What Should Your Video Cost?

I hope you don’t mind, I’m using this as my “scratch pad” for thinking about the subject. I’m sure eventually this post will be prettified and pushed out to the world in a bigger way. But hey! You’ll have seen it here, first.

Why am I writing this now? I guess because there’s this global consultancy, one that pays its new employees a cush mid-six-figure salary with tons of fringe benefits. And they just contacted me asking if we’d do a multi-day shoot, plus weeklong edit with multiple rounds of delivery, and the production needs to include drone footage as well as multiple cameras on the ground, and oh, right they want to own all the footage and have it delivered on a drive, too. For $2-4,000.

They’re stupid out of touch, and ought to be very ashamed of themselves.

I need to figure out a way to better weed these people out of our sales funnel, but that’s another story.

But really, what should a video cost? The right answer is, it should be budgeted according to how this video will be used, with a lot of thought towards your project’s concept and scope. And with the add-on cautionary that out of “good, cheap, and fast” you get to choose two.

For me, I really try to walk a nice line where quality is awesome, at a price that isn’t unapproachable for our typical client. That keeps things interesting for me, letting us do work that’s really good (because nobody wins when you do shitty work), while putting away a bit of money for my efforts. Other video production companies do things in different ways. But I knew from Day One that I did not want to compete solely on price. That’s a loser’s battle.

After all, you do need to cover your expenses and make a reasonable profit when you create. Similarly, your clients should be able to see their investment in video as a smart decision. There ought to be a visible R.O.I. for them.

So back to scope. What’s the scope of this video? Is it a high-profile piece, like what we tend to do for clients? Is it a video that you’ll use to wow potential and current clients or investors?

Then you need to really consider the kind of company you’d like to create this video for you, and probably you’ll end up with someone like us (or you’ll go to an ad agency and spend over 100% more than you would by going direct- but there’s pros and cons to that approach, too). And you ought to be ready to open up your wallet a bit for these kinds of videos, because the stakes are super-high.

These kinds of high-profile videos, whether a commercial, promo, or high-visibility corporate film, need to look and sound GREAT. TV or film quality, usually. And they usually need to be “high concept” pieces, which means you need a script that perfectly tells your story, and often actors, locations, and so forth. It’s not “run and gun” or, like I prefer to call it, “spray and pray”.  It’s not “documentary style” (although there’s nothing wrong with that in certain cases). You need to do things right. And that does not come particularly cheap.

But what if you’re doing lower-end, internal communication pieces? Well, then your video may be the kind of video that you can do in-house, or job out to a guy who makes videos part-time or something. Not every video needs the red carpet treatment. We recently passed on a project for a large lumber company that wanted to do training videos. They wanted to do 20 short videos, shot in 1 day, and really did not want to exceed $5,000. They did not care much about how good they looked, they told me “well, just set up the tripod and roll”. They’d be OK with that. I wouldn’t, but that’s because we’re not set up to do work like that. To me, it’s boring and doesn’t pay well.

Yeah, figuring out how much a video of any kind should cost is really tough.

One website I saw said production companies charge by the finished minute of work. That’s bullshit, unless you’re talking about the 1980s, and even then that was “churn and burn” work.

Another one purported to give budget ranges. But still, I looked at their numbers and thought “well, in some cases these could work, but in many cases- no, they won’t”.

Because, once you get past the really low-end work out there, every video is different. And it ought to be quoted as such. When you get past the vast suckitude of a lot of corporate or commercial videos, you cannot treat a video as a product. It’s still a service. People have tried to “productize” videos for a long time, and mostly they’ve failed unless your needs are very generic.

Oh, fine- you read all this way, and you want numbers, right? Well, if you absolutely MUST have some numbers right now, there’s ranges I could tell you that typically work for us. And if you visit our website at patrickortman.com, and view our contact form, you can easily deduce those ranges.

But your mileage could and will vary. I mean, unless you’re boring and sucky.




Author: Patrick

I am a bicoastal, award-winning director and filmmaker. Here's my video production company site, here's our Facebook page, my Twitter, and my LinkedIn |