Video Production Services: “What am I paying for?”


4-4-2014 | By: Ben Cecil

Let’s be real: most of us can’t easily describe what “good” video is. We just know it when we see it. Still, it is very important when embarking on a video creation odyssey to understand some of the more crucial video services that go into a video production. Yes, you should know what you’re paying for, but you also deserve to know why you should pay for it.

After all, knowing is half the battle.

Pricing for video services, whether its video marketing or simply video production, can vary. But many use a similar “time spent” approach, common to many different service industries. The question then becomes, “How much is an hour of their time worth?” Like you’d expect, the better a company is, the more they (should) charge for their time.


As much as we’d like them to, proposals aren’t going to include absolutely everything done to create the video(s).   

Usually the services listed include: scripting, pre-production planning, production, postproduction and delivery. But those aren’t the only video production services you’re paying for— and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you don’t need to know how the sausage gets made!

Top 9 video production services you may not know you’re paying for:

  1. Meetings: A very important part of video service, no doubt. But meetings take time, and, as we all know, “time is money.”
  2. Creative Brainstorming: not all video companies spend a lot of time doing this.
    • At UPG, our video services include idea creation, aka creative development.
    • EDIT:  before you sign a contract with a creative service company, like a video firm, make sure it stipulates that YOU OWN the creative, not just the final product. Why? Because you want to have control over the raw footage, art elements, etc. Also, any creative concepts presented to you should be yours to keep, in my opinion--regardless of which concept is actually pursued. Bottom line, make sure you have this conversation before you sign anything.
  3. Storyboarding: These things take a lot of time to get right, and are often revised per client instructions several times.  If you are doing an animated video, storyboarding plays an even more crucial role.
  4. Revisions: This may be a “no duh” for most of you, but it’s worth mentioning as a very important part of successful video production services.
  5. Location: If your video can be shot at your office, that’s great. But many shoots take place elsewhere. Paying for a location is common and, in some cases, a must-have part of the video service list.
  6. Contractors: Video production/marketing companies tend to have very few full-time employees. For larger scale projects, your video production company may need to scale up (often with trusted freelancers). This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is a hard-cost for the video company.
  7. Makeup: It’s easy to overlook the importance of having a great makeup artist on set. If it’s a typical corporate video, you might get away without one… maybe.
  8. Music: If you’re going to use music, it better be licensed. This may cost as little as $30 (…or thousands in court fees if you go the un-licensed route.)
  9. Gear & Equipment Rentals: Each video project has its own specific gear needs. And it doesn't make sense for a video company to buy a piece of gear that it uses once or twice a year. Renting is usually a minimal cost, but sometimes video equipment is so specialized and high-end that renting may still be expensive. For example, we rented a $100,000 Super Slow mo camera that shoots up to 2000 frames a second. And the client remarked that it was totally worth it! But we still rented and the cost was passed along to the client. All part of the budget.
    • NOTE: With all gear & equipment comes the expertise to operate it and the time to set it up.
    • Here’s a movie example: For the Copacabana Shot in the movie Goodfellas, they used a “steady cam” to follow the couple into the night club. A steady cam isn’t terribly uncommon, but it takes a lot of time to execute properly. For Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese and his Director of Photography spent days preparing and several hours shooting it. The outcome was a mere 2 /12 minutes of the movie, but boy was it worth it!

The takeaway: a lot of video services go into a successful video campaign. Many of which you have no clue are taking place. 

However, when you boil it all down, you pay for time and talent.  So, the next time you receive a proposal for your video marketing campaign and wonder, “What am I paying for, again?” 

Now you know.

About the Author

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Ben Cecil

Ben is UPG's Strategy Director and has been crafting video campaigns for more than 10 years. Before UPG, Ben spent 7 years in local television, helping cultivate, deploy and measure branding efforts on broadcast and new media platforms. Ben hates boring video and loves chasing around his 2 year old son.

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Nando, 04.19.2014

What about rights. I just had to intervene between a client and third party because the client did not understand they didn’t own all the creative. Only the final product. What has been your experience in this regard?

Ben Cecil, 09.09.2014

That sounds like a nightmare, Nando! Unfortunately, ownership of creative is usually something governed by the contract terms. Companies need to make sure the contract language is to their liking before engaging with any creative service company. **I’ll have to make an edit to add this issue!**

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