11, Nov 2019
Seattle Videographer Blog
What’s under the hood: an inside look at video costs and how to save in the process
The mysteries behind film and cinema is something that has bewildered the general public for ages Today we are a bit more savvy in the ways of video production. We understand there are smoke and mirrors and the “lights, camera action” portion. While many of the fundamentals of videography still ring true today, they have gone through a major tuneup, especially for 2019. Today over 90% of marketers are investing in video, but how many of these folks actually know what it is their paying for and how to optimize the video process. With this article I want to demystify the modern videographers workflow to help you better understand not only the cost of video but, what is costing you in video and how to soup up your project get the top speeds and maximum value from your videographer.
First, it's important to understand how the rates and forms of payment work. Like most freelancers it’s Net 30 days but sooner is always welcome. *Early payment can also be a bargaining chip for you in negotiating.
Videography rates are usually divided into three categories: Hourly, Flat and Day/ Half Day rates.
Hourly can range widely but the common rate for a budget videographer is around $50 an hour and can go up to 100 or 150 an hour for a higher caliber videographer. The more expensive freelancers are most likely working on advertisements and filming with camera rigs that cost more than your car. Hourly is great if you know what you are doing. Going hourly can save you a massive amount of money if you know how to organize a shoot. This method is recommended if you are hiring for a shoot and not as much for editing. However if you have an established relationship with the videographer and or have an incentive of future jobs the videographer will likely give you a great deal and a speedy delivery.
Flat rate:I would recommend a flat rate if you are hiring someone for the first time, hiring an editor, or bringing someone new on for a project they would both shoot and edit. The longer the project the more possibility for unexpected time consuming issues to arise, when you lock in a videographer you are sidestepping those issues financially and putting the onus on the videographer to anticipate those possibilities, which a good one will. Editing is an especially time consuming process which can be very hard to calculate so it;s very wise to go with a flat rate on this if possible.
Day Rates (6-10 hours) & half day rates (4-6 hours): These are best for projects that require a lot of filming, usually at multiple locations. A day rate is a really economical way to get a ton of footage for your project and can be worked into a hybrid hourly set up if you feel particularly financially savvy.
A typical video process is divided into four parts; pre production, production, post production and distribution. To give you an idea here is a cost breakdown by percentage for a hypothetical project that I see a lot from clients.
Pre Production: Writing/planning
Don’t underestimate this stage. We’re all eager to get filming but writing and planning are the biggest deciders in the success of your video. No matter the size or simplicity of your project it’s always going to help to write a script or an outline, even if it’s on a napkin. For smaller budget projects this is usually non existent which is a huge missed opportunity because this is project time you’re not being billed for. If you can capitalize on this preparation stage you will significantly minimize project time and cost. If you can sum up the video contents, and offer some stylistic examples of the way you want your video to be this is going to improve the whole process. If you are someone who will be interviewed or talking for the video, get some bullet points ready, think of some buzz words or taglines to include. If you have a great videographer the process will go swiftly. What you do not do in this stage will cost you down the road.
For larger projects it’s important to keep in mind the end product you want. On several large scale projects clients provide a list of shots to get and questions to ask for the interviews but neglect to include any framework for the finished product. I think a great way to think of longer video projects like corporate case studies is to organize it like an essay. What is the thesis or goal of the video, what are the supporting points, then leave it up to the filmmaker to artfully and effectively display these concepts through the art of film.
The production process is usually the shortest of the four but also the most stressful. You should keep in consideration that videographers will bill for travel time, and set up and this is completely justified. The production is more than just the moment they hit record, it’s an entire process. The process includes setting up the shot, adjusting lighting, micing and getting audio levels and tweaking camera settings to fit the room. The larger the production the more gear and thus more set up time. If you want any fancy shots like a slider or handheld gimbal add another hour or 2 to the shoot time.
When anticipating time I would double whatever seems like the amount of time it will take and that’s usually more accurate. Again the value of preparation. A correct estimation will likely save you money because it allows the videographer to adequately pace the shoot. When things begin to get rushed from an inaccurate time window mistakes happen, things get missed, and the overall quality dips. The quickest production you can expect, and this is if everything goes flawless (which happens.. rarely) would be 1.5 hours and this would be for a 10 minute interview. For a typical talking head shoot with a 1 minute final product the production process lasts 2-2.5 hours if you want it done right. This can be longer or shorter depending on the preparedness of the speaker.
Post Production: Editing/audio editing/color correction/motion graphics
Post production is where the brunt of the cost for ann video comes in from 1 minute interviews to blockbuster hollywood movies. A few things to know about the editing process. There are several preliminary steps editors take before even making the first cut. The process starts with the upload, then logging (which is essentially labeling) the footage then the actual editing begins. An important note that if you request footage to be in 4K this significantly slows down the editing process unless you get lucky and find an editor who has an incredibly powerful computer. Either way the editor will usually add an additional step before editing which is making proxies. This is like a lower quality version of the original video that’s easy to work with when cutting the video, once the movies is done they switch the original file back in an give you the polished product.
Some tips to save money and time: Give the editor an outline for the video along with key points to hit on. Tell the editor the platform you want the video to be shown on along with any titles, or names to be included for the video. One of the best ways to lower production costs by setting a timeline for when to complete each video cut and when you will get a review back to the editor. Two day projects can turn into 2 month projects when reviews don’t get tended to. If you wait too long the editor will end up taking other projects and then your video gets less attention and the production value will be much lower from what it would be if you keep on a schedule.
Distribution: Encoding/Export, Optimizing for platforms
Encoding and distribution is the most confusing part of this process and it is because of the complexity of video formats. A good editor will know the best formats and export settings for any platform be it a projector for a movie or a video on IGTV. Keep in mind the larger the project the longer it takes a computer to render and export. If your video was shot in 4K this is important to note. If you are working in satellite from the videographer and you need just the video a great service to use is WeTransfer which allows files up to 2GB to be sent via email. You can also use services like dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive etc. The cloud drives are wonderful for sending smaller amounts of files I would say between under 1gb to 8GB or so however if you have over 40GB of footage you need sent over it’s going to take close to a day or more to upload all that footage to the cloud which most are really not suited to hold massive amounts of video, especially if it’s Raw footage. The best way to do this believe it or is actually to mail a hard drive. It will get there quicker and you won;t be charged for a day+ of uploads. Videographers do charge for the time it takes to upload because they need full use of their computer so if it’s locked up uploading your project they are losing money. This is another reason why it can be wise to ask for a flat rate
here is an example of a common project and the cost break down. This is a visual aid you can use to apply some of the concepts I mentioned to play around with ways to shrink costs. I hope this is helpful to you and your future projects.