How to Produce a Video Demo Without Blowing Your Bank Account


How to Produce a Video Demo Without Blowing Your Bank Account

Whether you’re a professional speaker needing proof that you can present to an audience without cursing, tripping or fainting… or you’re a business owner who wants to promote your company, you may need a video demonstration tape to show people your product or ability.

This show-and-tell item can be called by many names: “reel,” “video brochure,” “video news release” or just “demo tape.” The term “video” will soon be archaic as more and more people begin to rely on digital technology. Already speakers are sending out CD-ROM’s to clients, or asking prospects to visit a website.

As a TV journalist, many non-profit groups, speakers and small businesses have asked me over the years to throw together a little promotional video for them. I’m sure most are well-intentioned and have no idea that the request can be compared to asking your doctor just to schedule a little surgery during your next routine office visit.

Putting together a video involves writing a script, shooting all the video to support the script, conducting interviews, getting permission to shoot in different locations, finding and securing the rights to music and editing and re-editing the product, then making copies, or dubs. All that is costly.

The industry standard is $1,000 per finished minute. That means if you want an eight-minute video, you will typically pay $8,000. Many people balk at that estimate. Especially if they have their own home camcorder. Remember the axiom: “You get what you pay for.” If your home videos look like a movie up for an Oscar or an award-winning commercial, by all means, produce your own. You can save big bucks by going to one of those “U Edit” stores.

The good news is there are practical ways to cut costs without compromising quality… and without acting as screenwriter, director, photographer and editor yourself.

Have realistic expectations, but do have a vision that you can communicate to your producer or photographer. You should hire a producer, if you can afford it, to write and coordinate your script. However, many photographers have the skills to function as the executor of your vision, so you can save money by not hiring a producer.

Communicate your vision, and very importantly, share your budget with your producer or photographer. When the producer tells you that your idea of dissolving from waterfall shots to you singing aboard a cruise ship will cost $1500 in location fees and set-up time, you can make the decision about which scen?e to drop. Technology is amazing and fun things can be done with stock footage and a “green screen,” but even those techniques can run up your bill quickly.

Decide on a format. Many speakers’ bureaus are still asking for VHS tapes. Theoretically, that means your demo could be shot and edited on VHS or High 8. But, when you’re dealing with video, every time you make a dub, and each time you edit, you do what’s called “losing a generation.” So, I recommend shooting on the best quality format you can afford and make the dubs from that “master tape.” For some speakers, non-profits and small businesses, shooting on the cheapest tape saves the most money. They upgrade the quality of tape every few years, as profits increase.

Another way to save money is to look for freelancers, rather than production houses. If you want turnkey, no hassle video production, a one-stop shop is good for you, but will cost you more. On the other hand, consider your local TV news producers or photographers. Depending on the size of the city in which you live, these professionals could be grossly underpaid, and thrilled to help you for a fraction of what the production house charges. I know one attorney that bartered legal services with a news photographer. She ended up getting a beautiful demo reel shot and edited… with no money exchanging hands. Sometimes, news stations will not permit their employees to use their cameras or editing equipment in off-hours, so you will have to pay to rent the gear, and that can run anywhere from $50 an hour to $800 per day.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve encouraged people to save money on video production. If you’re willing to negotiate, think creatively and put some of your own elbow grease into the project, you can throw together a little video for less than the cost of surgery!

Lorri Allen is a speaker and a journalist. She’s also produced several successful speaker demo tapes, fund-raising videotapes and video news releases. For permission to reprint this article, please email her: or call the numbers listed below.

Call Lorri Allen, the Soundbite Coach
at 214-878-8610 today!