English economist Alfred Marshall first coined the term “economies of scale” in his groundbreaking 1890 text Principles of Economics. If you’ve ever taken an econ class or have some knowledge of manufacturing you know what that means, but we’ll deliver the Cliff Notes version here:
There is a point at which the per unit cost of developing or manufacturing something decreases with the increase of scale (the ever-increasing production of more units) by spreading fixed costs out. For example, if it costs $5,000 dollars to print 500 copies of a brochure and it costs $10,000 to print 2,500 copies, which print order achieves an economy of scale – the first order will cost $10 per copy; the second one will cost $4 per copy? The difference is obvious. You or your business will need to decide if choosing an economies of scale approach makes sense. After all, maybe you really only need 500 copies of that brochure or your budgetary limitations only allow you to spend $5,000.
But, if you have an ongoing business concern that requires you to invest in marketing or promotions or training or whatever periodic, routine investments you make to continue the day-to-day operations of your business, economies of scale matter. Because we focus on the production of business video in this and other blog posts, we’ll concentrate on those aspects of production that may be affected by economies of scale.
In manufacturing, employing economies of scale is pretty easy to grasp. But video production is usually pretty labor-intensive. So, where are the economies of scale?
- Re-use: whether it’s a still or animated graphic or a piece of music or a live-action element – re-use is by far the best way to increase an economy of scale and get the most bang out of your buck.
- Stock photos and video often provide an inexpensive alternative to producing new media. Depending upon the use, the tone, the story, and other factors, sometimes it makes more sense to use stock. It can and often does look generic, so use it judiciously. Issues of taste aside, stock photos and video can be very inexpensive, depending upon the source and how you intend to use it. Online sources such as istockphoto or Shutterstock offer royalty-free, non-editorial images for, in some cases, a few dollars per image. Non-editorial refers to work that is essentially fiction in which, if people appear, they have given up the rights to royalties. Editorial refers to real-life events. Editorial images and photos have most often been taken by photojournalists and are usually very expensive to buy for use in business promotions. There are service bureaus for editorial media, like Corbis and AP and Getty, but you can count on spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars to use their library.
- Stock music (sometimes referred to as needle drops) are often available for very small amounts of money for most online distribution. Stock music distribution companies used to sell libraries of music on disc, cassette tapes and even vinyl, in the past. It only made sense for recording studios and production companies engaged in a great deal of post-production to purchase these vast and expensive libraries. Today, all of that music has gone online, although media-based music still exists; it makes little sense to own it. Today, you can find a broad variety of titles to meet very explicit needs, styles, lengths and moods. And, like photos, most music may be obtained royalty-free, meaning that once you’ve bought it, you can use it over and over, again.
- Maximization: Let’s say that you intend to produce a series of interviews scheduled to show over a few months, but filmed with a number of individuals who are geographically distributed over an entire city or maybe a relatively small geographic region. Every time a producer is required to hire a crew for a period of time, it costs a fixed amount. So, to maximize the crew’s output, a smart producer will attempt to maximize the opportunity and, in the above case, will drag that crew to capture as many interviews in as short a time as is possible or bring as many interviewees to one place where the shooting is taking place. In either case, the idea is to squeeze as much productivity from the crew as is possible. Personnel is one of the most expensive costs in video production. If an entire series of videos can be developed, written and produced as a package, large potential savings exist.
- Element Reuse: Like in the first example, reusing produced elements is one way to achieve economies of scale. Opening and closing segments, like the credit sequences on broadcast television shows, are the perfect example of this kind of reuse. In corporate media these are sometimes called bookends or a doughnut with the media in the middle refreshed content as needed.
There are other commonly used techniques, such as shooting out-of-sequence to take advantage of a cast, crew, location, weather or time of day, too.
But, the best way to achieve any kind of economies of scale is to work with your producer to plan out an entire production schedule in advance to reuse, maximize and eliminate redundancies that will cost you more in the long run.