Production Budget Cuts That Are Costing You Money

Posted by Ashley McChesney

A detailed look at production budgeting


In our two-part series we are taking a look at budgets in the commercial production world. Today we are exploring the cuts that are actually costing you money. Check back soon to see our second part of this series – Cuts That Are Killing Your Concept.


Smart budgeting tips from the Production Company


At Skystorm, we pride ourselves as an all in one solution – and with that comes the benefit of a lower bottom line. We have 24 hour access to our own in-house studio, award winning producers and directors already on staff, plus the economy of scale that our post department brings to the table. But everything has its limit, and at some point decisions have to be made on budget for any project. These are the most common cuts that will potentially cost you money in the end.


Production equipment cuts that will cost you money


Stabilizing Equipment


Every shoot has different equipment needs, but this is an expense that should never be cut. Using a gimble when a steadicam is needed, dance flooring a dolly when it needed to be on track, or panning on a low cost fluid head…these and many other miss-uses of the right tools for the wrong job can cause big losses in post efficiency. Stabilizing, reframing, remapping and other time intensive (therefore costly) fixes may need to be considered to resolve shots that are poorly planned or inaccurately executed.


Bottom Line: Costs additional post time, last minute equipment rentals and possible shoot days


Ample Lighting and Grip


These should be cut with caution. Be very aware of how many location changes require setup. Keeping extra lighting and grip in the budget ensures that production stays on time because the gaffers can get ahead of set build so that the rest of the crew can walk on to a ready set instead of waiting. Additionally, keeping this equipment at bare minimum means that you are only prepared for ordinary circumstances – and may require renting last minute equipment if things don’t run perfectly.


Bottom Line: Costs additional post time, last minute equipment rentals and possible shoot days


The production crew cuts that are costing you money


Quite a bit of budgeting comes down to deciding what crew are absolutely necessary to a production and which are expendable. Unfortunately, this can be a very short-sighted way of approaching the problem. Just because a person can do 5 things and possibly 3 of them at the same time, does not mean it should actually be done. Especially in the heat of the moment on film days.


Script Supervisor


Trying to solve for continuity inconsistencies in post is a challenge. Often times, it means changing the intended shot sequence of something, which in turn can lose the original intended feeling. But sometimes it can be even more impactful than that and it requires are reshoot altogether.


Bottom Line: Costs additional production days


Audio Assist


Asking your mixer to boom can be a fine situation. But when your mixer is also troubleshooting wireless signals, mixing, servicing your comtecs, and trying to have the boom in the right place – something will go wrong … and you might not know it until it’s too late.


Bottom Line: Costs additional post production time and talent hours


DIT (Digital Image Technician)


They should be used when shooting with a highly stylized look, high frame rates or just for added confidence. DITs are there to provide support. Without a DIT you can find yourself in post trying to resolve color that you hadn’t planned for, trying to salvage a high-speed shot with dropped frames or trying to decode a corrupt card or data dump that could have been spotted and re-shot or solved on-set.


Bottom Line: Costs additional post production time and possibility additional production days


VFX Supervisor


From laying tracking marks where they will be useful for post VFX, to confirming an even and solvable key, skipping out on a VFX supervisor when you know some (even light) VFX will be needed is a fatal error that will cost you extra hours or days to solve in post, or potentially even reshooting content.


Bottom Line: Costs additional post production time and possibility additional production days


Smart Cuts to Production Crew Budgets


All of that said, there is a smart way to combine crew roles if needed as long as expectations are realistic. On a smaller, non-union production, a line producer can also perform as 1st AD. It may even be that a 2nd AD may not be needed at all.


Trust Your Production Company


Above all, the most important thing is to work with a production company that you trust. Your production company and producers will have the best understanding of who is needed – and they shouldn’t be afraid of telling you hard truths about what is and is not possible on the budget you are working with.