Content Marketing

Want to Get an Accurate Estimate for Your Brand Video? Follow These 4 Tips

This is a guest post by our friends at Sinema Films.

It’s 2 p.m. in the office and the production team has gathered to discuss the new revisions for a client’s corporate video when the phone rings.

“Hello, may I speak to the producer?”

A prospective client is on the line. She wants a short, two- to three-minute corporate video that will be posted on their site. Can we do that?

“Yes, we can,” I tell her. “What should the video communicate and do you have any initial ideas on visuals?”

“The video has to be sleek, like a commercial on national TV,” the prospect answers.

“No problem, we can do that. Any concept, script?”

“No, not yet.”

“Do you have a budget and deadline that you want us to stick to?”

“Timeline is ASAP. What’s the cost?”

Silence. Scratch of the head. Tap of the table. Pretty sure they won’t like the answer.

“The cost depends,” I say.

“Oh.” Silence. Then: “On what? Can’t you just give me a number?”

This is the client-vendor tug-of-war that we have become so used to at video production companies like mine, Sinema Films. These conversations happen frequently, and we’ve had enough. So in order to reduce doubts about how to establish a production budget, we’re giving some tips that will help you if you’re looking to create a brand video.

Here are four ways to get the most accurate production estimates:

1Understand that prices for video production are never fixed.

Video production is not a box of Kleenex or a bag of M&M’s—it’s not a commodity. It’s a bespoke service customized to your requirements and budget. Until all of your requirements have been considered, any cost you get is a guesstimate pulled out of thin air.

The cost of video depends on several items, among them:

  • number of actors featured
  • size of production crew
  • experience of director in charge (more experience means—you guessed right—more expensive)
  • visual effects (start to blow things up and the budget will do just that—blow up)
  • motion graphics
  • original music compositions
  • number and quality of locations
  • travel time between locations
  • set design and decoration
  • hair and makeup
  • wardrobe
  • amount of lighting equipment needed, etc.
  • the number of man-hours of writing, storyboarding, editing, and project management

Production costs will also depend on the size and professional level of the production company: Larger, professional companies can provide better videos, but often come with larger overhead costs that you will have to foot. Freelancers are cheaper, but may be hard-pressed to meet the level of quality provided by a company.

2. Be prepared with as much information as possible.

If you know your concept, share it. Articulating your vision for the video can be the only way to get an accurate cost estimate. Also consider:

  • How long do you want the video to be?
  • Will you place your video on TV, online, or both?
  • How long will your video be available to the public?

Some costs, such as usage fees for original music composition, will depend on your answers to these questions. If the production company knows your answers, you will receive a quote that helps you budget accordingly.

Rule of thumb: The more information you provide, the more precise the quote.

3. Know and communicate your budget.

In hopes of getting a better deal, sometimes managers withhold information on budget from the vendor. You may be lucky and strike gold, but if you do not share your budget, you will struggle to find a $100,000 production value for $1,000—or even $10,000, for that matter.

Not sharing your budget means the negotiation dance only takes longer. By stating your budget, the production company can tell you if those numbers are within their standard rates. If they are not, you can move on to the next production company.

With your budget in place, the video production company can tell you the quality they can deliver, and may point you to their work portfolio to see other videos they have produced at that cost.

4. Use a sample video to understand and compare prices between several production companies.

Without a concept or script, there is a lot of room for miscommunication. Your production company will naturally send you quotes for the best—likely most expensive—work they can do. So how will you proceed?

Find a video on YouTube that you think may be close to what you will want. Send that to your list of prospective vendors, along with the following questions:

1. This is the quality we’d like for our video. Do you have something similar in your portfolio that you can send me for comparison?

2. How much would it cost to produce this video from scratch if you provide all the elements in the video—locations, actors, music, etc.?

3. Can you send a breakdown for these estimates?

By sharing a similar video, you have provided a standard unit that can be used to compare prices across all your potential vendors.

Nervous about putting this plan into action? Here is an email that clearly articulates the unknowns and what the client is looking for so that the production company can anticipate the amount of work involved and get you an accurate estimate.

Or you can dance your way to nowhere. Your call.

Noel Maimu is a producer at the New York video production company Sinema Films. He is a fan of Pedro Almodóvar and all things Brooklyn.

Image by J. Henning Buchholz
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