Budgeting Video Production


There's no question that the Internet has changed the way businesses communicate with their customers. Today, most companies are using a mix of digital media - which includes websites that feature video, YouTube, training videos, Facebook and more - with "traditional media" - that includes direct mail, print ads, brochures, radio and television and other media. If you're new to producing materials for digital media - especially video, you may be wondering how to effectively budget for video production. Well, "Production 101" is designed to help guide you through the process. So read on!

Because video production can be complicated at times, the best way to approach this topic is to give you an analogy to work with. What seems to work for most people is comparing video production to renovating a house. Here's why: if you ask how much a home renovation will cost, the answer is, "it depends." Well, it's the same with video production.

For the home renovation, the "it depends" goes back to how many square feet you have, what type of materials you want - granite, marble or tile, for example, how many different subcontractors will be involved - painters, tile people, floor refinishers, electricians, - well, the list goes on and on. As you can see, there really is no other answer for home renovation pricing than, "it depends."

With video production, that "it depends" response relates to how long the finished video will be, what it will be used for - a TV commercial, training video, promotional video, uploaded to YouTube, etc. Pricing also depends on how many different people will be involved - whether or not there will be on-camera talent, makeup artists, hair stylists, set builders, multiple cameras, special effects, plus what types of cameras and equipment you'll be using, whether or not it will be a studio or location shoot - this list goes on and on as well. So as you can see, there really is no other answer for video production pricing than, "it depends."

In both cases, the key is quality. You don't want shoddy craftsmanship when redoing a home, do you? Of course not! You don't want an inexperienced plumber or electrician working on the infrastructure of your home, do you? Of course not!

With video production, quality is of paramount importance as well. You could just pop a camera on a tripod and hit the record button. But remember, the video is supposed to represent your company, and a camera on a tripod would be a pretty poor representation of your brand.

While "quality" has many different meanings, when it comes to video production it easy to define: you want a professional, compelling video that people will want to watch, and is a video that represents your business in a positive way. The key is "professional" - people today are used to seeing TV commercials that cost upwards of $200,000; the reality is that they're not going to watch your video if all you have to show them is a video shot from a camera perched on a tripod with a person talking.

One of the keys to creating a professional quality video is having a basic understanding the production process. If you've ever been to a commercial production shoot, you've seen lots of people working on the set. They're all there for a reason: you might see a director, producer, makeup artist, lighting director, camera operator, audio personnel, grips, well - the list goes on and on.

There are three phases to producing a video: pre-production - where you decide on the concept and all the content; production - where you actually bring together all of the elements and people and shoot the video; and post-production, where you edit and enhance the video into a finished product.

Just as there are three phases to producing a video, there are three keys to determining how much a video will end up costing. They are: time, tools and talent. Time - could mean how long the video production will be, or how long it will take to actually shoot and edit the video. Tools include elements like what kind of stage you'll need; how many and what type of cameras will be used, whether you want a crane shot or a moving dolly shot; what type of editing system will be needed for specific special effects - and so on. Talent relates to all the people involved in the production. This includes the director, an on-camera talent or voiceover, actors, set builders, cameraman, hair stylists and makeup artists - this list can on and on as well! And as you've probably guessed by now - the more time, tool and talent you put into a video, the more it will cost.

When it comes to producing a video, the first rule of thumb is: if you're not an expert in video production - hire one. You'll end up saving a lot of money over the course of production, because experienced production personnel know how to manage costs. Remember our home renovation analogy? You would hire a general contractor to manage the people and locate and purchase all the materials, right? Well, it's the same with video production.

A good production company has all the assets you'll need for almost any type of production, so it's a good use of your money to hire one. They're the "general contractor" for your video production. Of course, you need to hire the right one - one that knows its way around corporate videos, commercial productions, training videos - in fact, they should have in-depth experience in whatever type of video that you're planning to produce.

The production company will determine who to use as a director or cameraperson on your shoot based on your budget. They can also recommend ways to shoot a concept that will reduce your costs. The fact is they have the knowledge and expertise to do it - and do it right. The last thing you want is to find a hobbyist or inexperienced company producing your video. Remember, this video is going to be a representation of your company. Do you really want a novice getting on the job training on your project!

Everything starts with a script and a concept. It's not simply a matter of taking copy from a brochure and converting it to a video. It has to be conversational and keep viewers' attention, while flowing from one scene to the next. Your concept could be as simple as "I want a video that shows why we're better than the competition." But even with something so basic, you need to produce a video that does a great job of executing that concept. You need to create a video that people will want to watch.

Another key tool is a storyboard. This is where you actually map out the action that will happen on camera; determining camera angles, how sets will look, where the talent will stand, etc. This is one place you can change things around to help lower production costs - before you begin shooting!

Once the script and storyboard are approved, you begin the pre-production planning. You'll determine talent, where to shoot it, whether or not you need to build a set, if a makeup artist or hairstylist is required, how many support people are needed, what type of music you'll use, whether or not you need special graphics - and on and on. This is where the production company comes into play - they've "been there, done that." So they'll help guide you through this maze.

All of those elements are called "production values" - and each one plays a role in the overall quality of your production. Each one also plays a key role in your overall budget as well, so you have to decide which elements are critical to the video and which ones you can do without.