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Billing practices for post - never a science is it?

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David Roth WeissBilling practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 24, 2007 at 4:28:58 am

Yes, billing practices for post-production services is a subject that has been discussed here many times over the years. However, I'd like get the discussion going once again if you don't mind. Its always interesting to hear what others think and its good business to find out what our peers are doing, especially in those situations that aren't automatic, where we as businessmen and women have to make judgement calls.

Here are a couple of examples of judgement calls I'd like to throw out there to get the ball rolling. Let us know what you do in these cases and then maybe chuck in a few other examples of judgement calls you face from time to time in your business.

#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate? Is your answer universal for all clients or on a case by case basis?

#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working? The client comes three hours late because their dog stubbed a toe, do you/can you charge the client full rate? What are the variables you consider in making your decision? Would you ever let them slide?

#3. If you start a job on a daily rate based on your standard rate card, would you consider adjusting to a weekly rate if the job stretches out to five days?

Billing can be a mysterious science, and there are no right or wrong answers, so please, feel free to let loose with your ideas. Who knows, maybe we'll all learn some new ways of dealing with age-old issues that haunt all of us in business from time to time.

David


David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 24, 2007 at 3:07:31 pm

I don't mind sharing the way we do things billing-wise, as I think it is maybe a little bit different than some others bill. Not to say that it is better or worse, but it works for us.

[David Roth Weiss] "#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate?"

Our rates for digitizing and editoral are the same, and the same for all clients. Quite a while back we decided that it was just much easier to have one universal hourly rate for everything that is done in house. After all, if a client is just sitting and digitizing, he's still tying up a suite just as if he was editing. He could book a suite to simply sit and read a magazine if he wanted I suppose, but it's still the same rate. Our hourly rates are super competetive, so no one has ever had a problem with doing it that way.

[David Roth Weiss] "#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working?"

Might not be smart, but we generally don't bill for holding at all, unless a client really really abuses the privilege (and none really have). Most of our clients are the same dozen or so ad agencies, and for most of them we are their only production house.... and some of them have been with us for ten years. So, if they have delays or whatever, we generally let 'em slide.

[David Roth Weiss] "#3. If you start a job on a daily rate... would you consider adjusting to a weekly rate if the job stretches....?"

Not really, an hour's an hour here. Calculating a weekly rate is easy here... hourly x 40.

In days past we had a bunch of different rates for different things... different suites had different rates, and within each suite there were different rates depending on what was being done... but it became a logistic and accounting nightmare. Finally we settled on these "flat rates" in an effort to simplify things... so now we have one rate for in-house stuff whether it uses a little or a lot of a suite's resources. Similarly, unless a client is shooting Gone with the Wind we generally have a flat hourly rate for shooting. The same rate includes all the toys, or none of them (I'll amend that, sometimes we charge a little more if a scene needs Steadicam or teleprompter, but everything else is usually flat).

Our method is extremely contrary to the only other high-end production house in town. You get a bill from them that is as long as your arm... everything is itemized to death (do you really need to know that a shoot used 59 inches of gaffer tape?). Our flat rate eliminates most of that, and clients are ok with it because our bills are much lower than the comptetition's, anyway.

We can get away with the flat rate business because our company is very small, and our shoots are usually small and uncomplicated. It's almost always the exact same truckload of gear, and the exact same 3 or 4 crew members. Of course when specific shoots grow more complicated (i.e., extra crew is needed, something needs to be constructed, a specific makeup artist is needed, etc.), then of course we charge for that accordingly.

Our way is probably not best for everyone by any means, but it works well for us.



T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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David Roth WeissRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 11:05:46 pm

[Todd at Fantastic Plastic] "an hour's an hour here. Calculating a weekly rate is easy here... hourly x 40."

It sounds like your overall strategy is pretty simple. I think thats probably the best approach. I'm always working on finding newer, simpler billing solutions and proceedures, but sometimes it manages to get pretty complicated no matter what.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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walter biscardiRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 26, 2007 at 1:02:04 am

[Todd at Fantastic Plastic] "
Not really, an hour's an hour here. Calculating a weekly rate is easy here... hourly x 40."


That's one place where I do differ. If a client wants a weekly rate, it's generally 9 hours for 8 so they are essentially getting 5 hours of editing time for free by booking for the week. but that's a day rate and anything over 9 hours per day reverts back to the hourly rate.

That's a pretty simple formula and no client has ever complained about it.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

All Things Apple Podcast! http://cowcast.creativecow.net/all_things_apple/index.html

Read my blog! http://blogs.creativecow.net/WalterBiscardi


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gregRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 24, 2007 at 7:00:33 pm

1 Digitizing is the same rate as editing, since we're tying up our edit suite.
2. We won't bill for holding time, unless we have created a window for a client. Then we'll tell them up front that the meter starts running at their appointed time. Honestly that's never happened.
3. Everything is by the hour. We have taken long jobs for an estimated flat fee with a limit on time. for example no more than 45 hours, andything over 45 will be billed at the hourly rate. Once it's agreed upon before the job starts we will not change from hourly to a flat fee. All of this needs to be agreed upon before the project starts.


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David Roth WeissRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 11:12:25 pm

[greg] "2. We won't bill for holding time, unless we have created a window for a client."

I always try to create a window that implies that I'll start billing at the appointed time, but I seldom stick with it if I like the client. The others best be on time...

[greg] "3. Everything is by the hour."

Thats also my rule of thumb here. I'll chop the hourly rate, or give a daily rate, but I never work a fixed rate job unless tortured into submission.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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walter biscardiRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 10:26:45 am

[David Roth Weiss] "#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate? Is your answer universal for all clients or on a case by case basis?"

We don't have a separate digitizing rate. It's one rate for the suite, what we're doing during that time is inconsequential. In my opinion a good editor makes shot decisions while digitizing so that's a part of editing.

In our suites, they are all fully loaded with editing, graphics, color grading, sound design and compositing tools along with 8TB of storage. I don't charge any sort of "ala carte" fees for the work beyond editing, so why charge a different rate for digitizing? The room is still being used. By charging one rate, that also puts in the impetus on the client to make sure they are organized before coming in the door. The better organized they are, the faster we can get the digitizing done.

Also, what happens when you need to go back and digitize for an hour in the middle of the edit? Do you switch back to the digitizing rate or is that rate only in effect for a block of digitizing time? Gets confusing real fast for the client.



[David Roth Weiss] "#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working? The client comes three hours late because their dog stubbed a toe, do you/can you charge the client full rate? What are the variables you consider in making your decision? Would you ever let them slide?"

Established long term clients I let slide. Not going to bicker over a few hours of wasted time. First time offense, I'll let it slide BUT I will not work any extra hours at the end of the day to make up the lost time.

Second time you're late, the clock starts running at the scheduled edit time. If the client has a problem with that, I certainly don't have to work with them again. The best thing I have learned since being on my own is "No." As in "No, I don't have time to take on your project." Since I started say "no" to trouble or annoying clients, our workload and profits have steadily increased.



[David Roth Weiss] "#3. If you start a job on a daily rate based on your standard rate card, would you consider adjusting to a weekly rate if the job stretches out to five days?"

Not for the first week but certainly for the second week. Again, if the client comes to me and says "This should take 3 days" but it takes longer because they weren't as organized as they should be or the client is making a lot of changes, that's not my responsibility. So the day rate stays in effect.

One big thing I like to do is either get a copy of the script or spend at least 10 minutes on the phone with the client going over the details of the project. Generally I can get a really good feel for what is truly involved with the edit and give the client a fair estimate of days required. Generally I overshoot by 2 days on a long project just to be safe. If we don't use them, the client's happy and they know I'm good on my estimates.

But switching from day rate to a weekly rate at the end of the first week is not something I would do.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

All Things Apple Podcast! http://cowcast.creativecow.net/all_things_apple/index.html

Read my blog! http://blogs.creativecow.net/WalterBiscardi


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David Roth WeissRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 10:57:59 pm

[walter biscardi] "In my opinion a good editor makes shot decisions while digitizing so that's a part of editing."

I agree. The only time I break that rule is when I'm working on the type of project that sometimes comes in that I'll just batch digitize without supervising. Doesn't happen that much, but sometimes I just want to get it all in the machine as fast as possible. In that case, I sometimes charge the client the "Room Rate - No Editor," almost as if I'm just renting them the edit bay.


[walter biscardi] "I don't charge any sort of "ala carte" fees for the work beyond editing, so why charge a different rate for digitizing? The room is still being used. By charging one rate, that also puts in the impetus on the client to make sure they are organized before coming in the door."

I try to use that strategy whenever possible. Sometimes I do fold a bit when pressured.






David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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Nick GriffinRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 7:12:19 pm

#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate? Is your answer universal for all clients or on a case by case basis?

I strongly agree with other posters on this. Digitizing IS editing. If somebody else does it for you they invariably grab too much or too little. Way too many choices are made at this stage for it to be anything other than part of the editing process. My brain is fully engaged while marking ins and outs. Even how I name a clip is part of my editing process. When we add notes to the clip, even more so.

Let me go out of order on the questions, because it will make more sense explaining what we do. #3. If you start a job on a daily rate based on your standard rate card, would you consider adjusting to a weekly rate if the job stretches out to five days?

We're not in the "video business." We're in the "client" business and video is one of the services we provide. As such we don't really have any walk-in hourly or daily work. Everything is usually part of a much bigger project which is part of a much bigger and deeper relationship.

It's very unusual for us to have a project which was expected to last a couple of days turn into a week or more. Extremely difficult too as we would almost always already have something scheduled in what might otherwise be overflow time. More likely that we would need to find time later in the month. UNLESS it's something which is our fault, then I'll move stuff and work early, late and weekends to fix the problem.

That's not to say that plenty of things haven't run over but, because we are the producers and not the studio for hire, it's under our control. And while I've put "packages" together in the past as a way of securing a large project for less than the normal hourly rate, that practice has been dormant for the past several years because a) it hasn't been necessary, and b) it attracts the wrong kind of clients - ones who don't want to pay what things fully cost.


#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working? The client comes three hours late because their dog stubbed a toe, do you/can you charge the client full rate? What are the variables you consider in making your decision? Would you ever let them slide?

This one gets me hot under the collar. Most of the people we work for are very respectful of our time. This applies to meetings and phone conferences, too. But occasionally there's someone who thinks his schedule is the only one that means anything. The first time he's late it's on me. From then on for him a 10 am start means 10:00:00 AM on the billing clock. I haven't done it yet, but I'd like to start charging MORE because I'm sitting there steaming.

For something out of the client's control I'll usually let it slide, or in some cases charge for just the first hour using the logic that we were able to move on and do other things, so the time was not wasted.


...feel free to let loose with your ideas...

Almost all of this comes down to being selective about the people and companies you chose to do business with. Years ago I dealt with an ad agency who would only pay for the last session when they were desperate to schedule the next one. Forget 30, 60, 90 days. That wasn't even in their vocabulary. So the obvious yet unstated message was that I was going to be screwed on the last job. Here's a surprise. I was. So, when I can identify them, I don't do business with people like that anymore.

The parallel of this is the crisis client. Know the type? "Yes, I know we've known about this for months, but you've got to drop everything else because our project is DUE THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!"

This sort of thing would happen on nearly every single project -- even when I was prompting them throughout the year. (They were always involved in some other crisis and would get back to me after it was handled. Invariably this would be once our next project came into crisis range.

At first the answer was to simply charge more and at first they didn't care that they were paying a 50% premium. It was the company's money, not theirs. But after a few years of this someone in the company had the idea that we were too expensive and they should be able to get a better deal elsewhere. OF COURSE THEY COULD. The other people probably didn't know that everything would be rush and a last-minute, drop everything else situation. Someday they may be ready to change suppliers again. I'm not pursuing their business.

Well, didn't mean to ramble on, but David, you did ask.


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David Roth WeissRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 8:17:46 pm

Thanks for chipping in guys -- discussions about billing strategies always offer many beneficial nuggets because they are as much about psychology as anything, and as we all know, where money is concerned, human nature can bring a whole lot of craziness into play.

I'm having a bit of a struggle at the moment with a particular client on a particular gig, primarily because this one entails doing favors. Its not for broadcast like most of my work, and more than likely it has no real commmercial value to anyone, so I'm trying to cut my client a break. Problem is, as they say, "no good dead goes unpunished."

The gig is taking longer than I thought, with lots of starts and stops, and constant late arrivals too. And, on top of that, the client isn't as prepared as I would like. Howeber, on the other side of the coin, I'm not having to use 100% brain power and there are no deadlines. So, its a bit of a toss-up. I guess I should just be glad its not a big stresser and consider it a blessing in disguise???

David



David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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David Roth WeissRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 25, 2007 at 10:44:44 pm

[Nick Griffin] "I strongly agree with other posters on this. Digitizing IS editing."

No doubt about it. The first view is usually while capturing and thats often when gut reactions help to formulate an editor's best strategy.

[Nick Griffin] "occasionally there's someone who thinks his schedule is the only one that means anything. ...I'd like to start charging MORE because I'm sitting there steaming."

I am trying to formulate a strategy for dealing with those who either don't value time or just don't value my time. I get steamed about it because I could accomplish something in that down time if I just knew about it in advance. Instead, I'm sittng around twiddling my thumbs and getting high bloodpressure.

[Nick Griffin] "The parallel of this is the crisis client. Know the type? "Yes, I know we've known about this for months, but you've got to drop everything else because our project is DUE THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!""

Oh my God, do I know the type... The best ones are the ones who demand the finished work product by 5pm on Friday, only they don't show to pick it up until the following Wednesday. That drives me crazy...

David


David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Post-production Supervisor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY


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walter biscardiRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 26, 2007 at 1:00:01 am

[David Roth Weiss] "I am trying to formulate a strategy for dealing with those who either don't value time or just don't value my time. I get steamed about it because I could accomplish something in that down time if I just knew about it in advance. Instead, I'm sittng around twiddling my thumbs and getting high bloodpressure."

Get a Nintendo Wii. My Tiger Woods Golf game is doing great thanks to render time and waiting for client time. Does wonders for the blood pressure. :-)

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

All Things Apple Podcast! http://cowcast.creativecow.net/all_things_apple/index.html

Read my blog! http://blogs.creativecow.net/WalterBiscardi


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RandyRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 26, 2007 at 7:04:40 pm

Make them wait! If the client shows up an hour late, make them wait an hour before starting on their project. That gives you more time play your Nintendo Wii!

An eye for an eye...

Randy


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beenyweeniesRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 27, 2007 at 3:36:44 pm

#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate?

I agree with everyone here that digitizing IS editing. However, we have a smaller edit station (an older Mac) that an assistant editor digitizes on, and we charge a lower fee for this than a primary suite with editor would cost. This way our fancier suites are not being consumed by this activity and the client feels like we are looking out for their budget.

#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working?

Generally we do not charge clients for holding. Of course that can add up if you are working with a less experienced client who doesn't quite understand the cost implications of their delays - this can cause a job to be weeks behind schedule if you let them get away with it. Because of this, we are starting to push toward blocking out time and letting the client know that this is what they are paying for, late or no. It's more preventive (punitive) to keep clients and the job in motion, and less about the money.

#3. day rate/weekly rate

We don't offer a weekly rate, it's day rate no matter how long it's booked out. Our rates are very competitive in our market, so we're comfortable doing this.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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Steve WargoRe: Billing practices for post - never a science is it?
by on Jul 30, 2007 at 5:22:02 am

[David Roth Weiss] "#1. How do you bill for digitizing on an hourly or daily basis vs. your standard editorial rate? Is your answer universal for all clients or on a case by case basis?"

If we are digitizing everything as complete tapes, we cut the rate by 50%. A "helper" or student does this and will sometime log scenes as they go. If a technical person is required, it's full rate. Because we have 5 systems, we usually digitize on one of our units that sits off to the side and does not occupy a suite.

[David Roth Weiss] "#2. How do you bill for holding vs. working? The client comes three hours late because their dog stubbed a toe, do you/can you charge the client full rate? What are the variables you consider in making your decision? Would you ever let them slide?"

This depends on the client. We will give them the first half hour and then they are on the clock, usually. However, we have several who abuse the system and they are clocked in at their appointment time. This depends entirely on who it is and their history. Our prime clients would never abuse the privilage and they are given the red carpet. Some have walked in late and said "Bill me from the scheduled time".



[David Roth Weiss] "#3. If you start a job on a daily rate based on your standard rate card, would you consider adjusting to a weekly rate if the job stretches out to five days?"

Again, this depends on how much work they do with us and how they pay. One of our defense contractors pays in 5 days, while others take 45 days. The client has no right to expect a discount unless thay know that they are the ONLY client.

What irritates us is when someone is scheduled from say, 9am till 2pm and they walk in at 10;30 and can't understand why someone else is wanting in the room at 2:30. They just think that the world will shift or adjust to their bad habits.

Anymore, when people pull that type of crap, I send them elsewhere. I Recently dumped all of my clients who caused me grief. Now, I just feel better.

I could also mention the morons who know that we close from 12-1 every day for lunch and they will show up at 11:45 and say "You're going to lunch? But I need something right now." I don't understand how these idiots function from day to day. Or, how about the ones who call and insist that my office person get me on the phone because it is very important. I stop what I'm doing, everyone takes a break while I make my way to a phone to answer the 911 call and the person on the phone says "Hey man. Are you gonna be around for a while? I want to come by and borrow some gaff tape." I hang up on them immediately.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck


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