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How Much did that Video Cost? By KevinAFraser, Cinematographer

“How much does a video cost?” is the most common question we get. So, symptoms 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, buy more about how much did that video cost?

I never thought too much about Gerber knives before. I knew they existed – I worked with a couple people who used their multi tools, but that was about it. Then a year or so ago I saw a piece of branded content they released called “Hello Trouble”. The video was a major part of a whole rebranding campaign to make the 70 something year old brand relevant and top of mind to a new generation. The ad is scrappy yet beautiful. It’s a piece of lifestyle display that grips your attention immediately, holds it until the end and most importantly leaves you inspired to go out, explore, get dirty and buy some awesome knives! 

So, how much did it cost? 

With so many of the costs associated will filmmaking being extremely flexible and subjective it will be hard for me to accurately tell you exactly what Gerber paid for this spot, but I can say with confidence that it would be completely possible to make with the budget outlined below. This cost analysis will not discuss ad agency costs prior to production or costs associated with the media buy after the spot is delivered. For the purposes of this post I will illustrate the costs from when a Director is first involved until the final edit is delivered to the client.

TREATMENT / PROPOSAL

Normally is starts like this: once an agency or brand has a concept for what type of video they are looking for, they will either post an RFP (request for proposal) to a handful of production companies or they will approach a company or director who they believe would best fit a particular job. A Director would then submit a proposal expressing the shooting, music, editing style and overall look they feel is right for the piece.

Total Treatment / Proposal cost: $0 (other than time and energy asking for and reviewing materials) 

In an ideal world, a spot like this would shoot over three days. Each day would consist of a shoot with one location/character in the morning, then a unit move during the day to shoot a second location/character in the late afternoon. 

I think this would spot would best be achieved with a small unit of people each wearing multiple hats, moving quickly and using natural / existing light whenever possible. I think five crew members total would be perfect. 

CREW LABOUR

For a spot like this I would go with one person as a Director & Cinematographer. Price range for this position on commercials can range greatly, from as low as $1500 to as high as $20,000 or more per day. I think $2500/day on the lower end of the spectrum would be enough to attract a talented and dedicated director/shooter from most anywhere. 

2X travel days (1/2 day rate) $2500

2X location scout / planning days (1/2 day rate) $2500

3X shoot day (full rate) $7500

1X Sitting with the editor (1/2 day rate) $1250

1X Sitting in on color grade(1/2 day rate) $1250

Total director and cinematographer labor: $15,000

I would hire one Camera Assistant who would build and care for the camera, pull focus, slate and download the footage. $550/day could land you someone with these skills and a good attitude. 

1X prep day $550

3X shoot days $1650

1X wrap day (1/2 day rate) $275

It often makes sense to rent the DMT kit (for downloading and managing the footage) from this person. 

3X DMT kit rental $300

Total Camera assistant / DMT labour & kit: $2725

A shoot like this would mostly be shot with available light, but that light needs to be shaped, bounced & flagged by someone who can safely set stands in the wind, rig on a boat and use a couple of lights when required. One good tech could handle grip, rigging & lighting on a job like this. 

1X prep day $550

3X shoot days $1650

1X wrap day (1/2 day rate) $275

Total Grip & Electric Labour: $2425

Sound? I would not employ a sound recordist on this spot. Rather I would be sure the camera was capable of using an onboard mic and I would let a post sound designer and foley artist cover the rest. 

Total Location Sound Labour: $0

Because there is only one character at a time, and the idea is that they should look “natural”, I think one person could handle make-up, hair and wardrobe. Although most of the props and wardrobe will be items that belong to the actors and/or are found at the location, it would be wise to have some money budgeted to obtain important wardrobe items (such as the blood soaked jeans featured in the spot for example.)

1X prep day $550

3X shoot days $1650

1X make-up kit $150

1X special item wardrobe budget: $100

Total Hair / Make up / Wardrobe: $2400

This whole production would be held together by a producer / production coordinator type. This person would need to be brought on early to set everything up and organize everyone. On a small production this person would carry many responsibilities both before and during shooting. They would organize locations, book equipment, rental cars, call times and food!  I would probably try to negotiate a flat for the whole job with this person as they will be working before, during and after the shoot. 

Total Production Labour: $4000 

With non-speaking roles like this, using non-union cast would likely be the way to go! It’s possible that to remain genuine, Gerber may have used real people doing their real jobs. Since each character is only needed for only a half day, you could probably get agreeable people with the perfect look for as low as $250 each. Let’s budget for six cast.

Total Cast labour: $1500

TRANSPORTATION & LOCATIONS

For a spot like this all of the crew and the gear could travel in two mini vans. Most production companies have a pretty good relationship with car rental companies. Remember time on either side of shooting to location scout, pick up & return equipment.

Two Van Rental:  $500

Gas estimate (these are rural locations that could be distant from one another): $450

There are a couple of scenes shot from a boat, and a shot inside a travelling truck that would probably both belong to friends of production.  I would budget $350 to cover gas and small token of appreciation for rental time on both of these vehicles. If the production company does not have these connections, budget more. 

Total transport: $1250

There might be some location fees, but seeing as how no businesses or streets need be closed, the crew will be small, flexible and most of the locations are exterior public space, this cost would be minimal. 

Total Locations: $500

EQUIPMENT RENTAL

Due to the scrappy nature of this spot, there are several camera systems that would be adequate. I would be inclined to have an A camera that would be used for 90% of the shoot and a smaller B camera that would be used when rigging in a precarious position and for underwater shots. I’m confident you could get everything required without too much compromise for $1500 per day.

Total Camera gear: $4500

Grip and lighting gear would be a small versatile package, probably consisting of flags, bounces, stands, one biggish light and an inverter system or small generator to run it. Let’s throw in a couple small tungsten fixtures for good measure. All of this rigged on a cart with big wheels ready to transport over tough terrain could probably be obtained for $650 per day. 

Total Grip & Lighting Equipment: $1950

FOOD / TRAVEL

Imagine $110 per day for craft/snacks and $120 per day for lunch. 

Total food: $690

For this estimation let’s hypothetically say the ad was shot in Oregon and the best Director/Cinematographer for the job was located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Round trip flight from Halifax to Portland is $986

Hotel for 7 nights: $1085

per-diem for 7 days: $525

Let’s also assume that one or two of the locations are far from town and the crew needs to be there at the crack of dawn or after dark. To put the whole crew and one talent up for one night would cost roughly: 

6X hotel rooms $930

5X per-diem for two days $750

Total Travel: $4276

CONTINGENCY

It’s a good idea to budget contingency for all those things that are outside of your control that come up last minute and surprise you. Roughly 10% of your production budget is a healthy contingency that would be likely to cover most hidden expenses. 

Total Contingency: $4000

TOTAL PRODUCTION: $45,216

Congratulations! You’ve shot your ad! Now it’s time for post-production.

Even more so than production costs, post-production costs can vary greatly. I don’t know exactly what route Gerber went for “Hello Trouble” but if it were me, I would use an awesome independent offline editor to get the cut perfect then go to a bigger post house facility to do the online colour grade and sound mix. 

VOICE ACTOR

A big part of the ad is the voice over! I think it would be possible to get a voice and a read like this for under $500. 

Total Voice Actor: $500

STOCK FOOTAGE & IMAGES

The visuals of this spot consist of both live action footage shot by a crew directly for this spot and stock footage / images that would be purchased from a stock agency like http://nimia.com.

Stock footage varies in price depending on many factors, luckily the style for this spot embraces gritty low-fi footage which would likely save a little money. It’s possible that some of the stock photos could have been obtained for free from a site like archive.org. It’s a bit of a stab in the dark but I think the stock in this spot could be obtained for somewhere around $2000-$5000 Lets split the difference and say:

Total Stock Footage & Stills: $3000

MUSIC

The cost of music can vary wildly and the price for any given piece is almost impossible to estimate. In this particular case I think the music track used is “Ain’t no Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down” which I THINK was originally composed in 1934 so it’s possible that the publishing rights are in the public domain. The production company may have hired a band to record the song specifically for the ad but it’s more likely they bought an existing cover such as this one from Charlie Parr https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJuXt6oX6OE  It’s very hard to estimate what deal they agreed on for this. My somewhat educated guess is that it might be in the range of $3000.

Total Music: $3000

EDITORIAL

Assistant Editor 250/day, 1 day = $250

Offline editor 1000/day(includes edit system), 3 days  = $3000

Sound designer / foley artist flat for job = $1200 

Color grade 300/hour (suite and colourist) 5 hours = $1500

Sound mixer 300/hour (mix suite and technician) 5 hours = $1500

Graphic design / titles $75/hour 3 hours = $225

Depending on where the ad is to be displayed there could be finishing cost like closed captioning for broadcast or a digital cinema package (DCP) for theatre pre-screens.

Total Finishing: $1000

TOTAL POST-PRODUCTION: $15,175

Almost done – the production company is going to need to take a cut to help pay for their corporate overhead. This can range depending on the company. 15% – 25% is fairly normal. For this exercise, let’s say 20%

Total Production Company Line: $12,078.2

This makes for a GRAND TOTAL of:  $72,469.20

Depending on where you’re coming from this number could sound a crazy expensive or extremely economical but one thing is for sure – this little ad has done a lot for Gerber. The “Hello Trouble” campaign has re-imaged the brand in the mind of a new generation of consumers and made a connection with their audience through this awesome & engaging lifestyle piece. I think I’m going get off the computer, grab my Gerber and go for a hike! 

KevinAFraser is a filmmaker based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Find out more about him here. 

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