September 9, 2021

How Much Does Video Production Cost?

As a performing arts company in the UK, you may have considered live streaming or offering your performances on Demand.

Maybe videography is uncharted territory for your organisation, or maybe you're experienced with it already. Either way, videography can be difficult to get right.

This is because building an interactive and engaging experience for a digital audience requires tackling unique challenges. To create a successful digital production, high video and sound quality are needed. This can be achieved on different budgets depending on how much a business is able to spend. A small production may cost £700-£1500 to record, whereas a sophisticated production may cost upwards of £30K-£65K.

Here are the top 9 questions you should consider before budgeting for recording or streaming your first performance:

1. Should you live stream or record your performance?

(It depends.)

Your decision to release your performance as a live stream or as a pre-recorded stream will impact your budget differently. Typically videography will cost 10% - 15% more to live stream than to pre-record. This increased cost is due to the additional planning involved in live streaming.

Typically, a live stream of a theatre performance may take three days to a week of preparations with a camera crew. A show's director will often work alongside a director of photography to plan the shoot before filming. This pre-shoot involves organizing camera placements and movements so that the film crew can capture the performers from the ideal angles and at the right moments on the day.

You only get one chance to record a live stream, so the camera crew may need to be larger than for a pre-recorded show. Live streams typically include at least two moving camera operators and another 2-3 static cameras placed around the production to capture the performance.

For pre-recorded performances, you do still need to plan in advance, but there's more scope for re-shoots and iterative adjustments to camera settings if needed. A recording of a small performance usually includes 2-3 cameras with one camera operator recording the feed from all of the cameras. One of these cameras will be moving at all times to capture different angles within the performance. The other cameras are likely to be stationary.

A recorded performance also has longevity, meaning it can be repeatedly monetized as long as it's being offered online.

2. Will you record in-house or use third-party film production/ freelance videographers?

(Hiring a third-party videography production company is a viable, cost-effective alternative to upskilling internally.)

Handling videography in-house is a cost-effective long-term solution. But to do this, your company must be able to afford the costs of upskilling staff and purchasing equipment. But beyond shooting video, there are other post-production skills required to create a finished recording. This post-production could be tackled in-house or could be outsourced to specialist companies.

Alternatively, companies can outsource the entire creation of a recording to experienced film production companies or professional freelance videographers. A typical budget for live streaming or recording may vary depending upon the size and ambition of the video production. Professional video production for a mid-sized production could cost anywhere between £12K and £30K.

3. What is the length of your digital stream?

(On average video budget is directly proportional to the length of a live stream or a recorded video)

The length of production will determine the amount of time the camera crew spends on your location. Longer productions typically require a more elaborate plan with more varied camera shots. A combination of conventional close-ups, medium, and long shots should be used to create more spatial awareness. Across these different ranges, you should also use different camera angles to affect the mood and narrative.

The longer the length of a production, the longer and more expensive the planning and execution process will be.

4. How big should the camera crew be?

(The bigger the crew, the higher the costs)

The cost of the camera crew and their time is the biggest cost in video production. The size of your camera crew may depend on the size and type (orchestral, theatre, musical, dance...) of your production.

Generally, for productions that involve an abundance of performer movement, using more than two camera operators is recommended. This is because more camera operators will allow you to better capture all the key angles of the performers.

For smaller productions typically one camera person with a 2-3 camera setup will be sufficient. For medium productions, 3-4 camera operators with 5-6 cameras (both static and moving) will typically work well. The more camera operators that are required, the more expensive the recording is likely to be.

Additionally, a camera crew's cost will also depend on their location, experience, and the type of equipment, they need to use. To help businesses estimate the costs they can expect, we’ve estimated the day rates charged by each type of crew member below:

  • Direct of Photography: £400 - £650
  • Camera Operator: £320 - £400
  • Junior Camera Assistant: £275 - £325
  • Ligting Camera Operator: £400 - £520
  • Sound Recordist: £325 - £375

5. How many professional cameras would you need?

(Much like the size of the camera crew, the costs here can escalate with the addition of each extra piece of equipment)

This depends on the size of your production. A two-three professional video camera setup is generally considered sufficient for small production. A professional video camera can be hired for roughly £80 to £150 per day.

If your company intends to do recording in-house, hiring professional cameras may be more cost-effective than buying the equipment.

6. How many hours would the camera crew need to spend on your facility?

(Camera crews typically charge for either half-days or full-days)

The size of your production will typically dictate the time a camera crew would need to spend on site. Before recording the show, a director of photography may spend time on-site to plan the camera placements alongside the show's director. The time spent during the pre-shoot adds to the total cost of the shoot.

A lead camera operator can cost between £200 - £600 for a half-day and £400 - £1000 for a whole day. These prices vary depending on the location of the crew. Full-time camera operators in London, for instance, are more expensive than elsewhere in the UK. This cost will increase with the scale and demands of your production.

For industry rate cards we recommend reviewing the BECTU website. They publish rates by the hour, half-day, and full-day for their associated freelance videographers across the country.

7. Do you require post-production?

(The cost of post-production depends on the level of sophistication you want to achieve for your video production)

Post-production includes tasks associated with cutting raw footage, assembling that footage, adding music, dubbing, and sound effects. The cost of post-production is not included in the video recording cost.

Often video production companies will only handle the filming process. When this happens, it may be up to you to find separate post-production specialists to transform the raw footage. These separate specialists have pro studios filled with specialist editing software and equipment that helps them edit footage. Other times, the video production company will both record and edit the entire show.

If your company requires post-production, the costs can vary depending on the complexity of your requirements. For small productions, the post-production crew could just include an offline editor and a sound designer/supervisor. A 10-hour day for an editor could cost between £350 - £500 depending on their level of experience and location.

8. Where are you located?

(Cities cost more, and in particular London)

The cost of live-streaming and video recording will vary based on your geographical location. If you're a performing arts company based in London, the starting cost of recording will be over £1100 (excluding post-production). Those costs can be 30% - 40% lower outside London.

9. Would you film indoors or outdoors?

(Mostly indoor locations are more convenient, and well equipped to live stream professional performances than outdoors.)

Indoor locations cost lower than outdoor locations because there's less control over the environment, space, and size for outdoor locations. Outdoors, the production company may need to bring wire extensions for cameras, or shotgun mics windshields for sound recording.

Indoor locations in that regard are much more controlled in terms of noise, space, and size. Another reason to prefer indoors (specifically for live-streaming) is the availability of good quality broadband. Outdoor locations are most likely to be constrained in that regard.

Written by Shreya Agarwal
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