Why Music Videos Don’t Cost $500

1. What the concept will or can be

Some concepts, like “performance piece” music videos (i.e. capturing a band playing live at a club) can be made very simply. However, more complicated music videos with high-end visual effects, motion graphics, complicated camera moves, and intricate costumes or props take time and resources. Basically, they cost much more money. In even the simplest, bare bones scenario, the costs are MUCH greater than $500.00. Knowing what funds are available helps us create or refine the concept so that it can be executed properly. Trying to produce a concept that is unrealistic for the budget simply sets you up for failure. When you engage our services, you’re paying not just for the production, but for the execution. You can be sure you’ll get the absolute best video possible for your available budget. That’s what we do.  If you have your heart set on a $100,000.00 concept and you only have $5,000.00, we’re not going to move forward. We want to hit home runs with every project we produce, not just collect checks.

Atlanta Performance Based Music Video Director

Performance piece music videos are typically a more cost-effective solution.

2. What locations will be available

Locations can often be an important component of a music video.  Good locations typically require one of two things: money or a relationship. Even if you can get a “free” location, there is still cost involved. In this business you’ve got to call in favors carefully, because they are like gold. Most people only allow a film crew to take over their property one time, because, let’s be honest, even a highly skilled film crew can be rough on a house/venue.  Often the shoot and resulting video are not directly beneficial to the property owner. That means every time you get a location for free you are potentially losing it as useable location for future projects. Its also important to understand that planning, booking, and cleaning up the location cost time, and time is MONEY (READ: man-hours cost money). A good location will typically run you at least $1000.00 for 10-12 hours, and frequently much more. $500 won’t take you very far in the locations department.

Music Video Gear Atlanta Georgia

There are a multitude of different camera options for shooting video in HD, 4K and beyond.

3. What kind of gear we will use

They say there’s a million ways to skin a cat (who are these people who are skinning cats?). The same can be said for how a music video can be shot and edited. There are a plethora of high-quality professional camera options, countless lights with widely varied wattages and color temperatures, and a myriad of support equipment choices, all of which creates a multitude of options for directors and DPs. All these choices have different pros and cons and, most importantly, different pricing. Typically, the better the gear, the higher the price. The budget is important in this equation because $500.00 won’t even get you the body* for most professional cameras for a single day. It’s important to note here that most gear rents in 24-hour increments. Often you can get three-day weeks and eight-day months to incentivize longer rental agreements. This means that, for example, if you rent the gear for seven days (a full week), you pay three times the daily rate (rather than seven) and if you rent it for thirty days (a full month), you pay eight times the daily rate.  Once again, $500.00 won’t take you very far, even with the price breaks for longer rentals.

Music Video Camera Atlanta, Georgia

RED Epic camera body.

*Body: A camera body (sometimes called the “brain”) is the primary portion of the digital camera, which contains the controls, the LCD, the internal image processor, and the associated circuitry. (Essentially the camera without the lens.)

4. What size & skill level of crew you will have.

Making video is a team sport and a great team usually consists of at least seven to ten people. On larger projects the crew can be thirty people or more. Film and video crews typically work based on day rates. A day rate is typically a set amount of money for a set amount of time filling a crew position. Typically our company runs crews on half day rates (4hrs) and full day rates (10hrs). Crew rates vary based on experience and ability. Yet another reason music videos do not cost $500.00 is that good crew members aren’t cheap.   Highly skilled crew members ensure a high quality music video. And remember, you don’t just have to pay them, you have to FEED them too (see below).

Below are some typical day rate ranges for video professionals in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The crew ECG Productions employs typically fall within these ranges (though rarely at the bottom of the range).

Atlanta-based ECG Productions music video director Jason Sirotin on set.

Day rates based on 10 hour days:

  • Director: $800 – $3500
  • Producer: $600 – $800
  • Director of Photography: $600 – $2000
  • Camera Operator: $400 – $600
  • First Assistant Camera: $250 – $500
  • Assistant Director: $400 – $600
  • Second Assistant Director: $250 – $500
  • Gaffer: $300 – $600
  • DIT: $300 – $600
  • Rigging Grip: $200 – $400
  • Dolly Grip: $200 – $400
  • Electric: $200 – $400
  • Steadicam Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
  • Crane Operator (With Gear): $800 – $1600
  • Production Assistant: $75 – $200
  • Hair and Makeup: $400 – $800
  • Wardrobe: $400 – $800
  • Production Designer: $500 – $1500
  • Art Director: $400 – $800
  • Set Dresser: $200 – $400
  • Sound Engineer: $300 – $600
  • Boom Operator: $150 – $300

As you can see, $500.00 isn’t even enough to get you one crew member in most cases, let alone a full crew plus post-production and delivery.

Let me stress it again: music videos DO NOT cost $500.00.

5. How long will you have to shoot the video?

Most music videos will take at least ten hours (one full day) to shoot, but some will take significantly longer, especially if there are a lot of company moves*. Because your gear and crew rates are all based around time, the longer you shoot the more it will cost.

*Company Move: The act of a film or video production team packing up all their gear from one location and moving to another location to continue shooting.

ECG Productions recently made the switch from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro CS6.

6. How long will you have to edit the video?

The amount of time it takes to edit a music video can vary based on the complexity of the concept, the number of cameras used, the total amount of footage captured, the need for animation or special effects, and color grading to name just a few. Editing, color grading, animations, and compositing are all typically billed at an hourly rate. At ECG Productions we bill at $125.00/hr for editing and $150.00/hr for animation and compositing. We tend to fall within the median price range in the Atlanta area. So, as you can tell, $500.00 does not go far in the post-production phase of the project either.

In film, television and video production, craft services (or “crafty”) refers to the department which provides food and beverage service to the other departments on set.

7. Food, beverage, and snack costs: (AKA Craft Services)

Almost no one outside the production business thinks about this, but on set you need to buy food & drink not only for the crew but for the cast and in some cases the client/investor as well. A crew of ten on a hot day can burn through beverages and ice quickly.  Combine that with one (sometimes two) meals in a day, plus snacks, and costs can add up quickly. Even having your mom make food will still have some cost associated with it.  I won’t even mention “that” number again.  I’m sure you get it by now.

And this is why MUSIC VIDEOS DO NOT COST $500.00!

In closing (and I mean this in the absolute nicest way possible), if you have $500.00 to produce your music video, you should probably be looking for a college student on Craigslist, not calling on professionals. We are happy to talk to you and offer our advice, but please don’t be offended if we can’t make your vision a reality at such a low price. I promise that we will always be honest with you, listen to your ideas and try to point you in the right direction. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that if you were thinking of picking up the phone to call me about your $500.00 music video, that after reading this post, you’ll go back and try to raise the proper capital to do it the right way before you reach out. We’ll be here when you’re ready, and I can guarantee you’ll see every dollar you spend with us up on the screen. We’re not lining our pockets here, we truly do love to create high-quality music videos at a fair price.  That fair price may seem expensive, but that’s only for one reason: we’re worth it.

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