How much does it cost to make an online video?
Part 3: Production Costs
Production is the part of the content creation process in which your video is filmed or your animation made. This comes with a range of cost variables; here are some of the main ones explained.
1. Where should you film?
We either film at a client’s workplace, in a studio, or in a public or private space. Let’s look at each in turn.
If the video we are producing links directly to the clients’ workplace (e.g. a meet the team video) then it makes sense to film there. However, it isn’t always practical or cost effective to do so. If, for example, we are talking about a shop, then it might cost the business too much to close the premises during business hours whilst we film. We can of course film in the evening or at weekends, however this is more expensive as we need to pay the crew a higher rate for working unsociable hours.
We often find ourselves filming in an office environment and in this instance it can be difficult to find a quiet enough spot away from ringing phones and background noise, however if that fits with the feel of the video then we go with it, if not we might consider shooting inside a sound studio.
Sound studios come in various sizes sometimes with white, black or green screen backings. The benefit of filming in a studio environment is that we have control over sound quality and lighting, and it also allows us to focus on what we are doing without distractions. Studios charge different rates, dry hiring gives you just the space and wet hiring includes their staff.
Public or Private Spaces
Filming in public might seem like a cheap option, however there can be quite a bit of associated red tape. We may need a permit to shoot in certain areas and we may need to contact the local council, highways agency and sometimes the police ahead of filming. This can all take time to negotiate and sometimes we will need to pay for filming permits. We may also need more staff and crew to guarantee public safety.
Shooting in a private space has fewer restrictions, however we still need permission from the owner and they often charge a location hire fee. We also need to be careful filming recognisable landmarks, which often come with their own image copyright licences.
2. When do you need an actress or actor?
Many corporate videos either feature a professional trained actress, actor or model (the ‘talent’), or an untrained employee or member of the public. We opt for one or the other depending on the available budget and what kind of video or animation we are producing.
It doesn’t make sense to employ a performer in the case of a talking head interview with a member of staff or a vox pop style interview with a member of the public. However, if we are creating a dramatic piece of scripted content it’s quite likely that we will need a professional performer.
Hiring performers comes with it’s own costs. The casting process itself can be time consuming in terms of writing a specification, advertising for the role, shortlisting and auditioning performers. Once the client has selected their preferred choice a contract needs to be arranged that covers the performers fees for the shoot in line with equity rates (which will need to include any rehearsals) and a buyout fee to use the content in the future.
It is important to remember that whoever you choose will need to be able to connect with your audience and represent your business appropriately. If you do opt to use a member of staff we have a lot of experience in running media training workshops that are great for building confidence in people on and off camera.
3. Who will be there for the shoot?
There are many crew roles in production, but I will only mention some of them here. In our opinion no matter how low budget you want to go with your basic online video you are still going to need at least two to three members of crew for filming (assuming it’s a simple set up), these people are Director, Camera Operator and Producer. We also like to have our client present for the shoot if they are available.
Director, Camera Operator and Producer
The Director is responsible for the overall creative continuity of the content and will direct actors and pose interview questions, the Camera Operator will be in charge of lighting, basic sound recording and setting up shots and the Producer will organise the shoot, help with logistics on the day and liaise with the client. Sometimes it may be possible to send out just a Camera Operator, however we like to work with a minimum of two crew on every shoot. It’s safer, faster and means that our crew can concentrate on their own area of expertise. Ultimately it gives the client a better experience and higher quality end product.
Director of Photography (DOP)
For more complex shoots we may advise that we hire in a DOP. They really come into their own when you are working with more complex camera, lighting and visual set ups. For TV high-end promos or TV commercials we would always use a DOP. They are often accompanied by their own fleet of additional crew including Grip (building and maintaining all of the equipment that supports camera), Camera Assistants (to help pull focus, set the camera up and change lenses), Digital Imaging Technician (to manage the image quality and digital files).
Hair and Makeup
It’s not always essential to hire in hair and makeup professionals. We carry a simple makeup kit for touch ups or to add a little powder to soften a bright light. However, if we are making a video with multiple actors or looking for a glossy finish then hiring in professional hair and makeup artists for the day is money well spent.
Motion Graphics Artist / Animator
Many of the videos we work on require some kind of moving 2D or 3D animation. This could be for a title sequence or explainer graphics or for lower third titles to introduce interviewee names. Often in this case the motion graphics work overlaps with post-production, because it’s easier to work out what graphics are needed once we have a rough cut of the video.
Some content is pure animation in which case the graphics work starts in pre-production with storyboards and then continues into production. Motion graphics and animation can be time consuming and so it’s important to set a realistic budget for this kind of work before production begins.
Now read Part 4: Post-Production Costs