How to budget your video

How to budget your video? Calculating how much a video will cost

May 30, 2013

“What is your budget for this project?” It isn’t actually a sneaky trick-question that video production companies pose to clients to get more money from them. This question is an important tool to evaluate and plan-out a potential project. But often when we ask a new client “What is your budget for this project?” the response we sometimes get is, “I don’t know. I have no idea.”

This usually means one of two things:
  1. A fact-finding mission. The inquirer has been tasked to find out the cost of making a video. That’s a reasonable first step to understanding how video production works and if videos can become a part of your marketing or training budget.
  2. Fear. At times the “I don’t know” response comes from a place of fear. The client does have a number in mind, but she is afraid if she gives the actual number, the video producer will take that figure and make the project cost that amount, no matter what it really should entail.

It is possible that some companies do that. You might consider dealing with that concern by giving a figure that’s 80% of your budget, knowing that it’s always wise to keep a little aside for possible project changes or overruns. But, without letting a video production company in on your budget range, you might be wasting both the company’s time and your own.

Why? A project producer needs to know if their company can deliver what you’re expecting within your budget range. If not, they can steer you towards options that will match your parameters. So while $3,000 won’t get you a 4 minute highly choreographed professional video shot in 6 locations, there may be other possibilities the producer can suggest to create a great result for your target audience.

How much per minute?

Often clients would like a quick, flat figure – a way to calculate costs like “A video will cost you x dollars per minute to produce.”

Sometime about 20 years ago, someone made the rough calculation that a video costs $1000 per minute and the idea has persisted, ever since. Aside from the fact that virtually nothing costs the same as it did 20 years ago, it’s important to also consider that just because a video runs 1 minute rather than 3, doesn’t necessarily mean it costs 2/3 less to produce. For advice on how long your video should be check out our post The Long and Short of it: What is the best video length?.

There are some unchangeable costs, regardless of length, to be considered. There is still a concept and script to create. A camera crew will still go to a location and spend anywhere from ½ day to 1 or more days filming. There is still editing, and that may be quite complex depending on the speed of the images being cut together and the layers and effects used on those. So, shorter doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper (though it may be better for keeping the attention of your audience.) Remember that some 30 second television commercials cost over a half million dollars to make. Other local TV spots are produced for under $10,000.

Okay, but what will MY video cost?

Great question. And to answer it properly a company needs to find out in detail about your specific project. A contractor can’t quote over the phone about building a new wall other than to say that kind of work typically costs between $5,000 and $25,000. But to properly quote your project, he’ll need to inspect and evaluate the site. And so a video production company is much the same. They need to find out all the requirements of your project – from how much scripting and writing you’ll need, to the number of filming locations, to how many cameras and if special equipment or crew will be needed, the style of editing, and more. With that info in hand, they can give you an accurate evaluation – and steer you towards the best solution for your project.

So sadly, there’s no magic rule or quick number. But chances are, there is a solution within your budget. If you’d like us to help evaluate and quote your project, get in touch!

This article was posted on May 30, 2013 at 12:13 in the Budgeting, Corporate category.

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