What Does the Average Video Cost?

Here's a question I'm asked almost daily: "What does the average video cost?" Let’s be honest—an “average” video is pretty hard to nail down. That’s like asking, “How big is an average rock?” Truth be told, every project is unique and, thus, so is every production... and that website promising "Marketing Videos for $795" isn't going to produce anything you'd ever want your name on (although it may produce a video that 100 other companies will share with you).

Jokes aside, you want answers and that's what we're here for. Generally, the cost of any video production is going to be affected by one or all of these five things. Here we go:

Is it the frame-rate? Is it "HD" resolution? Is it the photosensors? Is it the lighting? Is it interlace? Is it color correction? YES.

The answer is all of the above. A million times over. The reason that a $50,000 camera takes better video than a $500 camera is the same reason a $50,000 car works more efficiently than a $500 car. They are made to have the ability to produce a higher caliber of work. And because of that, just like a car, different pieces of video equipment cost different amounts of money to rent.

Rentals are normally done in something called "day rates". It is true that renting a piece for an extended period of time can greatly decrease the "per day fee". That is why one of the first things a video production company will ask you when you contact them will be "what level of production are you looking for". Truth be told, they are trying to decide what equipment to recommend you use. Expect Average Rentals to Fall In These Ranges:

RED Epic Dragon (6K):   $1,740
Panasonic GH4 + Lenses:   $260
ARRI LoCaster LED Kit:   $103
Manfrotto 545 GB Professional Tripod:   $60
Zoom H6 Audio, Cards, Headphones, etc:   $100

**This list includes only basic equipment, not techs to run or insurance. It is for illustrative purposes only.

This involves all of the work going into your project before you turn on the cameras. Although there are a plethora of activities that can be lumped into this category, the primary three that we will focus on here are:  writing/scripting, scheduling, and location scouting. Expect to spend anywhere from $500 - $2,500 on the "average" corporate video in this phase of production.

How do you put a price-tag on crafting your message? It can be tricky, but it's generally done in one of three ways:  day rate, page rate, and flat fee. I'd explain them in greater depth but they are literally self-explanatory.

Ever wondered why everyone knows exactly when and where to be on production day? Like writing, this phase can be billed in different ways and is heavily dependent on the size and scope of production.

Location Scouting
One of the most over-looked areas in production is deciding where the footage is being captured... and the time, travel expenses, creative know-how, experience, and attention-to-detail it takes to successfully scout locations. This is very commonly lumped together with scheduling but is worth making separate mention of.

Hours could be spent here. However, it will be more productive to just be very transparent. Here are industry-standard day-rates for the most common positions found "on-set":

Director:   $800 – $3500
Producer:   $600 – $800
Director of Photography:   $600 – $2000
Camera Operator:   $400 – $600
First Assistant Camera:   $250 – $500
Assistant Director:   $400 – $600
Second Assistant Director:   $250 – $500
Gaffer:   $300 – $600
DIT:   $300 – $600
Rigging Grip:   $200 – $400
Dolly Grip:   $200 – $400
Electric:   $200 – $400
Steadicam Operator (With Gear):   $800 – $1600
Crane Operator (With Gear):   $800 – $1600
Production Assistant:   $75 – $200
Hair and Makeup:   $400 – $800
Wardrobe:   $400 – $800
Production Designer:   $500 – $1500
Art Director:   $400 – $800
Set Dresser:   $200 – $400
Sound Engineer:   $300 – $600
Boom Operator:   $150 – $300

The term "day-rate" can be confusing. Although these individuals are generally paid "per day on set", their jobs rarely include just work that singular day. For example, Producers, although billed for "One day" of shooting, are responsible for all Pre-Production scheduling, permit pulling and rental, and general project management. That is why their standard "day rate" is significantly higher than say, a Boom Operator (although we love them and their tireless arms, too!)

You may have heard it said before, "you get what you pay for". Standard video editors will charge anywhere from $100 - $250 per hour of editing. Some post-houses will separate linear editing (that's your standard story edit) from coloring and grading. Some will even  have unique pricing for motion graphics, kinetic text, and other forms of what we in the biz will call "finishing".

At the end of the day, when you are talking with a professional videography company the average per hour fee regardless of service should run very close to $200 per hour.

This is one of the most difficult aspects to budget for in a video project because it is very easily the spot you'll be spending most of your investment. As a general rule of thumb, understand that your hired hands will be, at the very least, re-watching all of the footage that was shot once, likely twice, and then doubling that. So, say you shot a half day (4hrs), assume that your post-production will take at least 8hrs to watch through and select footage from and another 8hrs to edit. 16 full hrs or about $3,200.

Again, every production is going to be different. That said, very few productions will be created without rental of a studio, pulling a permit (especially in outdoor shoots), buying of talent (that would be the people acting in your video), paying for rights to use music, or a whole gamete of other things.

The best way to gauge what your investment in this fifth category is to contact a local video production company that is open to collaborating with you to play out the options the uniquely fit your project.

So... What Now?
Great question! Taking all of the aforementioned into consideration, here are some ballpark figures for you to chew on:

A two to three minute web-based corporate video presentation might cost between $2500 and $10,000 if you consider the mid range of variables mentioned above.

For most professionally produced web-based corporate videos you should consider between $2,000 to $5,000 AS A STARTING POINT to begin your budgeting process.

Three Tips To Save You Money:

1)  Share Your Budget Upfront
Buying a video is a lot like buying a car. You can spend $2,000; $20,000; or $200,000 if you'd really like to. However, at the end of the day they are all cars... but some will be noticed and some won't be. You can put however much into a video as you'd like, but you need to let your team know what kind of scale to dream on before they start dreaming.

2)  Ask Your Production Team to Collaborate
Why are you coming to a professional video team? Beyond them having the right equipment, you need to trust them as professionals to do good work. Remember, you've selected them because you like their work too... and they do that work for a living! Trust their judgement and allow them to make recommendations that can save you money and add to the overall effectiveness of your project.

3)  Share An Example
Being able to show your production team the level of production you are looking for will allow them to tell you if you are planning enough budget to create the project as well as whether or not it will be effective for your message. Oh, and if it's not their video that's ok!

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About the Author
Jake LeVoir is the Director of Sales at Slate and Main. He has built a career on helping organizations grow by developing engaging video campaigns that drive consumer traffic and increase brand awareness.

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