Photo by Chris Yang, Courtesy Unsplash

Think Big Picture First

If video is part of your content plan this year, it will be important to start by stepping back and think big-picture as you budget. Why? Because budgeting project-by-project is inefficient in terms of time, audio/visual “assets” and money. You’ll want to consider all the assets you collect for any project to be resources for the next projects. So for example, maybe you want to create some short and snappy Tik Tok videos. While you’ve got people in front of the camera, could you also be creating testimonials or other content for longer videos?  If you are videotaping speeches at a conference, could you also have a roving crew capture in the moment footage of participants, or set up a booth for attendees to tell their stories? And once this footage is created, don’t just use it and lose it. Plan to archive it in such a way that other content creators in your organization can locate and repurpose this footage (see my January post on this topic). In other words, build a content library that reflects your brand, your mission, your organization. (Pro tip: get interviews transcribed so that you can find and use excerpts more easily across media, and for easy captioning.)

Set Realistic Parameters

It’s best to set some realistic parameters for your video project, including the number of reviews you want to be able to have, whether you want live-action or animation, and any specific turnaround deadlines. Without these, I can just give you some rules of thumb on cost. If you’re project is entirely animated, and you have a very small team helping to guide the project and do reviews/approvals (i.e., there aren’t layers of bureaucracy or board members etc who might make significant changes along the way), then you can get an explainer video produced for as little as $4,000. Live action videos tend to start at about $10,000 for a video with one day of shooting, and go up from there depending on number of shoot days, length and complexity. Be careful about “we can make your video for $500” pitches. Most of the time, these videos ending up being boilerplate creations that don’t really fit the bill for most organizations.

Watch Out for Hidden Costs

Remember that either you or your production vendor must use properly licensed music or stock images.  You don’t want a DCMA takedown notice requiring you to prove you own various licenses in order to get your video reinstated. There are lots of creative and affordable libraries for this type of content, and an experienced producer can help curate just the right image or song mood to augment or support your production. If your organization produces lots of videos every year, it’s probably more affordable to purchase a blanket license, which gives you a certain number of downloads or usages for a flat rate.

Another hidden cost is unusable footage. Meaning, if you are acquiring video for multiple purposes, the best way to future-proof it is to acquire in the highest quality–4K UHD. Even though lots of organizations are still using videos on the web for online events, for example, at some point soon we’ll be back in person and you’ll want to project that video on a big screen. Footage shot at 1080 won’t look great and anything you recorded at 720 over Zoom will be blurry. So think long-term to avoid costly reshoots.

What Variables Go Into a Video Budget?

Pre-production should be one of the biggest categories for any video budget. And it’s a big red flag if a vendor gives you a budget with little to no pre-production time in it. Our team typically spends several days, if not weeks, of planning for every shoot day. If live-action videography is involved, for example, then our pre-pro time is made up of location scouting (virtually or in person), pre-interviewing subjects, writing a rough outline or story arc, writing a shooting script (which might include “fantasy soundbites”), compiling a shot list, developing our gear list, and planning for any travel.

Production categories include director and/or producer on set, audio, video and lighting crew and equipment, media cards and laptop for backing up footage.  If travel is required, most crews charge ½ to ¾ of their usual day rate for each travel day (since they are basically fully booked and cannot take other work on those days). If producing in a studio, we might add fabrication of sets, wardrobe needs, or the purchase or rental of props into our production budget.

Post-production categories typically include voiceover recording and narrator fee, editing (a minimum of three rounds–rough cut, fine cut, final cut), graphics, music licensing, sound design and mixing, and color grading. For a short nonfiction video, my team plans on at least 1 day per finished minute to get to rough cut, 1 day per finished minute to get to the fine cut, and then ½ day per minute for the final delivery. So a five-minute video could take several weeks from the start of editing to delivery.

The opportunities and the options are endless with video. So start with your big picture needs, be sure to cover your bases on licensing, and engage professionals to help get you across the finish line.

If you want more details about how to produce a video for your company or organization, try Amy’s newest LinkedIn Learning courses. If you message her on LinkedIn, she can unlock a segment for you for free!

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