If you’ve ever bid out a video project before, you know how wildly different the estimates from production companies can be. One may send you a bid for $10,000 while another one quotes you twice that. For the exact same project! What’s going on?
Here at Stonecastle, we get that question a lot. Sometimes the answer is that one company provides higher-quality services for which they can charge a premium (more on that below). But often – and this is the good news – it’s simply that the RFP wasn’t clear enough, so the vendor bid high to cover any surprises.
That’s why it’s so important to provide the right information in your RFP. Which brings us to the big question: What is the right information? In this article, we’ll share the most important factors our producers consider as they put together estimates here at Stonecastle.
The Four W’s
There are a surprising number of factors that go into properly estimating a video project, so we always start the conversation by identifying he Four W’s: What, When, Where, and Why.
- What. This is the broadest question, as in: What kind of video do you envision? What’s the story or concept? That could be anything from a commercial, brand video, short documentary, web series, or fundraising film. (For a full list of examples, here’s a helpful article). This information is a great starting point and helps us place your project in the right category.
- When. This is your timeline. Providing milestones for things like when you need to award the project, begin filming, and receive the finished project allow us to align them with our own schedule and availability.
- Where. There’s a big difference between Paris and Peoria, so it’s always good for us to know the locations you need to shoot on the front end! This also helps us map out a rough schedule to determine how many days we’ll need to shoot, which is usually the biggest factor in determining the budget.
- Why. Understanding why you need this video gives us insight into the kind of creative approach we may choose to employ. Another way of thinking about this is to ask yourself what you’re hoping to accomplish with this video. It could be things like raising brand awareness, increasing sales, generating better leads, attracting new donors, or inspiring and educating your own workforce.
Share your budget (even if it’s just a ballpark)
We understand the impulse to keep your budget close to the vest, but this information is key to providing you with an estimate that meets your expectations. Video production is not a one-size-fits all business, so if we know how much you’ve set aside for your project, then we can tailor an approach according to your specific needs.
It’s a little like telling a contractor how much you’re willing to spend on a new home. Armed with this information, the contractor can work the numbers – tweaking a thousand little decisions – to find you the best deal based on your preferences. Every home is different, and so is every video project. Our job, as producers, is to get you the absolute highest value for your money.
It’s always super-helpful when clients send us videos that demonstrate the look or feel they want to achieve with their own video. Maybe you like the animation style in one video, but the look and feel of another. Send them both! Things you could tell us include:
- Love the way this one made me feel. Hits the right emotional notes for what we’re going for.
- Really like the concept behind this one. Very unique. Maybe we could try something like this for our video.
- This is the cinematic quality — the “look” — we’re looking for. (Good adjectives to use: organic, natural, dramatic, bright, warm, gritty, clean, high-tech, commercial.)
Bonus points: Share a few links to videos from competitors or similar organizations and tell us what you like and don’t like.
If you don’t have all of this information handy, that’s ok. The nature of video production often requires estimating the cost before actually knowing much at all about the content. That’s why video budgets can run high; without many details, producers fill in the blanks with what they think they’ll need to do the job. So the more details you can provide up-front, the finer point we can put on an estimate that’s accurate.
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