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How much does it cost to produce a video - part one

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Two of the most common questions asked about video production is "how much" and "how long?" In a previous blog, we tackled, "how long," and in this blog, we will start to address, "how much."

Asking how much it costs to produce a video is akin to asking how much a car costs without providing any other specifics. Are you asking about a base model Nissan Leaf or a fully equipped Tesla Model S? Do you want custom rims, tinted windows, an extended warranty, or have other bespoke requests?

For this blog, we'll use the same interview-style video, approximately two-minutes long, with b-roll, motion graphics, and lower-thirds as our example.

TL;DR summary

To create a two-minute interview-style video, costs for a quality production range from $3,000 to $17,000, and can exceed $40,000. The mean will run on the lower side of that range, with most production work falling between $3500 to $7000. It is possible to do a video for less than $3000, but you will have to compromise some aspects of production. Most studios will have a minimum bar since their name will be on the final product. Likewise, you can spend significantly more than $20,000 for a broadcast-grade production.

Because there is a wide range of costs and options, we always advise being wary of any agency that provides a blanket quote for a first-time project. You don't want to get into the pre-production phase of your video to discover the execution of your James Cameron vision is on a smartphone and ring light budget!

What is average

You don't want the base Nissan Leaf, and you don't want the customized Model S, but that Tesla Model 3 has caught your eye.

A middle of the road production that creates an interview-style video that is two-minutes long, interviewing a single person with some prior experience on camera would include:

  • Makeup artist and hairstylist

  • Two camera operators and the necessary equipment

  • A sound engineer and boom operator for non-sync audio with the essential equipment

  • A single location at a place of business that doesn't require permits or licensing fees

  • Lights, tripods, gimbal, stands, cables, consumables (batteries, gaffer tape), diffusers, and reflectors

  • Four additional hours for b-roll with and without the interviewed person

  • Animated intro

  • Animated outro with a call to action

  • Motion graphics lower thirds

  • Licensed music

  • Three editing rounds in post-production

  • Basic color correction

  • Approved video delivered in UHD 4K and HD1080p resolution

  • Final video not licensed for broadcast TV, subscription, or resale

Production of that scope would cost between $5K and $8K. You won't have Michael Bay's explosions, James Cameron's Pandora, Hans Zimmer's soundtrack, or Stephen Speilberg's cinematography. Still, you will have a video that is sure to amaze as you tell your story.

Can I get cheaper

Well, we do have this creampuff 2002 Toyota Camry that was just traded-in.

It is possible to get under $3,000, but you do reach a point of diminishing returns or worse, producing something that will hurt your brand. It would be best if you never compromised the camera, the audio quality, and the lighting. Having a shorter video, having fewer graphics, having less b-roll, and using creative commons music can all reduce costs.

To see an example of a video that would cost about $2000 to produce, watch the example below (the final customer video would not have our branding at the end)

Badon Hill Group created a simple animated intro, no outro, no lower thirds, and reused previously licensed music. The final video is under 90 seconds and did not use any b-roll or stock video. We did use two full-frame cameras with prime lenses, non-sync audio, four studio lights with diffusers, and a reflector. There was a crew of three, an executive producer who also was a camera operator, an additional camera operator, and a production assistant. The total shoot time was 45 minutes, with one hour for setup and 30 minutes to pack up. The shoot location was two miles from our studio, so there was no travel time. Post-production took about two hours. For the client's needs, this met their requirements. Additionally, this video was one of four shots on the same day so that we could spread some of the costs between productions.

Can you make a quality interview-style video for under $3000? Yes. The lighting, audio quality and camera work are of high quality. Mary really stands out on the black background and the hair light helps provide additional detail and definition. There is no b-roll to hide the edits, but simple film dissolves are an acceptable editing technique for this style of video. There is no framing shot in the intro, or a lower third to say who is talking. In this outlier case, where this video is placed and how it is used provides that framing.

Part one conclusion

The differences between a low end and high-end production are significant. The most optimal path is to do what will meet your objectives in the most cost-effective way possible, without sacrificing production value. An experienced agency will balance your creative vision, your budget, and your targeted outcomes to provide you a cost-effective solution.

In our next blog, we'll continue analyzing the question of how much, diving deeper into the differences between a $3.5K, $8K, $20K, and $40K interview-style video.

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