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How Much did that Video Cost? by Chris Beaver & Jason O’Hara, Seven Suns Productions

“How much does a video cost?” is the most common question we get. So, medicine we’ve asked video creators to identify a video they like & let us know what they thought it would cost to produce. The only catch: IT’S NOT THEIR VIDEO (so all posts are merely an estimate by each video creator on what they thought a similar video might cost). Enjoy the series!

So, medical how much did that video cost?

We wanted to present a video that was in keeping with something we might produce, capsule not only for ease of speculation but also to express our aesthetic tastes. Part of documentary is about letting go and exploring curiosity, which is why we appreciate that this beautifully composed short makes great storytelling seem effortless. In addition to production quality, this piece resonates with us for its quiet honesty and the audience connection that results. The Chris Gentile character portrait is a part of a web series produced by The Scout (www.thescoutmag.com), telling stories of ordinary people and effectively drawing out the extraordinary—which we think is paramount to good storytelling.

We have approached this exercise as we would if someone asked us to produce something similar. We think a project like this could be turned around very quickly, shooting on a Monday and delivering by Friday. 

Production (Prices Based on Day Rates):

1) Crew: $800

We would endeavour to produce a video like this in one long day with a two-person crew for effective directing, producing, shooting and sound. 

2) Primary Camera & Lenses: $290 – $490

Canon 5D mkII ($100) or Canon C300 ($300)

Lens kit: [24-70mm/2.8 – $40] [50mm/1.2 -$50] [85mm/1.4 – $50] [24/mm1.4 – $50] ($190.00)

On a restrictive budget we’d opt to use the Canon 5D and we’d want to have all of this glass at our disposal for maximum versatility, with the possible addition of a 70-300mm for some close ups of Chris out in the water. That being said, we didn’t see all this glass used in the video and they could have gotten away with just a 24-70mm (reasonable variance of zoom range and can still shoot very shallow depth of field at 2.8 on a full frame sensor) and a 50mm prime lens (possibly just a 50mm/1.4, which is more affordable than the 50mm/1.2). With additional budget you could use all the above mentioned glass with the Canon C300, which would provide a number of benefits—including XLR audio inputs, smoother motion and higher frame rates, just to name a few. However, the use of a C300 would add an extra $200 to our day rate, as it is a far more expensive camera than the 5D.

3) Underwater Camera: $25 – $1500

GoPro ($25) or Lens based ($500-$1500)

On a budget the underwater shots could be achieved using GoPro in protune mode with some additional colour grading. Late model GoPros are very powerful little cameras that can achieve professional results for a skilled user. With additional budget you might prefer to use a lens-based camera with underwater housing. However, this could increase the price to anywhere from $1000-$1500 per day. Not only is the equipment more costly but it would also require a trained underwater cinematographer to effectively operate a DSLR or C300 in an awkward underwater housing.

4) Additional Camera Accessories ($285)

  • Motorized slider: $100
  • Camera stabilizer (for handheld shots): $60
  • Follow focus: (for smooth focus pulls) $25
  • Tripod (with a smooth head): $50
  • HD Monitor (to ensure sharp focus): $50

5) Audio Equipment: $80

  • Shotgun Mic (to capture depth & warmth of voice): $30
  • Lav Mic (backup audio track): $25       
  • Zoom audio recorder (not required with C300): $25

6) Lighting equipment: $100

On a shoot like this we’d try to avoid using a lighting kit and instead make use of available light, using reflectors to bounce natural light when necessary. We would also bring a couple of strong LEDs with stands for any unexpected low light scenarios.

Post-Production:

1) Editing ($2000 – $2500)

2) Colour Correction / Creative Colouring ($500)

3) Custom Sound Design ($500 – $1000)

This estimate is based on a 5-minute video and would vary depending on the quantity of music required—partial to full coverage. Sound is often an afterthought but is equally if not more important than images in terms of a video’s impact. Human perception is somewhat forgiving of poorer quality images; however, bad audio can render a video intolerable to watch.

On the other hand, quality sound design and custom music can take a video to a whole other level. This is demonstrated in Chris Gentile where the sound design seems to be tailored to complement the imagery and provide a dramatic rhythm to the piece. We feel that Chris Gentile and the other videos at The Scout aptly demonstrate the added value of custom sound design, vs. the insertion of a pre-selected track. 

With the advent of new DSLR technologies there has come to be an excessive obsession with high quality aesthetics, while many have forgotten what ultimately connects with audiences – good storytelling. What makes Chris Gentile and the like so effective is that they focus on passionate people doing interesting things and honestly sharing their point of view. The aesthetics only serve to compliment what is in of itself more important – good content.

At Seven Suns we approach video production from a background in documentary, which has instilled in us a fundamental belief in the importance of authentic, thoughtful storytelling that seeks to cultivate human connection and deepen our understanding of the world. You can learn more about us here.

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