Why is videography so expensive?

Last summer I graduated from the Broadcast Production Masters in IADT. Since then I’ve transitioned from primarily working in radio, to filming and editing events. I’ve worked on everything from christenings to concerts, art documentation to theatre promotion, short films to music videos. Over and over again, clients are surprised at the cost of services (even cut price, chance of a lifetime, ‘just this once’ services).

Here are my current rates.

Two things are in play here. One, the market for videography is still not well established in Ireland. For many clients it’s their first time dealing with a videographer. Two, lots of people (from established photographers, to folks who just got a nice camera for Christmas) figure they’ll turn their hand to videography – offering to shoot their friends and family at ultra low, or even no cost.

I thought I’d take the time to explain why videography costs so much. Hint – it doesn’t.

The Cowboy Factor

zzzz21frFilming is not photography. There are a host of factors that need to be taken into account filming a live event that just aren’t there when taking photographs – from the 180 degree rule to choice of recording codec, from handing aperture changes in motion to dealing with interference from the refresh rates of lighting. Filming isn’t 24 times harder than taking a photograph, but it is harder.

Think of it like this – imagine you’re asked to take a photo of a friend. Now imagine there’s only one shot left in the camera, and they’re moving, and the light is changing, and this picture is important to them – maybe its capturing the most important moment of their lives. Now repeat this one hundred times and you’ve got some idea what it’s like to make an event video.

Note – this isn’t to denigrate the artistry or complexity of photography. The best photographs are as complicated to setup and certainly as artful as any film shoot. It’s just that when it comes to capturing real time events, in varying conditions, with high expectations, there are more factors to be juggled when shooting video.

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When you’re filming on your phone, or in the automatic mode on your camera, or just in great lighting – many of these problems disappear, often at the cost of the quality of your final image.

So yes, your friend can do it cheaper, or for free. If the end result doesn’t matter to you, by all means use them to shoot your big day. If they bake too, you could always ask them to make the wedding cake!

Not F**king up

When you hire a professional, they use professional gear, including but not limited to SD cards, hard drives etc. They also engage in a professional workflow – duplicating and backing up footage as it’s shot, on site and off. This is all to ensure that your project or event doesn’t disappear. That sound is recorded as well as picture. The final edit is there next week, or even next year, when you need it in an emergency and have lost or deleted your copy.

It’s a lot more work than you think

When you’re hiring someone to make you a video, much of the work they do is invisible. This can include, but is not limited to – equipment assembly and disassembly, logging footage (loading it into the computer, labelling and checking each file, backing up etc), reviewing clips, editing, re-editing, colour grading, rendering (squeezing out a final file), and reviewing the export.

Any one of these steps can go wrong in a hundred ways. Rendering alone can take hours on a complicated project, even on a fast computer. There is no such thing as a ‘quick edit’, or a ‘small change’, since changing one element of a video requires re-rendering, then checking over every other element of the newly exported video. Counterintuitively, a short video (say a 30 second advert) can take MUCH longer to make than a long video (for example a single shot of an event).

I could write an entire article listing the intricacies of editing – which depending on the specifics required by the project (the number of clips, number and type of cameras, whether takes are mixed, the different kinds of media involved, synching speech, cutting to music etc) can be enormously involved and time consuming. This is why videos produced by friends or ‘for free’, can take months to appear, never get finished at all or be very disappointing when they do finally get done.

Equipment is expensive

Here is my current filming kit. Here is the gear I intend to buy over the next year. Filming equipment is expensive, really expensive.

The camera is in some ways the cheapest (and arguably least important) element of a filming setup. It’s a support system for the lenses, monitor, microphone, and accessories. One that requires lighting, fast media, and a faster computer and external hard drives to edit its output.

Right now, my gear is close to the most basic setup with which professional work can be done. It’s my experience and eye that differentiate the final product. Even so, my current setup cost several thousand euro to build up. Each time it’s used, it faces wear and tear, and more than almost any other freelance industry – each year it must be upgraded as standards improve and new equipment becomes available.

In addition to a reliable, decent quality camera and editing computer, there are numerous non-obvious yet expensive elements to a pro-filmmaking kit, including things like…

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  • High quality Lenses (600 euro up each, used).
  • Lens adapters (200 euro up).
  • Variable ND filters (100 euro up).
  • Camera cage (100 euro up).
  • Remote follow focus (150 euro up).
  • Gimble (750 euro up).
  • External multichannel sound recorders (500 euro up).
  • Wireless lav microphone kits (800 euro each).
  • Second camera, for multi-angle shoots (800 euro, used).
  • Monitor (200 euro up).
  • Matte Boxes (100 euro up).

The list goes on and on, and whats more, it varies per job, meaning that one setup will not suffice for a varied workload.

 

Experience

Imagine, you’re on a plane to Thailand. God forbid, as my mum likes to say, you have a heart attack. The call goes out, is there a doctor on board? A hand is raised in first class. The off duty doctor races back towards the hell that is economy and begins to [INSERT 7 YEARS OF MEDICAL SCHOOL TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE HERE]. You survive. What saved your life? Was it a stethoscope?

baby-doctorIt was your doctors education and experience. The training (and more importantly hands on experience) of a videographer / director of photography, is what makes their work worth paying for. In my case, I’d been filming and editing web and short films for over a decade before I decided to turn professional, and embarked on an expensive masters degree. I’d also been working as a radio producer writing, producing, recording, and editing programmes (many of which are directly transferable to what I do now). It’s the thousands of hours I’ve spend on and off sets, shooting, rigging, editing, grading, watching tutorials, reading manuals, and generally learning, that you’re paying for when you hire me. Not just my gear.

Freelance work

Videography, sound recording and editing are for the most part freelance work. That means that the day rates charged have to support the living expenses of the videographer while they look for work and on the unpaid days that will arise for even the most qualified and popular videographer. Like all freelance work it’s paid at a slightly higher rate than full time work, at least in theory. In practice, videographers work for below their official rates all the time – usually for charity campaigns etc. This places additional importance on being paid properly for professional work.

Additional Expenses

Other things can add to the cost of videography significantly, from additional staff (to provide B roll, sound recording, makeup etc), to equipment rental and transport. These costs vary by event, but they can mount up. They’re frequently invisible to the client, as they’re accounted for in the initial quote provided. Sometimes these costs are swallowed in order to help establish a working relationship, or just ease what can be an onerous burden – for example when shooting for artists or charities. In the end they still have to be paid. This may sound obvious – but it bares repeating: You wouldn’t ask a lawyer, builder, plumber or taxi driver to do their job for free. Why would videography be any different?

Conclusion

Hopefully this gives a bit of context to videography pricing – and a hint as to what a great deal you’re getting when a professional does offer you a discount.
Baring in mind all of the above, videography in Ireland is incredible, arguably unsustainably, cheap. Compare the price of filming a wedding here (about 1,000 – 4,000 euro), with the prices for the same service in the US. Now get in touch, and hire me!

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