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Releasing RAW footage to client

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NightlineReleasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 7:00:08 am

One of my clients I recently did some work for is asking for the actual RAW footage that I shot (dv-ntsc) around 35 exercise videos. I recently signed a copyright assignment form releasing the copyright of these videos over to him as he requested. This RAW request was not discussed prior to an email he sent me wondering when to expect these files (dv-tapes) after they received the copyright assignment form and actor release forms. I charged him a release fee for the actors and sent him a copy of these release forms of which I had each actor sign. This is the terms section of the contract that im not sure forces me to release these to him:

The Terms
1. In consideration of payment of

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Mark SuszkoRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 6:13:34 pm

I'm not a lawyer, but from my reading of this, they have the right to ask for the raw tapes BUT they have to pay you for the cost of the stock, and whatever minor costs are involved like shipping. You gave away the rights to use the footage yourself, I'm guessing you got paid all right for the job of shooting and editing from before. From what I see here you signed back all rights to the stuff to them, so the footage is of no further commercial use to you. If the raw footage is on stock they already paid you for from a previous job, I'd just bill them for incidental shipping and handling and hand it over. If the stock was never billed before, bill them for it at the lowest common rate. If you parted on neutral terms at least, then show them you're an honorable pro and give them the stuff without complaint. To add acrimony to the deal doesn't benefit you, staying classy to the end *might*, somewhere down the road...

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NightlineRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 6:26:46 pm

Thanks Mark for the reply. They paid me for each exercise video separately for each different use. ie. web videos first and then dvd quality videos were on a separate invoice. Each time I was paid, i figured i am no longer able to use this footage and am ok with this, hence the reason for transfering these rights to them. The RAW footage was shot on DV (ntsc) format, i suppose the price of the tapes and so on were covered in the invoice i sent to him previously, so there would be no extra charges incurred?

Only problem i have was certain things were shot in these videos that i do not wish them to see if i was to send them the originals, ie. outtakes, horsing around on set, and other useless footage. Can i recapture this into FCP, cut out those parts, and record back onto a DV tape? Or does this infringe upon the copyright assignment i signed? thanks for your help, much appreciated. Ryan

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tony salgadoRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 8:11:05 pm

Is it not unprofessional to capture unfavorable activities on tape which could be used against you if the client were to see the footage?

Maybe next time you will avoid shooting such footage?

Tony Salgado

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Mark SuszkoRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 10:09:56 pm

That's a tough one... So it seems the most you can bill them for is the boxing and shipping.

As to the other thing... well, after over 20-odd years of doing this job, I doubt any of us here could claim they *never* shot or recorded anything stupid/funny/potentially embarassing between takes, while checking recording/playback quality, testing mics, etc. in their whole career. How else do blooper shows happen.

The difference is the wiser guys re-recorded over those things that are potentially compromising immediately, before they could turn around to bite them later, or they eventually stopped goofing around the set to that extent. If you don't learn that self-discipline, you eventually can get in trouble. Like cameramen on live IMAG jobs or multicam live- switched sports programs. Yeah, it's all funny in the truck when the offline cameraman uses his 2-x extender to capture some audience member's anatomical features in rich detail. Not so funny at all (especially these days) if the TD takes that camera to air by mistake or without warning, or if a spare preview buss feed is going to the green room where the guy who signs the checks and his wife are watching....
Remember Reagan testing the mics before a National Address with that "We start bombing Russia in five minutes" crack? Or the footage of the then-governor but now-current-President flipping the cameraman the bird, while they were "just practicing"? That's all over the internet now.

From a purely technical standpoint, Dv to Dv dubs over firewire are lossless bit-for-bit clones, the quality is indistinguishable on a dub versus an original. So technically I suppose the clients are not missing out on the things they knew they were paying for if you cloned the tapes and.... maybe.... paused the record deck from time to time or cut out the audio during the dubbing. Time code discontinuities would remain however, and have to be explained, unless you jam-synched new timecode. However, if they have EDLs or logs that suddenly don't match up to the footage, you're busted...

Such a choice is however, ethically sticky.

If this is going to ever go to court for some reason, they could subpoena your still-existing originals and find the "discrepancies", and that would look bad to a judge. Very bad. Plus, your whole conversation here is now public record, should they search the internet during discovery proceedings.

Is that as bad as giving them 100 percent originals now and having them hear you call them bad things behind their backs on the audio tracks? Or whatever it is you did then that's making you blush now? I can't tell you. This being an exercise video with bodies in various poses, I can only imagine what the extreme possibilities of your perceived transgressions may have been. Ah, rash youth! Or maybe you just insulted the client verbally, I couldn't say.

You and your conscience will have to make this call. But on the bright side, everybody reading the thread has learned something useful today. I hope. Best of luck.

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NightlineRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 10:49:16 pm

These things im talking about are very minor. Nothing of which would be defammatory towards the client in anyway or form. The job spilled over onto a separate tape, we maybe only used 5 minutes of that tape and didnt want it to go to waste so we shot misc. video which did not have to do with this specific clients job. I guess I should have sucked it up and scrapped the rest of the tape incase they asked for them, live and learn i guess...

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NightlineRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 14, 2006 at 11:04:20 pm

Also, actual FCP files arent being sent to them. They are simply looking for the RAW files if im understanding them correctly (tapes). Files i have sent were .wmv and mpeg-2 renders. Then time code changes will not matter in this case.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 15, 2006 at 4:11:21 am

Meh, I like my version of the story better;-)

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george sockaRe: Releasing RAW footage to client
by on Sep 15, 2006 at 1:08:15 am

Why not just record black over the non-client stuff - after all that is not part of what he paid for.

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