If you’re considering video to promote your business, one of the first questions you will ask is, "How much does it cost?" And the most common answer will be, "It depends."
Since I’m a teacher at two community colleges, I run into a lot of people looking for very cheap or free video production. For some reason, people are willing to let a trainee shoot their video, but they wouldn’t dream of hiring an apprentice to fix their plumbing. It kind of makes sense, I suppose: low risk. But mostly, people who are not “in the business” don’t understand what goes into producing a video of substance and shelf life. And what I mean by that gets us to the crux of video production cost.
Stories that matter take thought. When you hire a person to do a video for you, you’re not just paying for the shooting and editing time. You’re paying for expertise, equipment and the production management it takes to plan and execute to the message. AND you’re paying to have a director help you formulate your ideas, your delivery strategy, and how it all ties together. It’s designing creative content for your custom narrative.
In general, videographers, editors and other video production professionals (e.g. sound and lighting) make about $30-$60 per hour. Higher level directors, etc. will make $100 or $200 per hour. It’s common to charge an upfront producer fee, writing fee, creative fee, or other general pre-production charges. Production days are normally based on ten-hours, so the hourly rate you pay for a person, piece of equipment or location (like a studio) can be easily calculated. Half-day rates (much hated in the production community) are usually based on 4.5 hours or less, and cost about 60% of the full-day rate.
The fees may go up based on a person’s experience or a project’s complexity, and they may come down to some extent based on your budget. There are often two- or four-hour minimums for a video shoot. A typical video shoot takes about 30 to 60 minutes to set up and another 30-60 to break down – and that time is included in the day rate. So obviously, the more setups you have, the less you can get done in ten hours.
Editing is another creature altogether. Some editors are very fast, so they will naturally make more per hour – and will most likely charge a flat fee. Editors who aren’t as sure about how much time it will take to edit a piece, may want to charge by the hour. I recommend you ask for a flat editing fee with clear parameters on program length, client changes, and contingency if the scope of the project is altered. The level of graphic design or special effects that people want will greatly affect the editing price.
The volume of footage and the length of the video will obviously influence the cost across the board, so try to ascertain what level of complexity you’re going for before you approach a production company. If it's basically a straightforward edit, where you’re cutting down some dialogue and adding supportive footage (aka “B-roll”) that’s relatively simple. But if you have numerous locations, spread out over lots of days, and there are many critical moments to capture for your high-energy, grandiose production that looks like a Lady Gaga music video, expect to pay more – unless, of course, you can get a student to do it…