Film production companies record events, performances, demonstrations as well as scripted activities such as commercials or promotional videos, using professional video equipment. Most services can also edit the raw footage as needed to create a final, polished video file that they deliver on disc or in a digital format for personal or professional use. Anyone with a camera-equipped smartphone can capture live video, but professionals have expertise in editing film footage, adding audio (music, sound effects and voiceover) and visual effects (tints, overlays or animation), and inserting text and still images into the video as needed.
As with still photography, film production companies work on a variety of projects. For example, both Best Made Videos and Izzo Pro specialize in weddings, but they also offer a full range of videography services. VideoPhotoStudios, which also offers still photography services, specializes in music and talent videos as well as business commercials. Another multitasker, Thumbs Up Video, has filmed weddings, corporate events, and live music and dance performances, and has also produced instructional videos.
Some filmmakers and videographers have college degrees in fields related to videography, and others are self-taught or chose the profession as a second career. FeatherDot Video Productions founder Aaron Arnold worked in construction for 15 years before he decided to change careers by pursuing a degree in digital media with a focus on videography. XY Vector Media Services owner Steven Curtis is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s film school. The founders of Lonely Rhino Productions, Kathryn Williams and Daniel Frazer, have master’s degrees in film and television production and audio production, respectively.
Look at a production company’s portfolio of clips to get a sense of its style, and if you don’t see a sample that resembles the kind of video you want to produce, ask if they have one that is not posted on their website.
Certain subjects may require targeted expertise. Filming live music events or demo reels for musicians, for example, requires experience dealing with challenging lighting and, of course, the ability to capture high-quality sound. Promotional videos for companies need to be polished and professional. MJRVisuals has produced corporate videos, commercials, interviews, short films and feature films. Their prices are typically based on the hourly cost for setup, filming and breakdown without editing, which is priced per hour.
Some film production companies charge an additional fee to cover travel expenses and the time required to get to a location. Sites with challenging light or sound environments can also cost more, unless the film production company specializes in exactly the kind of film you need, such as a music video or live hands-on demonstration.
The number of cameras used in a shoot typically increase the cost but can also create a more professional-looking result. More cameras provide more viewing angles and editing options. FeatherDot Video Productions charges standard rates based on the number of cameras and crew members needed. For example, one ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K camera with camera operator for a minimum of three hours costs $165 per hour. Each additional camera and operator costs $100 per hour. UHD 4K cameras feature the latest digital video technology. Additional equipment such as lights, microphones, teleprompters, green screen and other extras during a shoot cost more. FeatherDot Video Productions’ hourly rate for editing starts at $145.
Some film production companies charge a flat day rate, while others charge by the hour of work or by the minute of finished video. Charles Koppelman of Koppelman & Associates sometimes charges by the finished minute of video and sometimes negotiations with clients on a flat project fee. Average prices for this service range from $370 to $2,205, but costs always depend on the location and the scope of the project.
Some production companies have standard day rates for commercial video shoots. For example, Best Made Videos’ nonwedding day rate is $1,000 for a full day and $500 for a half-day, while wedding packages cost $2,200 for six hours and $3,200 for 14 hours, with a variety of available add-ons. XY Vector Media Services’ hourly rate is $45–$55, depending on travel requirements and the difficulty of a shoot. But owner Curtis prefers to provide customers with a project fee and outline details in the contract rather than worry too much about about tracking hours.
The best way to save on film production is to avoid paying for more time than you’ll need. Know that if you don’t have enough footage, however, your final video may not include everything you want in it. Most experienced film teams will shoot more than they need, including B-roll (filler), to make sure that if there’s informational voiceover content, for example, there is enough video content to go with it. The extra shooting won’t necessarily cost more, but it’s a good idea to ask your service provider how they plan to fill gaps, should it become necessary. Most production companies work with clients to stay within their budget—and many offer discounts to nonprofits—but in general, film production tends to be expensive.
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