Video production is expensive. There’s no way around it. When factoring in all of the needed elements – equipment, labor, travel, permitting fees, etc. – costs can add up quickly. But clients don’t have endless funds or blank checks. Every project has a production budget that must be adhered to.
Managing a production project is a constant balancing act. You have to give the client what they need, and not spend more than they have to spend.
Here are some tips on how to keep your production budget in check.
Refine your equipment package
Depending on the scope of the production, your technical equipment can make up a big chunk of your total budget.
If money is tight, and you find yourself over budget, you may need to refine your equipment package.
This can be challenging. You don’t want to jeopardize the outcome of the project by cutting equipment that you ultimately need. The key is to categorize your equipment as “necessity” or “luxury”.
If a specific piece of equipment is essential to the outcome of the project, then obviously it can’t be removed. But anything that was added to your budget as a “nice to have” line item, should be reevaluated and potentially cut or trimmed.
For example, you may have planned to shoot with 4 cameras for added coverage when you can technically capture everything you need with 3 cameras. Cutting a single camera can trim your equipment costs AND impact your labor – this is one less camera operator that you now need to book.
If you’re renting the client equipment that you own, you may be willing to discount or tighten up your rates as a measure of goodwill. This keeps all of the tools in the toolbox but still impacts the overall budget.
It all comes down to what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re willing to live without.
Minimizing travel can greatly impact your production budget
Travel costs can add up fast. Airfare, hotels, per diems, and ground transportation can add thousands of dollars to a production budget.
There’s always a core team that’s needed for a specific project. And depending on the location, it’s inevitable that some crew members may have to travel. But if you find yourself in a budget pinch, take a close look at your travel dollars.
Are there any crew positions that you can book locally?
Is there anyone traveling who is not essential to the production? Or perhaps someone who can work on the project remotely (instead of traveling on-location)?
Cutting travel for just one person can shave hundreds of dollars off your total budget.
Sometimes travel is unavoidable but keeping it to a minimum will help keep your travel expenses lean.
Optimize your production schedule
When it comes time to dial in your shoot logistics, your schedule can actually impact your production budget.
Make sure you optimize your schedule as much as possible while still giving yourself a realistic timeframe to complete the project.
Try to avoid any OT if at all possible. This can mean staggering your call times or releasing certain positions earlier than others to avoid overtime.
If you have the benefit of an ESU, evaluate who you need to help with your setup. You likely won’t need your entire crew, or you may be able to book certain roles for a ½-day.
Prioritize what you need to make the project a success, but take a close look at your schedule to make sure you’re not clocking any unneeded hours.
Find a production-friendly venue
Your venue can have a big impact on your production budget.
If your location doesn’t have much infrastructure – like power, lighting, or staging – then these are elements that need to be provided, thus inflating your production budget.
By finding a venue that’s production-friendly, you eliminate the need to bring in specific equipment.
Finding a venue with an existing lighting grid will save you on riggings costs.
Finding a venue with shore power means you may be able to eliminate a generator.
Sometimes your hands are tied when it comes to the shoot location, but finding a venue that’s already equipped to handle key components of your project can be a big cost saving.