How Much Does Video Production Cost?
How much does a video cost? This is a question creators get on an almost daily basis and one in which there is never a clear cut answer. It varies upon an array of factors related to the creative and goals of the video. It’s much like remodeling a kitchen. Do you want granite countertops, custom cabinets, and high-end appliances and fixtures? Or, do you want a practical kitchen that still serves your cooking needs just as well by using value-based resources and a little creative problem-solving? There’s no wrong answer here as everyone (and every video) has a different set of needs to be met.
Regardless of your answer, you’ll be investing in your brand, and those decisions should be met with significant consideration. So don’t be surprised by sticker shock. It happens. Video productions, unlike some other creative investments, are a much more concentrated process that requires both time and materials. You may see numbers ranging from $5K to more than $100K for any given project. While that range is relatively wide, there’s a good reason. Let’s take a look at some examples of how that breaks down.
Types of Video
Not all videos are created the same. And, therefore, do not cost the same. There are many types of video, but for the sake of making this easy, let’s break it down into two main approaches. Those approaches are live-action and animation.
From scripted-narratives and docu-style spots to corporate videos, live-action videos encompass these and everything in-between. They involve being at a rented location, at your worksite, or anywhere else desired. Live-action videos require anywhere from a single-camera operator to a 20 person production team to accomplish the video’s creative vision. Finally, to bring your vision to life, live-action videos require talented post-production professionals to piece together all of the captured footage and assets into a compelling and engaging video.
Here’s a rough look at the price range on some of these videos:
Scripted Narrative: $50k-$100k
Corporate Video: $5k-$35k
Live-Action Cost Factors
Creative and Scripting – Any project needs a clear vision and direction to execute the video effectively. You may already have a great idea, script, or even storyboards. Some clients may need something built entirely from the ground up. Some videos may need both concepts and scripting, while others may not need either. These factors, sometimes labeled simply “creative,” are a factor in your final cost. Scripted-narrative videos will require in-depth creative work while docu-style video and some corporate videos may require much less or maybe even none at all.
Production Resources – Some shoots require professional talent, an art department, and top-tier locations and props, while others only require your employees and place of business. This portion of the budget depends on the creative, scripting, and ultimately the type of video you are creating.
Crew Size (And Shoot Days) – Crew size can vary in several ways and often impacts the number of days you will be shooting. Sometimes larger crews are brought in to make things move faster, and sometimes smaller teams will help you move more nimbly. Scripted and narratively-driven concepts with precise storyboards will require a larger crew to get the shoot across the finish line in a timely fashion. You’ll need a village to make the shoot happen effectively and efficiently. But, if you are conveying a “day-in-the-life” message of authenticity, a smaller crew can help you foster an intimate environment that a small crew can easily manage.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach here. It’s all about making the right call for executing the creative. There should always be transparency before production about the number of required shoot days to execute any given concept.
One pro tip…. Hiring a hair and make-up artist for any shoot adds a great deal of production value.
Talent and Casting – Some companies will use their employees to convey their message while others may want professional actors to take on the task of making it happen. There are merits to both approaches, and ultimately you’ll want to take whichever approach better aligns with the goals of your video.
If you do go with professional talent, you’ll need to do auditions, casting, and work with a talent agency to secure the terms of the agreement.
I would recommend using professional talent 99.9% of the time when trying to accomplish a traditionally scripted narrative. You pay professional talent for their experience and ability to bring the script to life in a believable way. Inversely, I would recommend using real employees and stakeholders when doing anything that is docu-style or anything related to conveying your organization’s culture and values. Heartfelt authenticity will always make for an engaging product.
Post Production – Piecing all of the content you gathered from your shoot, whether docu-style or scripted-narrative, takes time. Some edits are very straightforward and require straightforward editing, sound mixing, color correction, and graphics, while others need intensive visual effects and complex compositing. Some videos may take 16 hours of basic post-production, while others may take 100 hours of total post-production.
V/O – If you want to use a voice-over as the narrator of the piece, that recording session and talent fee will be a separate cost that will vary on video length, distribution, and talent classification (union vs. non-union).
Music – The cost of music, and sound, varies. You can go with a custom track created from scratch, or you can choose a cost-effective digital licensing option from an online music library. And there’s always the notion of nuanced sound design that will give your piece extra audio vibrancy and pop.
Travel – Travel for crew and key personnel, can be a factor in any project cost. If the creative calls for traveling a crew to a specific location those costs will be their own line-item in the overall job cost.
The use of animated videos is on the rise and is a visually compelling way to get your message out. They allow you to divert your resources from the live-action production and focus them solely on a very specific vision for your project.
Animated Videos, on average, can cost between $10k-$50k for a 90 second to 2-minute spot.
Animation Cost Factors
Design – Design is the cornerstone of any animation video. The complexities of the design will be directly related to that line item on any estimate. If you are looking for a hyper-realistic or wildly stylized feel, you’ll be paying a premium for developing those assets. In comparison, if you are looking for a sleek, simple, icon, and a text-based direction, the design fees will be comparatively lower.
The amount of time and effort spent on design will factor in the number of scenes in the script and the volume of assets in any scene.
Animation Complexity – From the details of the characters to backgrounds, animation complexity can range from simple to extremely in-depth. Creating robust and unique characters or worlds requires a lot of design time.
Also, the complexity ranges greatly in regards to creating 2D animation or 3D animation. Generally, 3D work will take longer and require a larger investment.
Length – The longer the length of the video, the larger the investment. We don’t recommend making a video longer than 1:30-2:00 in length as viewer engagement and retention tend to max out in this area.
V/O – Much like a “live-action” video, If you want to use a voice-over as the narrator of the piece, the recording session, and talent fee will be a separate cost and will vary on video length, distribution, and talent classification (union vs. non-union). However, some animation and motion graphics will only need text-based supers and graphical call outs.
Music – This is a really important part of any motion graphics video. You have many options here, and the cost will range along with multiple factors. You can go with a custom track created from scratch, or you can choose a cost-effective digital licensing option from an online music library. In certain scenarios, you may also want to add elements of sound design to add depth to the overall feeling of the piece.
Effective and Economic Production Strategy
It’s always important to have a thorough understanding of the plan and your goals in any project. One way to maximize the effectiveness and value of your investment into video is to strategize for multiple deliverables from a single project/shoot. An effective strategy here is pulling sixty-second, thirty-second, fifteen-second, and even shorter form videos from shoots built to capture full-length videos (Ninety seconds or more). Another example, on a live-action shoot, would be creating effective storyboards and shot lists to use on a single shoot that would work across multiple videos. These efforts would maximize efficiencies, reduce the number of shoot days, and better manage costs. For animation, it could be to create specific brand characters and fully rigged assets. That way, you can use them across multiple videos and save on the asset design fees to create those items.
It’s a lot to think about, and there is no best-practice here. It’s important to invest in what you believe will add value to your mission and brand.