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What You Should Expect to Pay for an Effective Video

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What You Should Expect to Pay for an Effective Video

By Tarek Albaba, Founder of Surreal SD

Whether you are a start up or established company, chances are you have toyed with the idea of creating a video to promote your business. Why not, right? It’s fun, interactive and everyone seems to be doing it.

Video production has rapidly evolved over the last 10 years. The reasons are quite simple: cameras have become far less expensive and accessible, quality has dramatically improved and there are countless options for distribution.

Lets dive into that last one for a moment. Think about all the ways you can share a video these days - email, text, Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, Snapchat, Instagram, host on your website, Linkedin, Twitter, I can go on and on. Before the social media and internet boom, the only way you could get your video out to the world was through local and cable television. For films and documentaries you of course have the theaters and festival outlets, but the point is, your options were limited. Nowadays, people are cutting their cable and subscribing to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and other video streaming companies. A simple video or quirky commercial can go viral on youtube generating millions of views over a short period of time.

This is hands down the most exciting time ever for video production. Currently, there are over 4 billion videos viewed on youtube daily and about 3 billion daily views on facebook.

Could creating a video be a good investment? YES, absolutely, but at what cost?

Budget ranges…

The scale of video production costs will vary depending on your specific project needs. A video production company or independent filmmaker should be able to assess your project needs by asking some basic, preliminary questions. No project is exactly the same, so they need to roll up their sleeves and do their homework! “What a minute, can’t I just do it myself?”


Quality and accessibility to high resolution cameras are already in the palm of your hands. Cell phones like the IPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge shoot in 4k! You can buy a GoPro Hero4 which also shoots in 4k for less than $400. If you have a decent concept and have the time to develop your idea, go out there and shoot it! Keep it simple, know your audience, watch a tutorial or two and off you go. There is no scarcity of resources available to you online. You can even edit for free using Imovie, DaVinci Resolve or GoPro Studio software. For $20 a month you can get Adobe Premiere CC, which is a more professional platform.

Ok so what is the down side to DIY? Just because you have some of the tools needed doesn't make you the next Scorsese or Spielberg. In addition to actually framing a decent shot, it is extremely hard to get clean audio without a professional mic and/or audio recording device. You have to use available or natural lighting which more times than not, will give the image a dull, flat look. These are just a few issues you may encounter, the biggest question you have to ask yourself is, how will this video reflect my brand? If it looks and feels amateur in any way, what does that say about your business?

$1000 - $3000 range

So you realize that DIY is easier said than done, and the potential is limited. If you have a relatively simple concept, you can hire a videographer or small production company to help produce your video. There are hundreds if not thousands of talented videographers out there in your community who would love to work with you. Someone with a great eye can really make your video pop with a decent camera and fancy editing tricks. With this budget range, you will likely be working with a “one man band” scenario or very small team. Experience level will be limited, so be patient and ready to help with every aspect of the video process. Equipment will be minimal and there will not be much time for development. Animation and graphics can get pricey so I wouldn’t expect anything too complex, if any. Keep it simple, basic and clean should be your motto. It will be hard to hire a professional actor within this range as they usually start between $500-$1000 per day which does not include agent or casting director fees. You can always utilize Craig’s list or other platforms to find inspiring actors that may be able to come out for free or at a significantly lower cost. If you have a tight deadline, this might not be the best option for you.

$5,000 - $15,000

You want to step it up and hire some pros to make your vision a reality. With this budget range, you now can expect some help with development which is, by far the most important part. Ask any filmmaker, it starts with good material! Pre-production (before you shoot) typically takes 1-4 weeks, so use that time wisely. Think it all through and get your shooting schedule dialed in. You will likely be working with a small to midsize experienced crew with professional gear. Principle photography will be limited to 1-2 full days, post-production will be another 1-4 weeks. You can expect some stylized text, simple motion graphics and/or 3D animation. If your script requires talent, you have the option of hiring a pro. Nowadays, you can conduct auditions via Skype or FaceTime to find the right person for your project.

$20,000 - $60,000

This is a sweet spot for many mid to large size companies. With this budget range, there are opportunities to create multiple videos under one campaign or go for a more conceptual approach that will make your video look and feel like a million bucks! There will be more time for each stage of the video production process. Crew/team size would increase, equipment package will become more refined and you have the ability now to shoot on high-end cameras such as the: Red Dragon, Sony F5 or F55, Arri Alexa or the Amira. Cinema lenses make a world of difference, your director of photography will be able to select a specific set that will greatly effect the overall look. Post-production becomes much more extensive with various designers, colorists and animators working together to create that polished video you signed up for!

$60,000 - $100,000+

I won’t spend a whole lot of time in this section, as this budget range pertains to commercial or documentary work. Let your imagination run wild, you are now in a different realm of production. The door has swung wide open, you can now explore options with: special effects, talented actors, extras, elaborate set design, various locations, multiple shoot days, picture vehicles and much more.

You get what you pay for

We get it, everyone is on a tight budget. The last thing you want to happen is to pay out a few thousand dollars for a video that you are not happy with. (This happens all the time!) If you are going to allocate some marketing dollars towards video production, do your research and get a recommendation from a colleague or friend. See what their experience was like. Find comparable videos online, share them with the production company. Be clear on what your expectations are. Most importantly, have some fun! It is a challenging, tedious process but if you take the proper steps and work with a company that understands the fundamental needs of your project, you should have a blast throughout the process. You want to be proud of your video so you can share it with the world.