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Managing Monetary Expectations: Tips for Creating a Realistic Budget

Posted by Brad Spinsby on August 19, 2014

Crews Control issued a poll and found that 60% of corporate Video Producers feel that the biggest challenge in production is creating realistic budgets depending on the location of the video shoot. In order to generate an accurate budget, you must consider overlooked aspects that affect both cost and quality. Below are some tips for anticipating hidden expenses when creating a budget.

1.Focus on the project from start to finish.

Video camera crews here in Chicago and elsewhere, often only consider shoot days, and not the other phases of production, when calculating costs. Remember the old adage, “time is money.”

    • Pre-Production: Productions start with the concept and script, but consider spending resources to find the most cost-effective location.
    • Shooting: The shoot frequently constitutes the bulk of your budget. Controllable indoor locations are better environments, as weather and lighting may cause delays—and, subsequently, additional costs—with outdoor locations.
    • Post-Production: This is where the most time will be spent on the project. Uploading footage, creating graphics, editing, and encoding: all of these tasks take more time than you think, and if you hire external vendors, they typically charge by the hour.

2.Consider the distribution of your project.

Once you have considered your production as a whole, consider where the project will live after finished. If its destination is a 60-foot screen, then your budget should reflect that scale of production. But consider scaling back if the project will reside on your company’s YouTube channel. Solidifying your distribution plan will clarify some decisions, such as using 4K, shooting with a jib, or hiring that grip truck.

3. Know your interviewee.

Interviews are integral for corporate video production. An interview with a Senior Executive may be the key element in your video, but to make it work, you must carefully consider the interviewee.

    • What kind of on-camera experience does the interviewee have? Consider a pre-interview and discuss what kind of on-camera experience the subject has had prior to your interview. The greener the interviewee, the more help he or she may need to achieve a quality interview. This may dictate hiring additional personnel.
    • Does the subject need a makeup artist? For some productions, the Director of Photography or Producer can simply apply some powder for shine control. Let’s be honest, though; sometimes a Makeup Artist is needed to make that Executive look his or her best.
    • If your talent is delivering a direct address into the camera, consider a teleprompter. The talent’s skill in memorization is often overstated, so unless the interviewee has stage-acting accomplishments, consider hiring a teleprompter and operator. With the availability of smart devices, you may consider nixing the operator. Although this may work in some circumstances, having a dedicated teleprompter operator often saves time, and can make the interviewee look even better than the makeup artist can.

4.Traveling bloats a budget.

Instead of traveling internal production personnel, consider hiring local resources that own and operate their own gear. This will save you on flights, hotels, cars, and per diem. If this is not an option, make sure to figure in the cost of excess baggage when considering flight expenses.

Corporate man Airport

5. Do your research on your shooting environment.

Often the feasibility of scouting a location won’t work because of budget, time, or distance factors. Consider asking an on-location contact to snap some pictures on a camera-phone for you. That will help you consider some of these factors:

    • How many windows are there? Blocking off windows takes time, and also may require additional costs, such as rolls of ND filter, or an additional prep day.
    • How large is the space? Lighting a conference room takes far less time and personnel than attempting a chiaroscuro lighting set-up in the foyer of the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 Company.
    • How many people will be shot within that space? Shooting a reenactment with three or more people in a large space? In order to create an adequate working set, a setup like this requires more time, more lights, and more personnel.
    • Has a camera move been requested? Or does the space need one to make it dynamic? Camera moves add quality but also necessitate additional gear and personnel. If a jib is requested, a Jib Operator and Grip are usually needed as well. Client asking for a “simple” dolly move? Add the cost of a dolly grip to create that smooth movement. Consider using a camera slider for a little move that doesn’t require additional personnel.
    • How far away from the action will you be? Budgeting for shooting a conference can seem simple, but if you need to shoot a presentation from the back of a conference hall, you may need to add a long lens and sturdier tripod. Ask how far you will be from the stage and what size of shot is needed to determine if these costs will be needed.

6.Make sure to plan ample time during your production day.

Consider that longer shots take more time for setup and execution. Always allot time during and at end of the day to transfer media from the media the camera uses, i.e. P2, SxS, or CF Cards, to an external hard drive. The amount of footage you shoot is proportional to the time it will take to transfer. Without these considerations, you may incur overtime. In some markets, hiring personnel for a half day is a way to save on the budget. But this only works if you schedule the shoot for the morning, afternoon or evening, not midday, and you keep the shoot simple, like one interview or b-roll of worker’s in an office setting.

Creating a realistic budget means you have successfully managed the expectations of project as well as considered hidden factors that affect cost and quality. Each production comes with unique factors to consider when attempting to calculate expenses accurately.

These are just a few of the many factors to consider when creating a budget. If you know additional hidden budget items that I have missed, or have tips for creating a realistic budget, please share with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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