Budget: The Big Bad “B” Word

By Michelle Maslanka • Producer

Budget: no one wants to talk about it, but it is a vital part of the project, both for us and the client. We get it, you don’t always want to share yours upfront, but we’ve come to find that budgets are like opinions: everyone’s got one, whether they realize it or not. And understanding your budgetary boundaries off the bat helps us begin to build a blueprint for your project.

When a client comes to us and says, “I want a video. How much will it cost?” I like to use this analogy: Imagine you walk onto the lot at a car dealership, make your way over to a salesperson and say, “I want a car. How much will it cost?” The salesperson will likely ask you a few follow-up questions such as the make, model, and features you are interested in. The same goes for video. We need to ask follow-up questions in order to understand the scope of work to provide you with the most accurate estimate.

A great article from Hinge Marketing titled “What Is the Cost of Video Production for the Web?” breaks down online video quality and costs into five levels, ranging from Amateur to Hollywood. My guess is that if you are contacting production companies, you are likely looking for something that falls in between.

The article discusses three major factors in determining costs: time, talent, and tools. This provides a solid overview of these production elements. When working with a prospective client, we prefer to break down our costs by three major steps in the video production process: pre-production, production, and post-production. Each step will vary in the amount of time, talent, and tools needed, and can be customized to fit your preference and budget.

Pre-production: During the pre-production process we collaborate with the client to craft a plan and approach that best drives their message forward. It is here that we brainstorm, plot, plan and solidify a vision for moving forward. Potential aspects of this phase include concept creation, scriptwriting, storyboard creation, talent and location sourcing, prop building/sourcing, etc. We can be as involved as you would like in the pre-production phase. Some clients come to us with a fully-formed idea and plan, while others are starting at square one. Guess what? Either works for us! But it will determine how much pre-production we will need to supply.

Production: Once it's time to commit your vision to film, we assemble one of our expert production teams to make this happen. Some projects call for a team of two or three, while other require a larger, commercial crew. The same goes for the production package- from one camera to a full grip truck. And while most productions wrap up in a few days, we have gone for weeks at a time. You can, again, see here how time, talent, and tools play a factor in costs.

Post-production: Post-production is the phase wherein all of the elements really start to fall into place. Our highly-skilled editors will take the raw material from production and begin to shape it. They chop, cut, stitch, and merge until a narrative is shaped that best represents your message. Then, through a process of revisions, we work with you to make certain that every last element is in its rightful place. During this final phase, we also add the finishing touches that make all the difference. Your project is color-graded and the audio is mixed and balanced.

Budgets should be embraced, not feared. We work with a range of budgets, so don’t be deterred to divulge your dollar details. The more transparent you can be with us early on, the easier it will be for us to determine what we can do within those means. It is a piece of the puzzle that, once understood and accepted, will bring the rest of the items together. And really, that’s the fun part!