Tips On Budgeting Your Project

Camera Crew on location
Julia Cowell

Struggling with budget

Budgeting any project can be a struggle, especially when it comes to video. Many people have a difficult time wrapping their heads around the costs associated with producing a video. The key to getting the results you want are putting together a budget that best fits the end goal. If you want an 8K crane shot of Times Square with your company’s logo superimposed on every screen, but you don’t have the budget to hire the camera, crane operator or shut down NYC traffic, you may have to rethink why that shot is important to the story you’re telling. But, if you want your video to convey a sense of elegance and style through smooth camera movements, it’s much easier to budget for a video with that in mind. So how should you start budgeting your project?

When I was in college, one of the best lessons I learned was the Fast-Cheap-Good rule. Simply put: you can only pick two. You want something Good and Fast? It’s not gonna be Cheap. You want something Good and Cheap? Ok, but it won’t be fast. You want something Fast and Cheap? Don't expect good work or to hire top notch talent.

In video production, we have to change this up just a little, based primarily on the fact that most production houses will charge by the day for filming and by the hour for any post production work (i.e., anything slow won’t ever be cheap). So here, for the first time, I present to you our Scope-Cheap-Good Rule of Production:

Cheap (Less Expensive)

Let’s start with Cheap - YES, it is possible to have a Good video on a budget. The goal of any video is to get your story and your message across to an audience and you don’t need a fully rendered 3D animation of your team fighting an epic space battle to accomplish that. A good interview with the right subject is worth more than any amount of Industrial Light and Sound level effects. Remember: content is king. You also don’t need to interview every member of the office.

Equally as important as the right interview is getting good b-roll. This is the footage that we’ll lay over top of your video to make it visually more interesting and also to cover any cut points in your interviews. Especially if the interview subject mentions something specific in their interview, like a product or the office’s family atmosphere, getting b-roll of that topic will help emphasize the point. Ensuring that the production crew can capture good b-roll will make more of an impact on the video than a dozen talking heads in a row.

Tip: Focus on your message. Define this first and then work backwards to determine how you can best convey that message with your budget.


Good needs little explanation. We’ve all perused YouTube and seen the difference between a well-done video and one that was shot on a friend-of-a-friend’s-son’s iPhone. BUT, if you need a little refresher on what makes a quality video, check out this blog post we did on High Quality Video.


Finally, let’s talk about Scope. Scope, or Scope of Work, is the scale of your project. This covers things like graphics, but it also covers things you may not have thought of. How many days do you want (or need) to film? A week is going to be larger in Scope than a day. Where do you want to film? Your office is going to be pretty small in Scope. However, if you want to film in your offices in DC, New York and LA, that’s a bigger Scope. If you want to film in your office and at your company’s team-building field trip on the National Mall in DC, that’s also going to impact Scope.

Did you know that the National Parks Service requires a filming permit for any professional filming on the National Mall? 

Filming permit fees for exterior locations you don’t own can add up, not to mention that you’ll need to get started on those permits well in advance as they can take multiple weeks for an approval. How long do you want your final video to be? A two minute video is going to be much smaller in scope than, say, your 20 minute documentary, not to mention that it will take less time to turnaround a final version. And which will have more impact - the 2 minute video you can post on social media or the documentary that you can share at conferences and conventions? Which one fits your needs?

Wrap Up

So need a Good video that’s Cheap? Not a problem! We can work with you on Scope to make sure that your video is exactly what you need in the budget you have. It may mean trimming the week’s worth of interviews down to a single day of interviews and b-roll or switching from a 3D animated scene to a 2D animated text graphic, but at the end of the day, the messaging is what’s most important. Small Scope does not need to mean small impact, and we’re here to make sure you get the most out of every video project.

Some Tips and Advice

You can do some market research, but when you're ready to produce a video make sure you set aside a budget. Inform the creative firm you're working with what your message is, how you hope to achieve it and your budget range. I can't tell you how often we get asked how much does it cost to create a two minute video? It can cost $5,000, it can cost $100,000. It all comes down to Scope.