What Does an Image Film Cost? The Most Important 4 Factors of Pricing in a Cost Estimate

what does an imagefilm cost
A movie is not cheaper, but it is not more expensive than a car. | © Pixabay

What is the minimum cost of CEO videos? How expensive is a web video really? What budget does a product film need? What is the cost of an image film and what is the acceptable range between high and just acceptable quality? These questions come up with nice regularity in connection with an estimate.

Your car dealer can answer the question, how much does a film cost! He knows. Because a video costs just as much as a car! The problem you and your trusted garage owner will face is the same as with film and video: A Rolls-Royce Ghost costs incomparably more than the small Nissan Micra. Depending on the garage and brand, the automotive assault on the wallet will therefore end up fundamentally different. All cars are not created equal. And not all movies are the same.

Four elements help to get to grips with the variety and, at first sight, almost infinite number of price-determining factors.

What does an image film or video cost?

Whereas for a new car, for example, the brand, engine capacity and size are price-determining factors, for a film there are primarily four important factors. They all shape the answer to the question “What does an image film cost?”. These points are:

  • the scope of the production
  • the level of emotionrequired
  • the purpose
  • the genre

Further drivers are mentioned at the end of the article and can also be found in the film checklist Briefing Image Film.

Degree of staging of the video

First of all, there is always the question to what degree an image film or social video documents or stages reality. A classification into three types of videos is presented in the article Making Video. This also explains why the client of a film or video has only one important decision to make.

Filmed reality is always cheaper than staged reality. But also less powerful in effect.

Filmed reality may be less elaborate, but it is also often markedly less attractive to the viewer. This promises itself from a film and video not only information, but also emotions and entertainment. Watching films always means feeling. This leads to the second important question regarding “What does an image film cost?”, namely that of the extent of emotionality.

Emotions in film

Emotionality and storytelling can only arise where identification areas are created (more on this in the article Storytelling in Image Films). People orient themselves to other people. They do not identify themselves with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, but with people and lifeworlds that can serve as reference values for them. What does an image film cost? is also the question of the amount of emotion in a film or web video.

Intended use

In practice, the closer the film is to the product and the shorter the time available, the more carefully and qualitatively the production must be approached. This is extremely relevant to the question of what does an image film cost?

The prime example of this is the advertising film: in TV commercials, six-figure sums are often invested for 20 seconds. Every shot has to be right, the message should strike like lightning and the staging of the product must leave no questions unanswered. After all, it’s all about image, sympathy, awareness and last but not least: sales. That’s why there can’t be any coincidences. Every second is planned. This causes effort and therefore costs.

Cars and films are more alike in purpose than one might think at first glance. Film and car are means of transport. Cars transport people. Films and videos transport information and emotions for people.

Both times it is also a question of transport safety, i.e. with what probability the destination can be reached at what cost.

In the case of cars, a powerful engine and the art of engineering have always helped, today usually in combination with computer-aided safety assistants. In film, on the other hand, experience and talent help. And the knowledge that there are over forty highly specialised professions in moving image production (from dialogue writer to lighting technician, from make-up to focus puller) for a reason.

Would you get into a car that a single person built from A to Z by himself to win a car race? Applied to the cinematic craft, the same question is: As a brand manager, would you entrust a single video journalist with the translation of your brand values into moving images for an image film?


The variety of definitions of genre (see Defining types of film) in image film production is almost as varied as those used to distinguish films from video (article What is video?).

If we define genre not as Western, adventure film or romantic comedy as in feature films, but as a group of similar communication tasks (image film, product film, recruitment video, etc.), then the genre plays a role in determining the price and the question “what does an image film cost? After all, the planned communication measure does not take place in a vacuum, but in the environment of the competitors.

To win the battle for attention, it can make sense to pull up to a luxury hotel on a scooter instead of a luxury car. In full awareness of one’s own actions and carried out quite purposefully, the refusal of laws seemingly mandated by genre can be extremely clever and at the same time price-reducing.

On the other hand, in the case of unconscious (or even worse: grossly negligent) disregard for the competitive environment, it usually comes to a head. Success seldom comes from ignorance. And when they do, it’s usually only thanks to chance or luck. This cannot be a strategy for professional communication with film and video.

Reference values: Online film cost calculator

With the online film cost calculator from Filmpuls, it is easy to determine guideline values for the price of a video. Enter length and genre and the calculator will show both a ballpark cost and the time frame required for production. This is calculated backwards from the date to which the film must be completed.

Other cost factors for the production costs of a film or video

Other price-determining factors when creating an image film for the creation and production of a film or a web video are:

  • the talent and experience of the key creative and operational people involved,
  • the number of shooting days required to complete the task, and
  • the necessary film locations,
  • the required technical equipment (available camera types, lighting, stage, etc.), and
  • the extent of the subsequent digital image and sound processing,
  • together with any necessary 2-D/3-D elements,
  • the extent of the rights required to use the work (depending on the type of film, use, distribution channels, territories and duration of use), and
  • the effort required to acquire new customers. This can vary significantly depending on the provider.

Again, a comparison to the question “what does an image film cost?”: What the spare parts are for a car, the archiving is for a film. Without professional archiving of the film, no repairs, i.e. later film adaptations, are possible. Neither in terms of length, nor for language versions, nor for social media use, nor to use the footage in other films or videos.

What does an image film cost: Checklist for cost estimate

If you have a rough idea of the extent to which you want your film or video to be documented or staged, if you know what emotions and to what extent you want to evoke in your target audience, you are well on your way to success with a meaningful Checklist for a briefing without any problems in the position to approach the next steps towards realisation in a targeted and efficient way.

You need to know

  • The price of an image film is driven by four price-determining factors. These are: the staging, the use of emotion, the intended effect and the form / genre.
  • In addition, there are other cost drivers such as the talent and experience of actors and key personnel involved in the production (director, camera, author, composer), the compensation of rights (archive recordings and music) and, for example, computer-animated digital effects.
  • Image films are usually individual works – and thus the characteristics for pricing are closer to a prototype than to a serial product.

Click here for an overview of all the film pulse checklists available free of charge.

Conclusion to the question “How much does an image film cost?”

Back to the original question: What does an image film cost?

Of course, the comparison between making movies and cars, which is strained in this article, is somewhat lame. It had to serve here primarily for the increase of the memory value and for illustration and comparison purposes.

One thing, however, is certainly true and applies to cars just as it does to movies and videos: the price range and variety of options. Used cars are offered for sale for less than 5’000.- (some offers you buy at your own risk of course). At the same time, you can find deals on cars that cost in the five and six figures.

But there is one thing to remember: cars are almost always mass-produced industrial products. In contrast, films always have the character of prototypes in terms of content. Films are projects. Costs also always have to do with the question of how long does a video have to be?

What costs nothing is worth nothing. Which costs a lot, maybe.
Walter Ludin

If you get involved in prototyping on a field-and-forest basis, you run the risk of ending up with a lawnmower or a kitchen mixer instead of a car. This also applies to image films and image videos. Audiovisual works always require from their creators, without exception and without mercy, three key skills relevant to success: Experience, talent and expertise. And yes. These three elements can also be price-determinants for the question “What does an image film or a web video really cost?”.

Further information on costs and budgets and a table with reference prices can be found in the FILMPULS article: What does a film cost.

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.

Editorial Staff Filmpulse
About Editorial Staff Filmpulse 264 Articles
Under the designation Editorial Staff Filmpulse, articles appear that are created or edited jointly by several members of the editorial staff.

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