A Few Notes on Video Budgeting
When potentials clients ask how much a video costs, there’s a range of solutions that exist at a range of costs. The right solution is different for each project and making an informed decision is important. Boom works to provide simple options and explain what is possible and what is needed so that our clients can make informed decisions and know they’re not being oversold or overcharged.
So before you pick the cheapest producer and get disappointed when they don’t produce a Super Bowl commercial, here’s what you should know:
What Makes a ‘good video’ good
Not all videos are created equal. There’s a scale of polish or professionalism that has direct or subtle impacts on the viewer and the reputation of the video’s subject. Many of the subtle things that differentiate a polished video from less expensive ones may not be apparent to you if you’re not familiar with production. While cameras and lenses are important, much of the difference comes down to the lighting and the audio of the footage as well as the post-production that puts the finishing touches on the image and sound. Some companies and organizations require more polished videos to support their credibility, and some organizations can get away with more simple solutions.
The following things are areas where you can choose how much or how little to apply to your project.
Thoughtfully controlled lighting is what visually gives great videos that professional touch. There’s always the option to just put a camera on a tripod and aim it at someone, but a viewer will notice the difference. Part of the commitment to good lighting includes not just the right lights, but also the time it takes to set everything up properly and test the look. Locations with windows or working outdoors can require extra time to get things adjusted respective to the changing conditions. Part of pre-production is scouting the right location and making sure that we have the right equipment lined up to make it look how you need it to look.
Not every project requires polished lighting setups, but they’re a big impact on making your final product look great.
A good video with bad audio is a bad video. The choice of microphone makes an impact and different situations require different solutions. Lavaliere mics are an easy solution for a moving subject, but they can pick up lots of background noise and they’re usually visible on camera in your final project. Using the proper microphones with perfect positioning— and proper windscreens when necessary— gets that rich, present audio that makes a project stand out and makes sure that your audio is crisp and clear for your viewer’s understanding. As you may have guessed, this takes extra time to get just right. Not all projects require crystal clear audio, but it’s an easy place to level up your project if you’ve got the time and budget.
So while lighting and audio make a difference in the video, the production gear itself has a huge impact. Cameras that can shoot 4k and slow motion help to add flexibility and can more easily captivate an audience, but tripods, stabilizers, boom poles, light stands, lights, audio recorders, microphones, flags, bounce, and even sandbags are a part of most shoots. Some shoots require two or more cameras and a variety of lenses. Having quality gear goes a long way to making production reliable, and good gear costs money. While phones have gotten better, the difference between an interview shot with an iPhone and one with a great zoom lens is obvious. Not all gear gets used on every shot, but having an arsenal that makes a producer flexible is a handy thing to have.
Making sure that you’ve got gear consistent with the level of production you’re pursuing is important. Sometimes a phone is fine and sometimes you need to get serious.
So you’ve got the right gear lined up, the next thing is making sure that it’s in good hands. Anyone can point a camera at someone or something, but framing things in a thoughtful way, spending time with the background, and making sure all those lights get setup properly is even more important than the gear itself. Bad gear in the right hands is much better than good gear in the wrong hands. Having a strong, experienced crew can help avoid problems and headaches, as well as solve those unforeseen issues that inevitably find their way into all too many shoots.
Spending the money for a good crew can go a long way to making your projects stand out and saving you headaches and extra Post Production days in the long run.
Post production is a process that can take a day, a week, a month, or even years for some projects. Post production includes not just editing, but color correction, audio optimization, music, graphics and titles, and compression of the final project into the proper format. Each element of the process can take as much or as little time as desired. Some projects require a lot of polishing while to others, it’s not as essential to optimize each piece.
Color correction is a big difference maker between a good project and a great project. It can range from subtle tweaks in exposure, to color matching clips from different cameras for a more seamless appearance, and even to a full thematic overhaul of all footage to create a stylized ‘feel’ for the project (go watch a car commercial, they didn’t happen to shoot it on a perfect evening with a hint of red in the sky and shadows). If your project doesn’t have the budget for color correction, footage will be captured in camera with full color. If you know that color correction will be a part of your production, we acquire footage in a different format which makes it easier and more flexible to grade in Post Production.
The more time that can be taken on this process, the more polished the final video will be. There are colorists who ONLY do this type of work, and they are magical. If you want your project to POP, this is something to consider.
Having the right mic is an essential first step, but audio optimization can help to tweak good audio or even save some bad audio. Background noise, echo, and HVAC humming can be very distracting in a final project, taking the time to fix that can make the difference between a good video and a great video. Furthermore, adding compression and tweaking the equalization of the audio can make a huge difference to the final viewer, especially depending on where they’re viewing the video. Low frequencies can be lost on a tablet or cell phone viewing experience, as where settings with more robust audio outlets should be more fully rounded in the low-end. Knowing these things about your project and planning accordingly will make sure your viewers hear every detail you need them to hear.
The variations in these processes are what cause the hesitation when someone reaches out and asks us “how much would it cost to do a three minute video?” If it’s a quick announcement for Social Media, we probably don’t need to color the project and light it like a Hollywood movie, but when it’s a more serious commercial or marquee project summarizing your organization to customers or donors, it’s worth being a bit more patient and producing something special.
So when we meet with potential clients and go down our list of questions before we give a reasonable suggestion or bid, it’s paramount that we understand where the final project is going and who will be viewing it. Knowing that and your preferences for the polish will determine if it’s a $4000 project or a $40,000 project.