How Much Does A Video cost?

We get several inquiries that start out this way. It’s a good question, too. How much does a video cost? And, more importantly, why does it cost this much? And what am I getting for my money?

The short answer: it depends.

The long answer? Let’s start with a story…

Once upon a time, a brand was talking with a top-tier digital video production company about making a series of videos for them. The videos would highlight a few athlete ambassadors that the brand was aligned with and how the brand’s products were used by them.

The production company’s portfolio was terrific and the brand was confident they would do a good job.

The idea was simple: make the brand look good. These guys do this everyday. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? Just go and shoot our athletes doing their thing. Follow them around, ask them a few questions, edit everything together and let me see the final product.

Simple, right?

It’s easy to think this way, and it’s easy to assume that making a video is a straightforward process that doesn’t require much foresight or thought during pre-production. The story continues…

The production company is curious about the brand and the details of the project. Eager to learn more, they speak with the brand’s team and ask about their products. “What sets you apart from the competition?” they ask. “What’s unique about these brand ambassadors? Share with us some of their backgrounds. How do your products improve their performance?”  They talk with the marketing team about what works, what doesn’t and how these videos will fit into their strategy.

During these conversations, light bulbs are going off in the minds of the production company’s creatives. They begin to see the project taking shape. They start imagining shots, transitions and the overall tone of the videos.

The production company can then get to work. After brainstorming every possible creative approach and eliminating any ideas that aren’t up to par, they create a custom proposal including the information and insights they learned from their research.

The proposal explains how they see the project playing out. It describes how they’re going to capture and bring the story to life, and what the final deliverables will be. They include quick descriptions of potential shooting locations and creative elements like slow motion and aerial drone footage to increase production value.

They explain their process and what it’s going to take to capture the necessary footage and bring their vision to life on the screen. They continue with the “why” – why they’re going to shoot it this way and the purpose behind all their creative decisions. For example, they feel that strategic slow motion shots will highlight intensity and match the effectiveness of the brand’s product.

As the brand reviews this, they’re nodding their heads up and down. They feel the production company understands them – their ideas and desires expressed in initial meetings for this project match perfectly with what the team had in mind.

The next part of the proposal? The budget.

The production company thinks about what they’re really delivering to the brand (hint: it’s not just Quicktime files). They think about what impact these videos will have on the brand. They think about the target audience and the brand’s customers – how will they interact with these videos? What kind of impact should these videos have on sales, marketing and brand value?

They consider what tools will be required to complete the job, and how many specialized people will be needed throughout the process.

For the purposes of our story, let’s say the budget comes out to $50,000 – no small number, but certainly not the most expensive video project the brand could pursue. The production company is confident that they’re the right team to do the job and they know that the brand will be able to make a bunch of money off their video campaign.

So what happens?

The brand’s CEO reviews the proposal and agrees with the production company. He cordially invites them to return next week to sign the contract, pick up the deposit and begin work.

He’s confident that he has the right partner, and he’s excited for the outcome.

Then, it happens…

Between the verbal agreement and the scheduled kickoff meeting, another player enters, offering the same professional services.

The new player offers to bid on the same scope of work and delivers a proposal that comes in at $5,000.

“What a steal!” the CEO thinks and cancels the agreement with the first production company.

That brand was a potential client for us. And the top-tier production company? Yup, you guessed it – that was us.

The above tale is a true story. I wanted to take the time to outline a few things that will better your understanding and experience of working with any professional service provider.

Comparing creative bids is apples and oranges

Comparative Bids

You might be asking yourself how one company can charge $50,000 when another will do it for 1/10th that amount. The thing is, we’re talking about two completely different projects – we’re not comparing apples to apples. What goes into a video production, including, crew, cast, equipment, etc. all effects the budget. How, you ask?

In the example above, when the brand informed us that they were going with someone else – which is totally fine – but I wanted to find out what made them change their mind suddenly. When I found out the only reason was budget, I responded by saying that what we would deliver would look completely different and would be a much more polished, substantial product for the brand. The CEO had thought that he was going to get the same quality product for a tenth the price.

This didn’t take a lot of convincing, as it was pretty obvious to the CEO once I pointed out the differences in the two proposals. However, it did delay the project.

This is completely understandable from the CEO’s point of view. As someone who doesn’t work in this field frequently (it was actually their first foray into video) he had no indication of what to expect or how to compare proposals.

The purpose of this post is to help you, the business owner, marketing manager, VP of business development to better understand what to expect and how to gauge a proposal.

When seeking multiple bids, it’s difficult to compare just the bottom line. You must take into consideration many different elements, such as:


  • Fit (do I see myself getting along with these people?)
  • Portfolio (can I trust that they can complete the job at the level I need?)
  • Conversation (are they listening to my needs?)
  • Structure (do they have a process in place to get my project done on time?)

It’s important to remember that, when buying video production, design or another form of consulting, you’re buying professional services. Video is a medium on the rise in social and marketing it should be taken seriously and with meaningful respect.

Projects should not be rushed and should have organized goals that can be measured. Iterating and improving should be expected, just like you expect from your website.

This is exactly how we differentiate ourselves in the market.

When talking to a potential client, we ask “why?” We want to go the extra mile and really understand who our potential client is. We can’t just assume that we’re the right fit for each other. Something I’ve learned over the years of doing this is that not everyone is a good fit. The sooner you can identify this, the better.

Sure, it’s more work upfront, but the projects that pan out more than pay for the mistakes we would have made otherwise. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way!


Back to the Original Question…

How much a video costs is a very difficult question to answer. If you haven’t been involved with video production, you probably have no idea what to expect price-wise. A friend may have told you that she got this great video made for only $1,500, while another friend’s company spent over $35,000 on their company video!

It’s hard to know what your first friend’s expectations are and how she defines “great.” It’s also easy to think that $35,000 is a ton of money (it is!).

Some larger companies with significant budgets have certain quality expectations and (hopefully) an appropriate and realistic budget. The goal of this post is to help you understand video costs and what goes into them. It all comes down to the video’s ultimate production value.

You can ask five different production companies for quotes on the same thing and get five different answers – and the five bids probably won’t look anything alike. If you don’t buy video production services often, you might not have a good idea of all the options that go into setting a price. So, let’s break it down.

Doing it right increases production value and ROI.

Video Cost Breakdown

A bid is going to be comprised of various attributes, and what you tell the production company is going to affect how that bid is priced. Below are some insights and suggestions for that first initial conversation with a production company that will help guide you in the beginning of your production.

Production Value

Production value refers to the amount of resources and talent you put into making your video. The higher the production value, the higher quality video you’ll have, and the larger the budget you’ll need to accomplish this.

This takes into consideration a number of things like camera, crew, talent/actors, shooting locations and shooting days, lighting and grip, post production, effects, graphics and so forth. A greater production value doesn’t necessarily translate to a better video, per say, but it typically does and the studies about this are pretty incredible.

Read Marshall McCLuhan’s Medium Is the Message for more details, but to sum things up: creating less stress for the viewer results in  greater retention and shorter perceived length. In this case, shorter is always better.

Have you ever walked out of a movie and said to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe that was 2 hours!” This is production value at its finest.

Some things to consider when considering production value levels:

  • Pre Production work required to organize shoot
  • Number of shoot days required
  • Number of crew required to work effectively (hint: there can be a lot of people on a crew)
  • Skill level  and experience of crew members
  • Where will we use this media – internal communications or blasted out to millions of potential customers?

This is similar to building a house. Not all homes that are 2,000 square feet cost the same to build. If one house has much nicer interiors and appliances how could they?

But cost is usually not the only thing that determines a budget, as most savvy creatives know, it’s based on value.

Color correction is a huge part of your video's production value.

Set Your Budget Range

As early on in the process as possible ,define your budget range with your video production company. This will save you tons of time and headaches down the road and make for a smoother process for all parties involved.

If you know what you’re comfortable spending on video production, you should also have an idea of the quality you can expect. Look through a production company’s portfolio and if it matches the quality you’re going for, ask about the specifics of individual projects. See if you can find out what went into a project you like and what the results were.

Don’t be afraid to let a potential production company know how much money you have. I know what you’re thinking, – “If I admit to having $150,000 then I’ll get charged $150,000.” Yes, that can definitely happen. But are you hoping to get a $150,000 video for half or a quarter of the price? This is far less likely to happen. Furthermore, it wastes everyone’s time talking about a video that is priced at $150,000 when your budget is $40,000.

When you tell someone that you have $150,000 for a video and you want something professional and well done that will generate solid results, you aren’t overplaying your hand. You are saying what you want and what you expect. Don’t be afraid to verbalize what these expectations are and if you have a marketing plan in place.

Full disclosure here, the product we deliver for a client with a budget of $150,000 is going to look very different than the product we deliver with a budget of $40,000. We’re not going to charge you $150,000 just because we know you have it. However, it wastes everyone’s time talking about a $150,000 project when your budget is $40,000.

Mule Design has a great post about setting your budget and the reasons for disclosing it.

Pick Two: Good, Fast, Cheap

 Expectations & Goals

What do you want to happen as a result of this video campaign? Sign up 1,000 new users? Sell 500 pairs of jeans? Get 3,000,000 views? Without setting goals, it’s hard to measure the success of your project.

Production companies need to know what the best outcome of the project is, as this sets a bar that needs to be met or exceeded. Having specific, measurable goals established early on will give them a better idea of how to bring your story, commercial, or other project to life.

If a production company has already proven they can achieve something similar to your expectations, then you know they can repeat it and – get this – probably improve on it.

They can also let you know if your goals are realistically aligned with your budget. Getting several millions views on a project that cost a few hundred dollars is not very realistic. It has happened though, we did it with this viral video.


The production companies with more experience are usually going to require more budget. Judging from their portfolio of past work, you can see what kind of work they’ve done and the clients they’ve worked with in the past.

Working with someone who’s new to the game and working out of their parent’s basement will be a different experience than working with a production company in a professional office setting. The price they charge will be appropriately adjusted, too. The professionals who have been doing this for a long time inherently bring with them more value, and will deliver a product that works harder for you, engages your customer more and overall, increase ROI.

Video production crew on location

Video crew with lighting equipment

So how much does this cost?

No two projects are the same. No two companies are the same either. Identical projects for a non profit next door and Nike would have completely different budgets attached to them.

Usually, it doesn’t come down to an equation of “time x materials x profit.” Some production companies may work that way, but the ones who care about the impact that they’re creating won’t.

Working on your own videos? Download our free budget templates now.

How can a production company price like that if they’re generating millions of dollars in revenue with the projects they create?

At TAR Productions, we price projects based on a few things, but the biggest determinant is the value created for our customer. Our costs, time and labor are considerations, but they’re only base guidelines.

Since we work on strict confidentially agreements with our clients, we can’t disclose exactly what we charge for other projects. But questions we ask during initial conversations are about budget, expectations and goals. Budget isn’t the single most important element of a project, but it is important.

Here are some rough breakdowns on our past projects:

Under $25,000

$30,000 – $100,000

$100,000 & up

Does this clear up any confusion on budgets, cost and production value? Leave me comments or questions you have in the message section below:

Drone Round Up 2015

The Rundown.

Drones are becoming increasingly more popular. It seems like everyday they’re in the news for good, or for bad.

There is a lot of confusion out there surrounding drones, and a lot of fear, too. But with that comes a lot of potentially great things. As a fan of technology in general, I’m excited about what drones can do and what they’ll be able to do for us in the future.

Epic #drone shots

Background on Drones

Drones have been around for nearly two decades. The military pioneered Remote Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the 90s that allowed them to carry out their missions with less risk to pilots. Because of this, drones have a negative connotation in that they are made to carry missiles or cause destruction.

Filmmaking drones certainly do not have the same objectives. We use drones to get shots that offer incredible views or establish a location or a setting.

Filmmakers have been using helicopters to get shots for decades, and they have always added a lot to the production value. In the beginning days of helicopter filming, a camera operator would sit outside the side and hold the camera. The next evolution came when cameras were mounted on front and would be stabilized using a Cineflex or Team 5 Aerial systems. This provided ultra smooth capture and helicopters were now allowed make more aggressive moves that led to greater immersion in the films when watched.

This worked incredibly well for action movies and made audiences feel like they were a part of the action. The problem was that helicopters are expensive and large. Due to their size they’re not as agile as film directors would like. Helicopter crashes have led to 24 deaths for filmmaking purposes over the years. Drones just make sense for filmmaking.

Enter drones.

Drones are much smaller, less expensive and more agile making them ideal for filmmaking purposes. Film cameras are large and heavy in size, so drones were never an option until digital cameras became popular. Digital cameras were small enough to fit onto drones and have the ability to send a live feed of what the camera sees to the drone operator.

There are 3 kind of drones used in filmmaking: quadcopters, hexacopters and octocopters, having 4, 6 and 8 small rotors, respectfully.


Among all drones, quadcopters are the most popular, easiest to fly and least expensive, starting at less than $1,000. They are targeted for beginners and can hold small cameras, such as a GoPro. Most manufacturers include safety software such as a GPS-assisted mode, failsafe mode that will return to the takeoff position as well as manual mode for more experienced flyers.

This does not mean that anyone can fly a drone, however. Even quadcopters require practice and patience. When I got my first drone I took it to an empty park with plenty of grass and flew it for 8-10 hours before even putting a camera on it. I crashed it a few times during landing and once into a tree while about 50’ off the ground. The drone was durable and didn’t break, but I did break a rotor in half and had to replace it.

Once I got my confidence up I added a GoPro and have since gotten amazing results with it. Here are some of the best shots I got in the last year.

Today, most quadcopters can fly between 11-20 minutes per battery. Flight time will depend on a few things including: aggressiveness of flight pattern, payload (such as a camera), age of battery, wind (if the drone has to constantly stabilize itself or fight wind resistance) and if you are sending a live feed down to the operator.

Hexacopters and Octocopters

Hexacopters and Octocopters are a quadcopters big brother. Since they have more rotors they have a few advantages that quadcopters do not have. With both hexacopters and octocopters, if a rotor failed during flight the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle would not crash like it would with a quadcopter. This is because it has enough rotors for lift and pan.

On any drone, half the rotors spin clockwise and the other half spin counterclockwise. The rotors moving clockwise are typically responsible for lift, while the counterclockwise rotors are responsible for turning the craft. If you need raise your drones elevation, the two rotors will spin faster, creating more lift. If you need to turn to the right or left, the appropriate rotors will either increase their RPMs or decrease, causing the craft to rotate or pivot.

Drone props spin opposite directions for lift and turn

Hexacopters are more stable and can carry a heavily payload than their smaller quadcopter counterparts. This means that larger batteries can be used and offer slightly longer flight times. It also allows larger cameras to be used. Popular cameras for hexacopters are Panasonic GH4 and Canon 5Diii (include links?). These cameras offer superior image quality over a GoPro and have the ability to change out lenses.

This provides an incredible amount of flexibility for filmmakers. Not only are the lens selection for these cameras much greater than a GoPro (since a GoPro has a fixed, super wide angle lens), but they are glass and professional optics.

Here is a Panasonic GH4 with a wide angle lens similar to a GoPro look and a medium focal length 20mm lens. Both offer much greater control over the image as well as improved image quality.

Panasonic GH4 suitable for a hexacopter drone

Panasonic GH4 suitable for a hexacopter drone.

Similar to hexacopters, octocopters can handle even larger cameras. Octocopters, having 8 rotors, offer the greatest amount of stability and payload options.

Octocopters are used frequently on high end jobs such as car commercials and blockbuster films. Commonly RED Dragon cameras are used because of their state of the art image quality and lens selection. Octocopters are the most expensive and systems can cost up to $20,000 with all parts and accessories needed to fly – not including the camera system!

Octocopters almost always require two operators, one for the drone operation and a second for the camera operation. Many drones, from quadcopters to octocopters, have gimbals attached that hold the cameras.


Gimbals offer 2 or 3 axis stabilization and remove any shake for the drone itself or the wind. Gimbals are camera specific and you must balance the camera properly on the gimbal for it to work.

Some drones have cameras and gimbals built in, eliminating the need for balancing. The downside of this is that you can never change our the camera and you’re stuck with that lens.

For smaller camera and drone systems, such as a DJI Phantom 3 and GoPro, the gimbal will come pre-balanced and all you have to do in attach your GoPro. When it comes times to upgrade your GoPro, it is a fairly easy and quick fix to upgrade the gimbal ensuring a longer life for your drone system.

For the larger camera systems, each time you want to fly you need to balance the camera on the gimbal. Lenses differ in length, weight and size, and therefore require precision when balancing.

Flying the Drone!

The future is bright for drones and filmmaking. The technology is advancing quickly, battery life is growing and ease to pilot is advancing, making it easier for anyone to pick up a drone and learn to fly. Although the FAA is moving slowly with their approval process for commercial use, hobbyist are free to fly (for now) with a few restrictions (INSERT LINK).

Recently, 3DRobotics introduced a new quadcopter called the Solo, and it promises to be much easier to fly for beginners. Furthermore, it has the tools required for professionals, too. The price is about ⅓ of what drones of this quality used to cost just a year ago. Still, being a quadcopter it will have the physical limitations of other quadcopters listed above, yet still lowers the barriers to entry for drone enthusiasts.

I cannot stress enough the importance of safe and responsible flying. There are great places to learn online such as The Drone U. Flyaways are common, and you don’t want your drone falling out of the sky like this one.

Camera technology will also continue to advance, bringing state of the art systems to smaller UAV crafts. Arri, makers of the popular Alexa camera system, recently announced the Alexa Mini, making it possible to use with a drone system.

Black Magic Design also released a small, lightweight camera system capable of being attached to hexacopter system, bringing the technology in the grasps of mid sized independent productions.

What are your thoughts on the drone industry? Let me know in the comments below.

Video Production & Pareto’s Principle

The 80-20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle)

It’s been said that 80% of your fruit comes from 20% of your labor – essentially, that 20% of your customers make up 80% of your profits. This is known as the 80-20 Rule or the Pareto Principle, and it applies to many different aspects of business and life, far beyond video production.

So how can you, a creative, a freelancer, a designer, a video production company or agency, use this in regards to your portfolio? Can we make our commercials, documentaries and branded entertainment much more meaningful by leveraging this principle? Can we use it to make the stories we tell that much more powerful?

It certainly can. In this post, I’ll show you:

  1. How the Pareto Principle can impact our media both positively and negatively.
  2. Why you should entertain the 80-20 rule during production.
  3. How you can use it to leverage your efforts to be more valuable.

Crew on location shooting a commercial.

As a video production company, we’re judged on our past work – our portfolio. When a company approaches us about a project, they’ll typically reference a video or two we’ve already done.

Whether they know it or not, they’re judging us by the work we’ve already done. They talk about the style of one shoot. How they got emotional while watching one particular video, or how we magically told this story that brought them to tears. They see these elements in their project, and they’re excited about it and want to get into the creative behind it.

While this is generally regarded as a compliment, it can have some negative effects, too (unintentionally, of course).

These remarks are usually followed by a request to create a video for them in the same manner – to set up the interview the same way, to shoot this specific b-roll scene, etc.

It’s great that our clients have seen our past work (which is why they’re talking to us to begin with), but these kind of statements can lead us to jump to conclusions.

We’ve developed our process over the last 11+ years after producing several campaigns and videos for startups to world-class brands. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things that have forced us to create – and stick to – that process.

When we used to follow our clients’ instructions on what to shoot and even how to shoot it, we always ended up with a subpar project. In our hearts, we knew we weren’t delivering the best product we could. We’d watch the final edit and yearn for this shot or that shot.

Somewhere along the way, we started listening to ourselves. We still obeyed client instructions, but we also started taking time to get the shots that we wanted. We would carve out an hour or two each shoot day specifically for the shots that we thought we needed.

Respectfully, our clients don’t always know what they want. They know their business, their customer and their goals. It’s our job to listen and learn and translate that into a story. They call for specific shots because they’ve seen it either in our work or a competitors of theirs’ and want to copy that. But they’re hiring us for a reason, because we’re the professionals and we have the knowledge and skills to bring their project to life.

But that’s not always the answer. Where’s the purpose in that? How that does build the story we’re telling and create an impact?

This is the Pareto Law. We knew this would make the story stronger.

We started creating two edits for the same project – one for the client and one for us. Sometimes the creative wouldn’t line up. Sometimes there would be external politics that we had no control over. For whatever the reason, we were being asked to do something a specific way, even if that didn’t fit with what we knew the project could be.

When we started taking time to realize our vision and create a product that we saw fit, we started improving our portfolio and becoming more confident in our own skillset. This had a direct, positive effect on the requests coming in.

Clients started asking about certain projects out of curiosity and wonderment. We had explanations for everything (going back to our process and purpose) and gained trust earlier in the process. They were asking about the projects that we had created “Director’s Cuts” on.

Trust is important in video production. Trust means that you’re working with this team because you need them to bring your vision to life, and you’re okay with them working in their comfort zone.

Principle photography usually only happens once per job, and it happens in the matter of a few days. It’s costly and difficult to go back for re-shoots and pickups.

Taking 20% of your day to execute shots that could make the your story 80% better is worthwhile. It’s not a requirement and getting these shots doesn’t have to negatively affect the final product.

Remember, these are shots, setups, and questions in an interview that don’t have to go in the final edit. But if they do make the final cut, it’s because they’re making your story better.

A few years ago we were asked to produce a commercial for a sports headwear company. When the creative came in and we were discussing the look, feel and mood of the piece, the concept started taking shape.

In learning more about the brand, their goals and the execution, I kept going back to a few sticking points in the treatment…

The treatment wasn’t bad, and I understood the creative, but it wasn’t lining up. I didn’t think that this was the right decision for the brand.

I pleaded to change the creative, but was ultimately shot down. I listened to the brand and analyzed the goals, the distribution strategy and customer demographics. I knew the potential of this spot, what it could be and what it should be.

We had two production days in the budget and I knew we’d have to move quickly to get all the material – especially if I was going to take advantage of the 80-20 rule.

Working with our best crew, we were able to move fast and deliver a product that matched, and probably exceeded, the production value that was expected.

We shot the spot that was approved by the client in the manner requested. And in between setups or the very little downtime we had, we got a few extra angles to get the required coverage that I saw in my vision.

The storyboard plans everything out.

Color grading a RED Epic comercial.

Creating Two Versions

We delivered the project to the agency and they were happy with the final result. We followed instructions on approved creative and went on as a company.

But knowing this would lead to more of the same requests, we decided to put in our own resources and edit the project as we saw fit on the side.

We didn’t do this to insult anyone or dilute the brand. We did it because we saw the potential for what this project should be.

When the agency and client saw it, their reactions were surprising – even to me. The art director and creative director at the agency both complimented the Director’s Cut, and the client liked it so much they called asking to use the edit in their marketing campaign.

Original Edit

The Director’s Cut

Realizing the Vision

These comments go beyond standard feedback expected from a client. They speak to so much more – the depth and meaning behind them are substantial.

Not only did we deliver our vision, but we realized that our process works. It proved to us that sticking to our guns makes sense. We are the storytellers, we have the vision and we need the freedom to execute that to the best of our ability while working within our budget.

When you reduce yourself to a “yes man,” you inevitably don’t give yourself enough credit. Remember, a company is hiring you to help them realize a vision – something that’s not done easily independently. Seeking the advice of a professional is why companies work with creatives and production companies to begin with. Companies hire professionals for a reason.

I’m not encouraging to throw away creative ideas or requirements from your clients. Actually, don’t do that. Do your job, but also bring with you that extra oomph to take the project to the next level. This is why it’s called the 80-20 law – most of what you’re suppose to do is for the client.

Over time, you’ll see your portfolio expand with great depth and meaning. The projects you take on will have a greater purpose, and you’ll start to define your tone and voice as a filmmaker. You’ll also notice that potential clients will notice certain spots and reference them in initial conversations.

When we started creating “Director’s Cut” for the projects we work on our portfolio improved dramatically. These projects weren’t always drastically different, but sometimes it’s the subtleties that really make a difference. Going the extra mile with audio design or color correction.

This is where you can take your portfolio to the next level. Leverage your work to get more work. So now, I’ll leave you with this. Any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

Sierra Time Lapse

A Quick Getaway

A few weeks back my friend, the talented graphic designer and web developer, Bryce Frees, and I went into the lower Sierra Mountains for a 2 day backpacking trip for my birthday.

Sierra Sunset, part of a beautiful time lapse

We left late at night and didn’t have much of a plan. We ended up in Onion Valley and with the help of this guide hiked our way up to 11,800′.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold. 1) to get away from it all for a couple of days. To unwind, disconnect and breath some fresh mountain air. And,

2) to shoot some awesome photos, videos and time lapses.

Sierra Mountain range peaks. Part of a time lapse

Lower Sierra rocks, a moody time lapse

We had access to some new cinema lenses and really wanted to put them to the test. It was nice to leave it all behind and be creative in the wild. No emails, computers, cell phone to distract us. It was awesome. Here’s a quick video from our trip.

Do you ever feel the itch to get out there and unwind for a few days. Let me know your tricks in the comments below!

Is Your Company Making Content for the Small Screen?

It’s clearer than ever that video marketing is becoming more and more important each day.

Online video will make up 55% of web traffic by 2016, and it’s likely to continue gaining momentum from there. The question is, will your company gain momentum with it?

In addition to the prevalence of video, we’re also seeing a direct correlation between video and mobile marketing. Consumers are using their smartphones to consume and share online video more than any other type of screen.

The small screen isn’t just the future, it’s the present reality.

As a result, it’s time to think about the mobile implications of your video projects, as well as how you can be prepared to take advantage of the small screen.

Make content for the small screen, our phones go with us everywhere.

A Look at Smartphone Content Consumption

People are using their phones to engage and purchase from brands, as the following statistics convey:

  • In 2015, U.S. mobile marketing will generate $400 billion (compared to $139 billion in 2012). (source)
  • Mobile ads perform 4-5x better than online ads. (source)
  • Videos increase the understanding of your product or service by 74%. (source)

This level of consumption should communicate the worth of a mobile marketing investment. For local businesses, this style of marketing gives you direct access to consumers while they’re out shopping. It’s a persuasion opportunity you just can’t get with traditional digital marketing.

The bottom line is this: your company can stand out when you build a presence on the small screen.

Not only should you use this opportunity to drive the creation of your video content – you should consider an entirely mobile-first approach to all your marketing efforts, from your website design to your social media campaigns to your paid advertising initiatives.

It’s obvious that consumers are making a demand for content on the small screen.

How will your company meet that demand? Will you make the smart move or play it “safe” and miss out on hundreds of potential opportunities?

It’s obvious that consumers are making a demand for content on the small screen.

Creating Video for the Small Screen

Great marketing reaches the customer where they are. And in today’s mobile world, your audience could be anywhere when they consume your content. This dynamic view of consumption requires companies to have a mobile-first mentality.

Everything from branded entertainment to informational explainer videos can add value to the mobile user. One of the most important things to remember is to make the content relevant to the platform. Many networks are pushing their video capabilities:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Vine

Each network features its own nuances. For example, the type of video you produce for Facebook won’t work on Instagram.

Lifestyle brands and consumer products should not only pay attention to the mobile device, but also the platform you’ll use to publish the content. This type of context is extremely important for impactful mobile video marketing.


When do customers not have their phones with them? Branded Entertainment is a huge opportunity

We love to share with our friends what's on our phones. Media optimized for the small screen is a must.


The Case for Mobile Video Marketing

Out of all the different types of mobile content, video marketing is most promising. Not only does it meet a current market demand, but it’s projected to grow at a rapid rate in the coming years.

Yet despite these projections, many are stalling their participation on this medium.

Failing to use video content is a mistake for many reasons. As more companies realize the power of this media, the competition for attention will become fierce. If you get in now, you’ll have the opportunity to build authority while engagement levels are still skyrocketing.

Now, that may sound like a cheap pitch for a scam, but trust me – it’s not. The mobile video audience is paying attention. And if your company makes the move, it could be the one that reaps the rewards of early action.

The statistics speak for themselves…

1. Smartphone Users are More Likely to Watch

Mobile video viewers are 1.4x more likely to watch than desktop users. (source)

When it comes to video, mobile wins the attention game. Smartphone users want to get information in a quick and easy format, and video caters to that desire.

If your company wants to influence the mobile user, invest in video.

They may not read that 2,000-word blog post, but 59% of viewers will watch your entire video if you keep it short and sweet.

2. Word-of-Mouth Sharing Increase on Mobile Devices

92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others. (source)

Have you ever grabbed your smartphone to show a friend a recent video that caught your attention? That’s word-of-mouth marketing at its best.

Gaining brand awareness doesn’t always happen through social media shares (though they’re certainly a beneficial aspect of mobile sharing). Sometimes your best ambassadors go unnoticed because they share you content with others in real life.

If you make share-worthy content, people will notice. You can quickly turn dormant prospects into raving advocates through engaging, entertaining video content.

The phone goes with us everywhere.

3. Develop a Stronger Personal Connection Through Video

Smartphone video viewers were 2x more likely than TV viewers to feel a sense of personal connection to brands that show video content, and 1.3x more likely than desktop viewers. (source)

Ultimately, all marketing tries to achieve one thing: build a deep connection with prospects so they’ll become customers for life.

Companies can achieve that with mobile video.

Think about the environment you’re in while watching video on your phone. You sit down with the device in your hand, and it draws in your entire focus. It’s a very personal experience that captures your attention in a way that desktops can’t.

If you’re out to develop real connections with your customers, don’t overlook the power of video marketing. After all, if a picture is worth 1,000 words, how many words is a video worth?

4. Assist With In-Store Product Purchase Decisions

More than 50% of the mobile video viewers use video to help them make product decisions in stores or on company websites. (source)

The statistics I’ve previously mentioned add a lot of qualitative value to your business. But it doesn’t stop there…

With more than half of people using video to make in-store decisions, your video marketing project can yield tangible financial results for your business. And at the end of that day, that’s what we all want: increased revenue and returning customers.

The smartphone video market won’t threaten the filmmaking industry any time soon. But it will impact the success of your company’s marketing efforts. It’s time to make the investment in video marketing.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start making content for the small screen now.

What Is An Explainer Video?

Brands use explainer videos to introduce a product or service quickly and memorably. They’re incredibly effective on landing pages and getting users to take an action. In fact, that’s their entire purpose.

Explainer videos aim to increase your understanding of a product or service and convert you into a customer. It sounds simple, but it’s actually no small task.

Technology and social media have reached a level of saturation and adoption by the masses that allows today’s businesses to reach consumers in new ways. Savvy marketers figured this out a few years ago and, since then, the style of explainer videos has become wildly popular.

Typically, you’ll see explainer videos on product and landing pages. This is where the need for explanation is greatest and, more importantly, most effective at converting prospects into customers. This is why it’s so important to have the right team for production.

Vector characters are common in Explainer Videos

Despite their popularity, creating explainer videos is anything but simple. There’s a certain science to them. They’re the antithesis to end-all be-all for everyone – they’re targeted and specific, meant for a small audience of select viewers.

That’s not to say that explainer videos can’t be effective for larger audiences, but the way they’re made caters to the tip of the spear. Any customers converted after that is simply a bonus.


So What Do Explainer Videos Look Like?


Problem and Setting

Many explainer videos are animation-based and use generic graphics and voice over. The structure is often broken down into a format of problem, solution, and product/service.

At the start, explainer videos present a scenario and establish the setting. We quickly grasp where we are and who the target market of the video is. Quick hints are given about the demographics the product or service caters to.

Since we know that attention spans are short, this setting becomes essential. If you don’t capture someone’s attention quickly, you’ll see increased drop-off rates and less ROI on your video.

This is why one popular explainer video tactic is to outline the targeted demographics in the first eight seconds. They want to hook you or forget about you as quickly as possible.

After all, if the explainer video is about a new dog training product and you don’t have a dog, do you really want to wait until 1:30 into the video to figure out that it’s not for you?

This time is much too valuable to not have your audience hooked from the beginning.

That’s why explainer videos start by emphasizing a hassle you regularly experience or have experienced in the past. They may even bring in some animations and sound effects to exaggerate this and really try to get under your skin.

They want to hook you or forget about you as quickly as possible.


Once these explainer videos bring back all your awful memories, they happily provide you with the solution to all your problems or an update on a new way to do things – of course!

The middle part of an explainer video is filled with a new age solution – a modern technology breakthrough, a new service specializing in just what you need at an affordable price, or a subscription you didn’t know you’d always been wanting or needing.

The mood of the video then changes along with the music and we, the audience, are left craving this new solution to our problems.

Guess what’s next? The company of your dreams.



After happily explaining the solution to your deepest needs, Company X is here to save the day!

The last part of an explainer video is reserved for the company’s product or service and their direct call to action (or CTA).

Here, they’ll introduce you to the product they’re pitching. If it’s a cloud based product or SaaS, they’ll take you inside the program, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at its features. If they’re selling a physical product, you’ll see a demonstration showing off its best attributes. They’ll wow you with powerful stats and show you what you’re currently missing.

They make is so easy – so serendipitous – that they just happen to have the product you’re looking for. They’ve identified you (the audience member) by your age, need, location and interests, and showed you a better mousetrap for your problem – funny how that works sometimes, huh?

Reviewing Explainer video takes on RED Epic and a gimbal.

Shooting RED Epic on a gimbal for an Explainer Video


Now that you know how explainer videos work, let’s talk about how they’re used and how effective they can be.

There are several ways to measure the effectiveness of a video, and what success looks like for one company over another can vary greatly. Here are some things to consider when measuring your explainer video’s success (or setting up goals for its performance).


  • How will you be getting people to watch?
  • Where will your intended audience come from?
  • How much traffic do you already have?
  • What percentage of traffic are you already converting?
  • Do your products/service vary greatly from one another? Do you need a specific video for each one? Or will one video suffice?
  • What, specifically, do you want your audience to do after watching the video?

Depending on your answers, you’ll want to choose between a few different routes when creating your video. This is something you’ll want to discuss with both your internal team and with the production company you choose to work with.

Your conversations will shape several elements of your explainer video, including its style, length, script and design. They’ll also provide insights into the landing page(s) displaying your videos, as what is displayed next to your video is very important in supporting the video’s call to action and overall effectiveness.

In some cases, a 5% increase in conversions would be considered wildly successful. In other instances, your main goal might be educating prospective users about a brand new product. Whatever the case may be, knowing what you hope to get out of your explainer video will inform its creation (and its eventual success).


Recently, TAR Productions worked on an explainer video for the startup HouseCall and decided to take a newer, more creative route.

As described above, most explainer videos follow the same formula in terms of structure. While this works for many companies – and still continues to do so – we wanted to do something different with HouseCall. Something special.

In talking with the team at HouseCall, we quickly identified that we didn’t want to go with a traditional explainer video. HouseCall was working on an app that would make home maintenance a heck of a lot easier, more transparent and safer. The ramifications were substantial, and we needed a video that would effectively illustrate that.

Animation wouldn’t suffice, and we felt that there were too many “Meet Bob” examples out there.

What we did have going for us was the advent of brushless gimbals, a technology that allows –  for the first time – ultra smooth camera movements with maximum mobility. We could now take a camera anywhere to capture cinematic movements, resulting in total immersion for the audience.

This gave us the idea to follow our character throughout a house where she used the app in several manners and, without cutting the camera, took her back through a moment later with everything magically fixed.

Now, we did use some super sneaky special effects to make this happen, but without this new stabilization hardware, we would never have been able to achieve this creative look.

The HouseCall team used the explainer video as their launch tool and quickly announced new rounds of angel funding. To date, they’ve raised more than $3M in startup capital.

Creative explainer videos worked for them – and they can work for you too. All you need is a little ingenuity and a team that knows how to leverage this video style.

How have you used explainer videos in the past? What has been the best use of explainer videos you’ve seen?