“So what is this going to cost us?”
There’s no doubt that educational video is great way to reach a wide audience. On mobile devices alone, YouTube reaches more 18-to-49 year-olds than any broadcast or cable TV network.
Educational video can generate trust in your expertise and build awareness for your product. Or, if you’re in a non-commercial organization that has a public-facing mission, educational video can help teach, and motivate people to act.
But it does cost more than a handful of blog posts.
In my experience, if you’re planning to release a one-off video, or a short campaign of just a handful of episodes, you’re probably best off contracting out to a production company that specializes in educational content.
However, if you want to build a library of material that will support your brand or mission over the long term, it is far less expensive to build in-house expertise and leverage your own knowledgeable staff.
The two most expensive parts of making an educational video are research/writing and motion graphics. These consume worker-hours in direct proportion to the complexity of the material and how much visual interest you need the resulting video to have.
Take for example, Crash Course, a popular educational series on YouTube. Created by Hank Green and John Green, Crash Course produces multipart series about science, literature, history, and philosophy. Their episodes are well-researched and well-written, and feature an impressive amount of animation and motion graphics. According to John Green, a 10-minute episode of Crash Course costs about $5000 USD. And, in comparison to the rates that a video production company would charge for a similar product on contract, that price is relatively low.
That said, I nevertheless think building an in-house capacity for your own videos can be even more cost effective.
Earlier this year, I produced a pilot project of an eleven-episode educational series titled Getting Started with Micrium OS, which we delivered on YouTube and our corporate web site. The duration of the project, from start date to delivery of the final episode, was about 15 weeks. The episodes varied in length from 5 to 12 minutes. And they featured a modest amount of motion graphics in each episode.
The series taught the basic concepts of kernel programming, and was based on existing material in the form of PowerPoint slides and presentation notes that had originally been used for in-person training. The material was restructured and extensively rewritten into scripts, a process that took three to four weeks.
Key take-away: Starting with existing technical documentation, white papers, industry press articles, or presentations will help jump-start the conception and writing process for your scripts.
The eleven episodes of the series were shot over four days. Some lighting equipment was rented for the week. A conference room was converted into a studio for the duration of the shoot, and decorated mostly with items found around the office.
After photography was complete, the first episode took two weeks to edit and illustrate; each subsequent episode required three to five working days. The music for the series was found in a library of copyright-free songs.
In the end, editing and illustrating the eleven videos required about 45 working days.
Key take-away: Series are much more cost effective to produce on a per-episode basis than one-offs. The episodes of a series will have commonalities such as music, graphical elements, and an editorial style that don’t have to be redesigned for each episode.
The series presenter was Matt Gordon, who authored the original material and reviewed the scripts for technical accuracy. I wrote the scripts, built the set, rented the lighting and teleprompter, shot all the video, and performed all the postproduction work.
To sum up the numbers:
- Eleven episodes with an average duration of 7.5 minutes
- Total duration: 82.5 minutes; script length 15400 words
- Preproduction: about 16 working days
- Production: about four working days
- Postproduction: about 45 working days
Every project is different, so take these numbers as a rough guide only. But considering the power of educational video to reach, inform, and motivate people, some might consider this a bargain.