June 14, 2015 at 1:19PM


How Much Does a Video Cost - Part 1: Event Video

Hey NFS Community,

I wrote a post for prospective clients about breaking down cost of an event video. I plan on making 2 more posts about other types of video.

Any comments or reactions? Do you think I missed anything?


How Much Does a Video Cost? – Part 1
Posted by Jed Rosenberg on Jun 14, 2015 in blog | No Comments
How Much Does a Video Cost? PART 1

This is, by far, the most popular question I get from prospective clients. And the answer is simple. $731.56. Ok we’re done here. Thanks for stopping by.

Ok, maybe not.

The cost of a video is a difficult question to answer because projects range in complexity. How much does a car cost? How much does a house cost? These are not one-size-fits-all models.

There are dozens of video categories (feature films, music videos, sizzle reels, etc.) but for this three part blog post, I’ll use three of the most popular types of video requests that I receive as examples. This specific post will cover a live event. Here’s an example of a project that I made up:

#1. a live event

Brief: film performances of 4-5 bands at a live music concert sponsored by RAD SUPER EXTREME ENERGY DRINK. Additionally, film interviews with each band about why they love performing with very subtle mention of energy drink brand (all of the bands are sponsored by said fake energy drink company). Final video: a 30 second teaser cut and a 3 minute full cut, web only.

With me so far? Cool. Now let’s take a few steps back.

There are four stages of video production and this is a constant for every video that gets made regardless of category.

1. pre-production

Write script, prepare budget, audition actors, assemble crew & talent, place equipment orders, scout locations, prepare contracts, storyboards, shot list, schedule, etc.

2. production

Film the video.

3. post-production

Transcode media, edit video, create sound design, edit and mix audio, compose a score, record ADR or VO, create motion graphics / visual effects, color grade the footage, prepare final deliverables in appropriate formats / codecs.

4. Distribution

Promote the video. [Usually handled by client or outsourced to PR/communications company. However, video company is often consulted during pre-production about distribution as that may inform script and production choices.]

Another important piece of setup before we dive in is a summary of the key players relevant to event video production. Depending on the details or budget of the video, some of these roles are unnecessary or can be combined. More on that later.

• Writer – creates the story and scripts the narrative.

• Director – in charge of all creative decisions – very involved from concept through delivery.

• Producer – in charge of the logistics involved to execute the director’s vision – on a low budget shoot he/she may create schedules, hire crew, set up casting, assist in location scout, book recording sessions, manage contracts, process invoices, and generally put out fires.

• Cinematographer (Director of Photography or DP) / Camera Operator – collaborates with the director to execute the visual look and style of the video.

• Production Sound Mixer / Boom Operator – records the sound during the shoot.

• Production Assistant (PA) – responsible for general tasks: carrying things, driving van, watching equipment, preventing passersby to cross during exterior shots, holding a bounce board if needed. Often PAs may work additional days beyond production (helping to pick up/return equipment, prop rentals, etc.)

• Editor – works with Director to splice the best clips together to complete a final, fluid video piece.

• Sound Designer / Sound Editor / Audio Mixer – works with Editor to EQ (alter audio frequencies) and sweeten certain audio clips, match audio clips to sound the same (say, a boom mic and a lavalier mic recording the same source), add sound effects when needed, and create a final mix with appropriate volume levels for dialogue, music, and sound effects.

• Colorist – works with Director and DP to give a final, consistent color grade or visual look for the video, often matching the hue, contrast, brightness, saturation, gamma, sharpness (and more) in all of the shots in a scene, which may look wildly inconsistent as raw media.

How much does each position charge? It depends on the individual’s experience, the region, and the type of production. But generally crew members and non-union talent are $300-$600/day, with some key positions (including director, producer, editor) taking $600-$1,000/day.

In addition to cast and crew, there could be additional event video production costs:

• Craft services aka food – every film set needs a crafty table. Crew members need to be fed and it is understood that food is included in the day rate.

• Insurance – this is necessary for some equipment rental houses. Many production companies will have their own insurance and if not, then the client may be able to provide their own certificate of insurance (COI). If neither of these are options, then the production must purchase insurance from a vendor such as Film Emporium.

• Equipment rentals – the crew may own some of their own equipment, but regardless, this is an additional cost on top of the day rate. The more complicated the visual style, the more equipment must be rented, which requires more crew and more money.

• Transportation – if there will be a lot of film equipment, then the production may need to either rent a van and pay to park it in a bonded lot overnight after the production (parking lot at BAM, for instance) or pay for taxis and store the equipment at the Producer’s apartment for the night.

• Stock Music / Photography – if there needs to be bits of score in the piece, then the most affordable option is to purchase stock music from a vendor like Audio Jungle. Additionally, the production may want to highlight that the event is taking place in a specific city and then show a few aerial shots or timelapses of said city. For this, there are dozens of high quality vendors like Pond 5.

Whew. Ok, so now that the basics are covered, let’s move on to our event example:

Brief: film performances of 4-5 bands at a live music concert sponsored by RAD SUPER EXTREME ENERGY DRINK. Additionally, film interviews with each band about why they love performing with very subtle mention of energy drink brand (all of the bands are sponsored by said fake energy drink company). Final video: a 30 second teaser cut and a 3 minute full cut, web only.

For starters, this project will require a Director and Producer. However, the scale of the shoot may mean this role needs to be combined into one position: Director/Producer and this is quite common for smaller shoots. Or perhaps someone from the Communication/PR division of the brand will function as Director and call the majority of the creative shots. Then the Producer will be tasked to execute that direction. Regardless, it’s often beneficial to have the client on-site to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

This project doesn’t call for a Writer per se, but the Director/Producer will have to concept a structure and style for the video. Will it be documentary-style? Should there be cranes and drones flying overhead? How is this going to cut together? The Director/Producer will need to spend at least a day or two working with the client to get a better sense of the project and vision. If possible he/she may be able to go to the location in advance to scout and plan where each interview should take place and schedule the time of interview with the bands’ management teams (good luck with keeping any musician on a tight schedule though).

Let’s say that the client wants a fairly simple production. No drones, no Go-Pros, just a few shooters getting basic coverage of performances and basic interviews afterward (no sliders or dollies or anything too fancy). Next, the Director/Producer will decide on a total number of DPs/Camera Operators to hire. Perhaps it’s three, two of which can be filming the concert the whole time (one on stage and one in the crowd) and the third can be shooting all the interviews and backstage b-roll. Then the Director/Producer will consult with his crew about camera, lens, and rig options. If the show is at night, then the concert will probably be fairly dark. A great low-light camera is important like the Sony A7s with ATOMOS SHOGUN 7″ 4K RECORDER. The 4K recorder is key, especially if finishing at 2K (full HD) because the production team can record an interview with a single camera a bit wide and then punch in for a closer shot in post (functioning as a second angle) with no loss in quality. This saves the expense of hiring extra crew and extra cameras.

Next, the Director/Producer will finalize a lighting package for the interviews – perhaps a simple 4×4 Kino Flo kit for a soft, even look. Then, he/she will hire a Production Sound Mixer. This project involves interviewing an entire band at once will probably require separate mics for each member. Plus, the ambient audio in a backstage area can be loud so it’s best to have a professional audio mixer focused solely on capturing clean audio rather than having a camera operator capturing picture and mix the sound at the same time. The sound mixer can also record the live music concurrently by using a portable audio recorder (like a Zoom H4n) plugged directly into the soundboard that the venue uses to control its sound system.

Next, the Director/Producer will hire an Editor, ideally one who can perform basic Post-Production Mixer duties since this probably will not have a complicated post-audio plan. Then the Director/Producer will hire a Colorist and they will consult with the DP before the shoot about the best practices/camera profile/Look Up Tables (LUTs) and workflow.

Then the production must hire a PA who can help with pick ups and deliveries and manage the media storage during the shoot, coordinating with the shooters to dump their used media and hand them news cards to shoot more footage.

Let’s say that the production does not need to purchase additional insurance and will not be using any stock photography or music. Let’s also say that the Director/Producer will be working 3 full days, 1 prep day, 1 production day, and 1 final edit day with the Editor to deliver a Director’s cut. Let’s also say that the Editor will take 1 day to organize and synch the media, 2 days to put together his rough cuts, and 2 more days to for revisions and finalizations. (Typically I give a client 2 re-edits and then begin charging for additional time. This should be spelled out in a contract ahead of time.)

As a side note, it’s important for the production company to consult with the client’s legal team before the shoot. Are release forms necessary for the interviews and performance footage? Is there permission to use the artists’ music in the edit or will legal have to obtain licensing permission? Will there be signs alerting the crowd that this event is being filmed? Does the production company need to obtain permission to film individuals in the crowd?

This is what the budget may look like:

Director/Producer – $700 x 3 days = $2,100
Camera Operator – $600 x 3 operators x 1 day = $1,800
Production Sound Mixer – $600 x 1 day = $600
Equipment Rental (includes camera, lenses, lights, audio rig) – $1,500 x 1 day = $1,500
PA – $150 x 2 days = $300
Editor / Post-Mixer – $600 x 5 days = $3,000
Colorist – $750 x .5 days = $375
Miscellaneous expenses (cabs, food, etc.) = $325

Estimated total: $10,000

If the client says that’s too high, then the production company may negotiate to reduce cost by sacrificing production quality. Maybe the production uses two shooters instead of three. Maybe the shooters will film in full HD, not 4K. Maybe the interviews are shot with an on-camera light instead of a lighting package and audio is mixed by the DP/Camera Operator. Maybe the Director/Producer can also edit the project (no longer charging for an additional one day post-shoot day rate) and even handle the color grade on top of the post-audio mixing.

The reduced cost may look like:

Director/Producer – $700 x 2 days = $1400
Camera Operator – $600 x 2 operators x 1 day = $1200
Equipment Rental (includes camera, lenses, lights, audio rig) – $500 x 1 day = $500
Editor / Post-Mixer – $600 x 5 days = $3,000
Miscellaneous expenses (cabs, food, etc.) = $75

Estimated total: $6,175

As outlined above, even a relatively simple project can result in an enormous cost range depending on the complexity of the execution.

Comments or feedback? Points I may have missed? Please respond below.

In the next post I’ll be breaking down a product overview video …


Depending on the venue where you are shooting you may have to provide commercial liability insurance ( usually a minimum of $2 million coverage ) in case something happens to anyone involved with the shoot.

June 14, 2015 at 4:29PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Good call. I mentioned insurance for equipment rental but this is true as well.

June 20, 2015 at 3:25PM


You've made an argument for why you don't want to post this on your blog.

1.) TMI. If I want video of my music festival, I don't want to be confronted with forty paragraphs about how you calculate a price. I want the price. However, I will likely sit down with you for an hour or three to discuss my project. I know you need details before you quote the job.

2.) As you and other posters note, every job differs, based on project scope, market, etc. You'll be much better off talking to clients about each individual projects. Maybe it would help if you had a range. "Your project sounds like it will fall in the $6-10k range. We'll have a better idea once we discuss the details."

3.) You never want to be the first one to name a price. What if the sponsor spent $50k on the event last year. Do you want to quote $10k before hearing that? By the same token, someone with $4k may not even call you after reading your blog post stating a live concert shoot runs about $10k.

4.) Your joke only works for people on our side of the table. For everyone else-- meaning clients-- it simply creates confusion.
The sponsor with $50k who sees $731, will immediately click away from your page. You're obviously not in the $50k league.
The low budget festival people will not be happy seeing $731 turn into $10k.

5.) Producers in other markets won't want your quote bubbling up in Google searches. :)

Producing these shoots is complex. So is quoting them. That's the way it is. Figure out a way to politely and professionally say that. Then clients will expect to spend time with you. In the end, it's better for everybody.

June 22, 2015 at 1:46AM

Charlie K


June 24, 2015 at 7:53AM


I have unfortunately seen all of this before as a former professional Graphic Designer. I used to do Logo and Layout Design in the late-90s/early 2000s, and I made a pretty good living at it. Then the Web came around, the design tools got easier, everything got democratized, and suddenly I couldn't charge clients $2,000-5,000 for great logos, because some Student or someone hungrier than I was willing to do it for far less. Of course, they'd get what they paid for, but whatever. I even remember going to a Conference one year that had about 200 attendees, and the same conference the following year had more than 600. Lots of people talking about how "cool" it is to be a Graphic Designer now. So I kind of got priced out of the market, and, since I didn't have a head for coding (this was early web, remember), I couldn't keep up my skills to stay current in the Marketplace and I feel by the wayside. I made up for it by going over to Photography and Illustration, since these were still relatively rarefied skills at the time. But eventually I just went back to making Espresso, which I had done off and on since I was 17.

Then everyone wanted to be a Barista, because, again, it was "cool". So again I fell by the wayside because the entire Barista (technically I'm a Baristo, but whatever) community changed how they did things and homogenized espresso. Now a Latte and a Cappuccino are the same drink, which makes my old trainers, and myself, just cringe. Imagine, tens of thousands of "Coffee artists", all making the exact. Same. Coffee. Latte Art? Not really art. But whatever.

Then, in 2010, I bought a Canon t3i. I was happy to be back in photography, and started making a bit of money on the side for headshots and Architectural photography, which I really loved doing. I even got back into Candids and Street Photography.

Then suddenly, everyone around me had one, and it changed everything. Yes, you might be able to stand out by framing something differently, but honestly, how many different angles can several hundred people with the same camera shoot an art piece at a Gallery? How many short DoF shots can one see before they become bland and homogenous? And my headshot business? Gone. What I was charging a minimum of $100 for went down to $80, then $50, then it wasn't worth my time any more. I couldn't even take good street photos because of the public's changing attitudes towards the ubiquitous camera.

I recently got back into shooting video professionally, and I'm seeing it all. Happen. Again. I was invited to shoot a show for a friend who didn't bother telling me there would be 10 other film school students there. Every single angle I was getting, they were getting. I left early, because what was the point?

Now I see posts on CL for shooters, and these people not only want you to have a RED (a camera I personally don't like), but they want you to have lights and sound, too, and then not pay you even close to what a good, livable day rate for JUST shooting would be. They just don't understand that each of those is a particular skill set that needs to each be baby-sat, and they don't care.

It's possible, even likely, that it's because I'm in Hollywood and shooters are a dime a dozen, but man, is it frustrating. It' great that there are camera that shoot such good-quality video, it really is, but it's back to the old "oh, we can just shoot it ourselves, we have a t5i" mentality, and it's driving real shooters out of the market. Now we pretty much HAVE to take a regular job just to make up for the lack of money from shooting.

Rant mode off.

June 24, 2015 at 3:36PM

Edmund Lloyd

Seth Godin talks a lot about this race to the bottom. For us who are self-employed, freelancing, or in a like position, he makes a lot of good points in his blogs and the Youtube videos that feature him. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/08/the-race-to-the-bottom.html

June 26, 2015 at 9:20AM


The "Uncle Bob" with a nice camera used to be a problem only for wedding shooters, but with the price of DSLRs dropping so much, it's entered the video world. The emergence of startups have brought in a new price point in the video production world: people who can't afford $15-25K for a creative agency, but want something that doesn't look like it was shot by their friend who "has a DSLR that shoots video". From what I've seen, that market is $1200-2500 for 1-2 minute videos, and $5-10K for high concept "brand videos" (front page on their website, or a commercial for the internet). In my time working in this "low budget" market, the most problems I've had have been at the very low end. There will always be someone cheaper. I know this because I often have to re-shoot videos for clients who have wasted their money and time on the least expensive guy, and are unsatisfied. So when a client tells me that so-and-so is cheaper, and why it costs so much, the reply is simple: "Because I'm better. A Hyundai is cheaper than a Lexus. If you're looking for the cheapest person you can find to stand behind a camera, I can provide you with a list. But if you want the quality and the talent that we provide, these are our rates and our clients find its a tremendous value."
Closes them everytime.
Feel free to check out some of our stuff at www.oldfactoryfilms.com

July 9, 2015 at 7:12PM

Stephen Nolly
Senior Writer: www.magiclanternshooter.com

Spot on, Stephen.

November 7, 2015 at 6:43PM

Steve Smede
Magazine Editor/Photographer/Videographer

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