Budgeting For Video Production

“Price is what you give. Value is what you receive.”

 

Let’s skip the fluff and get straight to the point. So, how much does it cost to produce a video? And you’re going to have the trust us on this; but there truly is no definite answer. Why? Because we’ve heard a cousin claim that he paid $5,000 for his promotional video, and we’ve heard our good friend spend $40,000 on his brand marketing video. We’ve also produced an animated video for $25,000. So, the most definite answer you’re going to get is:

“The cost of a video varies from almost peanuts to pricier than the latest SUV in the market.”

And we sincerely hope the reader doesn’t view this as a challenge; but you can ask the same question to the next 7 production houses or agencies and we’re almost certain you’ll receive a different answer each time. Why? Because that’s just the way it is. There is no surefire, deadpan certain magic number that will resonate itself across 20 different quotation sheets. What we can say though, is that there are ballpark figures, ballpark figures that embody varying degrees of elements which produce varying levels of results. As such, the end-goal of this article is to fill you in and help you better understand the different tiers of video budgets, what goes into them, and of course, what you get in return in terms of production value.

 

The first tier we would like to bring your attention to is what we call “The Templatised Tier”. First and foremost, at this tier, you’re looking at minimal creative strategies – which, the author must stress; not zero creative input, but rather – the absence of uniquely extraordinary character arcs or narrative. This essentially means

  • A generic script – one that describes the core of the concept, nothing more, nothing less.
  • Heavy use of stock footage; stock characters, stock environments, stock music.
  • Minimal animations and/or graphics

Of course, the team behind such a project still puts in the work, through sourcing for relevant footage, ensuring the script and visuals make complete sense when weaved together, and to ultimately manage a smooth project flow as per the client’s request. So, what’s the ballpark figure we’re looking at?

You may be asking; “Why this price range?” Well, let’s put it this way: it’s perfectly normal to create a video at this tier without either actually shooting or recording live-action footage, or designing graphics from scratch. Apart from the sourcing and purchasing of stock footage, producer fees and post-production editing, some other notable fees would probably lie in Voice-Over Recording and Subtitling. As you can see, there’s not a great amount of resources – be it man-hours, physical labour or equipment – required to create such a video. Simply put, a project in “The Templatised Tier” works best as a visual supplement in getting your message across swiftly and concisely. Just in case you’re still wrapping your head around this, here’s an example:

Video taken from https://animoto.com. All credit and ownership of video belongs to © 2018 Animoto Inc.

 

Enter Tier Two, where there is an obvious increase in production value. How so? Well, firstly, there’s layers to a project in this category. In Pre-Production, there’d be meetings and discussions on stuff such as:

  • Scripting: Shape the spoken/written content, tailored to your target audience
  • Storyboarding: Visualise the flow of your video through illustrated frames
  • Talent: Cast and select the right person for your character profile

Once that’s been settled, the project can move forward into the next phase: Production, where the bulk of the action happens. Here, shooting of your desired footage – which is tailored to your custom script or concept – commences. This is what primarily separates Tier One from Tier Two – the actual shooting of footage – actions that cannot be plucked and gathered online, moments that only happen then and there. As such, the price range in Tier Two looks something like this:

Because in Production, factors that directly affect your budget are:

  • Crew: Videographers, Camera Assistants, Lighting Department, etc. Bear in mind that you may not be able to get a full 10-man crew, but you’d still need the basics
  • Location: You may need to set aside some fees for certain locations, such as studios and the like
  • Equipment: In some cases, your videographers may not have the suitable equipment such as lens, lights, etc, so factor this in as well
  • Days: The most crucial. Hiring 5-6 people to work on set – from top to bottom; might the author add – for repeated Shoot Days, is what causes budgets to jump from $800 to $8,000

We must say though that this tier is tricky, because finances would tight for an outstanding, award-winning video, yet the main intent for entering this tier is to move away from ‘just another video’. So, manage your budget well when deciding how much crew members you need, and how many days of shoot you can afford. Hang on, that’s not all. Don’t count out the next layer: Post-Production! Surely after all the grit of shooting and planning, you’d want your video looking not just amazing; but tailored to your desire as well? With this budget, here’s a few things we’re looking at:

  • Editing: At this rung, we’re looking at a decent suite of editing services such as incorporating your brand essentials (logo, lower-third, stylistics), and rendering of footages in high quality
  • Colour: Basic Colour Correction, which heavily sets the mood for your video
  • Audio: Incorporation of music of your choice, or audio levelling to make your video flow smoothly
  • Visual Add-Ons: Stuff like Motion Graphics, 2D Visual Effects such as transitions, sequencing of footage all play a part in weaving 100 different footage into 1 well-told story

At the end of the day, the single most important difference between  “The Templatised Tier” and “The Customised Tier” is that you are able to control the way your story is told. How you want a certain look, or a certain feel – to a certain extent. Still confused? Here’s an example of a video we produced within this price range that we hope would help you clear things up:

 

Ah, The Specialised Tier; a place which separates the semi-professional from the professional. We hope you don’t take that the wrong way – but that’s just the way it is. Why? Because in this tier, we’re looking at serious amounts of resources – time, effort, planning, strategies, creative direction, audio/visual treatment, distribution, equipment – and so, so much more. Think of it as a much, much more detailed upgrade from Tier Two. Let’s break it down from Pre- to Post-, shall we?

Pre-Production:

  • Narrative: Conceptualisation from scratch, Story Development tailored to the brief objective and intended targeted audience
  • Scripting: Detailed writing of script; inclusive of dialogue, voiceovers, etc.
  • Storyboarding: Layout of flow between frames, Designing of Style Frames
  • Material Review: Meeting between yourself and the producer to advise on revisions to the above elements
  • Talents: Casting and sourcing of talents to act and portray your desired characters
  • Location: Scouting and Recce of sites where you intend for filming to take place

Production:

  • Days: The amount of days agreed upon or required to shoot
  • Crew: Here’s where it gets drastically different. We’re looking at a larger than 5-6 man crew; Art Department, Lighting, Sound, Directing, Camera Assistants, Wardrobe, Makeup, etc
  • Technicals: Equipment at this tier will differ as well, not just in quality but quantity as well. Different cameras, lights, sound equipment and the like are more often than not necessary
  • Props: Sourcing and purchasing of items and tools such as clothing and furniture may also be included, so that the set can be customised on-site to add value to the surrounding environment

Post-Production:

  • Audio: Soundroom recording of professional voice over (in various languages), if necessary, voice track editing, sourcing and purchasing of music, audio levelling and sequencing
  • Editing: Visual Effects, Motion Graphics and Audio/Visual sequencing, HD Rendering and Format Encoding
  • Colour: Specialised Colourist for Colour Correction and Colour Grading to achieve distinct mood and tone of video
  • Graphics: Creation of 2D/3D Graphics, Animated Models, Lower-Thirds and the like to be incorporated into the video
  • Subtitling: Incorporation of subtitling (in various languages) if necessary
  • Revisions: Usually you’re given up to 3 rounds of revision for editing to achieve the desired look and feel of the final video

And, based on all of the elements aforementioned above, a safe ball-park figure would be something around the region of:

As you can see, the work comes down the line, at every phase of the project. Different specialists; Storyboard Artists, Scriptwriters, Art Directors, Creative Directors, Directors of Photography, Post-Producers, Editing Specialists (for the sake of convenience, the author will not decide to name every single role) all collaborate at different stages to make the 1 common goal of producing your unique video become reality. Want to skip all the technical jargon and see how it’s done? Here’s a video showcasing the Behind-The-Scenes of a large scale project we recently produced. We’re hoping that this could help you understand the amount of resources pooled in a project of this tier. We would like to stress that this isn’t the finalised and published video – just the goings-on; for 1 day of filming, at 1 phase (Production) of the whole project. You’re welcome to read more into this particular project in our previous Quarterly Newsletter!

 

One of the special mentions we would like to include in this post is what we brandish as “The DIY Tier”. Let’s say you’re not looking for something extraordinary, or even remotely professional. You’re just out there to craft a highlight video of a company retreat you and your team just had, something for internal sharing or amongst friends on your social media. And you want to shoot and edit the video yourself in your free time. We’re here to tell you that that’s perfectly fine, and we agree that such videos need not fancy equipment or 10-man crews. At this tier, the most you’d likely be spending is less than S$750 in total; and a bulk of it would be in stuff like transport, logistics, food etc. Before we go any further, we believe it’s important to let you know that such videos do not equate to bad quality or poor content!

Take a look around YouTube and you’ll see DIY videos all over, such as travel, beauty and lifestyle vloggers. On the flipside, however, you will have to spend a considerable amount of time recording, reviewing and editing your video to your desire, especially if it’s a one man show. And if you’ve never been involved in video production, we believe DIY videos are a great way to get on board and learn more as you go along. Don’t know where to start? Check out our mini-tutorial on how to shoot your own video (tips included)!

 

Photo taken from DP Review. All credit and ownership of video belongs to © Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.

 

Another special mention that we felt was necessary to share with you would be the glitzy, the glamorous and well-known “Hollywood Tier”. We’re hardly talking about just videos anymore; more of big screen, theatre and cinema full-feature films. Just think of your favourite movie, or any movie that’s been played at a cinema – that qualifies it for this tier. Whilst we have never produced a movie (or video) at this tier-range, we believe it’s good to share with the readers just why budgets always seem ‘blown out of proportion’. In the “Hollywood Tier”, everything down the line costs a lot more. Why so? Mainly because the entire filming of the movie can almost never be done in one week; what more one day (like most of our shoots)?

On average, production may go up to an estimated 25-30 days. And movie sets more often than not require an exceptionally large crew down the line. So imagine what figures would be raked up from a 40-50 man crew hired for 25 days of filming? Let’s not forget that equipment is vastly different in this tier; as you can clearly see from the end product of a film, against an advertisement or corporate video, and rightfully so. And what about Post-Production – stuff like CGI and professional special effects? All in all, the average estimated budget for a movie lies around S$60,000,000 and as the author learns more himself, it’s suddenly not as hard to see why. If you’re still undeterred or unconvinced, perhaps you might want to check out the video below to see what goes on the film set of critically acclaimed movie Avatar:

Video taken from Media Magik Entertainment. All credit and ownership of video belongs to © 20th Century Fox.

 

Let’s get back to the main crux of this post. We must stress that we’re not telling you that there are distinct price ranges and lines that are drawn whilst budgeting for your next video, or that “Price Range A” only equates to “Video A”. Sure, in the our line of work and business relations, things change – based on a plethora of reasons – and the author believes it is just. Notwithstanding that, the pure intent of this article is to help you – the reader – better understand how budgeting works at different levels of production values.

And of course, at Mediashock, we have our own way of pricing our projects, but we stand corrected when we state that at the end of the day, it’s a two-way street between the resources we’re given and how we can transform that into the added value that we strive to create for our clientele. We hope this article has helped clarify your doubts, understand the pricing structure better, and last but not least, provide an answer to the age-old question:

“That’s how much my video is going to cost?!”