Why Does My Video Cost So Much?

Why Does My Video Cost So Much?

…Is that Journey?

You’ve made a video before, right? Whip out your iPhone and record your friend making a fool of himself singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” at karaoke. Easy, right?

So why does video production cost so much? Well, for one thing, those happy hour prices don’t last all night, and when the rubber meets the road, we’re not even having the same conversation right now.

How do you figure out how much a video will cost?

  1. Type.
    Perhaps one of the biggest things that determine cost is video type. Decide the type of video you’d like. See my post: What Type of Video Do I Need? Can’t decide or don’t know? We can talk through all the options with you!
  2. Goals.
    Another huge thing to consider: What are you trying to do? What action do you want your viewers to take? Are you trying to educate your viewers about who you are, or are you trying to sell them something? Do you want them to contact you? The shape and cost of your video will change based upon your answer.

Okay. Got it. I’m done now, right?


At a glance, here is a (non-exhaustive) list of things you’re paying for when you hire a professional video company or producer. The necessity for all of these or some of these will greatly affect the cost of the video. You can see here why most videos end up in the thousands-of-dollars range:

  • Expertise.
    If you need something professional and produced with quality, don’t overlook this. A video is a big investment that’s yours forever. Treat it like a tattoo for your whole company. Research video companies and ask to see examples of their work.
  • Concept/Script/Storyboard.
    You have an idea for a video, but it’s not a formal script yet? Talk through your idea with professional producers. It’s a valuable exercise. From there, a storyboard or script can be developed that meets everyone’s expectations.
  • Editing.
    Video editing can be a long process. But it’s here that your story is crafted and made into, well, a story. Don’t skimp on this part. Work with producers who value the edit.
  • Graphics.
    Will your video need a graphic treatment? Probably. Make sure this gets into the production pipeline as soon as you sign the contract.
  • Actors/Presenters.
    On-camera talent is another expense that often creeps up on you. Do you need to audition presenters? Have a casting? Consider the cost of hiring professional actors or talent at the beginning of the production process.
  • Camera.
    Perhaps the piece that most directly affects the entire “look” of your video is the type of camera that is used. Want something to look cinematic? Certain camera and lens combinations can pull that off. Need something to look clear or have a high contrast? That’s another type of camera. Your iPhone is not necessarily the best choice for your corporate, professional video.
  • Equipment.
    This can include anything from proper lighting, audio, filters, lenses, stands, sand bags, dollies and any number of grip equipment.
  • Crew.
    Video production is a team effort. Many people are needed to pull off a successful production. That said, if you’re not doing something that’s like a mini-movie, your corporate video might be possible with as few as 3-4 crew members during the shoot.
  • B-Roll / Cut-away shots
    Something that is often overlooked is B-Roll. That is, there are cut-away shots that are necessary to complete the story telling, to cover edits, and to make the video more interesting. If you don’t have this footage, you may end up with your CEO standing in front of the camera talking for 3 minutes straight. Step back and think on that for a second. I’ll wait.
  • Locations and production time.
    Like real estate, finding the right shooting location is crucial. Does your location have the right power sources? Is it a mixed lighting environment? Is there a nasty HVAC unit that you can’t turn off when it’s time to shoot? Finding these right locations takes time and money. So does the actual shoot. Videos (even 2-3 minute ones) are not made quickly. In my world, for a 1 person interview at 1 location, I typically schedule 1/2 day.
  • Studio shooting.
    Need a green screen, infinity wall, open space, or sound studio? Then studio rental is going to add significantly to your cost. One thing to consider is stage management. You may be able to rent a space for cheap—but don’t forget to hire a stage manager. This person takes care of everything you’d need for day of studio shooting: lighting needs, audio needs, gear, equipment…all the extra things you aren’t thinking about.
  • Set, props, equipment, extras.
    Does your script call for extra people? Wardrobe changes? Set decoration? This all costs money.
  • Stock footage.
    If you don’t get all that B-Roll you need, you may have to use stock footage. It’s typical for a single HD stock footage clip to cost $500-$1,000.
  • Narration.
    If you would like narration, who’s going to be the voice? Who’s going to record and edit it? There can be significant cost there.
  • Teleprompter.
    Many production houses don’t have their own teleprompter. For me, that’s a rental cost.
  • Digitizing, transfers, rendering and uploading.
    Transferring, transcoding, encoding, compressing, rendering, and uploading digital footage takes a lot of time, especially if you’re working in high definition. Plan on this post-production expense.
  • Length of the Video.
    Sometimes the length of the video affects the cost. Sometimes the shorter the video, the more it costs to edit.
  • Formats.
    Need something in an unusual format or in many formats? You can expect that this process will come at a price.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses.
    Travel costs, meals, mileage, hotels, transportation, out-of-pocket…these all add up.
  • Hair and Makeup.
    When it’s time for the camera to roll, you want your on camera talent to look their best. Find someone who knows how to make your talent or actors look the way you want them to look. Hiring hair, makeup, and wardrobe professionals can be a great choice, but an additional expense.

I’m scared! That’s a lot to digest!

It is. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in video production. When you hire a production house, we don’t expect you to have considered every single one of them, but having a general idea of the value that’s built into the process goes a long way to a successful working relationship.

I know there’s a lot racing around after reading that, so we’ll pare it down. Here’s some ideas for opening that door from the start and laying the groundwork for good times:

  • An inspiration/reference video is a great place to start.
    What kind of videos move or inspire you? Show me one.
  • Share your budget
    If you know your ballpark budget amount, share it with me. I’ll tell you if it’s reasonable, not reasonable, or what I can do for that amount of money.
  • Be open minded
    It’s cool that you have ideas for your video – that’s what I expect. But I many have some ideas too! Be open to hearing other approaches to accomplish your needs.
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