T h e  c o s t  o f   v i d e o s

The length of a piece of string: video production budgets. Invariably one of the first questions I am asked when discussing video marketing and videos for websites is “How much?” This question usually arises long before the actual marketing needs are revealed. I wish more people would simply set a budget and then ask instead, “what can be achieved for this?” Back in the golden age of advertising, it was astonishing just how much money could be spent on a 60 second ad. I remember being in a meeting with a fearsome lady who was Marketing Director of one of the big breweries discussing production budgets. She stopped me with a glass-jumping thump of fist-on-table. “Can you tell me,” she asked with unmistakable anger, “how a 60 second ad for an airline can cost one million pounds, the same as a two hour episode of Inspector Morse? Don’t tell me that one looks any less impressive than the other.” Marketers are used to being hauled over the coals by their fellow directors in order to justify their return on a marketing investment, but the issue of production budgets has never been properly resolved for the simple reason that different ideas cost different sums to make.
Many organisations now commissioning video content have never done so in their lives before and they have no idea whatsoever what’s involved. There are two rules of thumb that can be used to create a video marketing budget. The first is very simple. Given that a web video is almost certainly the first item of marketing material a potential customer will encounter, it will be responsible for forming that all-important first impression. The value in creating the right first impression cannot be underestimated and if the web video looks cheap, this creates a cheap impression of the entire organisation. Therefore a rough proportion can be gauged: whatever the costs of creating a website it is then necessary to budget for at least half as much again for creating the video content.
The second is a little more sophisticated. Most organisations will have commissioned stills photography to create marketing material whether for websites, direct marketing or below-the-line print material and support. Film is five times more complex than photography to produce and should therefore cost around five times more for these reasons:
-The images themselves have to be captured by a camera. This is the part that’s equivalent to a still shoot, but on top of this…
-moving images work because they reveal movement. Models and actors will move themselves but motion of inanimate objects requires additional people and don’t forget the camera itself is often required to move position within the shot.
-The images have to tell some sort of story. This will require some sort of script or storyline which has to be created before the shoot.
-The film must be edited and a good editor will transform an average set of rushes.
-Film stopped being silent in 1928. Sound is a critical component of film and the right music has to be chosen from thousands of available tracks. Even more time-consuming is if synch sound is needed on the shoot (someone talking). This needs a sound recordist, transcripts afterwards as well as more work in the edit suite.
In simple terms, the more people involved, the more the shoot will cost. So a straightforward photographic shoot lasting one day and costing £500 would probably equate to £2,500 in film terms. On top of that, add the cost of models, actors, voice over artists, music and locations fees. And on top of that you need to add the cost of taking the brief then creating the script and concept. This means a properly conceived and executed video will cost from £8k.
Of course, there are exceptions to this and unsophisticated films will cost less. However, even a basic testimonial video where someone talks to camera will require a sound recordist and a transcript. Apart from looking exceedingly boring, this could easily cost more than a different, more exciting treatment.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for and there are plenty of video companies scrambling to undercut each other. A cheap video will inevitably look cheap (and have little thought put into a script or its creative handling beforehand, let alone be harmonised with your marketing strategy). While you won’t have to spend a million pounds, you should expect to pay a living wage for all those involved.

< What’s the point of making your video content look like a million dollars? Because it makes your organisation look substantial and successful. (film by chrismugford.com)


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