What does a corporate web video cost? 25 Factors (with prices) that affect corporate video production costs.

What does a web video cost?

Corporate Video production can cost as much or as little or as your budget allows.

You can borrow an iphone , shoot some video and upload it to YouTube – all for free. Or you could hire James Cameron to write, produce and direct your video where you’d be looking at a budget just shy of  half a billion dollars when you include marketing costs and Hollywood accounting. Both options would result in a finished video but you’d probably need special glasses to watch the the more expensive option.

The good news for businesses looking to engage a corporate video production company is that many of the factors that affect the price of a video have been going down over the last few years. Some dramatically. Assuming you find a company that does great work (this is a critical first step by the way – if the company doesn’t do great work it’s not worth paying anything for) the first question to be answered is  ‘how much does a video cost?’ There is no simple answer to that question but here are 25 factors (ranked in order of importance to the overall quality of the video) that affect the price of a web video:

  1. Corporate Video Production Expertise. Doctors, mechanics, lawyers, videographers… whatever profession you care to mention, experience and expertise matters more than any other factor and, all things being equal, you do tend to get what you pay for. There are many, many moving parts in the creation of a video but at the end of the day you are paying for the expertise and experience of the key people responsible for your video. 
    Costs:
    You can pay $25/hour for a recent film school graduate or $250/hour or more for a top flight video veteran. On average most production companies will charge between $75/hour and $150/hour for the people involved in key activities such as shooting, editing and directing a corporate video. (TV commercials are an exception where A-list professionals can be an order of magnitude more expensive depending on the budget.)
  2. Concept / Script / Storyboard –  Doing video for the sake of video is a waste of money (although it’s great for the video production industry!) What measurable business objective are you trying to achieve?  How is this video specifically going to achieve that objective? And of greatest importance, do the people creating your video have the experience or guidance to create a video that will help move your business forward? Lighting, sound, framing and editing are all important but they don’t matter in the least if what you are creating has no value to your intended audience. Like companies that spend $10,000 on website development and little or no money on content for the site, many companies waste a lot of money on beautifully shot but otherwise meaningless video.
    Costs: Expect to spend between $60/hour and $150/hour for an experienced marketer (does it make sense to have an entertainment script writer or video production assistant develop your marketing script?) to develop a concept, script and storyboard that serves as the blueprint for you video.
  3. Editing/Graphics. The editing process is highly nuanced. Editing is where you create the style and substance of the video – you sequence all of the available assets into a cohesive story that communicates your key messages in a clear and engaging manner. Editors arguably should be the most highly paid (and skilled) in the entire process – quite often they are not. I have included graphics and animation into the editing process because it is often difficult to separate the use or importance of graphics and animation from the editing process.  Some videos require simple graphic elements and some videos are completely animated - the entire video is animation. High-end 3D animation can run in to many hundreds of dollars per hour depending on the complexity and skill required in the project.
    Costs:
    Typical editing costs run between $60/hour and $175/hour. (Complex 3D graphics or key frame animation can cost between $100/hr and $300/hr).
  4. Actors/Presenters. Do you need to hire professional presenters, actors or models to improve the quality of your presentation? Not everyone is good on camera. You may need to make difficult decisions about who should represent your company. In a broadcast commercial quite often it is not someone in your company. Even in a corporate video you may decide that hiring outside talent is the best decision.
    Costs:
    Presenters, models and actors can range anywhere from $50/hour to $500/hour or (lot’s) more depending on experience, demand and union costs. {Special Note: This factor could easily be listed as either the most important AND/OR the most expensive if you are hiring specialized talent such as celebrities or well know experts.}
  5. Camera. The quality and flexibility of the camera you shoot with can make a considerable difference in the finished quality and editing options for your video. Are you shooting on a $ 500 DV camera, a $2,500 DSLR, a $10,000 Full feature HD camera, a $25,000 RED, a $60,000 ARRI or are you shooting on Film? The pace of technological advancement in film and video is breathtaking and the features and capabilities of cameras are changing weekly.  Bottom Line: You should be able to see the difference in the final output quality in more expensive cameras. If you can’t, then it’s not worth paying for. Your final delivery channel will also determine the need for specific cameras. Streamed video on the internet (where the vast majority of corporate videos are seen) doesn’t require high-end camera’s to capture your content because a lot of that quality will be lost in optimization for the web.
    Costs:
    You will spend between $25/hour and $400/hour or more depending on which digital camera package is used. Film cameras, lenses and stock will take you well over $1,000 /hour.
  6. Equipment. The more experienced video production companies tend to have a wide variety of tools and equipment on hand for each shoot. Do you need a track dolly or a jib-arm to create a shot with movement? Do you have a high quality field monitor to know exactly what you are getting (or not getting) as you shoot? Do you have all the necessary audio equipment (lav’s, direction mics, booms etc) to capture the audio you need?  Lighting and framing are everything in video. Do you have lights – lots of different lights to accommodate a wide variety of shooting scenarios? Do you have a variety of lenses to create the specific feel you are after – wide angle, fixed focal length or Cine lenses for narrow depth of field, etc?
    Costs. Equipment cost can run anywhere from $25/hour to $100′s/hour or more depending on what specific equipment is required.
  7. Crew. If you’ve ever watched a movie or television show being filmed you might wonder why you need so many people standing around idle on a set. Most business web video productions don’t require more than two people (and sometimes one is enough) but depending on the complexity of the shoot you may require a crew of three or more. If you are conducting man on the street interviews as an example, you need a cameraman, a sound man and a directer or interviewer. Concept videos like commercials will often require more people to help with the logistics of the shoot. A field production engineer who has his own equipment (i.e. field recorder, mics, boom pole etc.) typically costs between $50 and $75 per hour. A lighting technician may cost between $ 30 and $50 per hour.
    Costs: Expect to pay between $ 25 and $75/hour/person for experienced crew.
  8. B-Roll / Cut-away shots. Most videos benefit from the addition of footage that supplements what is being said on screen. If you are interviewing a business owner who is talking about their new equipment you should cut away to shots of the equipment as they speak. Showing the viewer what is being described in the video is more informative (show me, don’t tell me) and also helps to keep the attention of the impatient viewer.
    Costs: The length of time and equipment used to capture the b-roll will increase production costs. You can add anywhere from 10% to 50% of the total shooting costs if you need to supplement interview footage with b-roll footage.
  9. Locations and production time. Where are you shooting? How long will each scene/interview/shot take?Are you shooting in one location or many? What are the specific requirements and constraints of each location? Are you indoor or outside? If you are shooting outside is weather a factor? If so what happens if it rains? How much set-up time is required? Are the locations close together? The most important factor is the total amount of time required for production. There are few economies of scale for time – but with good planning you can do a lot within a specific period of time.
    Costs: This cost is arithmetic. Two days of shooting is twice as expensive as one day. {If shooting extends for many days or is regularly scheduled then most companies offer a discount}
  10. Studio shooting. Do you require the use of a sound stage or studio? Do you need a controlled environment to shoot in? Are you shooting green screen and keying out the background in edit? The use of a studio has to be factored into the overall cost of the production one way or another. Larger companies may include studio time in their shooting costs and other companies include it as a line item as studio rental time.
    Costs: Factor in between $100/hour and $ 400/hour depending on the size of the studio. (If you need a studio you will be charged for it – one way or the other)
  11. Set, props, equipment, extras. Aside from video production equipment are there other special props or pieces of equipment that need to be included as part of the costs? Do you need to rent a van, rent furniture, hire extras, hire a plane or helicopter for an aerial shot or bring in special equipment for the shoot? These all have to be factored in to the cost of the shoot.
    Costs: Depends on what is required.
  12. Stock footage Do you require supplemental footage or images to support the video? There are many websites that sell high quality still and video footage. Some videos are comprised completely of stock footage, text and voice-over.
    Costs: Stock images can be as cheap as $3 and great quality HD stock footage can cost as little as $50, but for high quality images you will pay considerably more.
  13. Narration Do you need a voice-over to tell your story or to tie the video together. Video is a powerful medium but it is even more powerful if you take full advantage of audio to support what is being shown on screen.
    Costs: Voice-over costs have dropped dramatically over the last five years. Many voice artists work from home and can produce great work for almost any budget. $100 – $400 for a 2 minute video is reasonable depending on the experience and demand for the specific voice artist.
  14. Audio files. Do you require a music bed, special sound effects or other audio to supplement your video?
    Costs: Good quality music for video starts as low as $30 for a two or three minute track. Custom audio can cost $1,000 or more depending on the experience of the musician and what is required.
  15. Teleprompter. A teleprompter can save a shoot. Even the most experienced speaker can be intimidated by lights and camera. It’s true that you can usually tell when someone is reading a teleprompter but that may still be preferable to the agony of a shoot spiraling out of control because the CEO can’t remember his lines.
    Costs: Teleprompter and teleprompter operator usually cost between $350 and $600 for a half day.
  16. Geographic Location. New York is more expensive to shoot in than Central Lake, Michigan because the cost of living is higher in New York. Half day rates don’t exist in some large cities today.
    Costs: Expect to pay between 25% and %50 more if you are shooting in a large city.
  17. Digitizing, transfers, rendering and uploading. Video takes on many forms during the production process. If you shot on film you have to transfer it to a format that works in your editing system. After you edit it, you have to render it to a presentation format (for web, for broadcast, etc.) and depending on where it’s going you may have to upload it somewhere (your web server / YouTube / The Academy Awards, etc). All this takes computer and human time and you generally have to pay for both.
    Costs: Sometimes these costs are buried, sometimes they are line items. Tape transfers are still very expensive ($100′s of dollars).  Rendering and uploading time are usually buried in the costs but can also be charged out at an hourly rate ($30 – $75 per hour).
  18. Length of the Video. The longer the video the more it is likely to cost. Web videos tend to be around a couple of minutes although this varies considerably depending on the type and purpose of your video. Filming an articulate talking head (limited editing) for 10 minutes is much cheaper than creating a 30 second commercial. So…
    Costs: All things being equal (they never are) consider longer to be more expensive, but it’s not arithmetic. An extra minute of video might only cost you %10 more if you have planned the extra requirements into the overall workflow.
  19. Licensing/Union Fees. Are you using any media assets or talent that could be subject to ongoing licensing, usage or union fees? The web continues to drive all costs down including licensing fees – but they still exist. The best talent is usually a member of  SAG, ACTRA or some other union.
    Costs: Varies depending on the project and talent.
  20. Direct or Third party. Are you dealing directly with the video production company or are you going through an agency or other middleman?
    Costs: You should expect that you are paying at least a 30% mark-up if you are going through a third party.
  21. Interactivity. Are you creating linear video or are you building in interactivity? Is there a direct call-to-action that you want to get the viewer to follow? Do you require flash programming do build the video into a special player that will sit on a specific landing page? The future of video is interactive video.
    Costs: Expect to pay between %10 and %30 more to develop interactivity and flash support elements into your video. Back-end, database work will cost even more.
  22. Hosting. Is your video is going to live on the web? If so, where is it being hosted? You might end up hosting it on different servers (your own, YouTube, a business portal, etc.) depending on your business needs.
    Costs: Hosting is either free or relatively inexpensive ($ 5 – $10 / month/video depending on bandwidth usage.)
  23. Formats. How many different formats does your video have to be rendered in? Where is it going to be seen? Do you need a short version (editing down) and a long version? Does it sit in a multiplayer or is it in three different players? Should you break it up into pieces to make the length of it a little less evident and also to allow the user a bit more control?
    Costs: Adapting multiple formats for a video could add %5 to %10 percent to the cost of the job depending on how much editing is required.
  24. Language and translation. Do you need close captions? Do you need language versioning? Do you need onscreen text to change per language? Do you need to dub in different narration for different markets?
    Costs: Language versioning can add %10 to %20 to the overall cost of the job. (Editing and proofing of different languages is usually much more time intensive than one language alone.)
  25. Miscellaneous fees. Ya, everyone hates lawyers ‘disbursement fees’. Video production has the equivalent in ‘Miscellaneous fees’: Travel costs, meals, mileage, hotels, transportation, out-of-pocket… it all adds up.
    Costs: Usually in the $100′s and sometimes in the $1,000′s of dollars on larger shoots.
  26. ‘Other Costs’. (I can’t change the title of the post so I’m going with ‘Other’ to include costs not included in the original post.)
    - Hair and Makeup: On lower cost projects a brush and a container of neutral blush (to remove an oily or sweaty appearance on the subject’s face) can go a long way. If you have both the budget and the need then it is a good idea to hire a Hair and Makeup expert to help ensure your subjects look great on camera. It’s also a good idea to have them watch the shoot to ensure continuity. These professionals typically work full-time in the industry – mostly on entertainment projects or come from the beauty industry working as cosmeticians specializing in weddings. Cost vary considerably but a reasonable range is from $30/hr to $75 per hour.
    - Location Rental: Depending on what you are shooting you may want to pay for the use of a specific location. While this option may seem like an extravagance, it could make the difference between a dull video and an engaging video. A talking head (all things being equal) is more interesting shot against an interesting backdrop. Contact your local film office – they should have a list of possible locations to shoot in your area for a fee. Costs range considerably – you can pay your local coffee shop a couple bucks to shoot during a quiet time or you can get access to a local museum for thousands of dollars.

Bottom Line?

Taking all of the above into consideration there are reasonable ballpark figures that you can use as a guidepost for budget purposes. A two to three minute web-based corporate video presentation might cost between $2500 and $10,00 if you consider the mid range of variables mentioned above. For most professionally produced web-based corporate videos you should consider between $2,000 to $5,000 as a starting point, that will give you a reasonable idea of where to begin in the budgeting process.

Budgeting Tip # 1: A reference video is a great place to start.

The best way to get a quick estimate is to have a reference video to compare to. (I.e. “How much would something like ‘this’ cost.”)

Budgeting Tip # 2: Share your budget

Every business has a budget and yet most businesses are reluctant to share budget figures hoping they will get an amazing deal if they don’t disclose anything.  I’ve been on both sides (client and agency side) and I always had better results when I said ‘Here’s my budget, here are my business objectives,  what can you do for me?” If you don’t declare a budget then the production company will have to guess at a budget. (I recently lost a job because the budget I guessed at was too high – even though the client really liked the concept that I had proposed. Does the company that guesses closest to your undeclared budget win?}

Budgeting Tip # 3: Be open minded.
Many businesses begin the video development process with; 1. A specific video type or style  in mind, 2. A prepared script and/or 3. Specific creative approach in mind.  That said, it’s still a good idea to listen to alternative approaches – presumably you are hiring a video production company because of their experience and expertise.

 

Did I miss something?

Set, props, equipment, extras. Aside from video production equipment are there other special props or pieces of equipment that need to be included as part of the costs. Do you need to rent a van, rent furniture, hire extras, hire a plane or helicopter for an aerial shot or bring in special equipment for the shoot. These all have to be factored in to the cost of the shoot.
Costs: Depends on what is required.

78 thoughts on “What does a corporate web video cost? 25 Factors (with prices) that affect corporate video production costs.

  1. A truly awesome post – The key to good production is time, skill and experience and this is what drives the main cost of a given production.

    Crowdsourcing your creative team means you can tap into a global creative base and reduce this cost quite substantially without scrimping on quality.

  2. Thank you for a comprehensive post. The key point I keep hammering to clients is know your audience. We don’t see many bank presidents communicating with a flip. By the same token, if you are a SMB focusing on social media marketing a flip may be just fine. You can save money by realizing that web video doesn’t need the bells and whistles that drive television marketing. Online people tend to respond to videos that inform, entertain, educate or inspire.

    • Thanks David and Fergus. Video is just another communication medium (albeit a fast growing one…) that will take many forms. Like design, programming or any new form of marketing there will be many different styles and approaches that work for different audiences. Skill and experience will certainly win out, but the subjective nature of what we do will also allow a wide range of capabilities to service the marketplace.

  3. Great video takes planning and professional experience. In order to keep people engaged on the web with video the quality of the content and production needs to meet the viewers expectation and since television and film has already set that bar high you will need a professional finished product.

  4. Great summary… well put and answers the age old question I’ve gotten for years.
    How you respond to this question can be the key to getting the gig… unfortunatley clients too often don’t understand that you can’t just “quote based on a 20 min meeting, and I’ve been at this for over 25 years.
    I think I will forward your post instead… thank you!

  5. Thanks JC – having worked in the creative services industry most of my working life I know how difficult it is to price out various creative services. Add to that the complexity associated with all of the various moving parts involved in a typical video production and the pricing seems to become more art than science.

    What’s a logo worth?, or a jingle?, or a website? or… whatever? It depends.

  6. Good points. You mentioned $/hour to expect for certain tasks, however, you did not mention how many hours to expect for most of these. Many business owners have no idea how long it takes to do this things. Until you’ve actual been on a film or video set, you don’t realize that it takes a couple hours just to set up a shot sometimes.
    I also think that your estimates for talent may be a little low too. Most don’t take an per hour rate, they have a rate based on the type of job, the length of exposure, and media where it will be running. Many decent actors cost $800-$1600 just to get them to the studio for a couple hours.
    This article is a great starting point though to give some idea to a client about why the great deal they want could cost them in the long run.

    • Thanks Jed. You’re right – the number of hours is the other critical factor in the equations, and it’s also the one that is easier to fudge, so quoting an hourly rate is only half the equation.

      Talent charges do vary considerably depending on the location (I.e. New York vs. Grand Rapids), and project requirements (Tom Hanks vs. your cousin Eddy.)

  7. Great Article. As a 30 year veteran of the production business I disagree with the $1,000 dollar minute theory. This is the same number that appeared in film production text books in the 1940′s when bread was ten cents a loaf.

    • Ken, thanks for the feedback.

      As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, you can get decent point and shoot / talking head work done for under $1,000 or you can hire Cameron to do the work for $ 200,000,000… and everything in between. Neither is “correct”. But saying ‘it depends’ would make for a really short blog post… and wouldn’t really be that helpful.

      I tried to make it very clear (but obviously failed) that $1,000 a minute is a starting point for a basic web video. .. then you add costs for extra camera’s, extra crew, talent, etc. as required. I do some corporate video work that takes a day to shoot and a day to edit (a few thousand dollars) and I also do work that takes many days to shoot and many days to edit and may also include many of the other 25 factors in the project cost (tens of thousands of dollars.)

      Most businesses have no idea what a web video will cost them. ‘A thousand dollars a minute for something basic’ is a good place to start a conversation. If the reaction is ‘So what do you mean by basic,’ then you can begin a profitable conversation. If the reaction is ‘oh, that’s not in my budget… then you haven’t wasted anyone’s time.

      And finally, if you are referring to film (movie) costs then yes, absolutely – you are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute. That said, there is even less correlation between movies budgets and movie quality compared than there is with corporate / marketing videos.

  8. I believe this is something that many companies don’t realize. They want their product to be shown really spectacular but they do not have an idea of how much it would be. They usually think that buying a camera and shooting their product and offices would be enough. But they forgot all about the production value that need to be transmitted, and it has a cost.

    Great post, I wish Mexican medium size companies can realize this, because being a filmmaker in Mexico for corporate videos its so hard.

    Carlos Yasik

  9. In the past few years Pepsi has been known for manufacturing and distributing oddly flavored versions of their well-known Pepsi soda. They’ve made their soda clear, white, clear, red, and now they’re going blue with Pepsi blue.

    • Bill thanks for the feedback. I was waiting for someone to call me on some of my categories of video. Animation and motion graphics are styles of video not purposes of video. Humor (humour) as an example, could be used in many types of video and would be best categorized as a style or characteristic of video. A testimonial video, on the other hand isn’t a style of video (I suppose a testimonial video could be animated if you could get Peter Griffen to speak on behalf of your company…) it’s a use or type of video, as are the other types I describe in the post. Some are admittedly a bit more tenuous than others… What I was trying to point out was specific business uses of video. It’s early days yet, and categorizing of video is very new. Even the term ‘marketing video’ is confusing to some.

  10. Pingback: Expensive(?) Video Marketing « Kameel Vohra
  11. Just a quick note. Actors, if they are union have a minimum day rate which for SAG is now just under $600/day.

    As far as who to hire, you don’t have to have been around for many years to produce quality content. There is such a thing as overpaying for a “brand” name when the “generic” is just as good.

    Judge on the quality of the work already done as opposed to how many years someone has been in business and you just might find yourself getting more bang for your buck.

    Thanks for writing this. It is very helpful and hopefully future clients will get a better understanding of what it takes to make a great video.

    • Interesting question Micah. Most business video production projects fall under ‘work for hire’ regulations where copyright falls to the person paying for the work, not the creator. There are exceptions to this rule, but most corporate video production work is performed under ‘WFH’ rules. Video created for entertainment can be much more complex.

  12. Very good article. I think you hit the average target and needs for most of those categories, but think it completely blows at the end. The Bottom Line is where you are off mark here. Go back and look at the costs you have gave to each category and then what is involved in a good video. There is no way the “old” $1000 per minute works anymore. The only way I would see that still working is if the shot is just someone to camera with no cover. I think a closer estimate, which I hate giving numbers like this, since everything is so varied, would be $2000 to $2500 per minute.

    • Michael, thanks for the feedback. I refer to $1,000 a minute as a starting point only – for the most basic production, from there the sky is the limit. I was just asked to provide a quote to record a five minute presentation, no b-roll, limited editing – just capturing a sales presentation that my client wants to use for training purposes. Should I have quoted $10,000?

      I checked your site out BTW – really nice work.

  13. Hi Jim: Great article. Most people don’t understand why video costs what it does. Would you mind if we reposted this on our blog? Thanks again for the great info!

  14. “Asking ‘what does a video cost?’ is the same as asking ‘what does a website cost?’ or ‘what does a logo cost?’ so why even both with guidance – aren’t you just adding confusion?” I get this question quite often from folks in the industry. My answer is that it’s a starting point – a way of saying “You’re probably looking at a two or three thousand dollar base price for something quite simple but professional, and from there the cost will increase depending on the complexity of the shoot. It could be five thousand or twenty thousand but it’s going to be in a multiple of thousands.” For the majority of people who still have no idea about what corporate video production costs it’s a very quick way of framing the costs.

    I still find the most effective way of moving forward quickly with a client is to get them to show me a video they have seen (as that’s almost always what piqued their interest) and to ask me how much ‘something like that’ would cost. This gives you an idea of what the client likes and also gives you an opportunity to cut to a quick chase with regard to pricing so you don’t waste everyone’s time.

  15. I like looking through an article that can make people think.
    Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  16. An excellent summary.

    Having just received an invitation to quote for a three minute film made by someone who can “produce excellent results to a tight timeframe and a limited budget” (but no figures given), this has given me some solace.

    I’ve said on so many occasions, if only clients would just say how much they want to spend, then we could save a lot of time by giving them some clearer idea of what can be achieved with the money they have.

    In addition, I’ve said to many a client (and probably lost a few opportunities as a result) that I won’t make films that are just plain window dressing, or because the client’s seen a rival with a video so they feel they must have one as well.

    Filmmaking, in all its forms should have purpose.

    There’s a lot of great stuff here… thanks again.

  17. Great input. Thanks!

    I never throw out numbers during the first meeting or over the phone, no matter how hard a potential client tries to push me into a corner.

    During our initial meeting, when they ask “So how much will the video cost?” (and they ALWAYS ask), I tell them that’s like a potential home buyer asking the builder how much it will cost to build a new home from scratch after a five-minute discussion.

    It ALL depends on the details. So the more details you can give me, the closer I can get to a workable estimate. But only after I spend at least a day or so putting pencil to paper.

    Then they’ll always ask “But I’m sure you’ve done videos similar to ours, how much did those cost?” I tell them that videos may be similar, just as homes are similar, but the creation process is rarely the same. And the differences can affect the final costs.

    I also tell them that if other video producers do give them a number, they are usually just low-balling it to get your business. They know the cost will increase later and they’ll expect you to pay it.

    I don’t always get hired, but so far I have never had a client tell me they won’t work with me just because I didn’t quote numbers in our first meeting.

    • I understand your approach Kevin but I find that giving rough ballpark prices at the outset can move the conversation forward very quickly. There is no point in wasting time slogging through a detailed quote (which has to include some rough concept idea otherwise the quote is based on nothing…) if you know that the client cannot afford your idea.

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  19. Film and broadcast instructors teach about the triangle. At each point write these words: Good, Fast, Cheap. You can have all of them, but not at the same time. Good and Cheap takes planning time. Fast and Good isn’t cheap. And usually, Fast and Cheap isn’t good:). Of course, there are always exceptions, but those who expect the exceptions to be the norm are often disappointed.

  20. Great post Jimm quite useful.
    If you don’t mind, I have a question.
    I was hired by this social media company to develop and produce a 2.20 min commercial. It required creating a “heartwarming” story to introduce the company to the audience. We had a meeting, they showed me some sample videos of what they wanted and I asked them what was their budget, they said between 1500 and 2000 EUR, so I told them that if they wanted something that involved a story, actors etc this price was too low, I showed them other commercials of the kind that i had done with a price range going from 2500 EUR spots that i did bénévol for a charity to a 16 000 EUR web commercial for a medium size known brand (in France), both similar kind of videos. And explained them the differences; cheap one’s lighting and image quality is not as crisp as on the other one, the camera movement are more limited because of reduced equipment or its quality, lenses, the actors, (reduced) crew; the sound engineer, editor and colorist pays were also reduced since we all did it for the charity in one way or another. Both videos are of good quality but you can feel the difference that makes the money spent. So having done that, i told them that i could make a huge effort, some sacrifices and charge a couple of favors here and there to produce something that included developing of idea, script/storyboard, 2 days of shooting in 2 locations, city permits to shoot next to the Eiffel Tower (because they wanted to have it as a symbol of international projection), 3 actors, 5 crew members, shot on DSLR at full hd, with just basic equipment 2 full sets of lighting, dolly, steadycam and other bits and bobs, editing and sound recording/production for an amount between 2400 and 2700, if there was the certainty (as they were telling me) of producing many more ads and videos with a higher budget in the short future since its a fast growing company in Europe based in Belgium. They said lets do it. I told them that i’d need an initial milestone of 60% of the lower end and the rest upon delivery they agreed we signed. So we started brainstorming; they had no idea of what was it that they wanted, and couldn’t explain me, because they didn’t even know exactly what was the big benefit of their service that could inspire “heart warmth” They had just seen a video of their closest competitor (that didn’t explain me at the time what was it that the competitor did either) with nice shots a couple of cute hipster girls in a cafe in San Francisco with the typical progressive piano tune, plus a couple of Apple commercials of the same style. They wanted that look, that feel, but also to show 20 features of a product that wasn’t even finished or working (Social Media Management site), it had to be in the context of a touching and inspiring story, quite a challenge since at the moment I didn’t really understand why would someone pay so much money for such thing and how would this make your life better and jolly specially since it was directed to a 25 to 40 entrepreneur/businessman audience. Long story short i came up with a “creating curiosity” concept to first draw the attention of the public to the product, which states that thanks to this services you would get the time to do the things that you really like in life, but too much work prevents you from doing. So i proposed a clip with 3 different scenarios family/friends/couple where the main characters get to enjoy what they normally wouldn’t with teasing cuts to their interface showing it dynamically and easy in an iPad but without entering in details, a warm voice over exalting that this service will give you all these instants that you miss and their piano progressive music. They loved it. I said that it would be more expensive since it would require at least 8 actors, extras, 4 locations more equipment and it was not within the parameters previously agreed. They said 2700 is as far as we can go but is there anyway you can do it? So i pushed my numbers and I thought of it as a big investment, i proposed this premise to my collaborators as well and i said ok. I wrote a script, made a storyboard that they accepted and then made that exact commercial to the smallest detail. I delivered it on the dead line, they said that they loved it; asked me to make a couple of minor changes with their logo at the end but over all they were impressed with the images, sound, music etc. I invoiced them for the completion payment then waited some days but nothing is coming, so I contacted them and tell them that i need the transfer in order to give them the full quality render and the paper work (release forms etc) and they tell me that they are on holidays and can’t do payments until back, but asked me to send the material in any case and paper work plus my rushes because they want to do something different with it since the people that they showed it to didn’t get the point and there was a shot where we see the character doing something else in his iPad (Their interface was not working, we had the actor for a couple of hours, they were not answering so i decided to shoot it like that, it’s a medium wide 2.2 sec cut away shot where we barely see what’s on the iPad and unless you are aiming to fix your attention on that you do not notice it). Now I have been working on this for 8 years and I was never asked for my rushes unless we specifically agree about it on the contract and of course the price increases substantially and in this case the contract specifies that what they get is a final product of a 2.20 min video; but more than anything to take them to cut something else who knows how or what? Because the people they showed it to didn’t get it? I showed it to more than 40 people before delivering without explaining them anything in order to test it, all from different countries ages and background, some of them didn’t even speak English; none of them noticed the iPad and all of them got the message, not because they are geniuses but because even if you didn’t catch it with the images that states it blunt and clearly, there is a voice over that bloody says it!.
    So I found myself in this screwed up situation and now I am not very sure how to deal with it because somewhere in me i still hope of keeping the client but I do not want to be taken advantage of.
    I told them that we could re-shoot scenes if that’s the problem, or if they have a better idea we can re-edit it everything if they pay for it. But previously their ideas where very ridiculous; the kind of ideas that someone that has never been close to a camera or the creativity industry in general would have, and I am not sure if I actually want to shoot or do these kind of things. Or I also proposed them to sell the rushes and rights to them for 8000 EUR. And they are stuck and demanding me to give them to you and not paying me until done.
    Any suggestions on what to do or how to gracefully manage the situation, it is the first time in 8 years that i have to deal with something like this. I hope i didn’t bore you with my tragi-comedy. Thanks in advance for your help.

    Fausto

    • Fausto, unfortunately your predicament is all to common. A couple comments:

      I’ve been providing creative services in various capacities for most of my professional life and any time I hear ‘there’s more work here if you cut us a deal on this first project’ I laugh. If your client doesn’t have the money or is unwilling to pay market value for the first project, they never will. The only work we discount is work done for charity or a cause.

      My only advice to you is to be professional, tell your client exactly what you believe to be fair and appropriate, given the circumstances, and see how that goes. If it goes poorly I’d move on.

  21. Hi Jimm, thanks for your quick answer. This has been a terrible experience. Not yet solved but at least their last communication had a more humble and apologetic approach. And they still talk about future projects together. Although next time if there is one; I will make sure to specify on every single detail. Great blog mate cheers for that!

  22. “Share your budget…” so true! It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and saves us time when we make our quotes. All of the professionals I know (myself included) never misuse that information when we can get it. If we don’t know how much time we can invest in a project, we have very little idea how to approach it with a plan and a quote. I think the fear is that, if the budget is stated, the filmmaker will just take all of it and do the same thing he/she would have done for half the price anyway. But that’s not how it works (amongst professionals).

    Depending on the size of the company and budget, a lot of the items on this list can turn out to be superfluous. But it is a good and comprehensive list. My advice to businesses planning for video content: find your budget and be honest with it, and choose the company that will give you the most appealing result for your budget. And please: unless you are a media company, don’t offer media “internships.” : )

  23. I love the line, Does the company that guesses closest to your undeclared budget win? It is often the case. I have also lost projects based on the budget being too high because of the concept that required much more time and a larger crew over the little video proposals it was being compared to. This is a great article for a potential client looking to do a video.

  24. I blog often and I genuinely thank you for your information.
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  25. Music makes a difference & you pay for what you get. So many times I’ve had clients cut this corner to save a lil. It’s not that much more to use a high quality prod. library vs. a crappy stock one – it can improve the impact a thousand times over. It makes a difference to have music that can last a long time vs. something that reflects the capabilities of the past, especially if the corp id/video is going to be the only one for a while!

    • Yep, couldn’t agree more Dusty – music makes a HUGE difference. We sometimes eat the costs of more expensive music on some jobs just to make sure we get the right feel / mood for the video.

      Great music can make an average video really good and a good video great.

  26. I saw you and others mention that you do discounted work for charity… but what would you charge one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world (who generated about $20 million last year in revenue) to produce a 2-3 minute video for an international campaign? Services are mainly post-production and creative consulting. I was recently asked for an estimate and would like to hear what others would have done in my spot.

    • Matthew, it depends on whether you are doing the work for the money or for the cause. If it’s for the money, charge what you think you need to to get the job. If it’s a cause that you are passionate about, then the money is irrelevant and you’ll probably do your best work on that project.

  27. Thank you for this excellent post. You have helped me tremendously. I am currently looking for someone to create a video for my client, so having been on both sides of the situation — consulting for clients and now looking for video production on behalf of a client, I can say asking “what is your budget” up front is sometimes a silly question, as the client doesn’t have a clue what they get for their money and what the costs are. Rather, when I am bidding, I try to understand what the client hopes to achieve and I try to educate the client as to what my approach would be to meet their goal–then, only when it’s clear to me what they want and that I can provide it, I give them the price as well as options. It is very helpful to break down the cost of the videographer, the script, the actor(s), the location, the editing, etc., etc.

    I wish everyone would stop comparing this to buying a car or a house. Those are both goods, with a lot of transparency as to what the costs are as well as the options. I can go onto public sites and find out how much a house sold for — and the options are a lot easier to understand. Trying to understand the value of various options for a corporate video is not the same.

    • Thanks for the feedback Ivy. It’s always difficult to get clients to divulge a budget… then you’re forced to guess.

      Today, I was talking on the phone to a potential client who I knew was on a tight budget. I told them what I would normally charge for a project like the one they described and then added ‘so why don’t you tell me your budget and let me decide whether we can do the job for that cost. They quickly told me and we are now negotiating to see if we can ‘meet in the middle’. That’s so much more efficient than me sending off a proposal that I know will be rejected.

  28. Jimm

    Great article which I have already shared with a client.
    How would the cost profile change if we just wanted a screen capture video with voice over?
    Kind of a one minute “this is our software service and this is how you use it” kind of thing.
    I assume a lot of the costs like actors and studio time wouldn’t apply in that case.

    Any advice?
    What kind of bottom line price range would you expect from a professional video production company for that type of project?

    • Paul, thanks for that input. Regarding costs for screen-cast with V/O, that’s interesting because that type of video can literally be done for free. If you have screen capture software, a microphone and a simple editing program – it can be done for virtually nothing – and therein lies both the opportunity for businesses and the challenge for production companies. How do you compete with free or virtually free?

      To answer your question the cost would depend (like everything else…) on the quality level required. Do you hire James Earl Jones for voice-over or do you do it yourself. Is your screen capture enhanced with graphics, titling, animations or anything else or is it just a straight screen capture? All that said, I can’t see a ‘professional video production company’ touching many jobs for under $1000 – it’s just not worth their time. So my guess at a range would be from $1,000 – $2500 if it’s relatively straightforward.

  29. Great article Jim, I love how you covered all the cost for any given production. A lot of these cost we forget to charge back to the client. I’d like to share these cost more with my clients and our staff at Integrity Media Corp.

  30. This article is quite a time eater, but yea, I learn new things and ideas here. Thanks and Godbless brother!

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