Parameters: The Calculation Before the Calculation for Video Productions

Parameters: The calculation before the calculation for film and video
In the numbers cockpit of film production | © Pixabay

The Greek word parameter refers to a special group of variables in an equation. For film and video, solving the equation leads to the desired end result. The variables along the way are, in particular, budget, quality or deadlines.

For the costing of film projects, the handling of variables plays an important role in the success of the project.

You need to know

  • Project parameters are nothing more than key data or benchmarks: pillars or groups that specify a direction or type of implementation.
  • Many parameters are interconnected in a film project. They influence each other mutually.
  • With a film budget, neatly defined parameters help to steer and control the project.

Why parameters are important

Parameters in the film business influence not only the final result, but also each other. Like lift and gravity for an airplane in the air, they keep a project in proper balance. Key data and assumptions are two different pairs of shoes.

While key data conceptually stands for a fixed value, parameters are flexible. That makes them special and valuable. Only those assumptions that have been made and defined in a binding manner become key data on the basis of the definition used for this article. However, not only key data but also the sum of variable assumptions can be binding.

This is if they are within a single number category. For example, within a film budget, the “total” (the final sum) may be bindingly specified by a client. At the same time, there may be some flexibility in the allocation of individual budget items. This is where the parameters come into play.

Three-part article series on budgeting

Three phases of film calculation


In professional film budgeting, three steps are distinguished:

  1. Parameterization (Article 1 of 3)
  2. Budgeting/calculation with calculation schema (article 2 of 3)
  3. Site assessments and recalculation (Article 3 of 3)

This first article of the Filmpuls series on costing deals with parameters and shows with an example how a professional film budget can be structured. The entire scope of possible key data is outlined in the Filmpuls article Checklist for Shooting.

Terms and technical terms

Budget and cost estimate are used in the following with equal priority. In the day-to-day business of many film and video production facilities, the term “costing” is often used to describe the so-called costing (real costs, internal budget), while the word “budget” refers to prizing (price / customer budget / cost estimate).

To distinguish and handle action costs, profit and markup and to read calculations, the article series on film costs and film budgets provides information. Information on prizing can be found in the Filmpuls article What does an image film cost?

Research and analysis are an essential part of the parameterization and budgeting of a project. They are provided several times during all work steps (1-3) and are therefore not shown as a single area.

Example for the parameterization of a film calculation

Parameterization can only be handled sensibly if a value is first set for each parameter. It makes sense that this corresponds to the current state of knowledge at the start of the project and/or the commissioning of a film project. The necessary basic data have usually already been defined by the customer on the basis of a film concept (see also Briefing Image Film and the associated Film Pulse Checklist), further key data are to be worked out by the film production itself.

The basic data for parameters can be listed in the film cost estimate as follows, for example, if a film concept already exists:

Parameters: 1. basic data

Working title[Filmtitel]
Media/area of application[Ex. TV]
Operating time[Ex: 1 year]
First use[Ex: January 1, 2017.]
Length[Ex: 30 seconds]
Versions[Ex: 1 version]
director’s cut[Ex: No.]
Language versions[Ex. German]
Subtitle[Ex: No.]
Director[Ex: Tim Talent]
Cameraman[Ex: Leo Linse.]
Filming days[Ex: 2 days]
Travel days[Ex: none.]
Weather dependency[Ex: Yes]

Afterwards, it is important to be clear about the scope of the preparation for shooting (pre-production). The necessary theses for the parameters must and should usually be worked out by the film production or video production:

Parameters: 2. preproduction

Location scouting (search for locations, if not already existing)[Ex: included.]
Preliminary inspection of the filming locations by the director[Ex: 1 day]
Pre-shoot inspection of locations with cameraman and head lighting technician[Ex: Yes]
Storyboard (to be created by the production with the assistance of the director)[Ex: Yes]
Casting of the actors and extras through production[Ex: Yes]
Preproduction meeting (PPM) with customer[Ex: Yes]
Fitting (selection of costumes with customer)[Ex: Yes]

If actors are also included in the concept, script / storyboard, initial assumptions must be made for them as well:

Parameters: 3. cast buy-outs

Number of actors (Cast)[Ex: 2 people.]
Featured Extras[Ex: 4 people.]
Extras[Ex: 5 people.]
Other[Ex: No.]
Buyouts included in offer?[Ex: Yes]
Scope Buy-out[Ex: 1 year TV + Internet, D/A/CH]
Travel and Hotel[Ex: Included.]

Similarly, the parameters also require an assumption on how the upcoming project needs to be staffed with talent (key people) and in terms of team size to be able to achieve the necessary goals:

Parameter: 4. key talent / crew

Director’s fee[Ex: Included.]
Fee for cameraman[Ex: Included.]
domestic crew[Ex: Included.]
foreign crew[Ex: No.]
Special[Ex: including stuntman]

Announcements for the extent and the kind of the necessary technology result from the script and from the desires of the cinematographer and further Head of Departments:

Parameters: 5. equipment/technique

Camera[Ex: Included.]
Turning format[Ex: HD]
Rotating material[Ex: Digital 4K]
Special lenses[Ex: 40 mm, 45 mm + 60 mm]
Audio[Ex: Yes]
Light package[Ex: Included.]
Grip / stage material[Ex: Included.]
Power connection/generator[Ex: Included.]

The script and storyboard also provide information about the filming locations, which are also defined for the start:

Parameters: 6. location/studio

Indoor location[Ex: 2, Apartment and Kitchen]
Outdoor location[Ex: Driveway to single-family home]
Studio[Ex: Included.]
Special[Ex: including cleaning]

If film sets and people are equipped, hypotheses must also be made about this:

Parameters: 7. equipment

Set dressing[Ex: Included.]
Costume and styling[Ex: Included.]
Special[Ex: Rent with return.]

Making films is not just about making decisions. A film or video always needs to be organized. If the corresponding effort is not included in the contribution margin, the markup or the prices, the estimated effort must be provided for in the cost estimate:

Parameters: 8. logistics

Mobile phones[Ex: domestic only (flat fee)].
Data transfer[Ex: Included.]
Production vehicles[Ex: 3 vehicles.]
Catering / Meals[Ex: On-Site Movie Catering]
Travel[Ex: Included.]
Hotel[Ex: Included.]
Insurances[Ex: Included.]
production service[Ex: No (not required).
Subcontractors[Ex: No (not required).

In the montage, the film is created anew. This knowledge belongs to the basics of film production. Image editing and sound post production are also a universe unto themselves. It is therefore not broken down in detail in this article, but summarised in categories:

Parameters: 9. postproduction

Image post production[Ex: Included.]
Audio post production[Ex: Included.]
Travel & Hotel[Ex: not necessary.]
Speaker[Ex: 1 Speaker, Language: D]
Scope of rights of use Speaker[Ex: TV + Internet, D-A-CH]
Music[Ex: Composer.]
Scope of rights of use for music[Ex: TV + Internet, D-A-CH]
Subcontractors[Ex: No (not required).

Setting the parameters

In order to set the parameters for a project optimally (there is rarely a “right”), it is first necessary to make assumptions for the video calculation. These are either the result of research and facts that have already been gathered (quotes obtained, for example, for the desired film location) or from experience. In this first round of the calculation, the parameters are set and changed until the total of the offer corresponds to the desired result. Only then, from this point on, does the second and more important part of setting variables begin: the fine-tuning of the Production Value.

Parameterization, the optimal setting of variables as parameters, ultimately means nothing other than optimizing and securing the production value with the variables of a project through the best possible weighting of all known and unknown factors.

This is made possible by creating different scenarios. These are weighed against each other with their respective advantages and disadvantages, possibly also combined and supplemented with new variants. At the end of this process there is a budget that reflects all opportunities and risks in a conscious and controlled manner on the basis of detailed theses (which in turn are based on analyses and research).

Put another way. Parameters are the weighting of values within a film budget and thus nothing more and nothing less than the targeted setting of priorities in a film or video budget. With the right predictions, precision landings succeed.

Guideline values for parameters for films and videos

At the touch of a button, Filmpuls’ online film cost calculator provides initial guidelines on the costs and time frame required for the production of a video or film in a matter of seconds. This depends on genre and film length.

The parameters in a cost estimate are also the crucial tool when it comes to making a budget cut. Only by taking these key data into account can a film budget be reduced in a justifiable manner and without any reduction in quality that is visible at first glance.

Continuation of the series on calculating film and video budgets

A table with guideline values for different film genres can be found here: What does a film cost and in the online film cost calculator from Filmpulse.

Part 2 of the series on film costing deals with the actual budgeting and costing in addition to the parameters and presents an example of a costing scheme. The final part 3 deals with analysis and post calculation.

In the interest of readability, only masculine job titles are used. © Graphic Design: Freepik | © Filmpulse

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

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