Why does it cost so much? Or so little?

We have all now become familiar with shooting videos on our smart phones that it frequently seem surprising that video companies will ask apparently huge sums to shoot something that lasts just a few minutes. 

Conversely, we also know how much feature films cost and may wonder why some video companies charge so little.

Which is why we have produced this basic explanation.

Production Value v Quality

The cost is largely dependent on production value, but it is important to understand that Production Value and Quality are not the same.

A BBC local reporter might shoot an interview using a camera he set up himself framing just the interviewee (with a long depth of focus) using a hand held microphone and natural light.

Arri 2
Pictured left is an Arri Alexa Camera with a few extras bolted on - Total cost in excess of £100,000

In a feature film, a conversation might be filmed with 3 cameras (and camera men) one focused on the each person and one on the pair. Each camera pin sharp on the eyes with the the background carefully thrown out of focus. Multiple lights of different types will be used to create the right ambience. Boom microphones and operators will be needed. The crew will include, Director, cameramen, sound and lighting engineers. There may be multiple takes with slightly different angles, requiring re-positioning of equipment.

Each shot may take an hour to set up. And if you watch a typical feature film it is not unusual to for individual shots to last from 6 to 10 seconds.

It will then need several hour of editing.

The former has low production values but if the "story" is well told, the subject is in focus and properly framed with the natural light coming from the right direction and the sound is well recorded it will be a good quality piece which does the job.

It might take 10 minutes to set up, discuss with the interviewee and another 2 to 3 minutes to shoot and require virtually no editing.

Nick GarnettThe same conversation shot with the production values of the feature film might involve a crew of 10 for half a day followed by another half day of editing - and many thousands of pounds of equipment, the camera lenses alone might cost £30,000 each.

Pictured right is Nick Garnett, who was one of the first to realise how much could be done with the simplest of equipment. As a BBC reporter he was once sent to cover a story when there was no outside broadcast unit available, for which the commissioning editor apologised.

The following day, having broadcast live on a news programme the editor asked where he had found the OB Truck. He did not believe Nick when he explained he had done the whole report using an iPhone with a broadcast quality mic plugged into it!

One 4 minute video for £6000 or 12 x 2 minute video's for £1500

This starts to explain why prices can vary so much. At times it is appropriate to go for the very highest production values while at others lower production values are perfectly acceptable and may actually be better.

Which explains why getting your video strategy right, before you start, is essential.