I’ve been studying Alex Chaloff’s music videos recently, as they’re incredible examples of live music captures. It’s a testament to his work that even though I’m taking notes on camera angles, lighting, and sound all the way through, I can’t help but get lost in the performances.
Part of breaking down these videos is figuring out how much it might cost to put together a production like this. That’s helpful for me as it puts my rates into context; it’s also helpful for my clients to understand what goes into creating a video at this level.
There’s two parts to the cost of a production; kit fees and labor costs. Kit fees cover the equipment, and labor covers the efforts of everyone involved. $600 is a standard day rate for studios & camera ops here in CO, so I’ll use that for my estimates. As for the kit, a standard rate is 1% of its value per day. Let’s start with a minimal shoot like this one:
This video was shot with a Blackmagic Ursa Mini, which retails for $6,000. Lenses on major productions can easily run into 6 figures, but let’s assume they’re using something on the lower end of cine lenses like a Canon prime ($4,000). They’re using a gimbal, and I’d bet it’s something in the range of a Ronin or a MōVI ($7,000), fpr which the operator will need a monitor to see what he’s shooting ($1,000). There are lights overhead, probably Kino Flos or similar ($3,000). Lastly, you can figure another $1,000-$2,000 for all the necessary accessories; batteries, media, stands, cables, and cases. Total: $23,000 (kit fee: $230).
Audio Equipment & Studio Rental
Chris is singing into an AEA KU4, which retails for $4,500. The piano’s being captured by two AEA R84’s, which retail for $1,000 each. Let’s keep it simple and assume this is all being provided by the studio at their day rate ($600).
Let’s assume $600 for the camera op as he’ll be there for the full shoot, $600 to the colorist/editor as it’s a single shot, and $300 (half day) to the mix engineer as it’s only 3 channels.
I’m going to round down the kit fee to $200, which gives us a grand total of $2,200.
Now, let’s break down a more complex shoot:
I count five cameras in this one; assuming Ursa Minis with lenses, that’s a total of $50K. One of those is on a dolly, so add $5K. There are overhead lights out of frame illuminating the band, and you can see a row of tungsten bulbs behind the artists; assuming they’re comparable to Arri 300’s, that would add about $2Kto the lighting total, bringing it to $5K-$7K. With this number of cameras, I’d (conservatively) add $10K to cover monitors, viewfinders, batteries, media, tripods, stands, and cables. Total: $75K (kit fee: $750).
Audio Equipment & Studio Rental
I see a KU4 & a 4099 on the sax, N22’s on overheads, guitar cab & snare, an N8 on piano & rack tom, an R84 on floor tom, and an R88 capturing the room. Again, let’s say it’s all being covered by the studio; 17 Hertz doesn’t advertise their rates, so let’s say $600 for the day.
With 5 camera ops, let’s assume $600 for the director and $300 each for the other four. With multiple angles to match, a colorist would take a day ($600) to grade the footage, and I’d guess an editor would take at least as long to cut everything together. And another full day to the mix engineer, as there are a lot of elements to balance here.
Adding up the rental and labor costs, we’re looking at around $5,000 for this multi-camera shoot.
Now, I’m not working at this level and I didn’t do the shoot myself, so I can’t guarantee that those numbers are accurate. But even if I’m off by 50%, those figures might be much higher than you’d have guessed. There’s no way around that; shoots like this involve expensive equipment in purpose-built spaces with experienced people. I hope these numbers help put the value of video and audio work into perspective!