Pricing your video project / by Lowell Niles

Pricing your video can be frustrating!

Pricing your video can be frustrating!

How much will my video cost?

This is one of the most common questions I get when contacted by people looking to have a video produced.  It's notoriously difficult to go online and quickly find a price for your video.  Most video production companies require that you fill out a form and provide certain information about your project.  Usually, they will want to speak with you in person; however, when you're in a hurry and just want to get a ballpark estimate for how much your video will cost, you don't have time to call around, wait for people to come up with an estimate, or talk to a salesperson.  How can you go about getting a price estimate quickly?

Frustrated Lawyer Client

I had a client-- a lawyer-- who was in exactly this situation.  She needed a video for her law firm and she needed it ASAP.  They were behind on schedule and didn't have much time to wait for the quotes to come in.  At the same time, she didn't want to simply sign up with the first production company that got back to her, as she was a frugal shopper and wanted to compare prices side-by-side.  Lucky for me, she had already gotten quotes from several local companies-- I won't name them but if you go on google and search for "San Diego video production", she called 8 of the companies that showed up on the first page in the search results.  To get quotes from them all took her several days.  Then she called me at Sunword Studios.

How We Establish Price

All projects, whether hourly or fixed-rate, have a cost that is based on the number of man-hours spent on the project.  In addition, certain aspects of the projects are priced differently.  For example, it is $85 per hour for field production (we come to your location to shoot video or photos) but it is $60 per hour for basic video editing in our offices.  The bigger and more complex the project, the more expensive it will be-- obviously!  Complex graphics, special effects, custom logos, and original music compositions are all examples of services that increase the completion time and cost of a project.

You Still Haven't Told Me How Much My Project Will Cost

While giving us the details of your project is important to get an accurate cost, you can get a rough idea by looking at examples:

Chris Cristiano, owner of Cristiano Spa, wanted an interview-style video to promote his business, describe the services offered, and provide important information to his clients.  Chris provided the location-- his business-- to shoot at, wrote his own script, and acted as his own spokesperson.  Thus, all we had to do was show up, set up lights and cameras, shoot the video, and put it all together with some basic editing.  Our rule-of-thumb pricing method is to estimate the amount of time it will take to set up and shoot the video, then add one hour just in case.  Then, double the time for the production (setup and shooting) estimate in order to determine the amount of time for post-production (editing), as this usually takes longer and goes through many revisions before the final cut.  Thus we estimated 3 hours of production time and 6 hours of post-production.  Production is $85/hour, basic post-production is $60/hour, so our original estimate was $615 for his video.  In reality, we finished production in 2 hours and after just 4 hours of editing, he was happy with the end result.  Total cost: $410.

Wait-- your estimate was $615 but the final cost was $410.  What gives?

I always give conservative estimates.  That is, I usually quote more than what the project will actually cost.  This is just in case something goes wrong, things change last minute, or there is perhaps some detail that was not taken into consideration beforehand.  I never want to be in the situation where the final cost is more than what I had originally estimated.  This is upsetting to the client, which in turn is upsetting to me.  On the flip side, I always want to be in the situation where the final cost is LESS than the original estimate.  This means the client is happy, and I am happy!

Another Example:

The owner of Wicked Lasers, one of our repeat customers, wanted to promote his latest product: the LaserSaber!  His goal was simple: to get over 1 million views on youtube!  For this project, we wrote the script, hired stuntmen, hired a voice over actor, leased a studio, contacted media outlets, had costumes made, hired an extra assistant, and produced the video.  During post-production we used processor-and-time-intensive techniques such as rotoscoping, tracking, keying, and compositing.  The number of views on youtube is currently over 2.4 million, and growing.  Total cost: $2.8k.

How To Keep Costs Down

You can keep costs down by helping us as much as you can!  Examples can be creating your own logo images instead of us creating them, writing your own scripts (or a general outline which we will polish), and most importantly: giving us an accurate description of exactly what you want, preferably with examples.  If your description is vague, there's a good chance your final video will not be what you expected and more time will need to be spent getting it there.  If you really plan out your video, you will be surprised and how quickly and efficiently it can be produced.  That being said, we are happy to provide our expertise and help you in any way you need.  We can look at an example and tell you how much it would cost for us to reproduce it.  Or we can even help you come up with ideas to promote your business.

Back To The Lawyer Client

She showed me the quotes she received from other video production companies, and I was blown away (as she was) at how expensive they were.  I don't know where all that money is going, when the prices I charge are enough for me to make a living while still being affordable to my clients.  We did end up producing her legal ad, and it went quite well.


Here is a document containing our hourly prices.

Using the examples provided here might help, but the more you tell us about your project, the more accurate your cost estimate will be.  We only charge for the time we actually spend on your project-- setting up lights, camera in hand, active editing time, and so on.  We don't charge you for rendering time (the time it takes for a computer to process a video file).  We don't charge any overhead for offices or studio space unless you require one of those to shoot in.  We don't charge to communicate with one another.  We don't charge to upload files to dropbox or other sharing sites.  What you're paying for is our expertise at using the equipment that we have to produce the best media possible.  Bam!  That's my obligatory marketing pitch!

Best of luck on your project!  Post any questions you might have.