Before we talk about what goes into the bang you get for your buck, let’s quickly address some important investments we have already made in your video long before we ever actually meet. Every business has overhead and video production is no different.
First things first: A Camera. The average price for a good video camera ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 for the only the body. Now we need a good set of lenses to go along with the camera body. Lenses, just like cameras, can vary significantly in quality and price. A good set of lenses will include at the very least: a wide angle to capture landscapes and run and gun situations like a 17-40mm ($699). A prime lens that captures close the human eyes field of view such as a 50mm ($349) and a telephoto lens to capture far away objects or portrait style clips like the 70-200 mm ($1999), This does not include any specialty lenses like a macro or a fish eye. These lenses are usually rented per project as they aren’t needed in a kit very often. Totaling anywhere from $6000- $15000 for just your camera and lenses, and not including any accessories such as ND filters, batteries, and media capture cards, just to name a few. Rinse and repeat for camera number two.
A loose definition of the word “Photo” is simply: Light. That said, it goes without saying you need a reliable set of lights if we’re going to properly expose your video. The ability to create and manipulate light is paramount to what we do for you. A common lighting configuration is the 3 Point Light Set Up: a key light, a fill light, and a hair light. There are many options when it comes to a 3 Point Light Kit, such as a tungsten Lowell Kit ($654) on the low end, and the Arri 3 light kit ($2199). It’s also important to have some soft boxes that are easy to set up and use for situations that you don’t have the time to set up more complex lighting such as a set of Florescent Soft Boxes($447).
So we’ve covered some of your tools, how about the workbench? This isn’t about PC vs Mac, but we’re working with the latter here. A top of the line iMac decked out with all of the upgrades (graphics card, ram, storage) can be $4,100. The Mac Pro was specifically designed for content creators, with no punches pulled, it’s about $9,697. Leasing options are available, turning one big investment into a monthly overhead cost.
One minute and five seconds of RAW uncompressed high definition video are about 34 gigs, with compressed formats like AVCHD and H.264 the sizes are about a gig per minute but have less flexibility in post. Your final video could be longer than that and you can bet a lot is left on the cutting room floor (more on that in a moment). Storage is a key factor here. From the SD Cards, we capture your video on, to the external hard drives that house it during post production. A one terabyte hard drive can cost up to $170. For some more breathing room, there are bigger drives with RAID support (copies the footage on multiple drives) can start at $800. It’s also important to have cloud storage to share files easily and have as an extra backup in case something happens to your equipment. These range from a small $10 a month fee to $400 a year for larger plans. Factor in that it’s best to have all that data saved on at least 3 drives for redundancy and the cost can be over $2000 just for storage.
That’s it for the tactile real world tools, now for the virtual tools. Video editing software preferences are different strokes for different folks. Our go to is the Adobe Creative Cloud with its flagship program Premiere Pro. CC is now a subscription based service charging $50 a month. While better than upgrading to a new version of the software every year, this is still another monthly expense to pay along with that Mac Pro lease. Other editing programs such as Avid Media Composer can start at $2,000 for just the editing suite. Factor in other programs for color grading, audio mixing, data offload and more, and a good software package alone starts at a few thousand.
So by the time we meet, we have already invested roughly $25,000 in your video after two cameras, lenses, lights, computer hardware, and software. This is the bare bones basic skeleton of our operation that we try to flesh out with other pieces of equipment such as microphones, monitors, tripods, stabilizers, dollies, sliders, c-stands, green screens, and much more.
The fanciest gear in the world is useless unless you know how to use it. A house isn’t built by tools, but by the skilled and experienced contractors who wield those tools. Doctors, Mechanics, Carpenters, all people whose services do not come cheap. You’re paying for the experience and knowledge and work that they have put into developing and honing their trade. Video content creators are not far from this in that they have perfected their craft
Pre, Pro, and Post
They say a movie is made three times. First in Pre-Production, when writing and planning, second is Production, when we capture performances or real life situations for the client; and finally, probably my personal favorite: Post Production–when everything is brought into the computer for the final sculpting.
In pre-production, when your video is conceptualized, hours of work go into outlining and scripting, storyboarding and shot-listing, not unlike an architect drawing up plans for a house. For events or unscripted videos, hours are spent visiting the location prior the shoot to find out how to best capture the audio and what kind of lighting is needed. Once blueprints are finalized, construction in Production can begin. Finally, we get to start using all of the tools we have invested so much money in for your project. Here, time is spent rehearsing with you, or our hired talent, or prepping for the event to begin. Meticulously lighting our set (or sets) or running through what the environment is actually like the day of filming. Whether it’s a scripted or unscripted shoot, lots of video is taken to ensure we have enough coverage to tell the story that was discussed beforehand. Depending on the type of shoots this can long hours or even weeks for a single project.
Now it’s time to head to the workbench to put everything together. Remember that expensive software we bought for you? This is probably my personal favorite part. This is where all of the jigsaw pieces we’ve collected through Production finally start to fall together. Depending on how much footage was captured, going through every clip and creating Subclips (the bits of video, or takes, we’ll actually use) can be very time-consuming.
Does your video need to include music? If you’re providing the music–awesome—if not—then we’ve got to spend some time searching through libraries for the right track that suits your video. While royalties for a music track amounts to another cost, it is generally cheaper than the (entirely) possible alternative–hiring a musician for an original score. Sites like The Music Bed and Audio Jungle have some songs for fairly inexpensive. This is of course after we have gone through the audio tracks of the dialogue, refining and leveling the sound, removing any unwanted noise or adding (maybe even recording new) Foley sound effects.
A first draft is just that, a first draft. Once we have the Subclips and music in order, we can begin to lay out your video on the timeline of your editing software. Fine tuning until we have a tight draft for you to review. First drafts and Final Cuts can be identical save a few minor changes, but usually–you are going to want SOME kind of revision to your final product. Once the draft is accepted by you, we finalize the video with color grading, which gives the video it’s own unique look and titles and graphics added. Regardless of how minuscule a change might seem; it still takes a lot of time to have it implemented. From the edit itself to exporting and uploading (sometimes multiple formats and DVD’s) the final product (or just a draft), post production has the capacity to be a bit long winded.
A common thread here is Time. An old adage informs that Time is Money. Teenagers who flip burgers and Lawyers who work cases all define the work they do by the time that they put in. Therapists charge by the hour, Lawyers may be on retainer, fast food is minimum wage. What are we talking about here? RATES. (click to check our rates)
Generally, you’ll hire a videographer on a half or full day rate. Rates are often found on video production companies’ websites, either on a comprehensive rate sheet or upon request of a quote. Worth considering: does your video require just one or two camera operators? Or will an Audio Supervisor be needed as well? Any special equipment that needs to be rented or permits for locations? After the $25000 or so we have already paid for your video, the half or full day rate you incur doesn’t seem so bad. From Pre, Pro, and Post–those grains of sand falling through the hourglass certainly accumulate. Our rates are like a personal minimum wage and (obviously) cost of business. Reimbursement for gas, a drop in the bucket for repair and maintained, compensation for the hours spent behind the camera and in front of the computer screen, THEN maybe–just maybe—A LIVING.
The arts–be it design, drawing, painting, prose or video is no different than any other profession. Money for services. Yes, there are passion projects or spec or charity, but it is dangerous to treat the arts as something that can or should be free. We have learned a trade and skill and should be compensated for it like any other trade or skill.
(disclaimer: “exposure” is not adequate compensation.)
The cost of video can at times seem prohibitive. Especially when considering everything you can do yourself on a smartphone. Just remember, DIY is great and can lead to some wonderful results, but if you don’t know anything about a car and try to replace a transmission—it’s going to run like you tried to replace your transmission while knowing nothing about cars. Everyone’s got an iPhone and can do video themselves, but do you want something that looks like it belongs on blocks in the front yard? Or a pretty polished product fit for a dealer showroom?
What are you paying for? You’re paying for equipment you never thought about buying. You’re paying for skills you never thought about learning. You’re paying for not having to deal with the stress of color grading an image to properly reflect your Brand. You’re paying for a service, and while it may not be as inexpensive as a double cheeseburger–you’re paying for something with a bit more life than a dollar menu item.