Web Video Budgeting: A Guide for Your First Time

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For the first-time Web-video underwriter, coming up with a realistic budget can seem like a daunting task. The upside is that it’ll be a lot easier next time. The bad news is that there's no magic formula for estimating what it will cost you to get the job done most efficiently and effectively.

There are, however, some basic guidelines you can follow to get a good handle on projected out-of-pocket costs. These steps will also serve as a checklist for factoring in many of the variables that will impact your ultimate expenditures.

Get the Infrastructure

Before even trying to calculate production costs, you need to evaluate your server capabilities for storing and streaming video. If your present ISP can’t handle the anticipated views, you’ll need to sign on with a hosting service to ensure smooth and seamless delivery of your video content to end users.

If you don’t already have online specialists on staff to manage video publishing, you may also need to pay outside Web designers/editors to interface with content creators and hosts to achieve desired fit and functionality on your site.

Put Your Concept in Focus

Flesh out the concept for your Web video as much as you can before trying to cost it out. Simple as it sounds, it’s not done often enough by first-time budgeters.

The more thought-out your visualization, the closer you’ll come to good budgeting. It will also give you the opportunity to think about alternative approaches you can take to get the most out of your video creation outlays.

For example, if you’re doing a VIP interview, do you need to do a multiple-camera shoot of the subject and interviewer? Or will a single camera on the subject—with title graphics and art/photos bridging responses—work just as well? Do you have access to stock footage or archived B-roll that will allow you to make a single-location shoot look like a multi-crew effort?

If you’re creating something other than an interview piece, think about storyboarding all the scenes you’ll want to include. Each panel of the storyboard will tell you you something important about what resources you’ll have to call in.

Make Time Work for You

If you allow enough time for planning your Web video, you’re likely to get the end product you want, as well as cost efficiencies. Multiple interviews can be scheduled for the same day (ideally, all in the same location); out-of town shoots can be ganged; and ancillary revenue opportunities can be explored (more on this later).

Giving yourself enough breathing room also affords you the flexibility to shop intelligently for production resources and to negotiate the best possible rates on necessities such as lights, cameras, crews, etc. Even if you don’t have a specific Web video project in the incubator, it’s a good idea to scope out resources now. That way you’ll save time and dollars when you’re ready to forge ahead.

Benefit Big by Thinking Small

With continuing advances in digital video technology, handheld professional DV cameras from the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC are more than capable of producing high-quality Web video. The benefit to Web video budgeters is that this gear has reduced production overhead and offers a competitive advantage versus Beta and film in terms of portability, post-production versatility and pricing.

The odds are in your favor that you’ll get professional results at lower costs when you shoot with the smaller format camcorders. So make this an important consideration when budgeting and getting quotes.

Go for the Gold

You can bolster your budget for Web video projects by coming up with ways to make them revenue generators. Videos can be sponsored with embedded spots and logos. Full interviews/profiles can be packaged and sold as DVDs or audio CDs.

Anticipated income from these byproducts—if planned up front—can often justify loosening the belt a notch or two on a tight budget. But it’s important to remember to include the incremental out-of-pocket expenses in your project estimates.

For the most part, putting together a sound Web video budget boils down to common sense and doing your homework. Be certain your site is video-ready; have some content direction in mind; give yourself enough time to explore options; stay on top of new video technology that can optimize your expenditures; and look for ways of offsetting costs.

Take heart. Next time out of the gate, it’ll be you offering the budgeting advice.

Steve Raddock is SVP–Production, The Meetrics Group.
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