The Economics of Smart Video Production

There’s been an explosion of video across the Internet—from YouTube to Vimeo to Vine—and videos are now a key component of most news and entertainment sites. When we think ‘viral,’ we think videos.

Many (in)famous videos have been shot with a smartphone (think about any number of cat videos you’ve seen) and that works fine for the “caught in the act” category.

But you really don’t want videos about your company or products to look like a home movie. If you’re a professional, your videos should tell a great story about you and your business and have a high “production value” – by which we mean they should be well-thought-out, well-written, well-lit, shot with the proper equipment, and overseen by a production team that’s had years of experience so the finished product is something you can be proud of for years to come.

Professional videos involve planning, getting the right people together, and the budget to get it done at a level significantly higher than what your average smartphone can do.

But that doesn’t mean you have to hire Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino to direct! But you do have to be realistic about what’s involved in making a professional-looking video.

Here’s how we break it down when we’re working with our clients:  Pre-production, production (the shoot), and post-production. Each of these phases is critical to success, and each requires special skills and equipment (See Table 1).

Table 1: Phases of Video Development & Main Resources

Of course, other factors can drive up the cost of video even further. For example, length is a huge factor. How long will the video be? A 1½ to 2½ minute video is a good length for the Internet (television news tends to run shorter, and if you look at YouTube, views tend to drop off within the first 60 seconds). But if you want a 15-minute video, that will obviously cost more. Along the same lines, complexity is a big factor when it comes to cost. Do you need to shoot at multiple locations? Do you need a lot of custom graphics developed? What about multiple lighting scenarios?

All those things add to the cost. Now let’s talk about something that lowers the cost: shooting more than one video at a time. It’s what we call Smart Video Production and it’s especially effective with short videos that can be shot in a studio.

If you shoot just one video at a time, you’ll pay x. But if you shoot four videos in a single day, you might pay only 2x or 3x. That’s because many of the costs for a video shoot are fixed or have minimums that you have to meet.  For example, you can’t typically rent a studio for an hour—it’s a half day minimum. Same goes for a producer or photographer, who typically book only whole or half days.

The main rates are summarized in Table 2 (and calculated to make one short video):

Table 2: Main Video Production Costs

In this example, if you shoot one short video (even if you are done with the shoot by 11am), your total cost (and cost/video) is $9,400. But if you were ready to shoot four videos that day, only the pre- and post- production costs would increase (assuming you’re using non-union talent). The total for four (4) videos would be:

Table 3: Costs for Four Videos, Shot on the Same Day

(Depending on your talent and script length and complexity,  you might be able to shoot even more scripts in a single day, saving even more. My boss, Ilyce Glink, has shot 20 one-minute scripts in a single day. Click here to view one of her Real Estate Minute videos, which is a good example of smart video production.)

You may be able to save even more on post-production—if and when common graphics are used—lowering the cost/video even further.

While this budget is built with an in-studio shoot in mind, with the proper planning you can achieve similar economies of scale on a location shoot, all the while making great video that is a pleasure to watch – and that will perform.

That’s the secret to making cost-effective videos with high production values. Don’t cut corners on quality, but make the economics of smart video production work for you.

Send me an email and I’d be happy to show you how we’re making it work for our clients with a wide variety of budgets.

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