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Bidding and staying on budget question

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JP DriscollBidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 12, 2007 at 9:38:46 pm

I'm just finishing up a project that taught me some valuable lessons. It was a "stand there and talk" seminar-style video. When we bid on the project, we did so by estimating how long it would take to shoot, edit, create graphics, author the DVD and make dubs. Then we padded a few hours of "oops" time just in case. The whole thing should have taken about 4 weeks from the first shot to the DVD dubs arriving at the door. It's been 4 months and we are finally finishing up.

Here's the catch: The bid was given and the idea was that if it went under the estimate, the client payed less accordingly. If it went over, we ate the cost and the client payed the price bid. Now I know this wasn't the best way to go about it, but we wanted to stand behind our work and our bid. As a result, the client took advantage of that and we had to re-edit several times. Most of the editing was cleaning up his "UMM's" and "UHH's" and he licked his lips often between sentences which he wanted removed.

Is it a bad move to include some sort of clause stating something to the effect of, "We will re-edit our mistakes for free, but the client's mistakes cost money"? I think the mistake was made when we guaranteed a price cap, but how do we keep actual price on target with the quoted price? Is it as easy as making a realistic quote and sticking to that quote? How do you tell clients where the line is between reasonable free edits and rediculous edits the client should pay for?

It's not like we underestimated the time it would take, we jusst didn't count on a client that was so fussy about such stupid things. How do you guys handle this sort of thing? Any help would be great.

JP Driscoll

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Rich RubaschRe: Bidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 13, 2007 at 2:48:30 am

I like the honest approach and have an honest conversation with the client. They are not the easiest part of the job, but I can say that more than 80% of the time the client coughs up at least a little more money. Be as fair about is as you other words you can say that the clients requests created about 8 additional hours of editing but you are asking for only half of your normal rate to do these cleanups... Most of the time they will bite on this. Most important is that they know how much beyond the original estimate things hours and dollars.

If it comes to it, offer to have them pay the additional amount in 90-120 days...sometimes giving them a little more time can help make the "sale".

Sometimes I let the client know when I DON'T charge them for changes. If it was a bad design, or clunky animation, or if I didn't clean up the audio that was clearly bad, I tell them I fixed it and won't bill them for the fixes. They appreciate this and will remember it.

I also will warn the client BEFORE I make their changes what it will take, how much it will add to the estimate. I just made this call today and got an additional $500 for making a bunch of changes that were the client's last minute decisions, even though I had said I would stick to a number. They understood and paid it.

I like to keep communication going throughout the project so these things aren't surprises at the end of the project.

Good luck.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media

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zrb123Re: Bidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:52:11 am

Personally I think you should have stood your ground and told the client that because they wanted an excessive amount of editing to cover up for the way a client talks, that they need to pay for that.

However one thing that you can do in the future to protect yourself is to put into your contract that after the initial edit, that the client can do a preview and make requests for changes. Then state that any additional changes that are requested after the initial preview will be billed at your hourly rate.

This way they just cant keep asking to have things changed.

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Mike_SRe: Bidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 13, 2007 at 8:16:41 am

Always a mistake to risk a fixed for for an unknown client for an unspecified amount of work.

If you do that, you have to manage the project for the budget - tell the client what s/he can or can't have for the money.

It should have set alarm bells ringing about the type of client that they went for the asymmetric / favors them deal YOU eat overs but THEY benefit if it goes under?

Trying to "fix" how a speaker delivers is completely open-ended and absolutely NOT in the "let's cover the talk and patch it together" quote coverage.

I'd agree with the "talk to them now" suggestion - but if you get nowhere, try to learn from it. At the "get the job" stage it's tempting to over-promise - but if you do, that's your time and money and store you're giving away ...!

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Steve WargoExactly
by on Apr 19, 2007 at 9:09:39 am

Agree with zrb 100% Finish your work and then, at their expense, let them start chopping away. It's amazing how quick something is OK once there's a price tag involved. We live by the "We pay for our mistakes. You pay for yours." policy. Fair is fair.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!

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Nick GriffinRe: Bidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 14, 2007 at 1:11:47 pm

I couldn't agree more with Rich. It's all about the dialogue whether before, during or after the job. I think just about everytime I've had a problem with an estimate versus the final product it's come down to the fact that the client and I weren't talking enough. Sometimes it's been their fault or their "process" (way of doing business), but more often than not it's been my fault.

As to contracts -- which I almost NEVER call them and instead use the term "letter of agreement" -- my experience has been that it's best to have a very strict, cut and dried approach to overtime, change requests, etc. and then, on a case-by-case basis, to be somewhat liberal. In other words, when you give them something that the contract says you don't have to it enables you to look like the reasonable party. This is especially useful if you're negotiating for something else, for example, giving away a couple hours of editing time to get them to agree that they have to pay for going into overtime during the shoot.

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Craig SeemanRe: Bidding and staying on budget question
by on Apr 13, 2007 at 11:25:56 am

I'm about to undertake a similar job. I give an estimate based on the description. If I don't get enough info, I ask for it. My estimate is based on "ideal" circumstance in which the job is as simple as possible. I explain additional options that may drive up cost but increase quality of end product.

I don't like flat fee work. You almost never win with flat fee work. I let them know what they get for the budget. That's different than flat fee because it gives you and the client the OPTION to deal with overruns.

When I estimate edit time I include time for changes in that estimate. If they find they want more, that's one of the overruns they have to grapple with.

In the job I'm about the undertake, it took weeks for the client to get back to me about the room details such as windows, light, etc. It took weeks for the client to give me the list of sections and approximate times.

The client has not yet told me about audience questions although I did tell him the different audio options and the plusses and minuses. The client hasn't mentioned a word about PowerPoint or other graphic presentations during the seminar although I asked about it and gave him options on shooting vs adding/supplementing in post.

It's also hard to predict how good public speaker the presenter(s) will be and that impacts editing as you've found out. This is why I'd never flat fee a job like this.

I also include the cost of a synced multicam window dub in these types of jobs so the client can see what we/they face in the edit process.

My payment sched on a job like this is: deposit to hold shoot date, payment of shoot and synced window dub on day of shoot, pay for estimated editing time when editing starts (and the amount of time becomes clearer when they see the window dub and decide how much may need to be fixed, cut, graphics added if any).

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JP DriscollThanks for the help
by on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:48:56 pm

I appreciate the quick answers from everyone. That's why I keep coming back to the Cow.

I guess we've been lucky with our flat fee quotes up until now. I haven't really had a problem with clients like this before. In fact, most of the time we come in under or at the quote. But it's better not to take the chance, I guess. Lesson learned.

BTW: What is a synced multicam window dub? Is it basically the footage from each camera synced and shown in smaller windows side by side? Is there an advantage to doing that instead of just reviewing all the video seperately? Or is it just a time factor? Better to view all the cameras at once instead of one camera three time?

Thanks again, guys and gals!
JP Driscoll

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Craig SeemanRe: Thanks for the help
by on Apr 14, 2007 at 11:18:54 am

Yes, on multicam shoot, the dub has all cameras rolling in smaller window with timecode on each (or one time code if they match). In other words, all running side by side.

Client can pick shots MUCH more easily and knows exactly why you do/don't cut to a given shot.

I can't imagine doing multicam shoot dubs any other way whether a concert or a seminar.

[JP Driscoll] "BTW: What is a synced multicam window dub? Is it basically the footage from each camera synced and shown in smaller windows side by side? Is there an advantage to doing that instead of just reviewing all the video seperately? Or is it just a time factor? Better to view all the cameras at once instead of one camera three time?"

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Nick GriffinRe: Multi-cam dubs question
by on Apr 14, 2007 at 1:15:43 pm

Craig -
Out of curiosity, what are you using to create the multi-cam dubs? Assuming that you're doing that in an NLE and not a switcher, doesn't that eat a lot of time on the edit system? Do you charge full boat for that or is it a dub rate? Thanx.

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Craig SeemanRe: Multi-cam dubs question
by on Apr 15, 2007 at 2:37:45 pm

I charge the edit rate for multicam window dubs. Do it in the NLE.

Once I explain the process and the advantages clients are always willing to pay for it. When I do multicam work I always sync like this anyway so the client is going to pay for this anyway.

Rather than making separate camera master dubs which, in the case of multicam, the client is going to have a hard time knowing exactly how things are working together, the clients saves money on those dubs and is, in effect, putting some of that dub money they would have spent, directly into the loading/syncing part of the edit session . . . and the client now gets a useful dub.

At this point the client can book into the edit room or send me numbers knowing we're on the same page regarding why one might cut to a given shoot or cut something out entirely. If something needs to be covered, we both know it.

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Steve WargoRe: Multi-cam dubs question
by on Apr 19, 2007 at 9:17:13 am

We use a Data Video SE-500 switcher. One of the composite outs is a quad screen. We use a flat panel monitor to view all 4 cameras and send a line to a tape machine or dvd recorder. We always live cut each program and then record a backup in a wide shot or audience look back camera so we have something to pull from for any fixes later.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!

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