What are you paying for when you invest in video production services? Video production services include far more than one might at first realize. Creating a professional video for a commercial enterprise is a complex task, which includes many moving parts. Production crews, editing teams, actors, writers, and more will all need to be managed and maintained throughout the process of development, which runs from pre-production to post-production. If you have a reliable production company, they will be able to handle everything for you — and will, ideally, be able to give you the end product that you were looking for.
Pre-Production Costs: Preparing for Your Video
Before the production even begins, a significant amount of preparation and research begins. It all starts with the concept for your video. Though you may already have a rough idea in mind of what your video will turn out like, the video production company will need to go over the concept to determine what is feasible and what is ideal. This will require some amount of brainstorming, planning, and even marketing research. Story-boarding will be done to present ideas in a way that’s easy to compare them, and different shots will have to be planned out one by one regarding the resources that they will need and the time they will take to develop.
From there, locations will need to be scouted to identify the best locations for shooting. Location has quite a lot to do with a successful shoot, especially more complex ones — everything from weather to foot traffic needs to be carefully considered. Here, planning, organization, and strategies will also come into play. The production company will need to determine the most affordable method of shooting on-site, and will need to negotiate for the most affordable and ideal sites. To be realistic, the production company may need to pare down the script to certain locations, or may need to forego additional scenes to get a more expensive one.
At this stage, scripting will likely begin. A professional script writer is essential to a video production, especially more complex productions. Without a well-written script, even a well-made video may not appear to be polished. As the script is produced, the production company will begin working with a casting director or casting studio to find the right actors. For smaller projects, these planning stages often run concurrently. For larger productions, the script may need to be finished before the casting and reading begins.
Gear will also be prepared and a schedule for the shoot will be developed. If there is any specialized equipment that will be needed, it will both need to be acquired and prepared. Test shots may also be done at this time to ensure that the location, gear, and actors are all working well together. Test shots may also be critical for any particularly challenging shots that are necessary for the production. Meanwhile, the producer and director may also be discussing any audio that they will need to purchase and license for the finished product. This is commonly music. Though this can occur solely during post-production, many creative talents prefer to have an idea of which music they are setting a scene to in the planning stages.
If the video will not be shooting on location, it’s common that a set will need to be built. The pre-production stage is when this will occur. Prop masters, engineers, set designers, and stagers will all need to be hired in order to create these sets, which will also need to be tested on video. There will also be a materials cost related to the set that is being built — wood, paint, and other materials — and there will likely be a lot or sound stage rental fee for the location in which the set is being built.
Throughout all of this, a video production company will work closely with the client to ensure that the production is going as they desire. This is the stage at which the client should be vocal about any of their concerns, as it’s the final stage in which significant changes can be made. Before production actually begins, scripts may be changed, actors may be re-cast, and different gear may be acquired. Once production actually begins, this becomes substantially more difficult for the production team to alter.
Solid preparation is essential for the production process. In fact, most productions will spend the largest amount of time in pre-production and post-production. The goal, when it comes to pre-production, is to make the actual process of production as short as possible. Gear, shooting locations, and actors all cost quite a bit of money. When the pre-production process has been done properly, the production itself should operate like a finely-tuned machine.
Production Costs: The Creation of Your Video
Just before production begins, travel and shipping costs may become some of the most significant expenses included within the production service. Actors will need to travel to the site, in addition to the production crew itself. Travel costs can include airfare, hotels, parking, rental cars, gas, travel meals, baggage fees, shipping fees, and far more. The production company will have planned in pre-production the most affordable methods of getting both talent and gear to the site, but there are limits to how much they can save. In particular, gear tends to be very expensive to ship, as it is very delicate and heavy.
For large productions, there may be additional fees associated with the travel. Travel visas may need to be acquired and there may need to be additional staff members to take care of the talent and any administrative issues that arise. Once travel and production begins, the production crew is generally on a day rate; from then on, every day that they are in production will be another expense. This is why the pre-production planning and streamlining of the process is so critical.
Gear also includes a day rate. Cameras, lenses, lighting, grip, aerial rigs, and other support equipment will all essentially be leased to the production. The longer the production goes, the more expensive this becomes. Specialized equipment, such as Steadicam rigs, may need to be rented on a per project basis. In this situation, again, each subsequent day that it needs to be used will be charged at an additional day rate.
The production crew itself will be considerable. The director and producer will both be working together to ensure the bigger picture regarding the production. Gaffers, grips, sound producers, and assistants will all be working together as needed to pull together the recording and ensure the highest fidelity of video and audio. Though there will be significant post-production work after the filming has been completed, the post-production work can only do so much. It’s up to the crew to make sure they have the best possible material to work with.
Hair and makeup artists and wardrobe artists will also be necessary to prepare the talent. Even for small productions, it’s often very important to complete hair and makeup and ensure that the actors are not wearing anything that would otherwise clash or interfere with the video. It is very rare for talent to not have their hair and makeup done before a production; things that look natural and normal in real life will look distracting and unkempt on a video.
Talent itself will come at a different rate, often based on the needs of the production. If the production is simply sourcing testimonials for clients or has a handful of extras in the background, the talent rate may not be very extreme. If the production needs talented actors and actresses, on the other hand, it may become more expensive. The talent rate, talent travel, and their per diem will all be included within the production package. In addition to the talent that is talking on screen, there may also need to be extras that will be hired to fill in shots. Voice over artists may also be required, especially for commercials or narratives.
At the location itself, the production will need to be setup. Some amount of setup time is always necessary, to place props as needed and to prepare the shooting location. Preparation of the shooting location usually cannot be done in advance during pre-production, unless sets are being built, because the shoot will have a limited amount of time at the production stage. Location fees, permits, and other related charges may also be necessary. Insurance will also need to be procured for the shoot itself.
When shooting in public, it’s possible that the production will need to pay for security or will need to pay for traffic redirection. Safety and operations inspections will also need to be done. Additionally, the catering and craft services will have to be arranged for the crew and the talent. The cost of this will be directly proportional to the size of the crew and its production.
As the shoot begins, most of the costs will be the per day costs for the crew and the talent. If the pre-production work was done properly, there should be no additional costs; the production should occur within the allotted amount of time, and the crew and talent should charge their fees accordingly. But there are some complications that can make the shoot last longer and that can make the costs rise. Ideally, there should be a buffer available for additional costs.
Weather-related issues are one of the key issues that tend to make a production longer. If an outdoor scene is required and it begins to rain, production will generally need to be halted — either for a few hours or possibly even a few days. At that stage, the crew and the talent will still need to get their per diem, though they may not charge their full work rates. Either way, however, the production may still become more expensive than was initially planned.
Other than this, a production will generally only run longer if it is decided that changes need to be made. Clients may decide that they are no longer happy with the script, that the talent isn’t ideal for their production, or that they have changed their minds regarding the location of a particular scene. Ideally, this will not happen during production. If it does, however, it may require that further planning be done and that production last longer.
Post-Production Costs: After the Filming Is Complete
Once the director and producer are confident that they have all the material that they need in production, the post-production work begins. In many ways, the post-production process is more important than production. The post-production work on a video production is what will substantially impact the look, feel, and professionalism of the video. But good post-production work cannot make up for bad production work. Post-production work is designed to enhance solid visual and audio media, it cannot make it from whole cloth.
As post-production work begins, the production crew will also be wrapping up. Gear will need to be shipped back, sets will need to be torn down, and on-site shooting will require cleanup. Any issues that do occur during shooting will also need to be resolved, such as damage that may have occurred to an on-site location.
The editors will take the material that has been recorded and will correct it. Color may need to be corrected, production elements may need to be cropped out, and other small visual issues may need to be fixed. Video will then be stitched together as directed by the original pre-production story-boarding before any final post-production is done. The order of the scenes within the video production may be altered at this time, by the director, producer, or through the client’s request.
Editors may need to add post-production graphics, such as overlays or even computer generated images. They may also need to license and include stock film, such as pans over a city or other common elements. At this stage, a lot of the creativity will come from the editing team themselves. Some more involved productions may have a substantially longer post-production than both the pre-production and production included. At every stage of the editing process, however, the director will be involved to ensure that the video is still being designed as was originally conceived.
In addition to cleaning up and improving upon the visual media, the editors will also need to work with the sound design. The audio may need to be cleaned up and edited, and there are situations in which voices may need to be dubbed in if the actors could not be heard or if lines need to be changed. If there is a narrator or a voice actor involved, this is when they will usually record their lines — not during production themselves. This recording will also need to be cleaned up and processed, and then it will all need to be synced to the video.
Sound effects will also need to be included at this time. Sound effects generally aren’t included within production themselves. Instead they are either punched up or introduced entirely during the pre-production stage. Sound artists, also known as foley artists, will come in and attempt to replicate the sounds that are occurring on screen. These sounds will need to be carefully synced so that they sound natural and so that they are in tune with the actions of the on screen talent.
For many productions, music will also need to be sourced and licensed. In the initial pre-production planning phases, music will have been discussed and sourced. At this stage, however, it will need to be licensed and integrated within the video production itself. This can be a non-trivial task. The audio artists will need to determine the ideal screen cues for the music, and they will need to be able to integrate the music in a way that is not distracting to the screen but instead enhances the viewer’s experience.
Once post-production has ended for both the video and the audio, the film will be reviewed by the director and the producer. For larger productions, the film may also go in front of a test audience. Test audiences are absolutely essential, even if they are fairly small; they will give feedback to the production team regarding anything that they found distracting, confusing, or unpleasant. Once a test audience has been consulted, the video may be further modified in post-production. Commonly, scenes may be re-ordered, narration may be added, or certain scenes may just be deleted altogether. In more serious scenarios, scenes may need to be re-shot entirely and added to the production, which can increase both production cost and time. The process of editing is very simple: things can always be removed, but it’s very difficult to add.
As you can see, video production services include an exceptionally large array of components. From the talent to the gear, everything has to be acquired, maintained, and scheduled just right. Video production services are a balancing act. The production team is responsible for not only getting everything into place, but also ensuring that the costs are as minimal as possible for an organization. For involved video projects, it would be very difficult for a company to organize all of the above without paying substantially more than a talented and experienced video production company would.
Article by Joe Forte, co-owner and producer at D-Mak Production, a provider of professional video production services in Phoenix, AZ.