How do film and video companies arrive at their pricing? | Spin Creative

By Matthew Billings, Principal & Creative Director at Spin Creative, LLC

How do film and video companies arrive at their pricing?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when we face clients as well as people in the production community—especially as the price of video equipment and editing software declines.

So why does video cost what it costs and why can pricing vary so much among providers?

The closest analogy to a video production I can think of is a kitchen remodel. (This will make sense, I promise.) In both instances, there’s a general contractor (producer) who oversees and assortment of specialists (writers, directors, directors of photography, editors, composers) to complete the work. The producer come ups with a creative solution and budget and manages the time and schedules of the specialists.

Just as with a kitchen remodel, the choices you make when planning a video determine the price. Here are some things to considers:

• Experience: How experienced are your producers and crew (contractor and subs)? Is this their first project or have they been doing this kind of work for years? A production team with experience can greatly assist in the creative development of the program. Such proficiency enables a producer to effectively anticipate and solve problems, which translates into saving time and money.

•  Director: Like a great chef, a director knows what to do to bring about best results. A good director costs more than a inexperienced director but can be the difference between Chateaubriand and dog food. Also, an experienced director can be critical in planning a realistic number of shoot days to bring to life the creative vision for the project.

• Equipment: The quality of the actual recorded images varies as much as models of refrigerators, ranges and dishwashers. Today, cameras are ubiquitous and inexpensive. But the actual cost of quality production cameras remains high, due in large part to cutting-edge technology and professional-grade lenses.

•  Artistry: How should your video look? The answers are as varied as the many choices facing the remodel project. In a kitchen, does the food taste better if it’s cooked on a Viking range as opposed to a KitchenAid®? Will the cabinets be handmaid by a skilled carpenter or purchased at a super store? Will they be made from cherry wood or from oak? The answers are determined by brand identity and corporate culture, which can be key drivers of the creative direction.

• Audience: In general, the larger the potential audience, the larger the budget. Commercial kitchens and TV commercials serve a larger demographic. A marketing vehicle generally costs more than a program for internal use.

• Informational vs. Marketing: A program meant to inform, such as a video news release or an employee benefits video, is more effective if it doesn’t look and sound like a commercial. Both can entertain and both can be cleaver but “flash” tends to undercut the credibility of an informational video just as straight information doesn’t necessarily make a good commercial.

•  Ingredients Count: When preparing a great meal, the ingredients you choose are crucial. The same can be said of the ingredients to go into the script. A good script is the recipe for an effective video. (OK, even I’m getting sick of the kitchen analogy.) But the key purpose of the script is to tell a story. In fact, the importance of story cannot be overestimated.

•  Budget Scope: In most cases, the budget defines the quality and the quality is determined by the budget. The narrower the range the more your vendor knows that you know what you’re doing. If you give a producer a range of $20,000 to $100,000, you’re setting yourself up for dramatically different results, between the low-end and the high-end numbers.

•  The Blueprint: The script for a video project is analogous to the blueprint for the kitchen remodel. In both cases, changes to the plan can be costly. Adding scenes during shooting is like moving a wall back 10 feet after the framing is finished. Such changes are the leading cause for cost overruns and should be avoided. Keep in mind, however, that some changes are inevitable and that it’s wise to include at least a 10% contingency for the unexpected.

The marketplace for video-production services has become much more crowded over the last few years. Budgeting for film and video production can be a confusing process. But like a kitchen remodel, a proven professional is most likely to deliver an excellent product at a fair price.

Matthew Billings is a Principal and Creative Director at Spin Creative, LLC. Spin Creative is a creative agency and full-service high-care high-craft creative video production company with offices in Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA. We propel brands using cinematic storytelling.

If you would like to work with one of the best video production companies, shoot us an email at or call 206.686.6278 (Seattle) or 415.767.3645 (San Francisco). We travel all over the world for our clients.