For videographers, being able to keep to a budget can make or break your project or business. All too often, though, saving money means cutting corners and sacrificing quality. Want to know a way to reduce your costs and still create a well-crafted product?
It’s always good to be able to save money, but these last few months have shown just how important it is to have some slack built into the budget. Of course, you can’t save on your budget if you don’t have one, so consider this tip zero: Build out a budget for your business and projects, even if it’s just a rough estimate.
Now, everyone’s business is going to operate somewhat differently, with the considerations for an indie filmmaking production and a wedding videographer booking 20 weddings a year having very different requirements. If you’re looking to break into the industry, there’s going to be a lot of unknowns, but it’s still important to even get a sense of what your startup costs might be, which can then help you understand what your prices need to be. Regardless of your specialization, everyone’s still going to need the major categories: cameras, lighting, audio, and post-production.
Once you can see where the major dollar amounts are heading, then you can make decisions to optimize those flows. For instance, if you’re only spending 5% of the total budget on audio to begin with, there’s probably not much fat to trim there. One thing to remember is how you amortize the big-budget items can have a huge impact on your figures. What I mean by that is consider your camera body or cine lens, either of which should last for years. It wouldn’t make sense to assign the full cost to a single production, but spreading it too thinly over the next few years can get you in over your head in terms of money invested. This is one area where you’ll have to consider what makes sense for your individual needs.
Software licenses might not be the largest line item cost to your production, but they might be one of the easiest to cut, depending on a few factors. Firstly, if you’re a student, or are able to inexpensively enroll in a community college or similar program, you can save thousands on software by purchasing a student license when available. Adobe, for instance, has their CC Apps subscription available for over 60% off, all without compromising your ability to use it commercially. Dozens of other products offer some sort of student option, typically at a significant discount.
On top of that, many schools have software libraries available for their students to use. Microsoft, Autodesk, and others have these sorts of programs in place, which can save hundreds to thousands over their retail prices. In some cases, it’s literally worth signing up for a community college class just for the savings. Just make sure to check the terms of the license, and confirm it can be used commercially if you plan to use it for your business.
The only thing better than a discount is free, and fortunately, there’s a number of great programs for post that are available free. One of my favorites is Da Vinci Resolve, which offers editing, industry-leading grading, effects, and audio all in one app. This isn’t some unknown open source offering, but a Hollywood-grade editing tool.
While some of the higher-end effects, most notably 4K exporting and some of the more advanced plugins, are locked behind a purchase, this is by far the best editing option for most users. For any project that doesn’t need to be delivered in 4K, there’s no better option than Resolve. If you do find you need those features, it’s a one-time purchase of $299, which is very competitive with even just a few months of rival editing tool’s subscriptions.
There are some other great free options worth mentioning in the space, most notably Blender and Audacity. Blender is an industry-standard 3D creation suite, with tools for animation, rendering, modeling, VFX, and now video editing. The capabilities of this free tool are just staggering. While it’ll take a bit of time to learn just all it can do, there are plenty of free resources, thanks in part to the app’s huge user base. Audacity is a little easier to understand since it offers multi-track audio editing and recording tools in a lightweight, free app.
It’s tough to give one size fits all advice when it comes to gear. For some, it makes sense to invest in the latest and greatest camera, partly because they can write it off on taxes and partly because their clients demand it. For others, however, spending a little too much on the camera or lens can mean making compromises in audio, lighting, or location.
Regardless of your individual situation, there are two alternatives to an outright gear purchase that can save a lot of money: rentals and subscriptions. Renting can be a great option if you don’t plan on shooting repeatedly with that piece of equipment. Subscriptions let you access gear without a huge upfront cost.
There’s one company, Wedio, that offers both rentals and subscriptions. What makes the model particularly valuable to those looking to save some money is the ability to rent out your gear to other users, as well as rent any gear purchased via subscription from Wedio. Renting out your gear can greatly reduce the costs involved, particularly if your gear isn’t being utilized 100% of the time. For both rentals and subscriptions, the gear comes with a pretty thorough insurance policy, providing a little bit of added value if you’d otherwise be insuring your kit (and you should be).
If you’re looking to get into the video space or just need to update some of your existing kit, a subscription can make more financial sense than an outright purchase. Besides the flexibility of being able to discontinue a subscription instead of having to resell the gear on the used market, you also don’t need to commit a huge amount of cash outright. This can be a great benefit if you’re buying something like a drone to expand your business’s offerings, since it can take a little while for that gear to start making your money back.
On the rental side, it’s easy to see how getting a piece of specialty gear via rental makes sense. If, however, you shoot infrequently, or just need a second camera as a backup or for additional coverage, renting essentials as a camera body can also be a great option.
Licensing the music and sound effects you use in your production is easier and cheaper than ever with the rise of subscription services. Instead of trying to set up a complicated, one-off agreement, by subscribing to a sound library, you can have access to tens of thousands of quality songs, all cleared for use.
Epidemic Sound, for instance, offers over 30,000 tracks and 64,000 sound effects. Their commercial and personal licenses are both a great value, with easy-to-understand terms. They even offer a free trial.
With some careful planning, you can leverage a small outlay into quite a bit of gear, software, or music. Before you break out the Visa for your next production, take a little time to consider the alternatives to buying at full price, and you just might be surprised what you can find!