Facts about video production that will amaze you!

For the first anniversary of FILMPULS, we’ll be charging the devil for his ear! We asked ourselves: How many decisions does a film or video need? We ourselves were amazed at the result of our study!

There is only one thing in life that is really important and determines everything else: the ability to ask the right questions. The right questions, however, are the ones that are really important when making films! They can only be posed if things are distinguished in advance. Apples are not known to be pears. Like must be considered equal and unequal must be considered unequal. In the film, almost an impossibility. We tried anyway.

You have to know that

  • Filmpuls has investigated how many decisions are necessary for the production of a video.
  • The result: for one minute of film, on average over 1,000 decisions have to be made. In the case of the image film there are 2,423 decisions, in the web video 870. The derivation and exact analysis can be found in this article.
  • Because so many decisions cannot possibly be made rationally, decisions must be made instinctively. That instinct is nothing but talent.

The initial situation

As a starting point for this article on the question of how many decisions a film or video needs to make, we have four average commissioned productions 1 with typical tasks for communication with film and video: An image film 2a commercial/TV spot 3,a product film 4 and a web video 5.

For each of these videos 6 we asked ourselves on the basis of a standardised workflow 7 for all relevant project steps in creation, calculation and production how many decisions are necessary on average. This always from the point of view of creation (director 8) and production (producer 9). Virtual genres like 360 videos were not included in the study.

Deliberately not taken into account were all the decisions that usually have to be made during the creation or production of a film or video, either for internal coordination within the teams or with the client.

Likewise, for this article and the study behind it, “how many decisions …” many decisions from the practice of craftsmanship were combined into a single decision for reasons of practicability. For example, the decision on how to move the camera in a shot is recorded as a single decision. In fact, the filmmaker has to make a large number of decisions for this:

  • on which axis does the movement run?
  • Where does it start? Where does it end?
  • Is the camera moving or panning?
  • At what pace?
  • Is the movement performed with a dolly?
  • With a Steadycam?
  • Or shoulder camera?
  • Just off the tripod?

In other words, as in real life, “how many decisions …” one question leads to another. Thanks to expert knowledge, perseverance and persistence, five additional subject areas can be easily opened up from each recorded question, which then leads to all further questions. Think, for example, of the universe that results from the conception and elaboration of the storytelling alone.

The results of all four genres/genres of the films were therefore subsequently extrapolated to one minute per film type. To obtain the final average number of decisions per minute required for an average commissioned film, the four minute values obtained were first added together and then divided by the points resulting from the number of test objects.

The Analysis

For the investigation How many decisions does a film or video need, we first of all defined the procedures for the production process that are essential for individual decisions. These individual decisions were then grouped together in subgroups. Finally, the subgroups are combined into main categories, which thus summarize all the decisions necessary for the creation of a film or video.

For example: “Image composition” includes the subgroups light, color and perspective at the category level (main group). All three terms each contain further individual decisions to be made for each setting from the perspective of creation and production.

How many decisions Overview of decision categories (main groups)

No.GroupNo.GroupNo.Group
01.1Briefing06.1Briefing Search Actors19.1Picture composition
01.2Meeting06.2Briefing Extras and Extras20.1camera work
01.3Rebriefing06.3Casting21.1Sound
02.1Budget06.4Deals Actor22.1Guiding the actors
02.2Contract06.5Deals Extras23.1Instruction Extras and Extras
02.3Dates07.1Scouting24.1Repeat settings
02.4Quality07.2Interior Location/Studio25.1Check connections
03.1Author07.3outdoor location26.1Briefing Cut
03.2Exposé08.1PPM preparation26.2editing and assembly
03.3Treatment08.2Follow-up PPM27.1color correction
03.4Screenplay09.1Callsheets28.1Animation and retouching
03.5shooting script09.2Work Budget29.1Graphics 2D/3D
03.6Storyboard10.1Decor30.1sound briefing
03.7Election Direction11.1Props31.1Composition Music
04.1Parameters12.1Equipment Camera32.1sound design
04.2Analysis Risk13.1Light, Sound, Accessories33.1Mix
04.3Define production value in the film14.1Briefing costumes and acceptance34.1Approval
05.1Selection Key People15.1Rehearsals on/off Location34.2Corrections
05.2Crew selection16.1Transports35.1Final approval
05.3Deals Key People17.1Accommodation36.1Versioning
05.4Deals Crew18.1reality checks37.1Debriefing

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

The result

The results of the study speak for themselves: in purely mathematical terms, the creative and production teams per minute of film or video production have to make over 1,000 decisions!

A bon mot says that movies are only easy to watch because they are difficult to make. The results of our study “how many decisions …” on video indicate that there is more than a little truth in it.

In practice, it is, speaking for itself, absolutely impossible, even with shooting lasting several days, to consciously make more than a thousand decisions per minute of filming. Here only: knowledge, experience, instinct and talent can help.

Film is creative project work with at times extremely complex processes and sometimes delicate and fragile teamwork. Expertise, experience and talent influence each other. In order to nevertheless arrive at a comprehensible and understandable result, it must be simplified and summarised.

The difficulty (or more beautifully put: the complexity and challenge) of filmmaking obviously also lies in the number of decisions needed to make a film or video, from video calculation and calculation scheme to the compulsion to make a story and YouTube thumbnail.

Average number of decisions per 1 minute film/video length:

Creation process59
Preparation of the shooting481
Shooting on Location370
Image and sound editing134
TOTAL per minute Film/Video1’044

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

In the everyday life of film agencies, film productions and video productions the multitude of these decisions is made unconsciously during the creation, preparation (preproduction), shooting (production) and postproduction. Because without decisions, project work and filmmaking are not possible. Neither artistically nor production-wise.

But where most decisions “happen” (which also includes the possibility of unwanted decisions) – and where decisions are not the result of a rational weighing of possibilities – the three most important factors in dealing with moving images come into play: know-how, experience and talent. They make the impossible possible.

How many decisions: The study in detail

The results of the study, how many decisions a film or social video needs, listed according to more criteria and with a higher level of detail. A multi-page, detailed Excel table with the data material of the study “how many decisions …” can be ordered on request here .

How many decisions per film type/genre

(All results shown as total value and as value on average film length)

Average number of decisions per film type/genre:

TV spot (length: 30 seconds) 121’364
Image film (length: 5 minutes) 132’423
Product video (length: 3 minutes) 141’592
Web video (length: 2 minutes) 15870

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need?

How many decisions per function

(All results differentiated by creation and production per film type, total value and per minute).

Average number of decisions by function (extrapolated from total lengths, displayed per 1 minute film/video length):

Work stepCreation 8Production 9
Creation process2930
Preparation of the shooting205276
Shooting on Location3628 (o)
Image and sound editing10232
TOTAL699346

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

Overview of all genres for the study “How many decisions does a video production need?

(Average number of decisions per function and for total length and per 1 minute of film/video length)

TV-SPOT Decisions for individual project phases

TV spot (30 seconds, calculated on total length):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process424486
Preparation of the shooting371472842
Shooting on Location27012 (o)282
Image and sound editing10152153
Total TV spot 30 seconds7845801’364
TV spot (30 seconds, extrapolated to 1 minute):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process8489173
Preparation for shooting7429341’685
Shooting on Location54024 (o)564
Image and sound editing202104306
Total TV spot per 1 minute1’5861’1602’728

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

IMAGEFILM Decisions for individual project phases

Image film (5 minutes, calculated on total length):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process524294
Preparation of the shooting114292406
Shooting on Location1’440201’460
Image and sound editing42142463
Total image film 5 minutes2’0273962’423
Image film (5 minutes, extrapolated to 1 minute):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process10 ()9 ()19
Preparation for shooting235881
Shooting on Location2884292
Image and sound editing84893
Total image film per 1 minute40579485

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

PRODUCT VIDEO Decisions for individual project phases

Product video (3 minutes, calculated on total length):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process343265
Preparation of the shooting114172291
Shooting on Location9988 (o)1’005
Image and sound editing20328230
Total product film 3 minutes1’3482441’592
Product video (3 minutes, extrapolated to 1 minute):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process111122
Preparation for shooting385997
Shooting on Location3333 (o)335
Image and sound editing68977
Total product film per 1 minute44981531

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

WEBVIDEO Decisions for individual project phases

Web video (2 minutes, calculated on total length):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process232145
Preparation of the shooting3883121
Shooting on Location5747 (o)580
Image and sound editing1112124
Total web video 2 minutes747124870
Web video (2 minutes, extrapolated to 1 minute):
Work stepCreation 8Production 9Total
Creation process121122
Preparation for shooting194260
Shooting on Location2873 (o)290
Image and sound editing56662
Total web video per 1 minute37362435

Source: How many decisions does a film or video need? Study film production / “how many decisions …”

Footnotes and further explanation of the study “How many decisions …”

Commissioned films (German) or “Sponsored Movies” (English) are films or videos that are made to order by a company or institution, often in the course of campaigns.

The image film transports brand values. It makes competence an experience. To transport information and emotions, he uses a staged, creative or documentary approach. The red thread is usually the story, which ties in with a company-specific reference point from the life world of the viewer (source & © Condor Films™)

Parameters Image film: 5 minutes total length; number of key people: 3; number of employees (crew): 12; length per setting: 3 seconds; shot settings per shooting day: 20; actors: 3; extras: yes; music composition: yes; color grading: yes.

A commercial, often referred to as a TV spot or TV commercial (short form: TVC), is a short film which advertises a product, a brand or a service. In contrast to other film genres, the interview as a form of communication is rarely found in advertising films. The commercial is produced on behalf of the brand owner or product supplier by film agencies specialising in this field or by agencies in cooperation with film productions and is mostly used on TV or in the cinema and increasingly on the Internet. The reputation of an advertising spot is primarily intended to increase sales of the advertised product (awareness, triggering the intention to buy) or increase product confidence (image, sympathy). The advertising intention combines the commercial with the image film and other, longer advertising film formats. (Source & © Condor Films™)

Parameters commercial/TV spot: 30 seconds total length, number of key people: 5, number of employees (crew): 35; length per setting: 3 seconds; shot settings per shooting day: 10; number of actors: 3; extras: yes; music composition: yes; color grading: yes.

The product film puts unique selling points of products and services in the right light. The depth of information, emotionality and dramaturgy are based on the addressees’ prior knowledge, the market environment and the distribution channels. Sequences with information character are usually closely linked to the presentation of the benefit (Benefit) (Source & © Condor Films™)

Parameters Product film: 3 minutes total length; number of key people: 3; number of employees (crew): 12; length per shot: 3 seconds; number of shots shot per day: 20; actors: no; extras: yes; music composition: no; color grading: yes.

Web video, also known as internet video or online video, is understood here to be a film that can be viewed in digital form on a website and was primarily designed and produced for this purpose. This can be short clips as well as a video series. Image films or product films and other film genres that are only made available via the Internet as a supplement to other distribution measures are not considered web videos for the purposes of this study. (Source & © Condor Films™)

Parameter Web video: 2 minutes total length; number of key people: 1; number of employees (crew): 2; length per shot: 3 seconds; number of shots shot per day: 20; actors: no; extras: yes; music composition: no; color grading: no.

For the distinction between film and video and the corresponding definitions: see here.

Standardized workflow: based on the established processes of Condor Films AG [PDF for download here].

Direction: Direction is understood in the study “how many decisions …” as a creative function and, unlike in reality, includes for the study all (!) creative decisions, that are necessary for the production of a film. The term thus covers all creative functions and goes beyond the usual definition of directing. Specialist decisions that go beyond the general understanding of the filmmaker (e.g. special effects, the choice of special camera lenses or filter types were omitted).

Under the function producer, the study “how many decisions…” all (!) decisions that the production team needs to set the course for film and video production. Specialist decisions (e.g. legal questions or aspects of film insurance and all aspects of purchasing services were omitted).

In order to stay on the “safe side”, it was assumed that once planned and scheduled filming has taken place without incidents (= without the need for new, production decisions). This explains the ridiculously low number of production decisions during a shoot.

Rounded number, according to the data sheet the exact values for creation are 10.4 and for production 8.6.

12 Based on the experience of Condor Films AG and with a view to the market’s requirements for commercials, the theoretically calculated figures from the TV spot/commercials group were multiplied by a factor of 1.2 (= increased by a flat rate of 20%) to ensure practical relevance.

13 The theoretically calculated figures from the group image film are listed without adaptation to practice.

14 On the basis of Condor Films AG’s experience and in view of the cost pressure in the market and the simplified process flows that often accompany it, the theoretically calculated figures from the product film group were multiplied by a factor of 0.75 (= reduced by a flat rate of 25%) to ensure practical relevance.

15 Based on the experience of Condor Films AG and in view of the cost pressure of the market and the simplified processes that often accompany it, the theoretically calculated figures from the Webvideo group were multiplied by a factor of 0.65 (= reduced by 35% across the board) to ensure a practical reference.

The two possibilities for price determination, classical derivation and Reverse Budgeting, are equated in the study.

Request for inputs, tips and feedback

The results of the study on “how many decisions does a film or video need to make” and on the number of necessary decisions on the part of filmmakers for commissioned works, which forms the basis of this article, can be seen as a first step.

A refinement of the evaluation criteria and grouping of the decisions, together with a higher degree of detail and combined with reality checks based on scientifically supported reference productions, can again significantly increase the quality of the available results (not only from an academic point of view) with a probability bordering on certainty.

Filmpulse Editorial Office
About Filmpulse Editorial Office 180 Articles
Under the heading "Filmpulse Editorial Office", contributions appear which are jointly produced by several members of the staff.

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