How to Keep Your Video Production Costs Down

“There is no victory at bargain basement prices.”
        Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight was, of course, right.  If you want to win (in business or in war…) you have to pay the price. If it’s important to you, you’ll incur the necessary costs that will guarantee success. If being successful is not that important… then why bother? That said, there is always an opportunity to be more efficient.

There are many factors that affect the cost of a video – i.e., you can pay a thousand bucks for a talking head video or you can pay a million bucks for a world class broadcast commercial. Both are video.

Assuming that you have a budget in place to produce good work, and a video production company helping you that is very good at what they do, how can you minimize the overall cost of your video project? Here are eleven suggestions:

1. Start your project with a smart production plan.

This step is where you will save the most money… by far. All other opportunities for saving money listed below are incremental. This is the area where you can save thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.

If someone tells you to get quotes on a 30 second commercial, a one minute explainer video or a 3 minute corporate overview video, the first question to ask is why? There are many different types of video that you can consider to promote your product or service.

Starting with assumptions like the length of the video or the type of video can be counterproductive and result in you spending much more than you need to.  Starting with the wrong set of assumptions can kill the project.

If you plan on getting two or three firms to bid on your next video production project, make sure you have prepared a thorough video production brief to help them with their proposals. Why? This way you can ensure that the companies interested in bidding on your work fully understand your business objectives and this also ensures that they have the best opportunity to add value to their bid rather than just filling out a checklist of hourly rates. As well, this document is critical when production starts, as it serves as a guidepost against any unexpected increases in production costs.

If you’re unsure about how to start your project get help. The small investment in upfront advice may be the difference between success and failure.

2. Share your shot-list with others in your company.

Once you’ve chosen a vendor and have created a storyboard for your project you should share your shot-list with your company. Whatever it is you plan on shooting let others know what that is and how that’s being done. There may be other people in your company who want those exact shots or something slightly different that you can capture during the shoot. Aerials, product shots, customer testimonials, and b-roll. There are lots of things that someone might want adapted for their own use.

3. Plan efficiency and economies of scale into your schedule.

This takes a bit of forethought and creativity. If you’re shooting a corporate video, why not plan on doing two, three or more at the same time. Arrange your production and post-production into a more efficient schedule.

Do you really need multiple set-ups for every shot? Perhaps. Or perhaps capturing your presenters all on the same green screen is the most efficient way to go. Even if you are planning a large scale production, it’s very easy to ask the folks who are on-camera to record a little extra content for other purposes.

The video production company’s job is to ensure that the video they produce is top notch. Your job as a company employee or owner is to ensure the maximum use of resources that generates the best results for your company. It’s a dance. (If you and your video production partner are not in step, change partners.)

4. Location scouting.

Location planning serves multiple purposes:
1. You can check for problems such as potential lighting challenges, noise issues, access to     power, environmental concerns, and access for setup.
2. You can also look for opportunities such as the ability to shoot multiple angles to serve       as different backgrounds for different shots and the use of on-site props and people for     potential use in the video.

5. Use your employees as actors and presenters.

Using employees in your own corporate video is much more practical simply because authenticity is valued as much today as ‘polish.’ Certain types of video (i.e. broadcast commercials) lend themselves to actors. Steve Jobs never appeared on Apple Commercials, but he was brilliant at product launches.

If you are selling to a technical audience then that audience will trust someone just like them a lot more than a ‘suit’. If you’re promoting a lifestyle consumer product or service then you have to use people that best represent that lifestyle.  For a great deal of corporate video projects however, using one of your owners or employees is not only cost-efficient, it’s also a great way to showcase the folks behind the brand.

6. Know your content before you shoot.

Yep, this one sounds like ‘motherhood’ but this is one of the most important thing you can do. Don’t wing it. Don’t wing anything. You should know EXACTLY what you want your on-camera people to say before you arrive on set. If you don’t, then you’ll likely be disappointed.

This even applies to testimonial videos. You never show up for a testimonial video and hope you’re going to hear something good – that would be silly, right?

Senior business leaders are the worst offenders here… by far. “Don’t worry, I know exactly what I’m going to say…” Uh, huh. My experience is not good with ‘execu-wingers.’ If you don’t have a script you should, at a minimum, share an outline with all participants that includes all of the talking points that have to be captured. Senior Executives are often ‘too busy’ to rehearse but that lack of preparation will quite often cost money, or worse, ruin a shoot.

Everyone involved should also know the outcome and purpose of the video before you begin production. Knowing how the content is going to influence the person watching the video (why they should even bother to watch your video) is what will guide every decision you make.  Old-school corporate video production used to be all about the ‘how’- cool camera angles, cool animations, cool locations etc. Today it’s all about the ‘what. ‘ What matters is the content.

7. Keep the length of the video short.

Shorter is almost always better and it’s usually cheaper. Granted, a 30 second tv spot costs a great deal more than a one hour talking head video but, all things being equal, it’s prudent to cater to today’s A.D.D. afflicted business audience. A web-based business promo or corporate overview video should be between one and two minutes. The closer you can get to one minute, the better.

8. Minimize the use of graphics and animations.

Corporate video used to be all about motion graphics and animations. Today real people saying real things is what generally matters. There are still many specialized options and uses for animations such as in animated explainer videos, broadcast commercials or to highlight key data in a video but, on the whole, there is less need for combining animations and motion graphics with live-action video outside of a few specialized formats. (Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned 8 second flying logo at the beginning AND end of your video?)

9. Use events to capture your thought leader’s ideas and experience.

Events (your own, conferences, local meetings, etc.) are the ideal opportunity to capture your thought leaders ideas (your business leadership, clients, suppliers, industry experts, etc.) You have a confluence of people in one location all primed to learn and to communicate.

Find or rent a room, set-up a camera and start capturing all of the video content that you could never afford to otherwise capture. Testimonial videos, thought leadership videos, industry updates, and promotional videos. There are lots of opportunities to make hay at your next event. Most companies totally miss this opportunity.

10. Look for creative ways to build your video.

There are many creative ways to save money on video projects:

  • You don’t have to capture everything as new footage for your video. You can re-use existing in-house assets from other presentations and videos, you can license stock footage, you can ask your video production company if they have footage that could be incorporated (for a fee of course) in your video.
  • If your budget is tight let the production companies know and challenge them to help you think of creative ways to build your video.
  • Develop a format (formula) that can be easily replicated for ongoing video work such as product updates, FAQ video, training, customer support and other scripted repetitive formats.
  • Simplify the concept and approach. You may have wanted to shoot a series of orchestrated testimonial videos with supporting  b-roll but capturing a number of man-in-the-street interviews may be just as effective, and more authentic.
  • Limit anything or everything in the video: the number of people on-camera, the number of locations used to shoot at, the number people in the production crew, the amount of props, wardrobe, etc.  It all adds up.

11. Ensure you understand every variable that can cause costs to change. 

Before you sign your contract with a video production company ask them this question: Is there anything that can cause us to have to pay more than what we’ve agreed to in this production contract?

There are many things that can cause the price you pay to increase but you should understand and agree to all of them. Examples are changes of scope and delays caused by your company in meeting it’s deadlines.

It’s very important to have this discussion because it will stop you from being surprised with a higher bill than you expect and it will allow you to formalize all of the ground rules before the contract is signed (when you have the most leverage).

While it’s true that you get what you pay for, being proactive can help you find new ways to save money.

Jimm Fox

Founder

Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

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