Controlling Content Production Costs: The Devil Is In The Details.

This is a topic that cannot be addressed in a single blog post, as there are many, many things that go into content production, and knowing how to balance them to control digital video production budgets is an art that challenges even a well-seasoned broadcast producer.

Because of this, I'm in the process of writing a book on digital content production that I will talk about more in the coming weeks.

But for now, I thought it would be good to look at this from a wide angle, for the benefit of those who don't have a lot of experience with content production, and to set the right context for what follows in my future posts.

The most fundamental truth to being able to control production costs is this: practicality will always lead to an efficient production. 

The best way to explain this is to walk through a very broad-strokes example to show just how challenging that can be to accomplish. 

So what are we making?

For this example's sake, let's say we're producing a product demo video for a consumer packaged goods brand. I'm going to go with a meat rub product.

Now, before we start with budgets, any good producer worth their salt will ask, "What are we making?"

Meaning, "There are about a billion decisions to be made between saying 'We're making a video on meat rubs,' and the final export of said video. So let's make some decisions quickly, please."

How it's made determines how much it costs.

Another fundamental truth. So let's answer some questions, shall we?

The client wants to show that the rub can be used for more than marinating your pork or chicken. You can make dips for chips. You can prep party snacks. You can make an AMAZING guacamole. But there's not enough room on the packs for all those recipes. So we want to show all of that in a video.

Immediately, anyone that's got "creative" in their title will start musing about web cooking shows. A celebrity chef host. Maybe even something as nutty as, "We can hire Jamie Oliver and partner with Land Rover and make a special edition Land Rover with all the bells and whistles of a gourmet kitchen!"

You may laugh, but this actually happened.

Getting Practical

So back to reality: The video we are making is going to show at least three alternative recipes, aside from showing the primary use: to make your chicken absolutely delicious. So what does that mean for the budget? It comes down to how you shoot this. 

Even if you use a non-celebrity chef, like your cousin Tom, dressed in chef whites, playing to the camera and hamming it up, you're potentially talking about at least two-camera shoot (but you can get some great cutaway footage with three cameras!), that may require two days because of the different set ups needed for each recipe (remember, there are four).


You could set up a tight, table-top shot from above, and show only the hands of the chef prepping the dishes, with minimal ingredient props to dress the perimeter of the frame. You also now do not need to do location scouting for the perfect kitchen. And pay those fees. And you also have definitely struck two out of three of the cameras, and potentially an extra day of shooting. 


You will get several great demo videos for your site, social media channels, etc. 

One of the trade-offs here is that by not having your cousin Tom dressed to the nines in his gorgeous chef whites is that you can't have that still photographer lurking about the set getting great shots for Instagram. 

But that's a topic for another post.