How much does it cost to make a video?

One of the most frequent questions I get is “How much does it cost to make a video”.  The answer is “That depends”. Some may think I’m being evasive with this answer. I’m not. I really does depend on what you want. Trust me when I say that estimating the cost of video production is a mystery enshrouded by an enigma hidden in a spreadsheet.

Accurate estimates of video production costs depend upon a myriad of variables. Seemingly little things can add significantly to the budget. Therefore you must be very specific about what you want to produce. For example, a short video interview of an executive can vary depending the location, the delivery media (television or on-line or both), if a script is used (highly recommended), how well the subject is prepared (being unprepared increases editing time) – any of these variables can have significant impact on costs.

To get our heads around this, we must understand the process.

The video production process is split into three primary areas:

  • Preproduction
  • Principle photography
  • Post Production

Pre Production
Before any cameras roll, there is a fair amount of work to do. During preproduction we research, write and plan the effort. Some of the factors that may come into play include:

  • Defining message and script
  • Research
  • Securing locations
  • Determining equipment requirements
  • Creating production documents

The more detailed and precise you are in preproduction the better. Planning directly impacts budget. Ideally you will have a specific list of shots, a tight script and detailed instructions for crew, on-camera talent and more. Later, these documents will greatly speed up the editing process.

Principle Photography
This is the part everyone loves – setting up cameras and getting the footage. But, of course, there is more to it. You’ll need to pay attention to getting great audio too. Audio quality can make or break your video. If you are using the on-camera mics, you are not doing yourself any favors.

Crews can range from 1 person to dozens. At minimum you should have two-three people on your crew:

  • Director/lighting
  • Camera
  • Audio/script management/assistant

Traditionally each of these jobs was handled by an individual  specialist. Now it is common now to find people who shoot, light and edit and produce the entire piece. However, in my experience, shooting with just one person doing it all can backfire on you.  One person can’t monitor everything and will always miss something. Far better to have two or three dedicated crew to make sure you get what you need from the shoot.

When it comes to cost, location is everything in shooting video. The more locations you need, the higher the cost. Ideally, shoot everything in one place on the same day. For example if you were interviewing your customers for testimonial video, you would want to set a location (perhaps your lobby or conference room) and have all the customers come at scheduled times during the day. This is far more efficient than dispatching a crew to shoot them at their location.

Post Production

After footage is shot, it is processed and edited into the final piece. This is a very time consuming task that varies according to the amount of preproduction and how things went during the shooting.

In post production:

  • Video is edited
  • Audio is synced and edited
  • Graphic animations are created
  • Titles are added
  • Stock photos and footage are sometimes purchased
  • Video is output in multiple formats

Most of the budget will go to post production. It requires a lot of equipment and technical knowledge to produce professional video. However, if you are a DIY sort of person, there are many tools available to create simple edits. I find the learning curve pretty steep. Your results may vary.


It is typical to incurr some out of pocket expenses including:

  • multiple hard drives (used for backing up data)
  • equipment rental
  • travel expenses
  • craft services (food)
  • camera discs
  • stock image licensing
  • stock footage licensing
  • music licensing

Of course, I’m leaving out a huge amount of detail here. My point is that shooting an effective video requires a disciplined process from start to finish. It is not just a technical exercise – it brings together creative story telling, emotion and energy. Anyone can shoot a video with their phone and post it on YouTube and that’s fine for informal Vblogs or personal updates. But if you want a video that has impact and builds your credibility you will want to increase your production value accordingly.

I recently produced a video for Clarity Marketing Support. I tracked the time and expenses with the goal of  producing a good looking/sounding video that had a simple message and looked like any commercial I might see on TV. On the cheap.

You can see it here

Granted, this isn’t very realistic for most people because I cheated. For example:

  • I paid zero for voice talent – doing the voice over myself
  • I used my own music (no license fee)
  • I already had the graphic animation
  • I did not rent any equipment
  • I had a pretty good idea of my strategy – I do this sort of thing for a living
  • I leveraged stock footage – never rolling a camera

There are a million ways to tell a story. It is far better to decide your budget and then adapt the production process to fit. A good average is between $1,000-$3,500 per finished minute. Contact me and I’ll help you figure out if it makes sense to include video in your marketing mix. Or in a few short sessions I can show you how to shoot your own on-line video.



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