How Much Does a Video Cost? Here’s Where Your Money Should Go

Posted by Ryann Malone - February, 15 2017

At Alchemy at AMS, we often get asked “how much does a video cost?” We’re not trying to dodge the question, but we’ll answer with another question.

How important is it that your customers see you as a solid, reputable organization?

Considering that a video is the face of your organization to the world, let me put it another way: are you the type of person who puts on good clothes before you greet the world or do you just throw on clothes that don’t smell (you think) and run out the door? Do you want that just-rolled-out-of-bed look?

Consider your audience. What will make an impact on them? Maybe they identify with bedhead, but if you’re talking to the C-suite crowd, you may want to consider a jacket and tie. At the very least, put on some pants. Why do I bring these points up? Because, in most cases, the look of the video is a direct result of cost.

So, how much is a video? Well, how much is a house? How long is a piece of string? The best way to figure that out is to put a value on the video and start with a budget.

What is the value of this video to your organization? If it’s an ongoing series of content-focused pieces highlighting you as the expert, then maybe it’s a lower-cost video. If it’s a brand positioning piece, then maybe it’s worth spending more to show your true value.

Another important factor is time. If you have given yourself an incredibly tight deadline, then you might have to throw a lot of resources at the video to get it done on time. On the flipside, if you take too much time to create the video, you might end up changing the message, which can cost you as well.

To give you an idea of where the money goes in a video production, let’s break down the process into basic steps:


This is the stage in which you develop the content.

What is the message? Keep it simple, clear, and focused. Who is the audience? Don’t try and shove all of your messaging for multiple audiences into one video. It muddies everything up, and no message will get through. You could be seen as a company that has no clear direction.

Next, you’ll want to take that focused message and put it in a creative wrapper, so have fun! As Hemingway said, “Write drunk and edit sober.” Let the ideas flow when you first start. You can always scale them back if necessary.  If you have the chops to refine your messaging and weave your story, then this is an area where you could save yourself some cash. But hiring an experienced writer could pay huge dividends in crafting the final script.


When I first started in this business, a wise old production manager told me the Seven P’s of making video: Proper Pre-Production Prevents Piss-Poor Productions. It is ALL in the planning. The better and more thorough you plan, the smoother your production and the better your end product will turn out.

This is the stage where you need to nail down as many decisions as you can, and an experienced producer is critical. The producer could literally make thousands of decisions, like:

  • Where are you going to shoot? Who is going to be on camera? What are they wearing? How are they going to read/memorize the script? Do we need to order lunch? How long does it take to shoot a video?

The producer’s job is to keep a tight rein on the schedule (in addition to other things) because changes can increase costs exponentially.

Are you shooting this on an iPhone or your nephew’s GoPro that he got for Christmas? Whatever you choose you need to make sure it’s available and that someone knows how to run it. There’s nothing more frustrating than people standing around waiting on the camera person to figure out how to turn off that cool Instagram filter they used to shoot the sunset last night.

An experienced producer has been there and done that and can help you avoid a lot of rookie mistakes, like that time you picked a perfect location only to realize on shoot day that it’s right next to a freeway and underneath the flight path of the local airport. You wasted a whole day because you can’t even hear the CEO speak. Or you show up to shoot at your office and someone forgot to tell you that they are testing the fire alarms that day. Knowing things like this ahead of time can save you tons of money and headaches.


Remember all those decisions you made in pre-production? This is where it all comes together. If not well prepped and planned for, the shoot itself can easily cost a lot of money. The shoot has a lot of resources in people and equipment and, if they are standing around instead of working, you are wasting money. And, the more prepared you are, the better able you are to deal with surprises. You are spending a lot of money on this day so make the best of it.

Post Production

Editing is where newer technology has probably had the most impact in the video biz. Editing systems are very inexpensive compared to just a few years ago, and they keep getting cheaper. Just because you can buy one, though, doesn’t make you a good editor. A good editor knows story and pacing. A good editor can sense how to put your story together in way that is compelling and impactful. A good editor is a storyteller, a graphic designer, and a music composer all rolled into one.

This is wisdom about what to consider when you’re budgeting a video. But, as you can see, creating a video can be a big commitment of time, money and energy. Before diving in, you might want to think through a few more questions.

Here at AMS, we have spent 35 years making videos and have fantastic producers, writers, crew members, and editors who tell stories very well. Making video is what we do, because telling stories is what we love.

Let us know if we can help you make an impression with the C-suite.


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