I had just begun editing my latest video biography project on a recent morning when the phone rang.
I looped my headset over my right ear and hit the “talk” button. “Hello,” I said.
“Hi,” said a gentleman on the other end of the line. “I’ve heard that legacy videos can cost in the thousands of dollars. Is that really true?”
He explained that he’d just started to research costs for a personal legacy video he wanted to create in order to share his life stories with his family, but was feeling like a “deer in the headlights” in reaction to the prices he was being quoted.
I told him that, yes, budgets for video biographies do fall in the thousands, and not hundreds, of dollars, and gave him a brief explanation as to why. So when we hung up he was certainly better informed, although I’m sure still disappointed at the cost.
His reaction was pretty common. Most folks have no idea what it takes to produce a professional, high-quality video; thanks to the proliferation of affordable consumer video gear over the years, many people have gotten the impression that creating video is cheap.
Well, it ain’t. And I thought I’d devote a few words in this article to describing why it’s not unusual for simple video biographies to start around $7,500 and prices for higher-end, documentary-style legacy videos to begin between $20,000 and $30,000 and to go even higher from there.
LET’S PUT THINGS IN CONTEXT
Hour-long documentaries produced for outlets like the National Geographic and Discovery channels have budgets ranging from $125,000 on up. A single segment on 60 Minutes can cost $200,000. So even if a legacy video clocks in at $40,000, that’s a pretty good deal compared to what those broadcast and cable productions cost.
Not everybody can afford these prices, of course. But for those who can, it’s a great, great value.
SO WHAT AM I PAYING FOR?
Higher-end legacy video companies boast producers with years of expertise organizing and planning video biography projects. Skilled interviewers guide you through your remembrances in an organized and enjoyable way. Experienced camera operators and lighting directors, audio technicians, and makeup artists make sure you look and sound your very best on-screen. Finally, seasoned and creative video editors enhance your interview using photos, films, graphics, and music to create a personal legacy video keepsake your family will treasure.
So people are one thing – gear is another. Professional cameras, lenses, lighting and audio equipment in experienced hands yield fantastic results – but cost much more than consumer gear to purchase and maintain.
And then there’s travel. I’m based in Tucson, Arizona, but I’ve traveled to the east and west coasts, points between, even points beyond, like Hawaii. Travel incurs expenses like airfare, car rental, hotel rooms, meals, etc. It’s only fair to include these costs in my fees, otherwise my company could easily lose tons of money on each video. And yet, a lot of prospective clients seem to think this is somehow unfair, or they just don’t like the idea of paying for someone else’s travel expenses, as if our crew is taking a vacation at the client’s expense. Just to be clear, we travel as economically as possible, meaning we squeeze into coach airplane seats, we stay in moderately priced hotels, and we don’t raid the mini-bars.
Finally, custom legacy videos are time-consuming efforts that can easily run into the hundreds of hours.
That being said, there are a number of companies offering video biography services, and prices do vary. Just remember that you get what you pay for. Before signing on with someone offering a low price, be sure to look at samples of that company’s work for other clients. Don’t sign a contract unless you’re happy with what you see.