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The Utterly Innaccurate Guide to Video Production Times for Nonprofits, CSR and Cause Marketing

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The Utterly Innaccurate Guide to Video Production Times for Nonprofits, CSR and Cause Marketing

An INTRODUCTION To Cause Marketing Videos

It baffles me.

They start off sounding so sensible.

”What kind of video would you like?”

”This one.”

”How much would you like to invest?”

”This much.”

”And when would you like it finished by?”



Here’s the thing: sometimes you can finish a video by Wednesday.

Our record is 8 days.

But we had to pay people not to eat and sleep for a week. And if you’re rushing it like this, your money is being invested into getting it done quickly, not getting it done well.

If you’d planned ahead a little better, you could have got exactly the same video for a much lower price, or a much better video for the same price.

I like this from a guy on Quora:

“A video can be three things: good, fast and cheap… But you can only pick TWO!”

So if you want a video that is good and cheap, you need to leave some time to make it.

The problem is, if you leave too much time, the project could drag on unnecessarily.

Parkinson’s Principle applies:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

So what is a ‘’reasonable’’ time for a video to take?

In this post we’re going to find out how to plan a reasonable deadline,  and why it’s so important to get that right.




Unfortunately it’s similar to asking  how long a painting will take?

Or how much a good meal costs?

You can get guidelines but there are no hard and fast rules.

Nevertheless I’ve promised you answers, and you’ll get them.

The best way:

  1. Write a comprehensive video brief, outlining what you’re looking to achieve, and how much you’d like to invest.
  2. Send the brief to fifty, or one hundred professional video outlets, and ask them how long they think that would take.
  3. Take the average time of all of their time estimates, then add two months. Almost all studios will present you with the optimistic version, and it’s much better for you to take the skeptical position.

If this seems like a lot of work for a little reward, it’s because you’re using the wrong system. Read: High ROI Videos: The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits, CSR and Cause Marketing



If you can’t be bothered to use the above method, here’s the hard and fast way.

Back to my Quora guy:

‘’3 minute very  low budget corporate video:  3 days planning, one shoot day, one day in editing.  Approved and posted to the web/youtube in one week. Warning: we are likely talking a very high high smell content.

3 min med budget corporate.  2 weeks planning, two shoot days (or one with bigger crew) 3 day edit, posted in 3 weeks

3 min higher budget corporate: 3 weeks planning, two shoot days,  3 days rough cut, approvals, two days fine cut, posted in 6-8 weeks.

3 minute high budget corporate video: likely 4-6 months of planning, numerous shooting days, lots of VFX (digital visual effects) multiple cuts, music rights etc.  Posted within 6-9 months

3 minutes of a short film, could be anywhere from a day to a year.  There are 4,500 frames in 2.5 minutes (@30fps) if the production is done at a high level they will care about each and every frame and each and every audio bit in the mix.’’

I think this is a reasonable summation. I would add that if you’re going to try and get a video made pro-bono, you can expect to wait a lot longer. For more read: How To Make Kickass Videos For Free (and Why You Probably Shouldn’t Want To)


Key Considerations When Estimating Video Production Times


The longer a video, the longer it takes to make.

I could go on…

To find out how long your video should be, read The Truth About Length: a Scientific Gudie to Video Times for Nonprofits, CSR and Cause Marketing



The deciding factor in most video production times are visuals:

Computer animations are faster than hand-drawn.

2D is faster than 3D.

Filming is faster than animation.

Stock footage is faster than filming.

Editing is slower than all of them.

Voiceovers should never take longer than one or a two days.

And music should ideally be completed throughout the visual process (and therefore irrelevant to the overall time frame).



Before you work with a team,  find out:

  1. How many other projects they have on the go, and
  2. How big their team is.

If they only have 5 videographers, and they’re running five video projects, clearly you can expect yours to take significantly longer – unless you offer to pay extra for priority.



It’s obvious, but how long it takes a client to respond makes a big difference in the overall time it takes to make a video.

The key is to make sure you have a slick feedback and review system set up so that everyone in your team is ready to respond.

If you haven’t already, read: How to Get Thousands of People to Help Make Your Video



Having a clear sense of how long a video should take will save you time, effort and money.

But it’s not always clear what a reasonable time might be.

It’s best to take the average of a large number of estimates, and adopt the pessimistic position.

Style, length, availability and feedback systems all need to be taken into account.

Don’t go in blind.

Disagree? Are we missing something? How long did your video take? Add your thoughts and comments to the discussion below.

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