I’ve been shooting and editing video projects for a few years now, and have had an official Production Company as an LLC Partnership for just over two years. In that time I’ve been met by some resistance when it comes to the price tag. “Really? That’s how much it would cost me for just an eight hour shoot?” is a question that I’m sure many others in this field has been met with. But here’s the thing: it’s never “just an eight hour shoot.” Rarely is a gig ever close enough for a ten, twenty, or even thirty minute car drive. Even more rarely do people ever want just the raw footage, they want a completed, edited product, often with a musical bed, voiceover or audio track, color correction, audio clean up, etc. And even if it is “just” a shoot, I will ask you this: have you ever lugged a heavy duty tripod along with a camera, audio mic, and lens up a hill on a ninety degree day seconds before a storm to quickly catch a shot?
Shooting videos is a lot of fun. You get to meet lots of new and interesting people, build relationships, and every experience is a new opportunity to grow. But it is work. It’s physically demanding, equipment is heavy, sometimes you’re on your feet for eight hours without a chance to eat or even go to the bathroom, and you have to work hard to put people at ease and be approachable every second you’re out on the field. Sometimes there are even multiple locations required, so being able to quickly disassemble all of your gear, sometimes alone, and then quickly reassemble everything at a different location under a time crunch is of the utmost importance.
Then there is the more obvious reason for the cost of video production: the cost of equipment. Yes, video equipment has become more affordable over the years, but at the same time there is much more to think about than just the camera. Even the cost of a DSLR (that normally comes as just the camera body with no lens) will see you back over two grand. I myself shoot mainly with a Canon C100 that was over $6000 (for the body) when it came out initially. Then you have lenses, lighting, sliders, tripods, steady cams, drones, follow focus, camera cases, batteries, back up batteries, LAV mics, boom poles, boom mics, mixers, editing software, a computer to edit on, SD cards, advertisements, the cost of extra cloud storage, external hard drives, inevitable equipment upgrades, and so forth and so on. And if you’re like me, you have the monthly student loan payments of $600+ for over twenty years. It all adds up. Good video production companies invest in good equipment to create a quality product.
In addition to the body wear and tear, travel time, cost of gas and cost of equipment, there is the time it takes to edit. It usually takes more time to edit than it does to shoot, because a good editor will take the time to review every bit of raw footage that’s been recorded, then you have to figure out what the best take is, and label and tag everything so it’s easier to edit. It’s great to be able to work remotely, but it is still work. Lot’s of thought and creativity and intuition goes into the editing process, and if people request motion graphics and animations to go into their project, that can easily double or triple your workload. And if they want a music bed added to the video, there is the time of looking for applicable copyright free music. I like to give people a rough cut, an initial edit they can look at and see what’s working and what’s not, and then I go back in and do a final edit.
Lastly, but absolutely not least, there’s preproduction. I’ve learned that when this is taken to account and ironed out, then everything else, the shoot, the edit, it all goes much more smoothly. This stage of the production process is where you secure the location, write the script, edit a story board, get your shot list, hire actors when needed, and secure your shoot date(s). This stage can sometimes be the most time consuming when it’s all left up to the video production team. Not every shoot will take all of these into account, sometimes the client will have his own script and location, sometimes it’s all up to the videographer, so it’s important to have a good line of communication open to the customer. Even when the client insists to take care of everything, a good shot list is invaluable to make sure you are covered.
And there you have it. I hope this post is able to shed some light on the indelible question of why video production costs so much. I’m very happy to be able to work as a videographer, but it was a lot of work and sweat and reading and trial and error to get me to this point.