The Cost of Video

I’ve been getting more calls lately from small business owners and nonprofits that want to create a video. They’ve invested in their website and have seen the trends. Just as organizations are now expected to have a website, they realize that soon they will be expected to have video on their site too.

So they call to talk about what they need and how I can help. But when we start to talk budget and I ask what they’re able to invest, I’m often surprised that:

a) most people haven’t really thought about their budget

b) have no idea how much a video could cost, and

c) are surprised by the “high cost” when I share it.

I am sometimes puzzled by their surprise. Many have spent upwards of $2000 to $3000 on a professional-looking website. They know a still photographer for quality headshots can easily cost from $300-$500. And yet when it comes to video, many think, “How much more could it be?” They’ve seen what their iphone can do and think it shouldn’t cost much more for a professional version.

With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to remove the cloak and share the reality of the costs of creating a professional-looking video, as well as the pros and cons of doing it “cheaper.”

First, let’s talk about the least expensive way, which is to do it yourself. With your iphone or flipcam (if you still have one), you shoot the video, maybe add a few graphics or transitions, and upload it to Youtube. And sometimes, that truly is all you need. For example, a webinar recorded with your web camera might work perfectly for your audience.

But when you’ve invested a good deal of money on your website, logo, brand and headshot, putting up an iphone homemade video can diminish that brand instantly when visitors see a grainy, dark shot of the CEO in their living room talking to a camera. To match the image of your site, you need something that looks produced and professional.

In July 2012, Entrepreneur magazine shared their picks for gear to create your own professional videos. The recommended equipment included a DSLR camera, tripod, teleprompter, light kit and audio. The total cost was $5,713. This did not include the necessary editing software, which can cost at least another $250, assuming you already have the right computer to use it on.

Spending $6,000 might make sense for a business that has the know-how and in-house staff to produce video regularly. However, for most small organizations, spending $6,000 upfront -- and still having to spend hours of their time to create even one video -- seems like quite a large sum.

The next step up for many is to use an online company that claims to produce videos cheaper and faster than traditional companies. A company like Animoto allows consumers to upload pictures, music, and video into their online software. The software then analyzes the information and creates an online video that can be used on different social media sites or uploaded to your website. Though the software is convenient, the template system can be quite limiting and easily duplicated by other companies, making your video less than unique. (A colleague recently used this service with great results, but it took her a good 12 hours to create a video.) For someone looking to put pictures to music in an easy way, though, this might be a great option.

Lightswitch is another online company. Though their prices are about the lowest I’ve seen, I believe one of the biggest drawbacks to their system is the lack of pre-production consultation and personal attention. Most organizations have no idea what they want to say or the best way to get their message across on video. A more traditional production company typically fills the role of being your production coach to help you find your story, deliver your marketing message, and make the most of your dollars. They get to know you and your business, rather than just showing up for one hour, filming what they can and putting something together that may or may not drive home the message that you want to convey.

When it comes down to it, there are three main factors organizations look for in getting a video completed – time, price and quality. People usually want their videos fast, cheap and great. But as you may have heard, it’s virtually impossible in the video world to have all three. You can have cheap and great, but it likely won’t be fast. Or you can have fast and great, but it likely won’t come cheap.

So you call a production company and hear the cost. Why does it cost so much? Besides the costs associated with the pre-production time to get to know you and figure out your story, here are just a few of the many costs and time associated with them:

  • Cost of camera & editing equipment, film crew and editor
  • Time spent filming (minimum 2 hours, typically 4-8 hours or more)
  • Time spent editing the story to an appropriate length, taking out interview flubs, like “ums” and “ers,” to make you sound your best (minimum 4 hours for a short, simple video, but typically 4-8 hours++)
  • Time to find the right cut of music to match the tone of your video (1 hour or more)
  • Creating graphic elements and incorporating them (1-4 hours or more)
  • Scanning photographs and/or transferring additional video footage (1-4 hours or more)
  • If voiceover is required, writing of a script, selecting voice-over talent, working with the voice-over talent in a sound studio, then transferring the audio and editing it into the film (10 or more hours)
  • Compressing the video into its correct format once final and/or compressing and authoring it onto a DVD (1-2 hours or more)

If you want a good idea of what a well-produced video should cost on the lower-end of the spectrum, take a look at simplyvideo, which lays out typical video costs quite well.

To sum up, when thinking about creating video for your business, you want to not only think about your budget, but your brand. If you’ve invested a few thousand dollars on a beautifully designed website that makes your brand look incredibly professional, why would you diminish your credibility with a cheaply put together iphone video on the same page? If you’ve spent money on a great-looking site, then realize that you likely must also invest in the same quality for video.

And when you’re ready to talk, we’d love to help.

  1. August 31, 2012 at 06:22

    Nice! Thanks for sharing, keep up the writing :)