Live Action Video on a Budget

There’s nothing quite as engaging as a live action video on a Budget done well. But live action has a reputation for being expensive. And rightly so! But are there ways of making it more affordable? Here is our snappy guide to making a great live-action video on a budget.

Video: live action like the one below is super cool, but it can cost a lot of money.


Why is Live Action Expensive?

Live action is costly because lots of work goes into it…. by many people. It’s that simple. A good production needs a whole host of talent and a well-executed video can easily set you back $20-$50k. Why? Well, here’s a typical list of people on a job:

  • Script writer
  • Producer
  • Voiceover artist
  • Film crew:
    • Director
    • Director of Photography (DOP)
    • Videographer(s)
    • Actor(s)
    • Sound Engineer
    • Gaffer
    • Key Grip
    • Hair & Makeup Stylist
    • Prop Stylist
    • Shoot PA
  • Designer
  • Motion Graphics Editor
  • Sound Engineer in studio

As you can see it’s a lot of people. But none of them are a waste of space. A film shoot is a busy place and all of these people play a vital part. On basic shoots, a single person may fulfill more than one of the above roles. For example, a DOP may double as the director.

Clearly, not everyone has a $20k-$50k budget so what are the ways to make it more affordable? We’ll tell you how below. The most important factor is the concept/script.


An Affordable Live Action Video Starts with the Script

A talented scriptwriter can write a budget-conscious script that will execute well. The main factor that determines cost is complexity. Film crews tend to charge by half-day or full-day so if you’re on a budget you don’t want to be adding shooting time for the wrong reasons.


Reduce Scenes and Locations

Filming a video takes way longer than you might think. Setting up a scene takes ages. The lighting, props, and surroundings all have to be agonized over and constantly adjusted before you even shoot a moment of the film. So if your video needs multiple locations and a whole bunch of different scenes, you’re setting yourself up for a long, complicated shoot… and that means money. It’s best to minimize the number of scene changes so you don’t need to move around lighting etc too much.

For example, here below we had to film in a car but other than that we didn’t have a lot of scenes or complications.


Reduce or Eliminate Acting

Don’t script in unnecessary acting sequences. Acting adds complication and a single fail here will reduce the value of your video, big-time. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to nail that “wry smile” you so casually wrote into the script. Acting is best left to the experts, such as actual paid actors. If you’re on a budget your roster of actors will be limited and using a casting director is a way out of the question. Also, if you don’t have a full filming crew, including the director and DOP, you risk laying too much at the feet of your crew and your execution will suffer.

A good option in some cases is to use no dialogue at all and to film based on a loose script. Here below we did exactly that:


Don’t Compromise on Sound

Having good sound is a surefire way to increase production value. Use a sound engineer during filming if you have any live spoken portions. If your video needs a voiceover artist, use a professional. Working with a good sound studio in post-production is a must.


Use Stock Video to Reduce Scenes and Locations

By using stock videos wisely you can add some visual interest without having to fork out for a half day’s filming somewhere. No need to rent a helicopter to get that New York skyline shot! See below where we used stock video to replace an actor (the delivery person) and save ourselves shooting time.


Make your Whole Video out of Stock Instead

The easiest way by far to reduce cost is to avoid filming altogether. By combining stock video with animation and some slick scripting, you can actually make some really great videos. This is actually one of our specialities, e.g. see our article on creating explainer videos with stock.


Live Action Video In Summary

The best way to make a good live-action video on a tight budget is to keep it simple. You should spend money on scripting and design, but save money by reducing complexity so that you pay for fewer hours of work. Are you thinking of getting a live-action video? Get in touch and let’s discuss some ideas. You can also view more of our live action explainer videos on our YouTube page.