I often notice a mismatch between a project’s budget and its ambition. Or a client’s expectation of production vs the reality of what goes into making video / audio.

Yes, it’s simple to take a video of your kid, snap an awesome instagram filtered photo or record a voice chat with your Dutch ex. It’s also pretty easy to edit video on your phone. 

But those things don’t consider the action you want your audience to take when they hear/ see that video or audio (ie buy your service/product!!) – and the journey that you need to take them on in order to make that happen. Nor do they rely on a return on investment.

Your brand stories aren’t unfolding in front of you like your daughter’s school concert, or that holiday sunset in Hawaii. No, they need to be crafted. And that costs – perhaps less than in years past, but it still requires time and people to produce a story that an audience wants to watch.

In years past, production budgets were determined by a percentage of the distribution spend. Historically, 10-20% of total budget was the production budget. However, you might want to spend >50% on production – and that’s fine. If it’s great creative, your audience could really engage and help with distribution and share it for you.

True Story: 100m+ people have seen  Jean Claude Van Damme’s Splits. How many of us care about buying a Volvo Truck? Yet, you watched those splits and know about the precision Volvo steering – don’t you?

Having the right content, produced with the right budget will drive your brand / message. This isn’t about spending as much as possible. It needs to be right for what you want to achieve.

Here are 4 questions to ask to help you get your production budget right:

Is this a big campaign or a small one?

If it’s a big one:

  • Let the ideas coming in from the creatives go wild. It’s a very noisy world and if you want your content to get noticed, then you have to do something different. You might need to spend more than you want as great ideas take time.

If it’s a small one:

  • Can you bundle a number of small(er) productions together so they can all film at the same time with the same production team creating economies of scale?
  • Can you reuse footage from your footage library?
  • Could you just use stock footage and text?

True story: It’s cheaper (and easier) to film 5 interviews in a studio on one day, then 5 separate interviews.

Getting 2-3 quotes, or setting the budget?

If you are setting a budget for your production without getting quotes, then you might be spending too much or too little. Set enough parameters and ensure the quotes you get back are in the right ballpark.

True story: Budget for a job awarded was $50k to production co. Real budget should have been $30k. Had client have budgeted two jobs at the same time then both would have been $51k. So – for $1k more, they’d have received double the deliverables but because they told the team to work to a budget, they got what they asked for.

Know everything going into your job?

There are many things that go into a film shoot and it’s important that all these are accounted for in the budget. If they’re not, expect either a very stressed shoot leading to many problems in post production, or a revolving door of production companies and no economies of scale. What about that last minute studio hire that you need to get for an hour? Have you budgeted for that? How about permits? Insurance? Wardrobe? How about your talent being an hour late and needing to go into overtime? Think about it.

True Story: A car company didn’t realise the hours of work that go into painting out camera and crew reflections in their videos. They produced a job in house for $43k with some freelancers and then spent another $40k going to a top post production facility to remove the camera and people from the reflections in the car, because the car wasn’t available to film again in time for their media bookings. If they’d have gone with the quote of $58k that included painting out the reflections, they’d have avoided a lot of hassle, and the $25k extra expense.

Do you always go with the cheapest quote?

The cheapest quote is the one cutting corners (to deliver on budget/time). What value, thinking and experience are you missing out on by going with the cheapest? 

Remember – you’re spending money to distribute this work to an audience who you’re trying to interrupt – so don’t be too cheap – be smart. There are many clever ways to create cost effective content these days – particularly dynamic creative.

If you are ever looking for a video or audio production quote, please let us know at josh@ampel.com.au and we’ll find you production efficiencies, perhaps some different ways of working, as well as delivering you a budget and schedule within 24 hours