Save Money on Video Production

“How can I stick to my limited budget and still make a high quality video?” This is one of the most common things I hear from clients and I’m always happy to announce that there are a lot of ways to stretch a budget and still get quality results. For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume that the client in question either doesn’t have access to an internal video production team or that their internal team can’t handle this specific project for whatever reason. Let’s also assume that the project in question isn’t so simple that someone could do it with an iPhone or an iPad. In general, this advice applies to video projects that require high quality videography, graphics, sound and editing. With that in mind, here are the tips and techniques I discuss with my clients when the budget is tight but quality is still a top priority.

Fast, Cheap & Good – Pick Two

This is an old axiom, but it’s still true when it comes to video production. If you need super high production value and you need your project done quickly, you’re probably going to have to pay a premium to make that happen. If you need to work fast, you need to eliminate hiccups that could derail your schedule or jeopardize the delivery of a top-quality product and the easiest way to do that is to hire a professional writer/producer/director, cameraman, editor, etc. Professionals work fast and teams of professionals that have worked together before can often work even faster. You can save money however if you aren’t on an accelerated timeline. Perhaps there is a staff member at your organization who could write a great script for your piece or an internal graphic designer who could come up with a “look” for the graphics in your video. Yes, they’ll need to fit these tasks into their schedules around their current workloads, but if you have time this can be a great way to give your internal creative team the chance to learn about video and save some money. This brings us to my next money-saving tip…

Use Your Skills & Existing Resources

Though it may lengthen your timeline, making use of internal people who can contribute to your project is often one of the best ways to save money. For example, one of my clients re-purposes print materials to create short infographic videos. The client team is made up of strong writers, so they write the scripts for their videos. When we collaborated on our first video, I provided them with the names of websites where they could find inexpensive music tracks. They conduct their own music searches and provide me with links to the pieces they want to use. They also found an internal person with a great voice to serve as narration talent. By providing design elements, a script, inexpensive music tracks and voice talent, they are able to really get a lot of bang for their buck.

Of course, it’s important to recognize what you can’t or don’t want to do yourself. Perhaps you have a great writer on staff but you know that he or she is totally swamped or that you will be out of town at a crucial time and can’t help look for locations. Your time is valuable. Work with your production team upfront to divide and conquer what needs to be done.

Stock image and footage sites are also great resources to think of when planning a video. Perhaps you don’t need to shoot everything from scratch if your project can lean on stock footage instead. Keep in mind, however, that if you plan to make a video entirely from stock footage, there can be significant costs associated with the time it takes to find clips and the licensing of footage. Stock sites can offer advantages for animated videos, too. Let’s say you are planning a video that will require a few common icons: a clock, a car, a human figure, etc. If a designer can purchase some of these elements inexpensively (rather than creating them from scratch), that will save time that might better be used in the animating process.

Talk to the Production Company Early in the Process

Using internal resources is a great way to save money, but be sure to bring the production company into the planning process as early as possible. A few calls or meetings early on may provide you with great guidance and prevent headaches downstream. I once worked with clients that had written a script for a ten-minute video. They did re-write after re-write until finally the entire chain of command involved in the project had approved it. At that point, they came in to discuss the project with our team. Unfortunately, they’d written a script long enough for a 20-minute video. After months of hard work, they faced two options: overhaul the script to fit the original ten-minute plan, or request a much larger budget to make their video. Involving the people who will eventually shoot and edit your video early in the process can help avoid these types of issues. For instance, when I have clients planning to script something themselves, I send them a two-column template to use. One page in the template equals roughly one minute of finished video, which makes it easy to determine just how long the video is going to be as they’re writing.

Storyboarding – A Budget Extra That Can Actually Save You Money

Storyboarding is an important thing to consider adding to your production process, particularly if you’re planning to write your own script. It adds cost to the initial budget, but it can help clarify exactly how your video will come together before you’ve sunk money into creating a lot of graphic elements or filmed anything, and it can give the production team a good road map to use during filming. It can also make the editing process move more quickly. Storyboarding can also be helpful if there are people within your organization that need something visual in order to imagine what the finished piece is going to look like. If something in your script doesn’t seem to be working, seeing how your video will come together can often help illustrate why.

Economies of Scale

One of the best ways to stretch a budget is by realizing some economies of scale. If possible, combine projects so that you’re making the most of the time you have with the crews you’re hiring for the day. If one video is going to take 6-7 hours to film and you hire the crew for one day, they’re still going to charge you for their usual 10-hour day. On the other hand, if you have three projects that can be filmed over two days, you’ve just cut an entire day of filming out of your budget. Not all projects allow for this, but it’s definitely a money saver when you can make it happen. Think about mixing and matching projects, too. I’ve shot b-roll for a client’s commercial and an interview with the CEO for an internal video in the same day once we realized that everyone we needed could be made available on the same day.

Have a Good Handle on Reviews

Knowing upfront how many people need to weigh in on each project milestone and how long it might realistically take them to do so can go a long way towards sticking to a project’s original schedule and budget. If feedback is likely to trickle in over a two to three week period, it’s good to build that time into your schedule from the beginning rather than start making changes after a week and have to change things again once additional feedback comes in. If it’s taking someone on the review team longer than usual to give their feedback, the client team might need to make a tough decision…move forward without that person’s feedback, or delay and wait for everyone’s notes before moving on. Generally, the more times a script or a rough cut has to go through revisions, the more likely you are to experience budget overages and delays. A lot of this falls on the client team to know the way their fellow teammates like to give feedback and the time constraints they’re under and to plan as much as possible for those in advance.

Whether you’re making a corporate video, a promotional video or a video for your fellow employees, hopefully you’ve found these money-saving video production tips helpful. Most production companies are happy to work with clients to pinch pennies. After all, it’s in our best interest to develop a great working relationship with you and to keep you coming back!

Also published on LinkedIn Pulse.