that needs to be considered.

There you have it. As you may have already known there are many factors that determine the final cost of producing a video, thankfully you are in control of many of them. Hopefully you now have a bit more understanding and appreciation of just what it takes to create your video project. You should be on your way to answering the question of “how much will your video cost”. Good Luck!