Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?
A. We’ve found one of the most helpful questions we can ask a client these days is this one: Do you have any examples of OTHER projects you’ve seen that you would like yours to look like?
Thanks to YouTube and other video sites, you almost always do these days. Most people who approach us about a video in fact have a very specific video in mind that they saw, that inspired them to search for us in the first place. Some of our favorite clients will send us links to a half dozen other commercials or music videos they’ve seen and loved, which lets us know a lot about what they consider important in a project.
If the video company has been doing it long enough, they should be able to examine another project and break down the costs of each component to try to help you better understand the expenses involved. Sometimes things that look simple and minor, or even went unnoticed in the initial video (like jib, dolly, or steadicam shots) may be big deals. Likewise, sometimes factors you might expect to be deal-breakers (like actors), are not as expensive as you might fear. Allowing your video company to hire professional on-camera talent will generally pay off in droves in the final product compared to what you might get with amateurs.
If the client is going for something totally unique or has no examples to show, we usually ask questions like these before we give can accurately give you a quote:
1) What kind of project is it? (TV commercial? music video? film noir? promotional video for Thailand?)
2) Do you have a concept already in mind, or do you want to sit down and brainstorm some potential concepts?
3) How many talent (actors) will be on screen total? How many will be on screen at one time?
4) Do you have all your talent (and do they have any experience on camera), or would we be providing any/all?
5) How long is the script (or song, if it’s a music video)? If there is no script, how long do you want the running time to be?
6) How many locations do you envision? What types of locations are they? (Beach house? Office? Sports car? The moon?) Do you have them already or would we be finding them?
7) Do you need music? Animation? Graphics? Special effects?
I always prefer to talk this stuff through in a phone conversation or in person, because any answer may uncover two more questions that we then need to get to the bottom of, and if done via email, it may be an extended chain or replies taking up time that could better be spent writing up a proposal and getting to work (or politely saying our best wishes and calling it a day)!
So if you are in the market for a video, prepare some answers to the above before you contact the video company. Most video companies are not out there to trick you or gouge you, they simply need more information to answer your question and do their jobs. They are asking because, as with any creative industry, the sky is literally the limit. The video company simply wants to make your project the best it can be without breaking the bank. If you can’t afford Will Smith, don’t act as though you can. Because the company will write up a proposal which will be instantly rejected by you as outrageous, and then you have to start all over again.
Don’t be afraid to shop around, but once you’ve located a company you like, and you are confident they are capable of meeting your project’s needs, don’t be afraid to let them know what those needs are. Like all other productive business relationships, approach it from a perspective of trust, and it will pay off, time and time again.
As our company goes, once we have the sort of information listed above, we can work with you from there to determine the perfect way to accomplish your project that fits into your budget. And if we can’t, we’ll at least be able to tell you that. :)
Q. Write your own question and answer it.
A. How much does a simple video cost?
It’s a reasonable question. You want to make a video. Before anybody’s time is wasted, you want to make sure you’re in the ballpark. Unfortunately, unless the company does live events like weddings or bar mitzvahs where there is a consistency and a minimization of variables, it’s one of the most complex questions you can ask a video company because there is no such thing as a “simple video.”
As for us at Crystalline Studios, we do some live events, but we mostly do commercials, DVDs, industrials, and promotional videos that vary widely in scope and complexity. While I would love to be able to give everybody a boilerplate answer, the question is a lot like asking “How much is a car?” Without knowing about your needs and budget, the sales person won’t know if you want to see a fuel-efficient sedan, sports utility vehicle, or luxury sports car. Most people would agree, doing your researching and getting the best value for your money is far better than blindly purchasing a “lemon” just because it was the cheapest 30-year old clunker on the lot.
But what if you only have money for a “clunker”? On the low end, you could probably make yourself a video by purchasing a $50 handicam, having your friend hit record, and uploading the raw footage to YouTube. Keep in mind, no matter what it says on the fancy camera box or how good of an actress your cousin Shelly is, shooting on a handicam will not give the same results as using a trained videography cast and crew with professional equipment and editing software. Without a professional microphone and audio technician, you might also have problems clearly hearing your message with only the in-camera mic – especially if you shoot outdoors or in a crowded room. Last, but not least, it is highly likely that your inexpensive camera and free editing software like iMovie will not be able to meet many commercial broadcast standards.
If you are just looking to make”podcast-style” videos and vlogs, that’s okay! If you’ve never used a video camera before, we highly suggest paying a professional help you set up your first podcast. We offer ”handi-cam consultation” services that help train you how to mic, light, shoot, edit, and upload podcast-style videos so you can shoot “decent” podcast until you’ve ready to hire a professional company for the “real deal”.
So, how much is “the real deal” commercial? On average, a national commercial done through an ad agency now costs about $325,000 to produce. That does not include the cost of running the ads on television, which varies from around $50 per spot to millions of dollars (think SuperBowl). Hollywood music videos usually start around $100,000, and top out over a million. The good news is, being based near Philadelphia and having accumulated an extremely talented cadre of people we work with, we can do what Hollywood does with similar production values at a small fraction of that cost. Video productions at Crystalline Studios vary from $3,000-$120,000 in range.
Why such a wide scope? Just as the cost of a car is based on variables like car size, engine speed and performance, features like four wheel drive, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes, and extras like seatwarmers and little TVs built into the headrests, video costs are also immensely variable, based on the type of video in question, and what features are important to you. A one-take shot of your CEO talking to the camera for a TV commercial will likely cost less than a music video with five different locations, 50 choreographed extras, and fireworks.
Even given these parameters, there is always The Project Triangle to consider when evaluating your video company. Especially true in creative industries, there is good, there is fast, and there is cheap. You can have two of the three, but never the whole trifecta. If a company is offering you the trifecta… take it as a warning flag and get out ASAP. Their definition of “good” is likely not yours.
On our end, we have become pretty good at offering the best value for the money, but we never want to be the company sacrificing quality just to give the lowest possible quote. Some companies will, and if you’re making your decision based solely on cost, you’re going to be rolling the dice with your end product.