Top question: “How much is it to make a video?”

May 27, 2015

by Nils Granholm, Cavus Media


So… how much is it to make a video?

This question is asked of me so many times a week. I think people are expecting me to say $50 bucks….just not so.

Top question we get: “How much is it to make a video?” I thought I would put a few things down on “paper” to help address, but certainly not answer that question entirely.

Liken that question to “How much is it for a house?” A house is probably more familiar to you and with that, you know you would add many variables to help get a better answer. Location, size, amenities, customization etc etc. This is really the same thought process one needs when asking how much a video costs. We compare home prices by either having been through that process before or simply searching the internet.

A video has just as many variables and should not be compared to your friends son’s neighbor that owns a camera and a mac. I am not disparaging your friends son’s neighbor, but in most cases, it really wont be the same thing.

The items you need to price in your mind is like any project, time and equipment. Most of us in this industry will have a daily rate for labor. Someone with good experience, decent camera gear, will cost between $500 – $1500 a day (8 hours). That may or may not be sticker shock, but again, those rates can soar much higher than that if you have blockbuster imagination.

Recently we did a shoot requiring a camera operator. (Before I go on here, the title camera operator seems to have lack luster feeling to a client, they think it is just someone that holds the camera and pushes record and that is simply wrong. Someone that is competent, understands composition, lighting, sound, motion and can juggle the many features of the camera comes from years of experience, schooling or both. Knowledge of lenses, supporting gear and keeping thing rolling comes with a price.)

So, now you have someone running the camera and most likely supplying the camera which the camera body alone has cost the owner $5,000 and up, not including the lens(s), sound gear or anything that holds it. So, that daily rate is getting you a competent person, a nice camera and in some cases a tripod and the lenses. $25,000 of stuff now at your door. Now we have to talk about lighting up your scene, this is often another human body. Ideally a proper lighting person with lighting gear, which again, is not just any-ole light. These lights they choose are color balanced and purpose built. Because you are shooting outdoor in the sunlight, you are not off the hook. The sun must be controlled with lots of diffusion and fill lights or you will be unhappy when you see how unflattering a 12 o’clock sun can be. Ways to cut corners here, is rent some diffusion and most likely the camera operator can direct neophytes on how to hold it, where to hold it or you can get more gear on the set that can be set up… still requiring those extra bodies and rental fees for the extra gear.

Sound…this is another area where a great deal of experience and schooling are involved to get really good sound. If are you doing a simply interview with one person, often the camera operator can attached a lavaliere mic to the speaker and pull the sound right to the camera. When you get into multiple people talking, outside noise or multitude of sound issues, another body is needed. A sound engineer will show up with many different kinds of mics, sound recorder which is in the tens of thousands of dollars. He/She will have a daily rate as well to include this gear and the experience they bring. They have to work closely with camera operator and cast to ensure everything is on point. These are just a few examples on how a video gets priced.

When you ask how much a video is, from a professional, please understand that offering to barter and/or a small fee is simply not going to get you the people or gear you need to shoot something that we consider professional. Thanks to DSLR cameras and some other entry level cameras, many people call themselves professionals and offer services on the cheap. Again, I am not in any way putting down people with entry level gear, I have seen AMAZING videos with entry level gear…but that AMAZEMENT is caused by talent behind the gear.

When you start seeing $4, $5, $10,000 > budgets on a proposal, it is because they have worked with you to find out what you need and know what people and gear to bring to get you the product you want. It makes life easier for everyone if you say what your budget is, we can reverse engineer your idea and get you something that will curtail to your budget. If you have a modest budget, then please don’t expect the Avengers Movie. Just so you know, the budget for Avengers 2 was $250,000,000.

Now, back to earth…when you ask how much a video costs, be as descriptive as possible and be upfront as you can about your budget. The budget does not stop when the camera does, now we have to pour all that recording into an editing station, review all the footage, multiple times and sew it all together, marrying the sound, lighting techniques to give you a product you and the crew can be proud of. Custom graphics takes time and that too can often be another body.

Most of us are hungry for work, but we can’t give away the farm to get you that amazing video you want. We will work with you!


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