$42 per second.
January 30, 2006 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Am I being taken for a ride?

My organization wants to have an internal training video created. Nothing fancy - 8 minutes or so of (hopefully) fairly entertaining information. We would arrange for the actors (no professionals) and would write the script, but the video itself would have to look polished (no 12-year-old with a videocam, for example).

We've asked two organizations how much it would cost to produce this sort of video, and both came back with quotes in excess of $20,000. This seems excessive to me, but I don't have any basis for comparison as I've never done this sort of thing before.

So, question for those folks who HAVE had experience in getting videos made, or making them: are these reasonable estimates? If so, we can scratch the idea right away and start looking at other options.

I know there's a bunch of stuff I'm leaving out, and details I'm probably missing, but $2500 per minute seems a bit steep. Feel free to take this opportunity to educate me on exactly why this job is so huge and costly, if in fact it is.

We're in downtown SF, if that matters.
posted by aberrant to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's simple and you only need people with technical expertise in the area try asking area film schools. I know many friends (students) who get jobs like this for much, much less than $20,000. Ask them to provide the equpment and give them very strict guidelines (otherwise you may have too many Fellini-wannabes for a training video). It may be less professional but will be more like $2500 and less like $20,000.
posted by geoff. at 11:26 AM on January 30, 2006

That is really expensive. Second what geoff said, you should have no trouble finding some film students willing to do it for a few thousand. Just ask for a sample of previous work to make sure it's up to your quality requirements.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2006

Yeah, that seems a bit out of whack....I've had a couple of videos done that were about 1/2 hour, actors, setup, etc, and I think they each cost less than $10,000. You might want to think about contacting a local university or college to see if their production departmetns can do it for less (I don't mean students, but the folks that do production for the universities)
posted by tristeza at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2006

It's not totally unreasonable.

You went somewhere that was established, that was ready to go from the moment you said start. I'd like to know how many scenes, the breakdown of B roll, any effects, any titles needed.

But to help, I'll do a quick break down (albeit a little high) and make it $500 for each freelancer day.

Let's say 5 days of shooting. $2500. Wait, you're saying it's just 10 min, right? How many scenes? How much B roll vs. acting?
Figure 1-3 scenes a day. Maybe two people, lighting plus shooting plus sound. So make it $5k
Oh wait, you're not using professionals? Let's add two or three days because your people are fussy, don't know how to hit their marks and drag the production later. Add another $1500

Add a day since you're going to write the script yourself, and you'll make some dumb decisions. I'm up to $4500

Figure, five (ha, ten) hours of editing for every finished minute. 5 hours * 10 min = 50 hours or six days at @$500. $3000.
(Capture + edit + effects + sound finishing + color correction (if they do it right)) And I'm being generous here.

Now, that's just for the edit. You want input on that edit, right? Well, add two days of review+ changes. Another $1k, not including consumables.

And music - they've paid for a music library - needle drop stuff.

Ok, you need it on a DVD, right? Well, let's just do an easy authoring - 1 day. $500

I'm up to $10k or so. Oh yeah, you'll need to pay for a producer to 'manage' the project - oversee it in your place. Make sure everyone is at the right places at the right time, give the editor a structure.

They're organizations...they have overhead, are in SF (one of the most expensive cities in the US.) They have to pay for secretaries, health insurance.

Keep in Mind - you're hiring professionals to prevent "fresh grads" from screwing it up. I've been fairly wide in the whole breakdown - but you haven't mentioned too much beyond 8 minutes.

You could produce this yourself. Hire shooters and editors seperately. Do you want to manage this project?
You could hire via craigslist.
You'l find some independents (Preditors - Producer/editors) or Producer/editor/shooters) who could do the whole thing for less than $10k.
I'd suggest contacting SF cutters - they're the local FCP UG, they might be able to point you to someone more reasonable. Make sure to look at people's demo reel and a list of happy clients.
posted by filmgeek at 11:50 AM on January 30, 2006

I hate to break it to you, but that's about par for the course for mid- to high-end professional companies in S.F. Your mileage may vary *widely* depending on quality and size of the production firm and on line-item negotiations. With what geoff said above, the negotiations are key -- you can probably bring the costs down enormously by going over the contract with a fine-toothed comb. But at the same time, the production house may balk at that entirely in favor of other customers. Many of these production houses cater to companies that really don't care about the difference between 10K and 20K, as long as it's one-stop shopping.
posted by frogan at 11:50 AM on January 30, 2006

I've seen semi-okay documentary style pieces of 60-90 minutes produced by external companies for the $15k-$20k range, so for 8 minutes that's extremely steep.
posted by wackybrit at 11:53 AM on January 30, 2006

Response by poster: Excellent suggestions so far, and thanks for sharing experiences. I have no idea what B roll is, so I can't address that, but we'd like the training on DVD. As far as number of scenes, I don't know what a scene really is, so I can't answer that either.

One other thing we're thinking about is to have the training animated. Will this tend to increase or decrease the production costs?

Thanks again for all the input - greatly appreciated.
posted by aberrant at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2006

B Roll is backup footage - stock that can be spliced in here and there to replace or pad sections of the video.

I was involved in the making of an 8-minute orientation video for my place of work. Most of our bids were about $20K too. The exception, and the company we went with, bid $11K. They were giving us a friends-and-neighbors price because we're in their city and we're a not-for-profit. We thought it was a great deal and they went out great guns with us. We were psyched.

But, somewhat predictably, we found that they shifted our project to the back burner when higher-paying, short-timetable gigs came along. We had trouble communicating with them in a timely manner; we were clearly second priority.

In the end, they did a pretty good job and we got a serviceable result. But we got what we paid for: a cheap job, not as much care and attention as we probably would have gotten from a pricier contract. So there's one experience that bears out the $20K as a fair price.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on January 30, 2006

Best answer: Filming an eight minute video requires a lot more time than you would think!

That's why it's misleading to think about this on a per-minute cost by dividing the estimate by the number of minutes for the final product. There are substantial start-up costs involved no matter what the ultimate length of the video is - like if they have to rent a lens or some lighting and they can only do so by the day.

Maybe you could get in touch with the good people at the Bay Area Video Coalition, and get their view as to what a ballpark estimate for San Francisco should be.
posted by jasper411 at 12:41 PM on January 30, 2006

One other thing we're thinking about is to have the training animated. Will this tend to increase or decrease the production costs?

If you're talking about basic animation that can be done with common video-editing tools during the normal editing process, that might help, yes, depending on what you're actually doing. If you're talking about advanced Flash-style or character animation, that will increase the costs enormously.
posted by frogan at 1:04 PM on January 30, 2006

As others have said, that quote is high, but getting a first rate company to do it has its advantages. They can consult with you about how the process works, how much background (b-roll) footage you'll need to come up with or shoot or buy, how to improve your script, ideas for titles ("remember the three steps: once is happenstance, three times is enemy fire..."), get more from your amateur actors.

Getting a student or some smaller outfit may be able to professionally shoot video and capture sound. But the end product could be sub-optimal if the concept / storyboard /script / actors are not up to snuff.

I just made a short demonstration film for a technical conference. It's done in iMovie and the audio was captured with GarageBand. It's pretty amateur, but with some practice, I bet that one could capture good b-roll film, and reasonable audio (in a studio or at least a quiet room!), and then splice it together. My amateur / academic video (7 MB, mpeg4), if you want to see what iMovie can do.
posted by zpousman at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2006

Animation may (or may not) increase costs. You'll have to hire someone to do the animation + voices/voiceover(s).
Someone could do this in flash/AE or other animation software. Again, someone who does this professionally, ain't going to be cheap - and they calculate their time in how many frames.

B roll is the cutaway while you talk about the training (of someone actually doing the procedure).

A scene in a training video might something like Step one of How to turn on the Opturex 5000.
This is where your inexperience is killing you - the cost/time of turning your script into a finish(able) work.

The golden rule is:
Pick 2

Good + Fast is not Cheap
Cheap and Fast is not Good
Cheap and Good isn't fast (See Miko's example)
posted by filmgeek at 3:11 PM on January 30, 2006

Media Studies student = done some internships
I'm strongly seconding filmgeek's post - try a few more places and compair their videos and you'll generally see what you're paying for.
posted by meta x zen at 3:13 PM on January 30, 2006

I am producer of a student outfit, and my associates and I could likely arrange something in the neighborhood of half that, but I'll save the negotiations for later, depending on several variables (your actors' level of experience, your desired set, etc.)

Email SugarHighProductions@gmail.com to discuss further.
posted by FearAndLoathingInLJ at 3:26 PM on January 30, 2006

Response by poster: This is fantastic advice. Thanks. Filmgeek, the fast/good/cheap selection applies to pretty much everything, so I'm leaning towards good and cheap (time's not critical but then again, I don't know what's a reasonable timeframe. We're probably ok with 8-10 weeks).

We've found a couple places with more reasonable prices; the question now is whether it'll be what we want.
posted by aberrant at 3:47 PM on January 30, 2006

As far as number of scenes, I don't know what a scene really is, so I can't answer that either.

Hopefully one of your co-workers does, considering that you're writing your own script.
posted by bingo at 5:49 PM on January 30, 2006

there's 4 ways to save on the cost:
a) find somebody who has already done a video that would work for your purpose and just use that video with some minor edits/changes (dunno how unlikely that is in your case)
b) find somebody else who needs a similar video and make 1 video that you and the other organization can use
c) find somebody else who needs a similar video and make 2 videos
d) do parts of the production yourself
posted by suni at 6:07 PM on January 30, 2006

I think one issue here is that you may not have thought in detail about exactly what production values you need. What does 'polished' mean exactly? There is a HUGE gulf between 12-year-old with a camcorder and what these video companies consider minimum production standards. Also, the exact nature of the training video makes a big difference.

When you say that you don't want amateurish video, does that mean just that you want the camera steady on a tripod rather than shaking? That's cheap.

Or do you mean that when someone explaining something points to a part of something, that there is an edit and a close up of the part he's pointing to? Is it important to you that the edit look smooth and the action match before and after the cut? That's harder.

Do you care if it looks at least as good as an infomercial on TV? That means a lighting crew, lighting equipment, and lots of time to set up the lights for every place you shoot. If you don't care if the whole thing looks dull, with harsh shadows, that can save you a lot of money and time.

Do you need to shoot in many locations or can you do the whole shoot in one room without moving anywhere else? Every time a crew moves it's time and money.

Can you do the video in one take per major segment (no edits to other shots) or do you want to change camera angles and move from wide shots to close-ups?

How many people need to be speaking? Do you need music? What are your minimum standards?

I think that you CAN figure out a way to save money if you can tell a crew that you don't care about some of these things. If you really do want something that looks even minimally professional, you'll need to pay for it, unless you find competent film students with access to equipment (which is possible).
posted by underwater at 11:00 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Followup: we wound up talking with BAVC, who put us in touch with a producer who's charging much less than what we were quoted. Service looks like it's going to be very good. Thanks to all for the advice and education.
posted by aberrant at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2006

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