Posted by Tito Hamze in Life & Rants, Media, Sunol Group Media

Cost and Compromise: The Secret to Cheap Video Production

I feel like I’m still green and young to the media production profession. I’ve only been doing it for 8 years and I still have massive amounts to learn, but there is something that I learned very early on in my career. Everybody wants media. Companies want corporate videos, music videos, audio recordings, websites, recordings of their event, testimonials, blah, blah, blaggity, blah.  However, nobody wants to pay for it.  Everybody wants the highest quality everything and the highest expertise. They might have heard about the newest and best camera technologies like Red cameras, Black Magic cameras or Canon DSLR cameras and they want it all. On top of that, they want it completed yesterday, and they want it on a cheap budget of pennies.

Now, here is the thing, you can have anything your heart desires and a producer should be able to deliver it to you, but you have to know one thing. It’s all going to come at a price. To demonstrate my point I’ll use creating a video as an example.

Creating quality effective media is not as simple as just a guy pointing a camera. First, you have the meeting about what is needed. All the pre-production should have time spent planning, coordinating and organizing. Next, you have the actual production, which needs a director, director of photography, grip, gaffer, audio, and production assistant.  Then there are post-production needs like the editor, motion graphics and audio sweetening. Now, it’s true that a lot of the roles can be accomplished by one person and in probably 95% of production houses that’s exactly what is done. One person takes on a variety of roles and certain positions are cut or added depending on what is needed.

So, what are you paying for? The way it typically works is after meeting with a producer and explaining your needs, wants and dreams, you get a budget proposal. Next, you look at the price and you say “What the %$&*! That is way out of my budget” (so on and so forth). So, what are you paying for? I’ll break it down for you. This is how I come up with a budget for these things and it was taught to me by a couple mentors of mine. I use this method for any creative project.


You have three choices: CREATIVITY, TIME and MONEY, and you can only pick two. Let me explain.


Scenario 1

Say you need something done ASAP. It’s complex and requires a lot of creativity. Plus, you need it done a certain way. In this case, you have to give on the MONEY.


Scenario 2

Say you have short deadline but you also have a very restricted budget, then it better not be too complex because you are giving up on CREATIVITY.


Scenario 3

Now, say you need a very elaborate animation created and you have interviews of people in seven different countries, you want the highest quality video and you want it done on a budget then you have to give up on TIME.


Same concept applied to audio

Same concept applied to audio

Now, to truly understand the above scenarios you have to know how much the cost is for crew members. That’s harder to give you because there are so many factors that come into play such as geographic location (A persons rate in L.A. will be different then a persons rate in SF Bay Area and different to a person in New Hampshire), how busy the person is, and how much experience they have. Who on the crew you will need on a specific shoot and also you will need to figure out what camera equipment you are using, which lighting packages and different maybe specialty equipment you will have to bring.

The price is usually split between the pre-production, production days and the post-production needs. The pre production cost will be for the experience and expertise and efficiency of the producer and whoever else is needed to get the ball rolling and complete a project and portray your vision. The production pay will be for the actual production of your video like the filming, acting, lighting, audio and other additional help and the post-production pay will be for the editors (video and motion graphics) audio work, and the changes that will be needed because nothing is perfect right off the back, there are always changes.

I can’t tell you exactly how much a certain crew-member’s day rate will be because it is always different depending on what the project entails. Your producer should do whatever they can to get you what you need and work within your budget, but it has to be reasonable. Creating good media is not cheap, expect to pay for what you need and want.


What are some cheap alternatives to hiring a Media producer? What would really cut down on the budget?  Maybe you have a $0 budget and there is no way you can hire anybody for anything. Here are some alternatives ranging from absolutely free to very little cost.There are online tools, which are very easy to use, that can help you create media. Some are easy enough that anybody like you or anybody on your team can use them to create animations. Some examples are,, and, which are all very simple drag and drop ways to create media.

  1. There are online tools, which are very easy to use, that can help you create media. Some are easy enough that anybody like you or anybody on your team can use them to create animations. Some examples are,, and, which are all very simple drag and drop ways to create media.
  2. You can use different smart phone apps to help you create media like Instagram or Vine. (Click here to see my thoughts on Vine.) Even full on editing can be done on the iMovie app, which is available on the iPhone and iPad. There are also other alternatives on other mobile platforms. The beauty of these is that filming, editing and exporting can all be done on the same device.
  3. Find a high school class with an experienced teacher and have them create the media for you as a school project. Repay them by throwing a pizza party or give them gift cards when they complete it. There are a ton of classes that could use real world experience. Make sure to give them very good directions and plenty of time. You are going to have a lot of changes, but at least it is inexpensive and cheap and helps the kids build on their skills through real-world application.
  4. Some universities and vocational schools have video production classes where they create real world videos. You can partner with them and have a video made for you. Again, accurate directions and time are needed. It is a learning experience.

I hope this gives you a better idea on what to expect to pay to create the media that you seek. I also hope that you have a better understanding of where producers are coming from with quotes, but do shop around and figure out which media production company you meld well with. It’s a very competitive industry and we will try to win your business, but just keep in your mind that media is not cheap. Creating media is such a subjective occupation and everybody has an opinion on what is good and what is not. Value is perceived on what is delivered and offered so hopefully you find what you are looking for.

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