Over the years, we've produced a number of videos for our clients, who range from non-profits to Fortune 500 organizations. Regardless of how large or small our clients, they all have budgets to which they're trying to adhere and invariably, they all ask, "how much will it cost to produce our video?" To which, we essentially respond, "It depends." This isn't a response that is meant to be flippant, it's just that there is a broad range when it comes to video production costs.
Fortunately, there are some key factors that determine the price of video productions. And in some ways, they make the most sense if you compare them to cars.
You pay for quality
BMW's cost more than Buicks because you're paying for craftsmanship and workmanship. Same with video production. And, just like cars, it's sometimes hard to explain the difference in quality, but it's easy to see and feel the difference.
Different models have different prices
No matter the brand, the big SUV is more expensive than their smaller, economy size. You'll see the same thing happening with videos. If it's the same company and the same kind of production, a longer video will cost more money. After all, you're paying the crew by the hour, and it takes more time to shoot and edit a lot of video than a little.
In general, the length of your video (or combined length of all the videos in your project) will determine the cost of your video production. If you're looking for a benchmark, some people actually use $1,000 per produced minute. But while that's a nice-sounding guideline, it's not completely accurate. A highly produced, multi-character, 3-minute video might cost way more than $3,000, and a simple 10-minute recording of a speech should cost much less than $10,000. So it's more complicated than that. Just like a fancy sports car will cost a lot more than a much larger minivan.
You pay extra for special features
This is probably the clearest similarity. Video productions start out with an hourly rate for the video crew and editing, just like the base model vehicle. But when you add extra features - like the sunroof and fancy audio system - the price goes up.
With all that in mind, then, the secret to understanding the cost of video production is understanding what kinds of features will actually add to the cost of your video.
How many people are we shooting? If you have one central character, one interview can only take so much time - and your video isn't likely to be all that long and complex. Extra interviews usually make your video better, but they take more time - to shoot, to log, to edit into the final product - and those hours add up.
How many places are we shooting? If it's one-stop shopping, with one or two interviews in the same place as the rest of the video, you might be looking at a half-day shoot. But if the crew needs to go from place to place, you're paying for both travel time and set-up time, not to mention a more complex video. Yes, your video production is likely to be much more interesting, but it's also likely to be much more costly.
Extra Production Details
Extra graphics, animations, and other production tricks all make the final product better - and we love to do them - but remember, many of those techniques take extra editing time. And as you've learned, time (in the video production world) really is money.
Length of Video
Video length can be tricky, because a simple long video can be less expensive than a more complex short one - but if the production values are the same, the longer version will always be more expensive, but it simply takes longer to produce.
Try Before You Buy
You can do all the research you want, but you absolutely need to look at samples before making your final decision for a video production company. And don't just settle for a "sizzle reel" with the company's best shots. Ask for samples of the type of video you want to produce.
Unfortunately, there isn't a Consumer Reports for video production. There isn't even a decent online database for comparison shopping. But if you consider these key factors of video production, you should become a smarter shopper and be able to get the "vehicle" your organization needs to tell its story at a reasonable price.
Editor's note: This post originally published in December 2017 and was updated in December 2021.