How to Read a Video Production Quote

Video Tips Production

If you’re new to video production, navigating through budget proposals can be a daunting process.  At times it can even feel like you’re reading a foreign language. 

At ANGRYchair, we believe in presenting our clients with simple and straightforward production packages. Our cost-efficient approach starts with a consolidated crew to keep projects affordable while also minimising our footprint when arriving at your location.

But not everyone uses the same approach. With that in mind, we’re going to walk you through everything you will come across in a proposal so that you can make an informed decision on what’s best for your project.

The Three Ps of Making a Video

Pre-Production The planning stage of your video.  This Is where the creative is established, scripts are written and all prep work is completed.

Production  The filming of your video

Post-Production The editing of your video. This stage also includes colour grading, audio mixing, animations and motion graphics

The Crew List – Who are all these people?

ProducerThis is the person leading the project.  They are your go-to for any and all questions regarding your video as they are on top of every aspect of the production. They will be working on the creative, coordinating shoot logistics and seeing the project through editing.

Director Responsible for determining what sort of content will be captured by the camera.  Also works with the talent in preparing them for camera. Unless you’re working on a big-budget production, this role is also handled by the Producer.

DoP Director of Photography.  Sometimes referred to as a cinematographer.  On small and mid-size productions, this person is sometimes called the camera operator.  Traditionally, a DoP is responsible for developing a stylised look for the video. 

AC Assistant Camera.  Also known as a 1st AC.  This person sits next to the camera during filming and operates the lens’ focus ring to ensure the subject remains in focus as the camera moves during filming. They also assist the DoP in preparing and outfitting the camera as needed.

Gaffer This is the chief lighting person.  Their role is to design the lighting scheme for your production and select the equipment needed to achieve the desired effect. During filming, they are also involved with setting up the lights.

Grip This person assists the gaffer in setting up all the lighting equipment.  They can also assist in setting up the support equipment for cameras.  They are also responsible for keeping all equipment organised and performing equipment maintenance.

Sound Recordist This is the person that sets up all the microphones and monitors/records all of the audio during filming.

PA Production Assistant.  This is an entry-level person that is there to help out in any and every way possible.  Their most important role may be getting coffee, meals, and snacks for the cast and crew.

Autocue Operator Also known as a teleprompter operator.  If your project requires reading from a script, this is the person that sets up the autocue/prompter in front of the camera and ensures the text moves at a comfortable speed as you read.

Production Manager Normally used on bigger budget or complex productions.  The Production Manager oversees all logistical aspects as they pertain to filming.  This role is a right hand of sorts to the Producer.

Hair and Makeup A dedicated person for getting the talent “camera ready”.  They are on standby during filming and ready to jump in during breaks in the action to give the talent a touch up as needed.

WardrobeWhen your project calls for very specific clothing needs, a wardrobe person coordinates with everyone appearing on camera in getting their measurements, buying clothing and doing fitting sessions prior to filming.

Location Scout If your project involves a very specific type of location then this person is called in to find some options that match closest to the project’s needs.  They also assist in negotiating location fees and any other location-related logistics.

Set Designer When using a studio or custom location, this person is responsible for obtaining all necessary furniture and accessories that will appear on camera.  They are also on hand the day of filming to dress the set. 

Streamlining Part 1-Do I need all of these people for filming my video?

Unless you’re making a really ambitious video with a huge creative scope, the answer is often no.  There are so many ways to streamline a production and not sacrifice quality.

Here are some ways we help our clients streamline their budgets:

  • We ask them to arrive ‘camera ready’.  Perform all of their own hair, makeup and wardrobe duties so that we don’t have to pay someone to do that for them.
  • If only one person speaks in the video, our camera operator will take care of setting up a microphone and plug it into the camera where they can monitor sound while filming.  It’s only once multiple speakers are involved or when we’re filming outdoors and a boom mic (the cylindrical looking one at the end of a long pole) is needed that we suggest budgeting for a sound recordist.
  • When we’re doing a basic interview setup, our camera operator can also tackle lighting duties.  If we’re dealing with a lot of people appearing on camera or we want to create a really stylised look then we’d encourage our client to budget for a gaffer and possibly a grip.
  • We encourage clients to work without a script.  It’s part of our refreshingly authentic approach that makes people look and sound much better on camera than if they were reading off an autocue. It also eliminates the need for an autocue and an operator.

The list can go on and on.  The key is to sit down with your video production company and discuss options on how big or small your crew really needs to be. Each project is different so that conversation will go a long way in properly planning your shoot.

The Gear List-Should I know all these brands?

Company A is touting their RED camera.  Company B is bringing Arri lights.  Company C is using a Sennheiser microphone.

Do you need to know these manufacturers by name?  No, you don’t.  What matters most is that the lights illuminate, the camera captures a nice image and the microphone picks up clean sound.

Of course, there is a difference in quality and capability between each equipment manufacturer and its respective models.  With cameras especially, you’ll see quotes vary depending on what type is being used.

So how do you know which camera is right for your video when faced with multiple choices?

Go to each company’s website and check out samples of their previous work.  Find a few videos where you like the overall look and ask them what camera they used to make those specific videos and make sure that’s the camera they are factoring into your quote.

Budget Proposals- Three Different Ones

For many people, the most crucial element of the decision-making process will be the budget total.  And when it comes to video production quotes, the overall presentation and numbers you receive will most certainly vary.

The simplest type of quote you’ll receive is an email that says, “Your project will cost X amount of dollars.”  And that’s it.

The second type will be an email that will contain a budget total and a detailed breakdown.

The third type will be an email that will contain a colourful PDF brochure that will have lots of bells and whistles and buried somewhere in there will be your budget and possibly a detailed breakdown of costs.

Essentially all three are saying the same thing, “Your project will cost $X.”  They’re just using different types of wrapping paper to present that number.

There is no right or wrong with presentation. Some people like receiving a bit of flash while others just want to see a detailed spreadsheet.  It’s a very subjective thing.  What’s most important is that the presentation is giving you everything you need to know to start making your decision.

If a vendor doesn’t provide you with a detailed breakdown and you’d like to see one, then ask them to send one over.  They should happily provide you with all the additional information you require. Transparency is a great way to start a business relationship.

The Breakdown- Where’s My Money Going?

As a prospective client, you have every right to know how your money is being spent. While a basic video can be relatively inexpensive to produce, a more ambitious project can easily go into five figures. Higher even.  Knowing how the proposed budget breaks down not only helps you become better versed in the individual costs of making a video, it also helps you in determining what line items could be cut or how the scope of work can be modified if the budget is more than you want to spend.  

On the other hand, if it’s lower than you thought it would be and you’re keen to spend some more money, knowing the cost of everything can allow you to expand the scope of work and add extra services as needed.

The Budget Curve-Why do these quotes vary so greatly?

If you reach out to 5 companies you will receive a range of numbers.  There will likely be one vendor that is lower than everyone else and one that is higher.  With the rest falling into a fairly close range of estimates.

There are many reasons as to why this happens.

One vendor’s filming crew can consist of five people while another vendor’s crew consists of two.  One DoP might cost $800 while another one costs $1,200.  Company A may want 2 days for filming while Company B thinks they can do it in 1 day.  Company C is a large production house that specialises in high-end commercials while company D works with small businesses and the equipment and crew both companies use reflects their level of specialty. These are just a few examples.

This is where your breakdown comes in handy with spotting and understanding why these budgets may vary greatly.  This is also where you can once again point to a video the company made previously and ask them what the budget was in that instance.

Extra Fees-Why am I being charged this?

Here are some of the common extra fees you may find in a quote.

Production Fee or Creative Fee – Some companies itemise this fee while others have this already factored into their individual rates.

For most companies, a Production Fee or Creative Fee is an admin fee of sorts that helps cover the cost of doing business on your project.  Things like payroll taxes, utilities and other legitimate overhead that is generated as a result of working on your project.  How much of a fee is charged may vary but it tends to be a percentage of the overall budget.

With some places, the Creative Fee is presented as the work that was done in developing the creative for your project.  Realistically, this should be itemised as writer and producer duties.

Parking Fee If you’re located in the CBD and the crew need to park in a paid car park because there is no free parking, then that cost is tacked onto the budget.

Location Fee If you are using a studio or any other location that is owned by someone else then you will have to pay a fee to use those facilities.

Incidentals Fee This tends to show up on larger productions and is in place to cover unexpected costs that may, and likely will, come up. It’s a bit of an anticipatory number that is put in place in case of emergency.

Meals, drinks, snacks On a full shoot day, hydration and nutrition are important in keeping cast and crew energised, productive and happy. It’s always a great idea to have snacks and water handy throughout the day and a yummy lunch to fuel the second half of the shoot.

Kit Fee A “kit” is the equipment a person brings to do their assigned task.  For example, a sound recordist will have an audio kit that consists of microphones, cables, stands, etc. Some budgets combine the crew person’s rate and their kit into one number.  Others separate them into different line items.

Music Fee No matter who makes your video, they will need to purchase some music to use in the edit.  Some places, like ANGRYchair, have subscriptions to music catalogues which results in a low “per track” cost and doesn’t require billing the client extra for the track.  Other places buy tracks as needed from vendors and pass that cost onto the client.  

An important thing to note here is that obtaining music for social media is fairly inexpensive.  If you are making a Television Commercial however, you may have to pay a premium for the music.  The conditions and costs vary between vendors,

Voiceover Fee -For when your video needs a professional narrator.

Talent Fee – When you’re using professional actors or extras.

Cloud Storage Fee Some companies charge a fee to store your final files on the cloud for a set amount of time.

Hard Drives – For providing you a copy of all your footage and other project assets.

Cameras-Do I need more than one?

With the advent of 4K technology, you can have one camera make it look like you are using two.  4K is essentially a really large image.  Larger than you need for your platforms.  What that allows us to do is zoom in quite a bit and generate two different framings. So we’re getting two cameras for the price of one.

Some clients prefer that a second camera be used to offer a side view while the main camera offers a head-on composition.  If filming a sitdown interview, we can set up a second camera and let it run without hiring a second operator.  We’re adding cost but saving at the same time.

If we’re filming someone walking and talking or in a less static environment, then we would need to have an operator for each camera.

Streamlining Part 2-How else can I bring this number down?

Let’s say you feel more inclined to go with the companies whose quotes came in on the higher end but the number is just a bit too high for you.  Give those companies a call and spend some time going over the budget and finding ways to streamline it.

It’s possible that they may be able to use a smaller sized filming crew. Or they may not need to provide a hair and makeup person because your talent is happy to arrive camera ready.  Maybe you had an ambitious motion graphics and animation plan for your video that may need to be scaled back to lower the editing budget.

It all comes back to the scope of work and the creative brief for your project.  The costs of creating your video will be relative to what you want accomplished.  The video production companies you speak with will do their best to accommodate and will advise you on when quality or scope may suffer as a result of budgeting too low.

All of these discussions will help you in weighing the pros vs. cons and in making a final decision on how much money to spend.

Expansion-Where can I spend more?

The numbers are coming in lower than expected.  You’re starting to wonder if you should spend a bit more to add production value but not sure where that money should be spent.  Just like with streamlining, give the companies a call and have a chat with them about where more money can be placed and how much would be needed.

You have the base numbers in front of you so you’re already going into this conversation fairly well informed.  It’s now a question of where you want to invest extra resources. It may be allocating more time to post-production, commissioning custom graphics, doing extensive sound design or a combination of all or some of these things.  Again, chat with the production companies to assess the best options.

Hmmmm….-What else should I consider?

Each shoot is different and brings its own unique set of needs. At the same time, there are some fundamentals that don’t change.  

Aside from specific dollar amounts your biggest questions will likely be, “Do I need this big of a crew?” or “Is this too small of a crew?”

If you’re filming with a large group of high-level executives from your company, then they may want the Hollywood treatment.  They’ll want a hair and makeup person, a big crew looking after them and all the bells and whistles that match their level of status.  

Alternatively, your CEO may be a more practical and budget-conscious person that prefers a film crew that uses a smaller footprint and forgoes all the extras in exchange for a bare-bones crew. If filming at your offices, you may want to minimise the amount of disruption a video crew may cause and a smaller crew can achieve that more easily.

Make sure you also know how many sets of revisions you are allowed in the editing stage.  If negotiating a fixed budget there will likely be a limit before overages are incurred. It’s important to know when an overage may happen and how much it will be.

Have a serious think about your deliverables.  Let’s say you’re making a 2-minute video.  Do you want to also make a :30 cutdown version for some of your socials?  Or, rather than a 2-minute video, would you want a series of :30 videos?

The more thorough you are with planning the deliverables upfront, the better prepared the production company can be to meet all your goals and they can more accurately budget for your project.

Deal or No Deal-Can I get the number a bit lower?

You can always try to negotiate the budget even further.  Keep in mind that these video companies are still businesses at the end of the day.  They need to be able to clear some profit in order to stay operational.  Everyone has a bottom number and at a certain point the budget can’t budge.  You then have to make the choice to agree to that final number or consider going to a different company.

A word of warning about trying to bottom dollar everyone to secure the lowest quote possible.  While you may end up with a competent low cost company that delivers a good product, you could very easily end up with an inexperienced company that delivers a subpar final product.  Or an experienced company that may not give your project proper attention because they know going in that they won’t make any money from the project.

There is an element of “you get what you pay for” when it comes to video production.  Spending 5k and expecting a 50K product is not realistic.  

The PDF is Mightier Than the Memory

Once you’re done customising and negotiating all of the finer details and costs associated with your project, ask the company to draft a document detailing everything.  This will be of great benefit to your team and the production company in ensuring there are no, “I forgot” moments down the line.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered-I’m Yours

Congratulations.  You’ve chosen your video company that operates in Sydney/Melbourne and your project is moving forward.  Time to get creative, have fun and generate some amazing content for your digital platforms.  Making videos is a lot of fun.  Enjoy yourself!