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  • How to price PostProduction work – Need advice & ideas

    Posted by Ace Billet on April 27, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    Hi all,
    I’m about to do some work for a major corporate, and theguy in charge of the video dept. there asked me to give him a general
    price quote. Even though I have more or less set prices (music video, family video etc.), it’s kinda hard for me to decide how to charge on this case.
    The guy wanted either a price for a minute of edited material (i.e. online) or a price for a post shift (8-10 hours).

    The work in question is
    1)viewing and digitizing DV tapes
    2) editing (FCP) besed on a provided concept (i don’t think they’ll do a story board,
    more likely I’ll do a rough cut and we’ll go from there).
    3) Sprinkle some motion graphics on top (not very complicated, I believe – most of the projects are for the corporate inhouse use,
    plus they’re not really hard on cutting edge graphics)
    4) DVD authoring and providing a DV tape as well.

    Let me also say that i’m kinda quick in my work, both techniaclly and conceptually. I did a 2minute video based on footage provided by the corporate,
    and it took me about 8 hours to 90% completion.

    Any ideas and suggestions on this subject would be much appriciated.


    Intel Inside, the world’s most popular warning label.

    Intel Inside, the world’s most popular warning label.

    John Baumchen replied 18 years, 5 months ago 3 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • Mark Suszko

    April 28, 2005 at 2:48 am

    With so many unknowns, you need the flexibility of charging an hourly rate, and not a fixed price. With a fixed price quote you will either lowball and miss out some profit, making it harder to charge more later, or you will run into a snag and wind up working very hard to make deadline, but dividing the fixed price into the hours, you’ll be making minimum wage, if that. Either way you lose.

    Resist the temptation to commoditize creative endeavors like they were widgets on an assembly line. You are an artisan, not a line assembly worker. It takes as long as it takes, and it costs what it costs. I’m not asking you to act pretentious. It’s being realistic and professional. Even a prosaic business video has many creative challenges within it if it’s to be successful. They are paying you to do this because you have the skills and judgement to deliver the product they want, and they have to trust that judgement. To give the customer a comfort level, you can set out general limits, but that’s all.

    So much of this depends on just how prepared the project is when it comes to you, and if every issue has been signed off and approved in advance. I’ve had these things go exceptionally well, and I’ve seen them turn to horror shows starring myself as the victim. If you have a treatment, a real script, real logged tape that’s shot correctly, lists of correctly spelled names, title,s and other edit-ready graphic elements, etc etc. and it’s all approved, you can cruise along pretty fast. If it’s scribbles on a cocktail napkin, a shoebox of unlabeled mixed-format tape with messed up sound, wrong color balance, shakey shots of bad presenters and 32 10-line powerpoint screens in 3-point green seriffed type over neon blue…. it’s going to take some time, bro. Especially if a meddling middle manager keeps asking for changes or additions. Would you really want to be locked into a fixed rate to handle a mess like THAT?

    Suggest and stick to a minimum hourly rate, you can make estimates on how long each step *should* take, but make it clear there is going to be a certain margin either way. Offer a rebate afterwards if it goes exceptionally smoothly and you feel guilty for charging too much. Have the gig structured in thirds: one third up front, second on completion of the rough cut, third on final approval, I find this helps put everyone at ease, and you get paid only for the progress you make, which is fair.

    Some editors charge lesser rates to just digitize… I suppose if you don’t need to really sit thru it all during that time to really grasp what you have and log it all, that makes sense. (I would insist on looking at everything if it were me.) OTOH, a system and operator that’s tied up logging can’t be making money editing someone ELSE’s program, so I would think regular rate for “mere” digitizing is also fair.

    Finally, if anybody you deal with uses any variation of the phrase:
    “cut us a break on this one, and we’ll give you a lot more business down the road”
    Leave immediately, check your wallet on the way out, and never go back. You will thank me.

  • Ace Billet

    April 28, 2005 at 6:17 am

    Wow ! I REALLY enjoyed reading your comment.
    Go by the hour / day is what I was thinking.

    I’ll do some shopping to see how much they charge for post work (I live in israel
    so $100/hour for an AE session as someone suggested in the AE forum is, hmmm,
    kinda unlikely).

    BTW, Mark, I’d love to here some words from you on the psychology (?)
    of pricing it right. Even though Im a very skilled (and talented, may I add) art director and now a post guy as well,
    I usually end up charging LESS than I should, which bugs me at the end of the day.
    It’s like someone who won’t talk to a girl in the bar cause she might say no…


    Intel Inside, the world’s most popular warning label.

  • Mark Suszko

    April 28, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Ace, there are guys here with much more experience than me, but 2 common themes I’ve read over and over, here and on other forums, is the guy that lowballs his prices for a repeat customer finds it incredibly hard to raise them later, and if you start out as the cheapest guy in your market, you get type cast as only being good for that kind of work. You never get considered for the high end work, even though you have demonstrated exactly the fiscal discipline and good planning skills that would make the most of that additional money.

    It’s not fair, but it’s the reality. In a business that’s all about perception, once people have pigeonholed you, it’s very hard to get considered for “better” stuff. This is one reason out of town “consultants” so often get hired, though they actually know no more than you do, sometimes less. The mere fact they are from out of town is the key, like in the bible story: “the prophet is without honor in his own country”.

    My advice is to be sure to dabble in as many formats and types of programming as possible, demonstrate variety and flexibility. Do different things, even stuff you don’t particularly like. Humans are creatures of habit, and if something new and exciting comes up, you want clients to think “oh, Ace can handle this, he can handle ANYTHING…” Not ; ” Why would you call Ace? He only does Wedding stuff, get that guy that only does big budget music videos…”

    They don’t “get” that in either case, you’re a story teller, that you can use the same fundamental techniques to tell a sports story as a wedding or a drama.

    What if you are stuck in this typecasting hole already? You may have to fund your own high-end, high-profile work to show people you have the skills and talent they didn’t believe you had.

    Or move to another town and call yourself a consultant:-)

  • John Baumchen

    May 2, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I give my clients an estimate based on the information they’ve given me and how many hours I think it will take to do the job. In my agreements, I clearly indicate that the price is based on X number of hours and that additional time is available at my hourly rate.

    Communication with your client is key. You really have to be clear about what they want and how long it will take for you to do it. Don’t be intimidated if your quote is higher than what you’re used to. We’ve all been at a point where our quote was a scary number. It’s part of your success, enjoy it.

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