Budgeting Your Production

We were asked recently to give a presentation for the Maine Public Relations Council.  Part of the event was a discussion on video budgets.  Following are the notes from this discussion based on a formula which MI Media uses for its budgeting process.

Budgeting your production

How are budgets determined? A client’s guide

There are many, many different budget ranges and no one magic formula for doing them.  We, the producers need to look at the following:


Will we need to delve into your company’s history to tell the story? Is there a lot of printed material, both in-house and articles about the company?


Do we work off a script (for narration) or an outline? Who will write it, how long will it be, what will it cost? (Cost saving tip: Somebody from your company writes a script or at least a rough draft, which we will turn into a narrative script)


We will help determine how many shoot days are needed. Can you ensure your staff is ready and helpful? (Cost saving tips: A staff person can help us in many ways which may either offset the need for a production assistant in the budget, or at the least speed up the crew’s efficiency. Maybe your company conducts the interviews, freeing us to focus on the footage and sound.)


The complexity of editing will completely affect the cost here. Will we use music and what will it cost? Do we need special graphics or animation? Were the shoots carefully structured and wedded to a script and a shot list?


Making a nicely packaged DVD with attractive packaging adds to the cost. We can handle this start to finish, or, if you wish, we’ll turn over the master tape to you to look for your best deal for DVD duplication, printing and packaging.

There are no hard and fast rules for what to expect to pay.  The budget has everything to do with how slick and complex your project is, how much time is needed for each step of production and how much you might be able to assist in the process.  MI Media will provide you with a range based on various criteria. Most any video that requires more than a day of shooting and is structured through editing and narration and/or interviews is going to cost upwards of a few thousand dollars.  The exception to this rule being coverage of an event where very little editing is needed.  Elements like professional narration, music rights, special graphics or animation will each add to the cost.

At MI Media our budgets will show you breakdowns, providing a range of: Amount of days needed for each facet of production, day rate for each job, cost for special tasks, costs for special equipment, options for music, graphics, animation.

Confused yet?  Stay with us as we have a great example of how budgets work. While $1000 per finished minute is considered an industry standard for many projects, here are a few examples of budgets where the costs per minute vary quite substantially.  These are all based on actual budgets that MI Media has created, but the company names may have been changed.  Also for the sake of brevity, these are shortened and do not show the line item breakdowns of our full budgets.

PROJECT A 30 second LLBean spot.  Goal: to show product in best light,  to compete nationally.
-2 days of research/developing story concept/writing/meetings
-2 days of shooting HD video w/ 3 person crews: Producer, camera or DP, audio
-2 days of editing / purchase of rights to a popular song

PROJECT B 12 min. marketing video for Maine Nature Conservancy
-4 days filming remote locations throughout Maine plus travel (producer also shoots)
-1 day filming interviews with reps from the organization (producer/videographer)
-½ day scanning historic still shots / Simple narration written and voiced by client
-Purchase of 30 seconds of professional stock footage
-3 days editing / 1 day creation of very nice DVD menu, labels and printing
-Purchasing 4 music clips from a local composer

PROJECT C 22 min. video showing how Thos Moser Furniture is made. Used to educate sales people based in remote locations.  
-2 days filming manufacturing process /
-1 day for interviews (HR person does interviews, freeing up the producer to run camera)
-2 days for editing (company reps pre-select the shots they want used)
-Simple text graphics / music from a production library / No paid narration.
-Edited project burned directly to a half dozen DVDs.

You can see how three different projects of different lengths require the same final budget figure.  Why?  Project A requires much thought and planning as we are creating something from scratch.  Concept, goals and execution all have to be determined. While it requires less total production time than the other examples, the equipment and personnel needed for each production day is much greater.  It needs to be polished as the target audience needs to be sold on a product. Project B comes in right at $1000 per finished minute.  It requires travel costs and time to get to the remote locations and find the nicest shots.  However, we both produce and shoot, saving the cost of hiring a DP or videographer.  No lights are needed until the one day filming interviews.  The purchased footage is a slight splurge, but adds a lot to the finished project.  Nice DVDs are made as the organization plans to send them out as inducements to join. Project C is very close to $500/finished minute.  Why so much less?  All the shooting is contained – in one place.  The shots don’t have to be “found”, as the reps already know – and point out – exactly what needs to be shot.  Simple lighting might be needed in some cases.  Note that the human resources person conducts the interviews.  This means that the producer/shooter is freed up and a second crew member is not needed.  Also, the company pre-screens the video and selects the shots they want, saving about 1/3 of the editing time.  The “audience”, being the company’s own sales force is required to watch, so the product needn’t be slick and entertaining.  But they WANT to watch it anyway because it saves them from having to fly back to Maine to see the actual process.  They learn how the product is made and even feel like they’ve met the actual workers! In all these examples we are trying to show how every project requires very different levels of time/personnel/equipment and extras.  In each case the target audience is different, requiring a different look, a different level of polish, if you will.  None of them are any better or more worthy than the others.  All of them were simply designed to optimize the resources needed.  They address the requirements and budget of the client and they provide exactly what the anticipated audience needs in order to act upon the information.