Video is one of the most converting types of media you, as a company, can put out there. There’s confusion, though, how high production costs are, this is totally understandable. It’s one of the reasons we ask clients for video examples upfront. This way it’s far easier to get a feeling for their wishes. Video styles vary widely — even simple explainer videos. Just in this category I see three sub-categories, all of which have their own distinct price point. That alone doesn’t make the entire production though, because we video makers need to factor in costs for the concept, research, locations, equipment, crew, sound, etc.
So, all in all:
What does a video cost?
Here is a simple graph explaining various kinds of video, clients ask for, and their relative production cost. Note that this picture only takes the kind of video into account, not the actual production costs.
The overall range is typically €1,000 to €15,000. The actual production costs depend on the video format chosen, and what other services we have to charge for, e.g. storyboard, concept, market research, etc.
Typically a production is about €8,000. That’s a good mid-range number.
We can go lower, but we can also go higher than that, depending on the entire package ordered. So we have to ask ourselves:
What’s in a video?
A video production, or any production for that matter, is divided into the following phases:
I lay out the phases and describe what they’re for in a minute. Just as a brief overview, we’ll use the “building a house” analogy. Pre is the planning phase. This is where we set where the house needs to be built, what ground we build it on, what machines we need to build on that ground, we order all material necessary. We lay the foundation in pre-production. This is all to prep our work and not cause delays or problems later.
Production is where the different house parts are assembled. Production, or in video and audio, recording doesn’t take too long. Actually it’s the shortest period in the entire production (I explain why later).
Post-production is where we take all the parts and bring them together in a way so they’ll fit. You sometimes here people say: we’ll fix it in post. This is why.
Different sorts of video
Different kinds of videos, need different materials to produce. Different materials require a different setup, therefore resulting in different production times. Let’s take the explainer video as example. I see three main categories of explainer videos.
- Whiteboard animations
- Stick figure animations
- Motion graphics
These videos usually feature some sort of hand that seems to draw on paper or a whiteboard. If you find a specialized production house they have templates pre-configured to lower production costs. “Pre-configured” means that the hand you see on screen is not really alive. It is a recorded, and then animated, hand over what seems to be a whiteboard, but in fact is a picture of a whiteboard. The rest comes from canned material too, to lower production costs further. Most graphics are typically computer generated. I’ve seen production houses produce these videos at a ridiculously low price. If you ask me, from a design perspective not so good, but if you’re short on money, it’s an option.
As an upgrade: if you find an artist that is able to draw live, on a real whiteboard, that makes a big difference.
Start at about €500 to €2,000.
Normally these are 2D animations. The figures have little to no expression. If someone puts more effort into animating the figures, they look much much nicer, but also take longer to animate. I hope this makes sense. Generally they are not much different from whiteboard animations.
Motion graphics are the most neat looking videos you can get. They have a modern look and the motions express the words spoken graphically. This makes the entire video appear as it was made in one go. I’m a personal favorite of these because these 2D animations can get really close to your company branding. The downside? Lots and lots of animation work.
A category not a lot of people invest money in is 3D animation. Rigging and animating something so that it works in a 3D space takes even more work. To make something look really good, say, Pixar quality, it is much more work. My tip: probably not worth your money; if your product is a machine (motor, car, similar) it could be an option.
The way I got into video was screencasts. They show what’s happening on screen directly. They are really good for teaching.
Differences in Production With Different Producers
Pre-production process varies greatly from production house to production house. In one form or another we’ll have to find out who your target audience is, what your slogan is, etc. The less information we get, the more we have to do by ourselves, therefore increasing production costs. This all sounds too obvious to be worth mentioning.
The truth? I’m working for over 10 years now in the production business professionally. Almost none of the smaller clients research this information upfront. Clients come and want a great video to engage their audience. Users should share the video “virally”.
Smaller production houses don’t even offer to do this work for their clients. They don’t want to be involved in the creative and research work before a production. zCasting 3000 is somewhere in the middle. We do the work, and we love to, but it’s not a necessity. If the rest is worked out well enough, that’s fine by us. We give our feedback, or we can function as a consultant only.
Things to work out in pre-production:
- Voice casting
- Location, equipment, bookings
The better worked out everything is beforehand, the easier a production becomes.
Why are so many videos cheaper then?
Sometimes numbers appear where production costs are actually much lower than what I quoted here. Some companies claim they have paid far less. When researching productions it becomes evident though that it was a student project, or it was a friend who helped out, or it was someone who underpaid, and overworked themselves. If you find a student who is really good and can do the work for you, then go for it. If you still want to work with a certain producer, and you can’t afford their price, please ask for options. Ask if they would let you pay in multiple installments. Ask if there is some other sort of reimbursement possible. If you do that though, please be also warned that your producer has heard the “can’t we make this cheaper?”-story multiple times before, and the more you ask for lower prices or compensation options, the fishier you sound. And if exposure is all you can offer, well, exposure doesn’t pay the rent.
Let’s finish with some general misconceptions clients have about video production.
Some ask us if a 1-minute video is less expensive than a 2-minute video. The misconception here is that we charge by the time a video is. It’s actually the opposite as you can read in my book 10 Tips for Creating Engaging Product Videos. The shorter a video is, the better and more precise a story needs to be in order to work in the shorter timeframe. There’s only so much information we can pack into one minute, so we have to make careful decisions to show your brand in the right light.
That said, I know some colleagues who charge by the amount of video they produce. It makes sense to do that when the video produced is directly related to the material recorded. In essence for a video tutorial, the more video you record, the longer a video course becomes, the more content fits in the course, the more expensive it can be sold. Thus the video person can charge by the amount of video delivered. This doesn’t make so much sense for marketing and advertising videos.
Problems, When They Occur
As mentioned in the beginning, production costs have great leeway. This leeway is there to fulfill all a client could wish for. The downside is that clients need a fixed number on their estimate, so we need to eliminate options. In the production this means that we also eliminate being able to go left or right, if a problem occurs. It’s part of every production that unforeseen problems occur, and we should be prepared for them, but they go towards total production costs. Please be reminded that “problems” sometimes happen because finding what doesn’t work is part of the creative process. What I want to say is this: it’s better to be prepared, then it is to be sour.
What I found clients want is this:
Clients want to spend the least amount of money possible, but as soon as problems occur, they want the most freedom they can get.
Problems happen because the picture someone had in their mind, is not the same someone else had in mind. Problems happen for various reasons. The one guy, the only one to craft a certain animation is on vacation when the client decides they need the video one week earlier. Productions tell their very own exciting stories. They are fun to read.