In the past few weeks we’ve had a couple situations where we sent estimates and the response was “I’m going to have to pass. I only want an hour or two of filming and that’s too much money.” We get it. Everyone’s budget and expectations are different. But when it happens more a few times in a week I wanted to put together a little explanation about why things cost what they do. So if you watch the video above it will give the top line view. Below it will dive in a little more.

The Project

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For the sake of this example we’ll use a person speaking at a conference who wants some interviews done after or an introduction filmed before. I use this example for three reasons… we do a lot of these, they tend to be the projects we estimate that don’t go any further, and they are generally a “short” amount of filming time for a single person or a small company that typically doesn’t do a lot of video.

So for this figure filming 30-60 minutes of filming a presentation or speech and then filming 30-60 minutes before or after for either an introduction or some people’s reactions after the presentation. Generally speaking this runs about $1,500 - $3,000, depending on some specific factors (are we just filming or are we editing a video or two after, how far is it away, how long are we filming before/after, etc). We write up a detailed estimate, shoot it over and it leads to…

Whoa! I only want a few hours of filming done, I don’t have budget for that.

I get it. When you have a small business or solo practice, every penny counts. But to think it’s only an hour or two of recording and that’s all you should pay for means you haven’t really thought the project through. So here’s how the hours break down on a typical shoot.

  1. The project is going to start with a call or email exchange, then we put together an estimate (for bigger projects it sometimes includes a more detailed proposal deck). - 1 hour

  2. We check and double check everything is in the case, swap batteries on the charger, format the media, load up the car, etc. - 1-2 hours

  3. Then we have to drive to the location. For this, we’ll assume the city which means we’re leaving 90 minutes ahead of call time to be safe. - 90 minutes plus about $30 in gas/wear and tear on the car at the IRS rate.

  4. When we get there, we’ve gotta park. Usually another $30. Then we load in. - 30 minutes

  5. Then we setup. - 1 hour

  6. We film the presentation. - 1 hour

  7. We film the after interview/intro - 30-60 minutes

  8. We break down and load out. - 1 hour

  9. And then we drive back to the office. - 60-90 minutes

  10. Back at the office we off load the files, put them on our server, back up the server. - 90 minutes

That means we’re 11.5 hours to capture your 2 hours of video. Plus $60 in hard costs.

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So you want us to use a camera?

Want us to use a camera, that costs money. 2 cameras, more money. Tripod to keep things steady, light to keep things bright, oh and media to record on. Here’s a rough breakdown of the costs of those things if we were to rent them. While we own them, they have to get paid for so they’re factored into our dost of doing business. This includes a camera, lenses, batteries, memory, tripod, audio equipment, cases, etc.

Most of the gear has a 3-4 year lifespan. Things like tripods, cases, and audio equipment have a longer life. All in, that equipment costs us about $250 per shoot. That’s MUCH cheaper than rental houses where the same setup would run approximately $750.


So we have to pay if a stand falls on someone’s head?

Need coverage in case someone trips on the light stand and it hits someone else in their head? We carry insurance for that, but that costs money. On a per shoot basis that’s about another $100/shoot.

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You need us to save your files?

A 2 hour shoot will run anywhere from 128gb to 2tb of data depending on the setup and what codec we’re using. To make this easy let’s say we throw it on an external and back it up to another external. That’s $150/shoot for 2 drives.

Need me to send you files or have a computer to work on or a phone to call you or power or internet or software or AA batteries or ________?

It all costs money. Yes your video is only 2 hours, but without infrastructure it’s impossible to film anything. Let’s say $50/shoot for all this stuff.


So where are we?

11.5 hours and $610 in hard costs. We’ll use the low end of the estimate range because we’re not factoring in editing or shipping hard drives. So $1500 - $610 = $890. 1/3 of that goes to the tax man, leaving a $587. Divide that by 11.5 = $51.09/hr and that doesn’t include things like accountants, 401k, payroll taxes, etc. So your quick project really takes about 5 times as long as you thought and more than 1/3 in hard costs. We’re not getting rich, but we’re doing what we love!