How-To Figure Out Video Production Cost

video production costPricing out video production can be kind of tricky. Ask someone in the industry for help and you’ll likely get the typical answer… it depends. Not very helpful when you’re planning a budget and trying to figure out your video production costs.

Maybe that’s why so many production companies don’t advertise their prices. It drives me crazy when I can’t find pricing information at a website, so we at least try to give some ballpark figures. We’re also happy to prepare a quote for you anytime you’re planning a budget.

While I’ve had plenty of customers and prospects thank me for that, I thought a more extensive blog post on how we break down our costs might be worthwhile explaining.

While you’ll probably still have to contact me or another video producer if you have specific questions, my hope is that this post will give you more insight into what goes into producing a video so you know where your money is going.

Our “Day Rate”

First things first, we don’t charge by the hour. We’re sometimes asked for a 1-hour video shoot; however, customers don’t see all of the pre and post-production activities that take place. Things like travel time to and from the shoot, color correcting the video in post-production, and converting the files into something they can use. In short, video production takes a lot more than an hour.

We charge by using a day rate, $1400/day, or sometimes a half-day rate of $900. Basically, we figure out how much time will be spent on a project (how many days), then we apply the day rate to come up with our total cost.

The most frequent question we get is how much does a 3-minute video cost… or a 2-minute video… or a 60-second video? Regardless of the video length, the answer is always… it depends… and here’s why.

Let’s use the 3-minute video as an example. The finished video might be 3-minutes, but each 3-minute video can vary greatly in how long it takes to produce. We’ve had 3-minute videos that took just a few days to produce costing about $4,000. We’ve also had a 3-minute video take nearly 2-weeks to complete costing over $10,000. It all depends on what has to be shot and how much time we’ll need in post-production.

Let me walk you through the process for how we breakdown our time to help you understand it better.

Concept Planning

The first thing is simply getting on the same page with the customer to make sure we’re producing what they need to meet their goals. At this point, we’ve likely already met with the customer before preparing their video proposal, so this concept planning meeting typically only takes about 30-minutes to 1-hour and can be done in-person or over the phone. We do things like:

  • choose the type of video that best fits the need
  • outline the approach to the video
  • discuss with customer the subject matter and raw video that must appear in the video
  • discuss how many on-camera interviews will be conducted; select interviewees and discuss plan for contacting and coordinating each person

Pre-Production

Next, we start to assemble all the things we’ll need during the shoot. This can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. Preparations include:

  • create any necessary shot lists (based on the concept meeting)
  • prepare interview questions (based on the concept meeting)
  • prepare equipment (checking/testing the camera, lights, media cards, tripod)

Video Shoot

The day of the video shoot is the most obvious to people because we’re on-site, so what we do is on display. This is a big part of the “it depends” aspect of things. How many video shoots will be required to capture what we need for the video?

It’s talked about and decided in-advance when the video proposal is being prepared. Sometimes everything we need to shoot is in a single location and all available on the same day. Perfect.

On the other hand, sometimes there are multiple locations involved, someone critical to the video needs to be interviewed on a different day, et cetera.

As far as the shoot itself, here are some of the things we do:

  • videographer visits each site to shoot everything on the shot list
  • videographer also shoots other raw video he/she finds relevant or beneficial
  • videographer interviews predetermined people

Most of T60’s videos only require a single videographer, but there are cases where additional resources are needed or requested. We have helped coordinate things like additional videographers, sound technicians, an online streaming coordinator, a teleprompter operator, hair and makeup, et cetera. Adding professionals like these does increase the production’s cost.

Post-Production

This is where a lot of the time gets spent that the customer never gets to see. It’s the other “it depends” variable. How much time gets spent in post-production varies depending on the amount of raw video there is to sift through and how complicated the story is to tell. It could take anywhere from 2-5 days in most cases. Some of the things that need to be accomplished are:

Logging Raw Video

  • review all the raw video that was shot
  • transcribe sound bites from interviews

Script Creation

  • notes regarding sound bites and raw video are reviewed
  • sound bites are selected, then arranged into story form to create a script
  • script is emailed to customer
  • minor changes are discussed by phone, changes requested by client are made

Video Edit

  • edit video according to the approved script
  • relevant graphics are created
  • preview video is provided to customer for viewing
  • minor changes are discussed by phone, changes requested by client are made

Wrap

  • digital files are created

Taking into consideration each of those phases… concept planning, pre-production, video shoot, and post-production… most projects take 4-5 days to complete, costing about $5,000 – $6,000

Price is always agreed to in advance with our customers, so they know what the cost is before production begins. We have had a few situations where a project takes longer than anticipated and the price has changed during the process. In all of those cases, the customers added shoots, or other components, and then agreed to an accordingly higher price. Communication is the best way to avoid any potential cost issues.

Low-Cost Videos

We do produce low cost videos for small business owners with tiny marketing budgets for $1,000.

Those videos are all about keeping a very strict production schedule. From beginning to end, the entire production needs to take us less than a day to create the video. We do that with a 1-hour video shoot, during which we follow our 3-step storytelling process. We ask a string of questions leading to answers that essentially create the script on its own, then we edit everything together.

These customers also relinquish creative control to us and trust we will deliver a video that’s on-message. They do not get a script to approve or a preview video that allows them to ask for changes in the final video.

This cuts down on a lot of the time it takes us in post-production. If a customer wants editorial control in one of these low cost videos, we recommend our full-service storytelling instead. Our customers who have purchased our low cost videos have been thrilled with the end result and, of course, the cost!

Making Multiple Videos Affordable

If you’re someone who produces videos on a regular basis, you might want to consider putting a video company on retainer.

A video production retainer is an agreement to perform regular, ongoing video production services at a fixed cost for an agreed to amount of time. In most cases the retainer provides video service at a discounted price.

Having said that… we’re not big fans of the traditional retainer model, which is why we created our VIP Video Club as an alternative.

We feel like a lot of retainers go unused, which is great for the video company that keeps collecting paychecks, but is a bummer for customers who are paying for a product/service they don’t end up using.

Our VIP Video Club membership includes monthly reminders and quarterly planning sessions to help keep our club members on track.

Need Help Finding a Video Pro?

Okay, you might be thinking, all of this is helpful… but I don’t know anything about hiring a video production company! If only I had a handy guide that could help me with that process.

Cough, cough… we have you covered. We’re based out of Chicago and Milwaukee, so we have a buyers guide for both cities.

However, a third of our business comes from all over the country, so no matter where you are either one of those guides will give you a good sense of what to look for when hiring a production company.

If you have any other questions, feel free to call. We love being a video production resource for you!

Breaking down your video production cost

So… those are the basic steps for how videos are produced and should be pretty universal from company to company. Of course, every production company prices things in their own way, but that’s how we determine the cost of a video.  I hope this at least gives you some understanding behind the process.

–Tony Gnau

Tony Gnau - T60 ProductionsTony Gnau is a three-time Emmy-winning journalist. He is also the founder and chief storytelling officer at T60 Productions. T60 has won 17 Telly Awards for its work.