The Hidden Cost of Video Production


Video content wins the internet, but it ain't cheap. Why? Because doing it right takes a lot of people.

Wes Kennison

By Wes Kennison

4 min read
Without question video content wins the internet for most valuable content type, specifically it wins the categories of total Consumption, Ad Revenue, Engagement, User Preference and overall “Market share” when compared to other content.

But why is pro video production so expensive? 

Because, the toys, er tools, and post-production infrastructure are expensive, yes, but ALSO (and moreso) because video production is as cross disciplinary as it gets. It takes a writer who knows how to write for the moving image and not the page, a director of photography, an editor, a designer, an animator, a colorist, and the list goes on. Each one of these artist roles are doing very technical things, and the technicality needs to be coordinated and managed correctly, or things get fucky AND expensive quickly.

This cost of coordination is the hidden cost of video production, and you just can’t know how to wrangle it until you’ve been there. 

Few things are as beautiful as an experienced crew crushin on set, like really, it’s a beautiful thing; but the set part is only about 25% of the equation. Don’t believe me? I’ll double down, 95% of ANY of the gripes (from client OR crew) associated with a given video production come down to ONE, all too common thing: 

The pieces of the process aren’t adequately threaded together, 

in other words, the people in charge before the set day(s) happened didn’t plan or communicate like they could have so the set day is more chaotic than it needed to be which means that the post production process almost always suffers the same fate, which means that if there are any experienced pros in the mix there will also be bellyachin’ o’ plenty, and rightfully so.

In Hollywood, this is why the Director and Showrunner roles exist, they’ve figured out that THERE HAS TO BE A HUB THAT HOLDS ALL THE SPOKES OF THE WHEEL TOGETHER. In commercial productions, the smaller the budget the less the likelihood of a Director getting attached; and in corporate contexts the Director role is rare, in my experience. This is where we tend to see the above described Cost of Coordination enter the picture.

More and more places are taking video production in house, or direct hiring artists, and all too often it’s one lone ‘videographer/editor/producer/animator/therapist’ being mismanaged by Marketing Martha or Communications Carl, who is wholly in the dark about the video production process, or the separations needed between stages, or how to schedule a production day, or dependency management in post, or a sense of post pipeline design, or any of the nerdery and experience that makes a great video team, great. I’ll speak for myself here and say that I’ve learned what I’ve learned through brute force elbow grease, thousands and thousands of hours on the tools, and good old fashioned, fall on your face, FAILURE. 

When you hire an experienced pro, you’re not just getting what they know how to do, you’re getting access to what they know NOT to do, which is almost more important. 

So this brings me to the crux of the article, a [self-serving] way to make the video production process more cost effective. If making an investment in a studio team for your video project is out of the picture for you, direct hiring an artist whose technical workflow you don’t know how to manage isn’t going to get you there either. Why?  

Because setting up the artist(s) working on your video for technical success is the best way to save money on a video project.

If this doesn’t happen, that cost of coordination thing I mentioned at the top of the article will fall on them as a burden to bear, and the work product and client experience (yours) will suffer, not to mention artist morale and performance.

Direct hiring a Producer/Director is going to get you way farther for these reasons:
  • The good ones will offer you many touchpoints throughout the process that are staged to create incremental progress while also keeping you in the driver’s seat (vs. having the rough cut be the first thing you see)
  • They will build a timeline and manage your budget for you.
  • They will manage the artist teams and technical workflows of the project in a way that are optimized for the given process.
  • They will tell you no when you make asks that are going to create log jams, and offer a solution that works for everyone. 
  • But most importantly, you will get more out of the booking because they know how to set up the artist teams for technical success, which is hands down the hidden cost savings in video production. What I mean here is that if you can remove the technical guesswork by knowing the artist's technical requirements and providing them, you can create certainty for professionals who typically have to price for uncertainty. 
So there it is, why video’s so expensive, what you can do to deal with this unavoidable reality, and a tip about saving money by ensuring technical success that took me a decade and millions of dollars in budget spend to figure out.

Shoot me an email if you have anything to add to the conversation. ­čĄś

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