Budget on BlackboardCertain aspects of the auto sales industry have moved to a fixed price model. Carmax calls theirs no-haggle. The online service TrueCar provides detailed data about a vehicle’s true cost. They’ve established relationships directly with car dealers who are committed to, as they put it: truth and transparency, and offer the buyer the factory invoice, the MSRP, and the true car price. No haggling necessary. Pretty great.

Cars have very defined price variability. Options and option packages are manufacturer determined. Financing rates vary, depending upon the provider and current interest rates. But financing aside, with all the known data, it’s not very difficult to determine the cost of a car. That’s not true with many services, including video production.

Thirty years ago, industrial (corporate) film producers had a slow-changing metric for pricing projects – the per-minute cost. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was $2,000/minute. So, if you wanted a ten-minute film… $20,000, etc. Dead simple. But even then, it was not always true. Today, that might seem like a lot of money for a ten-minute video – but the honest answer is – it depends.

Thirty years ago, producers didn’t have the luxurious, creative tools available today: software for animation, effects, titling, color correction, sound editing and mixing; inexpensive video camera, like DSLRs, that produce great-looking pictures; amazing portable lighting gear; small and portable devices like drone helicopters and gyroscopic stabilizers to move the camera around, and non-linear editing software to dramatically shorten and increase the creativity of post-production, and on and on.

If you watched a ten-minute corporate film from 1982, you might learn a lot about commercial printing or the finer points of bowling – but trust us, you’d be bored silly. Why? In a word: sensibility. Films made in 1982 would look positively primitive by today’s standards: static shots held seemingly for hours, too much dialogue or narration, over-lit, and clumsy.

Today’s video viewer has a sophisticated palate, expects great lighting, well-framed shots, briskly edited, and aurally appealing. And unlike buying a car, a product that cannot be priced with a pre-packaged grid.

It’s not our intention to be coy or condescend in this post. You want what’s in the above paragraph and you don’t want to overpay for it. But, the reality is that the sensibility you have come to expect has real, associated costs and we don’t want you to be surprised. We know you really want that drone, helicopter shot to end your video, but please understand that’s going to definitely impact the budget.

When we first start talking and we ask you that question you might hate to answer, “what’s your budget?” we’re not asking because we want to sell you a drone helicopter shot and a string quartet to record the music and Matt Damon to narrate. We really do need to know what you intend to invest in the production of your video so we can – with truth and transparency – offer you the best value for your money. So, when we ask that question, please go first.