How to Make a Video on a Tight Budget

By Thomas Escourrou
8/27/2015

Is $2000 enough to make a great video? Many startups and small businesses ask this question, and the answer is: it depends on your end goal and how much work you put into it. Frankly $2000 is quite low for video production, and if your budget allows it, then you should probably spend more. That said, lots of good videos have been made for under $2000, so lets look at some examples to see what's involved.

tl;dr;
  • Yes! you can get a solid video for less than $2000
  • You’ll need to be very involved in the production process
  • Expect to lead script creation, help organize, and/or act in your videos
  • Keep it simple - it’s better to make a simple video well, than a complex video that bombs

Xkey-Air ($1600, produced by TCA Media)

This video has many of the attributes of a higher-end productions: actors, nice locations, some motion graphics… and yet it was made on a very tight budget ($1600). TCA Media made smart compromises: they chose actors with non-speaking roles (cheaper), kept the scenes simple, and filmed with their own equipment to avoid rental fees. Also the client, Xkey, was easy to work with and they provided the script and voiceover, which helped a lot. All in all, this is an example of a project where clients and creator collaborated to keep costs down.

Tip: Consider drafting the script yourself and getting a voice actor to narrate it (check out services like www.voicebunny.com)

Pupp’cino ($1200, filmed and edited by Taylor H.)

This video is a classic example of simple interview + b-roll video. It can be a very cost effective way to present an new idea. These videos can usually be shot over just a few hours. Due to the tight budget Taylor Hellhake had to run everything himself: shooting, sound, lighting, editing. This format is particularly suited for ideas that are easy to describe visually (eg. a dog + a cafe), and for founders who are comfortable in front of the camera, either naturally or through practice.

Tip: collaborate with your videographer to film all the footage over just a few hours to limit costs.

Appache headphones ($350, edited by Christopher H.)

This video is an interesting hybrid. The client filmed the footage themselves with an entry level DSLR camera. They then hired an editor to pull everything together for only $350. To keep complexity down, they used a voiceover instead of having the actors speak. Recording voices can be tricky, especially outside in an open environment.

Tip: If you are the DIY type, ask your friends to star in your videos, invest in a DSLR camera and go for it!.

Herbsack ($1500, filmed and edited by Aether Films)

The Herbsack video shines because Aether Films was able to shoot high quality images - a quality you’d typically only get from a master cinematographer with professional-grade equipment (including sliders). They also did a great job color grading. The convincing on-camera performance of the founder succeeds in sustaining the audience’s attention. It also helps that the video team was very experienced at running interviews.

Tip: Make sure to select a video team with interviewing experience. They will make you feel more comfortable and confident. Rehearse your pitch several times before the shoot, don’t just wing it.

AwareCar ($1100, filmed and edited by Kit Larson)

This is a great example of a low budget video that manages to be funny and engaging. It has a homemade authentic feel to it, which works great for a young startup. The client was very involved in coming up with the script, recruiting actors (friends), scouting locations. This allowed the creator (Kit Larson) to focus on getting the videography and editing right. The video was shot on entry level equipment (Canon Rebel T3i) with a one person team. The numerous San Francisco landmarks add some flare.

Tip: Get involved, take ownership of the creative direction, while making sure your videographers/editors are on board.

Wondering what a bigger budget will get you?

This crowdfunding video for Zboard cost $6k, and was produced by Hunt House Pictures. You’ll notice better quality images, greater attention to details (eg. numerous close-ups of the product), faster pace through dynamic editing (eg. jump cuts) making each sequence more engaging. And the end product is more polished and consistent overall.

This last video was made by Goro Toshima with a $20k budget. Spending more gives you access to creative directors, and professional actors. You can expect better storytelling, emotional connection, and overall more original and engaging content. Read about the making of a high end video to learn about Goro's production process

At the end of the day, different budgets yield different videos, and hopefully these examples help you identify which budget is right for your objectives. If you have any questions just reach out to human@videopixie.com, or post a project to start discussing with the community.