Why is video so expensive?

Why is professional video so expensive, one client asks? The short answer is – the variables are immense, and there are many processes that require expertise.

For world-class videos reaching a wide audience, long-form videos that are educational, and content and graphics rich, professional video is often the best approach. But these require big budgets. 

it’s expensive to own all of the required equipment, and renting equipment is often necessary, no matter who’s shooting footage. We have decades of experience with video, and good quality video rarely takes shortcuts. In a nutshell – here is a broad list of individual actions associated with professionally produced video and the factors that affect pricing:

  1. Planning
  2. Shooting
  3. Design and branding
  4. Makeup and props
  5. Managing and posting footage
  6. Editing
  7. Animation and Special FX
  8. Audio and music
  9. Sourcing and interviewing talent
  10. Identifying and acquiring special equipment needed for the shoot
  11. Rendering to the required sizes and file types
  12. Distribution

Planning your video project

What is your vision? Most videographers will gladly attempt to capture your vision. The challenge is, perceptions vary and shooting without a clearly defined scope is essentially opening your wallet. A professional team will establish a framework to capture, define and manage the vision.

The content planning process

A professional script is necessary as you have to correlate, text, video or images, audio, special effects and music. We call this storyboarding. This is foundational and essential to controlling costs and creating an effective video. Without identifying most details up front, there’s no way to control costs and ensure you’re getting exactly what you want. Without a clear definition of the project scope, it’s likely you will go back into editing which leads to scope creep and blown out budgets. Professional planning is the prevention for this very common problem.

What type of video are you creating?

How much time is spent capturing video, writing content, developing animation, and adding text, sound, music and special effects will determine cost. It also depends on how much usable footage you capture and use, and what has to be added to the video for completion.

Are you creating an explainer video? This may require the most time in front of the camera, then using animation and text to create visual excitement.

Do you need an educational video? Content process and product shots may play a larger role and be more involved. A professional presenter may be wise so there are no distractions.

Are you establishing a brand or promotional company video? This may be one or two day shoot with employee, building and product shooting, client testimonials, a word from the CEO, etc..

Are you selling products and services? This may be like the explainer video, but with samples (product or screen shots) and talking heads. Animation is also common in these types of videos.

Experts and Equipment

Many production houses have a variety of in-house talent, including producers who specialize in specific types of videos, film or industries. They will also have a variety of editors, photographers, videographers, animators/SFX folks and audio specialists. These types of houses have bigger budgets as they have a larger staff on payroll.

To offer nearly every type of film service, larger production companies purchase a large amount of equipment, often acquired one production shoot at a time. A portion of the cost of that equipment is added back into a production shoot. If this equipment is needed on future video projects, there will be fees added to bid for equipment use, which is a standard practice for large and small production houses.

Renting video Equipment

If a video production business doesn’t want to acquire mass production equipment, renting is normal and ordinary, especially for non-standard tools and props. If your videographer doesn’t have the standard equipment like lighting, camera, two wireless mics, a variety of lenses and tripods, plus a good steady cam, their dedication to their craft may be in question. Every professional needs tools for their trade, right? Seeing the equipment list is essential to understanding a team’s expertise and capabilities. Quality equipment is essential to professional, high quality video production. The expense of equipment is ongoing for a production house and video production team. The size of their equipment vaults has a direct reflection of their pricing structures. You might hear “Our prices begin around $20,000”, because you are paying for access to both tools and talent.

With large talent and equipment comes speed and agility. A smaller company will take more time as the team wears more hats and fewer processes will happen concurrently. If you are not in a hurry and have a little patience, you will pay significantly less for a smaller team. For larger productions on tight timelines, a large team may be the right fit.

Will you hire talent for your video? If so, what type?

In general, for most standard videos, talent, shooting and animation are going to be your largest expenses because they are the most time-consuming. If you have effectively planned your video and the talent is properly prepped, the editor won’t spend excess time in post-production correcting mistakes. Nevertheless, talent will affect your budget, and there are some costs that are difficult to control. Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. Are you going to use talking heads?
  2. Are the talking heads professional talent?
  3. Are you using company representatives or amateur talent?
  4. If you plan to use amateur talent, are you going to put a cap on the amount of takes or keep shooting until you have reached visual/audio nirvana and perfection?
  5. What tools are available for amateur talent during shooting?
  6. Is your production team qualified to prep the talent prior to shooting?

Except for the “hams” who will do anything to get in front of the camera, most people don’t like to be in front of a lens and there’s a high fear factor. An experienced and educated videographer or producer will properly prep the talent and make the process more comfortable. Using company representatives or spokespersons is great, if those people want to be in video. If they don’t, don’t push it! Remember, as the camera continues to roll on an amateur, time is ticking away and costs are adding up. The time it takes to get the right clip may surpass the cost for professional talent AND there’s double or triple time in the editing suite selecting the most usable clips, then working to piece them together.

Professional talent may cost money but they have spent time prepping, reading the script over and over in front of the mirror. They will be able to nail it the first, second or third take and they will appear natural, authentic and believable. Professional talent understands inflection and can adjust their tone for the tone of your video. Their livelihood is tied to getting it right, so keep this in mind when deciding who to use to be the spokesperson. A professional team will have access to talent and provide you with several options based on your audience type and needs.

When is it OK to record and post video from your smart phone?

If you’re a solopreneur who is posting daily videos to your YouTube Channel, Instagram, Facebook or other social channel, carry on! But for corporate videos, smart phones won’t cut the muster.

In summary, creating a video is like an orchestra of ideas that create a wonderful visual and auditory experience. Done well, it’s music to your ears and creates positive emotion. Done poorly, it’s distracting and can leave the viewer thinking “What’s the point?” Want to learn more about video production? Give us a call. We will be glad to answer any questions you have. (360) 737-9888.

About the writer:
Julie Gorham is a professional writer and director with over 25-years of experience in strategic planning, script writing and project planning. She has developed TV, video and radio commercial scripts since 1988.  Lee Hallett, her business partner, is a professional video producer who manages projects in pre-and post production. He is an expert sound engineer and creates graphically-rich and entertaining videos.

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