How Much Does It Cost To Create Media?

With so many pro newspaper and magazines trying to create video on their own web sites, it is a good time to visit how much does it cost? Over the years our Journalism department has morphed into a Media department as we have added a TV program, a web site and now a video program. I now have a yearbook, newspaper, video, web design and television program.

How much does all this cost? Just like pros, we have to deal with all the issues of cost.

As a media teacher or principal who is trying to decide how much to budget, first you have to decide if you are going to go first class, budget or somewhere in between.

I’m going to go with numbers based on a 20-seat lab with 2-student crews for video/broadcast.

Computers: Mac mini with 120 GB HD, 1GB RAM & Superdrive $800/Dell Insprion 531 250GB HD 1GB RAM & DVD/CDR Plus 1394 Card and DVD buner @$700
Cameras: Canon ZR800 – one of the last mini DV cameras with a mic input. $200-350 plus a 4 pin to 6 pin 1394 (firewire) cable.
Software: iMovie or Moviemaker (free with OS)
Tripods: Canon Tripods $40 ea.
Total: $19,500

Computers: same as above, but could upgrade to better processors.
Software: Adobe Premiere Elements $99 per seat, Final Cut Express $99 per seat
Cameras: HV20 Canon $1000
Total: $25,000

Pro Level:
Computers: 24 in iMac 500 GB HD, 2GB RAM, superdrive ($2299) or Dell XPS 420 500 GB HD, 3GB RAM DVDR Drive ($1699)
Software: Adobe Premiere Pro ($3000 Lab Pack), Final Cut Studio ($14,000)
Camera: Canon XL2 $2500 ea.
Total: $68,000-79,000

This doesn’t even cover any kind of studio or remote shoot capability or disposables and extras like tapes, mics, etc. So to do video right will cost a minimum of $20,000 to $80,000 to do right.

Now, of course some of these items you might already have or have supplied by your district – like the computers.

Now, other programs are not so intensive to set up, but a Newspaper or Yearbook class is still going to need MS Office (@1,200 lab pack) and Adobe InDesign CS3 (@$3,000 lab pack). Plus of course computers, printers, etc. It would also do well to have a few cameras (Canon Powershot A560 $140) plus one or two good pro SLR cameras for sports (with a long lens 70-300mm). (Canon Rebel EOS Digital $500 plus $400 lens).

Web design is similar, but I would recommend a CMS (content management system program like Adobe Contribute $99 a seat) plus a solid web design application like Adobe GoLive ($3,000 for a lab pack). You will also need FTP (file transfer application) and an application like MS Word or a simple text app to write HTML and CSS files. You will also need a web browser, but Safari and Explorer are free and so is Firefox.

And for all of these programs, you should have Adobe Photoshop CS3 ($3,000 for a lab pack).

So, you can see that Media is not cheap.  It is very computer and software/hardware intensive.  There are some Open Source (free) alternatives, but they are not as polished as pro products and have no tech support.  Plus there is no substitute for using industry standard software and equipment.

Mr. C



  1. […] A MAIORIA das universidades portuguesas está mal equipada para ensinar jornalismo e para acompanhar tecnologicamente as constantes mudanças que o jornalismo enfrenta. É por isso que este post é interessante e devia ser lido por quem decide estas coisas: How much does it cost to create media. […]

  2. […] How Much Does It Cost To Create Media? From “Teach J,” a Texas journalism and media tech teacher, a breakdown on what it costs to get new media tools into the classroom. For the 20-seat classes, the estimates range from $19,500 at the budget end to $79,000 for pro-level equipment, and that’s just for video. (All you newspaper folk out there moaning about how unprepared j-school grads are for the new “real world,” might want to consider a donation to the local school.) Via Ponto Media. […]

  3. I have been teaching online journalism/communications at university level and created two labs in the past 9 years in Brasil. Recently I started using open source software in a digital inclusion project. I learned that these programs are very well developed nowadays. They work well ans may be considered a very good option for cutting costs in education. Sure, you need good Linux support. Market standarts? If school change their standarts the market will follow in some time. It is also helpful for students starting their own business. I am about to develop another university level digital (online) media lab. I consider using open source software. I would suggest the study of this possibility. Think about it.

  4. Militao Ricardo – I agree Open Source software is a great help – especially at its price – Free! But in my school district we have two limitations with Open Source – 1) many school districts won’t let you use it if you didn’t pay for it and 2) Linux support is non-existent. Too many schools have been suckered into the Microsoft model because that is what their IT dept. is comfortable with. Even Macs are looked at with scorn. But you’ll see some Open Source apps in my resources and downloads lists.

    Mr. C

  5. Web design is similar, but I would recommend a CMS (content management system program like Adobe Contribute $99 a seat) plus a solid web design application like Adobe GoLive ($3,000 for a lab pack). You will also need FTP (file transfer application) and an application like MS Word or a simple text app to write HTML and CSS files. You will also need a web browser, but Safari and Explorer are free and so is Firefox.

    I don’t really consider Contribute to be a content management system, unless they’ve significantly upgraded it since I last saw it. It’s more a “don’t screw up the template” system. 🙂 There are excellent free content management systems available that only require a server and PHP/MySQL – WordPress, Joomla, and others. GoLive is dead, as far as I know, replaced by Dreamweaver, which has its own problems. There are excellent free FTP apps (Cyberduck) although we use Fetch ($15). I would never encourage people to write HTML/CSS in Word – it’s not really made for that kind of coding. TextWrangler is a free editor from the folks who make BBEdit, and it works a lot better than TextEdit (at least in OS 10.4).

  6. also, re: GoLive – for all its challenges, I have to say Dreamweaver is much preferred over GoLive, and much more used by the industry.

  7. I see you still keep this blog going, so although it’s an old entry I’ll respond anyway. I ran a digital media lab 3 years ago & at the time we did quite well on open source & free software.

    We used Avid Free, GIMP, Open Office, Swish & sundry other free & open source softwares & built a fine digital media lab that was “good enough” for high school students.

    The beauty of this was no more warez on the network & the students took home a CD-ROM full of legal software that was the same software we used at the school.

    Avid Free is no more, but there are other free or inexpensive video editors available now that are “good enough” on Windows & plenty that are pro-grade on Linux (dual boot).

    So when you say you “need” all those commercial licenses, I laugh as a teacher, and I’m irked as a parent & taxpayer. That’s an expensive software habit you “need.”

  8. I do respond to comments on my older posts.

    I guess I only have a couple of things to respond to your comment. 1) As I said in my post, there are many school districts that are outright opposed to Open Source. Things have improved some in my district since we now have a new director of IT. 2) Open Source is often good enough, but not the same as training students on industry standard software. If the goal is just to teach the kids some basics, then that is fine. But if you really want to use taxpayer money to prepare students for the workforce, then you need to give them the correct tools. My students are often frustrated when I have to tell them “we can’t do that” because we can’t afford the tech. To them it is the same as saying “you’re not good enough.” They know there are many schools that do have all the latest and greatest tech and software. 3) Open Source and Linux have little or no support, workshops or training available. It is hard to teach something that you can’t learn yourself or support properly.

  9. I really hate to come down on you hard about your position. Unless you’re running a trade school your position is a budget-busting case of wants – not needs – that locks more students out of all media labs in your schools.

    1. There’s open source, free & inexpensive software on Windows. Linux is not required. Even for video editing (the big killer app these days) there’s Avidemux, Zwei-Stein, Jahshaka that are free, and if you must insist on payware at least get the lite versions.

    2. If payware is unaffordable then you’re completely locking them out from any kind of digital media education. If it’s restricted to your digital media lab, same thing, there’s a technology bottleneck caused by costs.

    3. If you’re paying for expensive payware then you’re taking money out of your hardware budget (cameras, scanners, microscopes, robots).

    4. If you’re paying for expensive payware then the kids can’t take it home to do their homework. Either that or you’re forcing them to get in bitorrent & downloading warez.

    5. Open source is now fully viable on the desktop & will be the next generation’s tool of choice as they continue on in higher education b/c it’s portable to all platforms, from little UMPCs to full desktops. This is how Apple gets people addicted to Macs, right?

    6. I taught myself & my students GIMP, Avidemux, Avid Free DV, Swish, Open Office, etc., in a matter of weeks (and I’m 40-something). The kids’ skill sets aren’t the barrier to entry. The kids had no problem picking up using the open source apps. Actually it was the teachers who acted like l-users when looking at a new application’s look & feel. They wanted Mr. Paperclip & other pointless Windoze eye candy. It was a constant battle to keep teachers from sneaking warez onto their desktops, they were the biggest offenders.

    7. The money we saved throughout the school enabled us to buy color laser printers, flatbed scanners, microscopes, touchscreens, cameras, etc.

    The bottom line is that schools can’t afford expensive software and are riven with warez because the districts don’t understand the alternatives, the IT departments love their budgets & the over-license problem keeps districts going back to M$ due to the implicit warez blackmail threat from M$.

    But we’re teaching our kids to become scofflaws in the process, b/c they know better & they know the teachers know better.

    If that’s what you want then you’ll get the digital media lab you deserve.


  10. Also:

    “…Plus there is no substitute for using industry standard software and equipment….”

    Please, other than Avid-level production/post-production non-linear video editors ($$$) what is “industry standard” anymore?

    Avid Free DV *was* industry standard and if you were smart you still have a copy. ZS4 *is* equivalent to FinalCut, etc., Avidemux is still better than MS MovieMaker *or* iLife. Jahshaka is nice, is being further developed and allows for all manner of fx overlays. As for what’s on Linux alone, Cinerella *is* an industry standard to itself & there’s nothing scary about dual-booting machines anymore.

    Most student’s workaday projects don’t require a high-end pro-grade tool either, so if there are specialized projects that justify Avid or FCpro, save it for two specialized machines in the lab. It’s amazing how it’s possible for everyone to cope with those restrictions, we did it.

    As for MS Office, there’s somewhat more justification, but not much. Unless you’re running exchange server or they’re programming complex MS Access apps, not much justification at all.

    Same goes for desktop publishing & web development. All the outrageously priced gimmickware from Macromedia/Adobe … Photoshop, Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver (nastiest HTML ever) — I’ve used inexpensive & free equivalents to all those & for all except very serious pro work (and show me the highschool student who has time for that level of esoteric tech) they provide more than enough in terms of features.

    Plus there’s the version trap. Our budget once paid for the latest & greatest Dreamweaver a few years ago, but then it didn’t do CSS, XHTML, div layers terribly well, never mind if we wanted to try any AJAX. But now there’s plenty of free & inexpensive tools now that enable students, even the Express tools from Microsoft. No payware required except MS’s Windows platform tax.

    And once again, all the payware we did use meant my students were restricted in their project scopes and were faced with either downloading warez or scaling back their projects. When given the choice they opted for the free & inexpensive software we also had b/c they could tote their work to home & back on either multisession CDs or flash sticks.

    The entire “district hates open source so we do too” attitude is defeatist, I’m sorry, but just b/c the district management has their heads in the clouds doesn’t mean the teachers have any excuse.

    > My students are often frustrated when I
    > have to tell them “we can’t do that” because
    > we can’t afford the tech. To them it is the same
    > as saying “you’re not good enough.”

    What tech? The software? What were their project goals? Most projects don’t have such intense requirements & the few that do don’t require a lab license, just a license or two on the best machine in the lab.

    If it was hardware you couldn’t afford then blame the software licenses for stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

    What you’re promoting is a defeatist attitude for other teachers.

    If the chap from Brazil can do it, anyone can.

  11. I think you still don’t understand that most teachers are not allowed to install open source software without IT approval. Most IT departments simply will not allow it. That ends the discussion of free/open source. IT is the gatekeeper.

    I agree that students don’t need Final Cut Studio, when Final Cut Express will do. And any kid that can afford a $800 laptop or a $500 camera can afford $129 for FCE. They download it because they can, not because they can’t pay for it.

    This is also why we use iMovie in my lab, although we are installing FCE. And I just had this very discussion of hardware vs. software and which should I sacrifice with my IT director.

  12. see also:

  13. What your IT director is doing to you is wrong, they’re bottlenecking the users, which is not their job. Their job is to support the users, not throttle them.

    So why then promote an expensive work-around as a solution? The solution is for digital media lab teachers to start advocating the only sensible solution, which is inexpensive & free software.

    As for freeware, there’s the portable applications revolution:

    Unless IT is blocking which applications can run in your lab (& has a hard fast rule about foreign applications), no installation of software is required. They’ll run off of CD or USB stick. At many schools what digital media lab teachers do in their lab is their business – they own the machines. Rule One: Do not bring down the network or introduce malware. Rule Two: Anything risky better be done behind with a firewall router & no DMZ.

    As for Desktop Publishing (Yearbooks): Scribus, Inkspace, Open Office, Gimp… the list is endless, OOo & Scribus are capable of CMYK & pagination layout. There are portable versions of all those, even Avidemux is portable!

    They’re functionally pro enough for serious users, they’re portable & run on Linux, Mac & Windows. What more could anyone ask for?

  14. > I agree that students don’t need Final Cut Studio,
    > when Final Cut Express will do. And any kid that
    > can afford a $800 laptop or a $500 camera can
    > afford $129 for FCE. They download it because
    > they can, not because they can’t pay for it.


    You’re serious?

    I know lots of kids & families who can’t afford either the camera or the laptop. Take a look at your IRA & 401k & tell me if you think they or their families can really afford it. And those are just the middle class kids. People have been doing this all on credit.

  15. Yes, they do have a rule about installing unapproved software. It must be bought by the district and then installed with a license. They have a policy that specifically forbids running software from CD, DVD or USB memory stick. And they block lots of sites that support Open Source software downloads.

    As for yearbook companies, most won’t have anything to do with Gimp or Scribus. They do not have templates or printer setup formats for those applications.

    I don’t think you know how corporate most school districts are and how tied their are to Microsoft.

  16. Not being “defeatist” or say I “can’t do it.” But I am required to sign a tech contract each year that says I won’t install any software that is not approved and licensed. Second, I spend enough time now playing IT, which is not my job, teaching is. Open Source software is not going to be supported by my IT department, my publisher or anyone else. That means I am my own tech. That’s a lot of time spent, first getting them to let me do it, second getting it to work right and finally keeping it all going. That would be great if I didn’t have anything else to do. And I also won’t be getting any training on this software either. No manuals, no workshops, no seminars, very few online tutorials. This doesn’t sound like a great deal to me yet. Yes, I know it is “free,” but there is a time and effort tax here too. Plus a lack of support, manuals, training, workshops, tutorials. I’m not sold. Maybe in a few years when some of the Open Source programs have more of the above, but since that depends on an unpaid community providing it, I’m not going to hold my breath. I don’t like how expensive Adobe, Microsoft and even Apple software is, but it does come with support, training, tutorials, documentation and a large user base online.

  17. So then what you’re saying is that the real problem comes down to:

    1). Administration: They’re thinking backwards.

    2). Publishers: Not enough materials.

    So what’s needed is advocacy and training materials.

    The advocacy part is harder than the training materials b/c most administrators, when it comes to software and computers, are cowards & fools. The teachers cry about differences in look and feel more than the students do, sadly b/c so many teachers are so utterly inept in front of a strange GUI. That spills over to the tech & science labs whose denizenry is a different lot from, say, kindergarten teachers.

    The training mat’ls are being created daily by end-users and published as open content / open curricula. The el Paso school district is doing it. A non-profit in Calif. is doing it.

    It’s coming. Your blog isn’t stuck in the past, think about what it’ll to break the bottleneck. There are other DIYers in small school districts & indep. schools (private, charter) where they enjoy more autonomy & build their own curricula.

    Even in Texas the public school media lab teachers posted their own home-grown curricula, replete with class outlines, etc. I’d download ’em & adjust them to Open Office, Gimp, etc.

    Prepackaged curricula are nice, believe me, I wish I had ’em & could afford ’em. But having winged it myself & done a decent job of it for a first year in, I don’t see the barrier. I had 4 preps but it was doable, completely on the fly (not that we didn’t leave skidmarks…). If you have 6 preps that’d too hard to set up in one year, on the fly, but a team of media lab teachers could do it over the summer.

    As for the Year Book publishers, we went with a small outfit that didn’t mind the layout being in MS Word (not MS Publisher), so it was readily formatted from Open Office into Word ’97 format, no problem. The reason they gave up on MS Publisher is that MS created mutually incompatible file formats over the past three versions, so they dropped the file format requirement. In the end the yearbook looked fine, it wasn’t the precision pasteup of Scribus or GIMP (or wax & paper for that matter), but in the end nobody noticed so long as the photos weren’t lossy.

    And again, if your school can’t afford the commercial-grade lab anyway, then what *are* we going to give them instead? Nothing? Give up? Blame the administration?

    By mid-next year every municipal school district is going to be eating big budget shortfalls as the tax base around the USA erodes (1/4 of *all* homes are in negative equity, anywhere from 10 to 25 percent). The first thing to go will be the frills.

    That means your tech budget, ciao, adios, dos vedanya, going, going, going, gone. Now who do you turn to?

  18. Trust me, I agree with 95% of what you are saying. But I do see the problems that IT has with supporting Open Source over commercial software. I work with my campus IT guys all the time. I am often drafted to help do in service training for our staff when we get a new software product. I would say 25-30% of our staff is barely computer literate and another 20-25% is totally lost if you take them outside the comfort zone of MS Office and Explorer. IT has to deal with this and then has zero time left for other support issues. On our campus, we have one IT tech and one IT instructional support person to serve 1800 students and 200 staff. We have more than 400 computers. With 187 school days, if each computer only has one issue (unlikely) then the IT tech spends his time repairing 2 plus computers a day. Our IT dept has little or no time to learn how to support Open Source.

    Maybe advocates like yourself can create a web site that can be a clearing house for curricula, tutorials and other resources for Open Source in Education. Just having a one-stop-no-shopping spot to get free materials and links to downloads and support would go a long way towards others being willing to consider Open Source.

  19. As for training… just wait: MS Office 2007. Everything’s moved & rearranged. It’s enough to make OpenOffice look, um, positively friendly & familiar. I have *NO* idea what M$ is doing. I’m not sure they do either, except now they’re down to playing with look&feel to keep themselves separate from the pack (The free Lotus Symphony Suite, etc.).

    As for OpenOffice, there’s a “Pro” all-extensions loaded version of OpenOffice called “Oxygen Office” or OpenOffice Pro. School districts already into OO love it b/c it has clipart, VBA support, templates, etc.

    You’ve got me thinking about the problem & a solution. There’s eduforge, and they’ve got some good ideas, but the integrated approach will be the “killer app.”

    The per-seat Microsoft per seat license costs add up, somewhere around $300/seat when you count the server license, the various server CALs (poorly managed roaming profiles lead to nyetwork bloat, which in turn requires backup domain controllers), the workstation operating system, the district-wide office licenses (only Word, Excel & PowerPoint). And if you’ve got to fork over for Macromedia/Adobe, all the worse.

    I looked at the software costs & decided it was impossible. It led me in the right direction though, and what resulted was a veritable revolution: A small charter school riven with warez, unusable donated junk machines (P-I’s & P-II’s) was suddenly transformed by 50 P-III/P-IV Dells (50 for $3,000) with Win2K licenses already on them. Here’s what my solution would cost today:

    Karoshi Linux educational server suite: FREE
    Win2K Licenses: Came with machine stickers, no extra cost
    CamStudio: Free
    LifeSwif: Free (community-supported orphanware)
    SynFig: Free
    Blender: Free
    ZS4: Free
    Avidemux: Free
    JahShaka: Free
    VideoThang: Free
    Gimp: Free
    Kompozer: Free
    Amaya: Free
    OpenOffice: Free
    HTtrack: Free
    Eve-WE: Free
    GunGirl (audio sequencer): Free
    Jazz++ (MIDI sequencer): Free

    … and every year the list grows, the software become more mature, etc.

    • You said it all when you said small charter school. So much easier to win the war there. In my district, I can’t win the war for open source. Just getting a Mac lab was a major victory. At least in my lab, I can pick my own software titles and install it myself. But only because they don’t want to touch it.

      We do use Kompozer, but it does lack some features we wish it had that Dreamweaver CS4 does have. We get by with it, but I can tell you I have student web designers who have already exhausted it’s abilities.

      In any district with more than a handful of campuses, you are going to run into the IT concept of what we know works is what is easiest to keep operating. They also hire a lot of kids fresh out of college who have very little experience with any sort of networks or apps that aren’t Microsoft, Adobe, etc.

  20. Just stumbled on this one, it’s what I had needed ages ago — great for the lab, for telecommuting students, etc.

  21. Yep.

    Kompozer: We struggled with it when they took it over from Nvu / Linspire.

    Dreamweaver is groovy, don’t get me wrong. And so is Flash (I remember Flash from 1.1 before MM bought them in 1998). But then DW generated some gawdawful HTML back in the day.

    CSS to the rescue. To supplement Kompozer (and this becomes a nuisance in terms of workflow) I’ve found augmentation tools like Trellian or TopStyle Lite.

    And if a MS-centric approach is OK, then there’s MS Studio Express Visual Web Developer (free….). Don’t know how it compares to DreamWeaver, but it’s free. Knowing M$ it generates the worst XHTML on the planet…. 😉

  22. You have my sympathies, just wanted to let you know that there’s change in the air. I know what it’s like in the big schools, I’ve had discussions w/ school district techs who’ve had varied successes & failures trying to get open source into large school systems.

    My teaching stint was 2004-2005 & open source has come a long way since then. The free / open source video & anim. tools are now a step above. Swish (Flash alternative) has come a long way, although it’s not as economical as it used to be on a per-lab basis.

    As for small schools, I’ve looked at how it’d be possible to make it a viable business model doing drop-in installs into private & charter schools now, esp. with a big server farm distro like Karoshi Linux.

    It’s feasible, but to really sell ’em I’d have to have some kind of supporting tech curricula. Having done it before in a partial ad-hoc way it’d take a few months of curricular development, train the trainers, etc.

    If you want to know what your time’s worth when you write your own curricula, check out cybercamp’s summer camp fees:

    $700/week/seat. That’d be $105,000/summer for one 15-seat lab / 7 weeks! Few private schools dare charge that kind of tuition. Think anyone could beat ’em on price-point? Meals (pizza, koolaide) are extra. The bandaids & waiver forms are free.

    Though most of the software are payware (known costs….) some of the game softwares used in the summer camp are free. Name branding.

    Of course, they’ll license out their curricula:

    Now if that’s the going rate, there’s gotta be a market there somewhere for something more economical. Even private schools could keep their digital meida labs seats warmed over the summers & beef up the yearly budget.

  23. […] TemplateMovies From The Heart: Top 10 Movies For Teacher MotivationMovieMaker vs. iMovie: No ContestHow Much Does It Cost To Create Media?Desktop Publishing SyllabusYearbook: Make A Magic Book For YB VocabularyAnother Cool Camera Mount […]

  24. mini-dvs are great but digital video recorders are even coolerbecaue they are more compact ,.;

    • I agree that cameras that record to an internal memory are more compact. But we still have some issues with AVCHD files having to be converted in order to use them in Final Cut Express.

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