Seattle Community

Ben Young
Partner|Head of Multimedia Production
San Francisco, California
Not helpful
out of 10
2 votes

How Much Does It Cost? - The Video Shoot

This article takes a detailed look at exactly what you are paying for when hiring a videographer for your business.
Written May 21, 2010, read 12547 times since then.


Media production is a challenging service to cost out because there are so many factors influencing the time, skills, and equipment needed to perform a particular gig. Bids can run the gamut simply because one provider is able to crunch the numbers more efficiently or another isn’t very good at budgeting at all. Many clients have a lot of confusion as to what they are paying for and their expectations for how much media production should cost. This blog series is intended to clear up some of that confusion and clarify what you are getting for your money.

Part 1: The Video Shoot

For this part, we’ll focus on the costs involved with video recording.

Time Cost
You will often find that videographers charge a “day or half-day” rate. This is because the preparation time involved for an hour long shoot is typically just as much as for one lasting several hours. Time is charged for every video shoot with the following process in mind. First, the details of the shoot are discussed with the client, often involving an in-person meeting and tour of the site for the shoot. Second, the team is selected and contracted. Third, an internal shot list or storyboard is developed, and the shoot plan is outlined with the video team. Next, the equipment is selected, tested, charged, packed, and in some cases, rented for the specific job at hand. If specific permits or insurance paperwork is needed for the shoot location, that is handled at this point. The location is mapped and parking arranged. The process to this point typically takes 3+ hours to complete and all occurs before the day of the shoot.

Time is charged on the day of the shoot for travel to the location, setup of the equipment, testing the equipment for variables that could impact the quality of the video, the actual video shoot, packing up the equipment, transportation back to the studio, unpacking or returning rented equipment, and archiving the data recorded.

Physical Cost
Most shoots involve at least one videographer, one production assistant to help with equipment and setup, a video camera, a tripod, lights, and sound capturing devices. The crew is paid for their time based on the process outlined above. Equipment for professional video production is expensive, often costing around $15,000 for a basic setup. Many studios factor a small percentage of the purchase cost into each video shoot. That percentage is usually a much better rate than if the studio needs to rent specific equipment. If special equipment purchase or rental is needed, that cost is almost entirely passed onto the client. Gas and parking fees are also charged to the client.

Situational Cost
While most of the above costs factor into every video shoot, there are many costs that result from situational requirements. Here are some examples. HD video is more expensive to shoot than SD or Standard Definition video, mostly due to the huge file storage requirements. Location can impact the cost in many ways. If a studio space is needed, there may be a fee associated with renting, setting up, powering, and cleanup. Certain locations may require a longer setup time or more preproduction visits to plan for specific shots. Many projects call for more cameras, a larger crew, extended travel arrangements for long distance shoots, etc.

While there are many situational factors that impact the cost of doing a video shoot, hopefully this blog gives you a better understanding of the basics. Another factor to consider is that many freelance videographers need to pay their bills with maybe 4 to 6 shoots a month. If you do the math, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the minimum cost to expect.

Learn more about the author, Ben Young.

Comment on this article

  • Marketing Design 
San Rafael, California 
George Sandoval
    Posted by George Sandoval, San Rafael, California | May 26, 2010

    Good info.

    More service side than client side, but good to have.

    I think it's safe to say video will always be organic. Homegrown with small business owners.

    The real challenge is how to take this quality and elevate the marketer's need for professional services - which is business growth.

    Hard without retaining the homegrown equity regardless of the ticket price. Check out Michele Phan on Youtube, great example of a video production which acknowledged the equity and insists on its retention, right down to the lighting.

    Like your info, if I can add to the "value" proposition, Video is like filling an album with examples of your success. Like pictures they'll be the proof as well as the means to getting there.



  • Producer/Director/Creative Director 
Venice, California 
Miklos Philips
    Posted by Miklos Philips, Venice, California | May 29, 2010

    2 corrections if I may:The "half-day or full day" rates are actually not because "the preparation time involved for an hour long shoot is typically just as much as for one lasting several hours." but because a prod. co. is losing a half or full day to working on a production (the booking) whether the shoot is an hour or 8 hours. If the co. is booked to work on your video they can't work on somebody else's video that would pay them a half or full day. Furthermore the sheer effort in prep., getting a crew and equipment together has to have a minimum paid time. This is usually a half day (or 4 hrs.)

    Secondly, IMHO shooting SD vs. HD is not much different now in terms of cost and resources employed "to get a video done." Your reason for "huge file storage requirements" is negligible nowadays as storage costs ( 1 terabyte drives around $80) and computing power to handle HD have decreased immensely. cheers

  • Partner|Head of Multimedia Production 
San Francisco, California 
Ben Young
    Posted by Ben Young, San Francisco, California | May 31, 2010

    Miklos, great points and actually I think we are saying the same thing. My main point is with preparation time that often goes unnoticed by a client. We put a lot of thought and preparation into each shoot, whether it be an hour long or 8 hours long.

    As for HD video, its not so much a cost difference for one shoot but takes into account many HD shoots which exponentially increase storage and therefore cost.

    My goal is ultimately to educate clients and people interested in utilizing video for their business marketing plan. What a client is paying for isn't always 100% spelled out on a contract. This article hopefully gives some useful info on some of those internal costs.

  • Video Production  
Renton, Washington 
Michael Schuett
    Posted by Michael Schuett, Renton, Washington | Jun 29, 2010


    I think you've done a service to those unknowing business people out there who don't comprehend the costs associated with doing a big video shoot. It is time intensive and it is subsequently expensive. Where I think readers might mis-out is in understanding that there is means of making a good marketing video that falls in between the high quality, very expensive, video produced in the scenario you outlined and the amateur in-house poor quality video shot by many cost conscious businesses. Still image videos or still images mixed with small amounts of motion image photography layered with a professional audio narrative can convey professionalism and get the business' message out without being cost prohibitive. Video internet marketing is exploding right now. So for those in the video production industry it's incumbent upon us to make certain the consumers know all that they can do. I thank you and think it's great that you brought so much detail to your article and to a consumer public interested in learning more.

    Michael Schuett

  • Voice Over Talent & Instruction 
Seattle, Washington 
Jack  Allen
    Posted by Jack Allen, Seattle, Washington | Jun 30, 2010

    All of this a good overview of the nature of a widely accepted format. I might question the investment of only $15k for a setup. I suppose that depends on the level of quality you wish to offer and the level of production technique you possess but that's not where I'm going. How much does it cost to get the video I need for my purpose? That's question number one and prices are all over the place. Big clients will want a cost out. Smaller clients for the most part just want to know how much it costs, bottom line. Tip; Search on line for at least 3 local video production companies. Reputable companies will have samples to view. Find samples that most match the style and quality of your vision. Contact the companies and ask for a ballpark price and references. What all do I get for that price is the next important question. Does it include consultation, scripting, shooting, editing, further adjustments, added costs? Remember, cheap is cheap, expensive is expensive. You will get what you pay for either way. The end result will be the perception of your company in the eyes of the viewer. That is the single most important element.

    Jack Allen