The Anatomy of Video Cost? (yes please)

Let us take a quick journey through time.

Joe, your average business owner in the 1990s — “I don’t need video, radio is where it’s at”.

Joe in the 2000s — “Video is slow on the internet and besides, how would it help my business?”

Joe in the 2010s — “I need and want video but what will it cost?”

And here we are. In the evolutionary phase of video where cost is the primary query. No longer is it the how or why as these have now generally been understood but now the what. The ubiquity of video has taken us from big corporations using video on TV such as commercials, into the age of a mom and pop shop using video for their YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram and/or website.

Although video has come down in price (from sky-high expensive to moderately affordable), is much more accessible to more businesses, wedding couples, families, etc. there still remains the elusiveness of cost and how it all breaks down. So, let’s dive in shall we!

What can determine the cost of video? There are many factors but let’s focus on the key ones.

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  • Scope. How big and what type of video is needed. Is it going to be a short interview, a food top-angle video, a wedding, a short doc showcasing the business, a tutorial, a social media clip, etc. The bigger the scope, the higher the cost as more time is needed to prep, shoot and edit.
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  • Length of video. This one is usually self-evident (longer equating to higher cost) but shorter videos don’t always mean inexpensive. You can have a 60 second video be the same cost as a 4 minute video simply because the 60 second video is loaded with special effects and motion graphics. A factor that adds considerable time.
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  • Equipment used. Using one’s cell phone can certainly meet some demand for videos but high-end cameras, professional lights, audio and hardware such as sliders and stabilizers are often favored as the quality and versatility they bring cannot be duplicated with a cell phone. Furthermore, using these high-end tools needs a skillset that requires training or much experience, again, adding to cost.  A video freelancer who makes the transition from consumer gear to professional level gear quickly realizes there is much overhead in this biz along with a constant upkeep of changing tech.
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  • Talent. This one tends to fall into two categories. The freelancer or the video production company employing a team. A video freelancer who is starting out may have little to no experience and professional gear so the final outcome will generally reflect so, but he tends to be more affordable. Someone with more experience, professional gear and a client base under his belt usually comes at a higher cost. And finally, there’s the video production company who can provide services and resources that an experienced freelancer may not. This is the top tier of cost. What I’ve observed over the years to be a workable balance for many companies is using an experienced freelancer. Most business don’t need intricate, multi-day, multi-location, high effects-driven videos. Not only does the experienced freelancer possess what I stated earlier but he tends to be a jack-of-all-trades able to take a project from prep to final delivery thus saving the elite cost of a team.
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  • B-Roll. This is video coverage (shots) of anything that is not the main focus of the video. In an interview, the main focus would be the person and the b-roll would be the footage that is shown during his interview. We hear his voice but see footage of perhaps what he’s talking about. In a food video, the main focus would be the recipe or the chef depending on the approach and the b-roll would be various shots of the food. Getting good b-roll can take time and has now become a crucial part of video-making as the standard of quality and expectancy rises. It also helps lend a level of credibility to the business showcasing what they do.
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  • Motion graphics. This is anything from titles, elements, backgrounds and graphics that have motion in them. Depending on how intricate and original it needs to be, this can yet again, add cost. In fact, the editing process of any video is what takes the majority of time in a production.

And there you have it. Hopefully this brief layout brought you a little more insight in the world of video and an understanding that specifics are very much needed in quoting an estimate. It is not the simplest of numbers to come by as there are many variables. Locations, number of edit reviews, raw footage, multi-camera shoots, profit margin are also other factors to be considered by the freelancer or video production company. So my usual answer to the question of “how much will this video cost?” is almost always, “it depends”…from which I proceed to ask questions, covering much of what is in this article.

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