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How do you invoice this?

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Alan SmithHow do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 1:58:53 pm

I have been apart of the COW community to have developed my pricing based on day rates. I have spent alot of time and energy developing my day rate, but I had a client make a request the other day that does not fit into my current pricing structure. So, I thought I would seek the sage advise of the COW.

A client is asking me to take video's that they create and simply encode them for the web and upload them to their FTP. Their webmaster will then embed the video into their website. I will be getting the video clips on HDD and automating most of the process via apple scripts and compressor. It really becomes a 15 - 20 minute task to get the process started and then I leave it alone while I work on other tasks/projects.

I am having difficulty determining a fair price for this service. I need to take into account the workload on my equipment and make sure that I am getting compensation for use, but what would be a fair price for this kind of workflow. I would appreciate some thoughts and ideas.

Alan Smith

Check out my blog -

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Jeremy GarchowRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 2:04:51 pm

Some people charge per minute of source footage. Go to any dub house, and that's usually how they determine a price, plus cost of any materials.

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walter biscardiRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 2:05:54 pm

I work out a straight charge per minute of finished material. The rate varies on the type of encoding I'm doing, not much but a little.

Such as $10 per finished minute for H.264 encoding for the internet and so on.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
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Biscardi Creative Media

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Mark SuszkoRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 2:47:05 pm

That rate per finished minute seems logical in this situation.

My only caveat would be to ask if this process ties up the editing system such that you couldn't do anything else while these processes are running. Easy or not easy, time is time, and lost time is lost money. That would put a different complexion on things, since now one job is precluding another. In which case I would maybe think about using the standard editing rate, or raisign the per minute processing rate to offset some of that lost "opportunity cost".

If you can do this processing on one set of gear, and still edit on another, I would agree to go with the per minute rate. If not, and if this is going to be going on for up to a year, I would say it might be a good thing to charge a bit more, and as soon as the money can cover it, or soon as ayou have a cushion anyway, buy some extra gear to make the compressing and uploading a stand-alone operation so you can still edit other work at the same time.

The you will be making money even while you're just sitting there thinking.

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Ed CilleyRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 3:33:20 pm


Another option is to charge a Set-up Fee, something like $75. Since you have scripts running the process, you don't need to sit and load each clip, modify settings, chose where to save, etc. You set it up and let the computer churn them out. So the majority of your time is spent getting the files loaded and started.

Of course you need to figure out how long your computer takes to process the clips and then base the remainder of the charge accordingly. After the Set-up fee, you could charge $15 a clip - for instance. Your mileage may vary. You may also want to have a scale for longer clips and short clips. You need to decide if this works for you.

The thinking here is that if a client has a habit of sending me a clip to encode and then two days later another, and then another, it is taking a lot of time for me to get the computer set-up to run these clips. If you can reduce their cost by doing these in batches, then everyone's time and money is better spent.

Hope this adds some fodder for the Cow community. :)


Avid and FCP Preditor
Anything worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
- Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield

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grinner hesterRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 3:49:35 pm

Half of your hourly rate unless it interupts other things.

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Alan SmithRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 4:55:51 pm

Thanks for sage advise. The machine that will be processing the encode is a non editing/production machine, so it will not interfere with any ongoing production. I like the idea of determining a finished minute rate. It is clear to the client and provides a quantifiable price structure.

As always, good input and sound advice from the Bulls of the herd.


Alan Smith

Check out my blog -

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Craig SeemanRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 4:58:22 pm

I think we need to spell out the details although people generally hit the typical factors.

You need to know exactly what the client is targeting. For "web" use is far too vague and even "Flash" can be given the choice between VP6-E, VP6-S, H.264 (and whether the extension should matter to the client).

Setup Time
It depends on the gear you have and what the job entails. This can include setting up a cluster and/or destination folders and automating FTP for example.

Codec Tweaking Time
Unless you're just dropping the sources on an already made preset this can be a fair amount of work.
You may need to categorize the source material from fact action, talking head, screencasting, etc. Then there's the target for each if you need to go to multiple codecs for different uses. This can involve doing test encodes and checking the results for problems. I don't think anyone mentioned this aspect to a job.

Encode Time
All codecs and settings are not equal. Multipass H.264 is may take longer than one pass screeners in WMV. Even if you have a dedicated machine for this so you can go about other things, it's still tying up THIS machine (or cluster).

Quality Control
After all the above is done, you've got to check your work.

Maintenance Time
While you don't want to bill the client for your system issue we all know how finicky encoding systems can be even for simple Compressor encodes. If these issues happen often enough, you're either going to lose your shirt or you have to be aware that there may be some maintenance time and it seems to be more common with compression than editing for example.

The above factors may or may not be relevant to all jobs. Sometimes presets are fine and a quick look at the material may let you know that an already available preset may work fine. At the very least you need to look through the above list (it's just off the top of my head so there may be additional things I'm forgetting) to determine what's relevant.

You can bill for the time it takes to do the "labor" such as setup and tweaking. You can bill for machine time (cluster might be faster but takes up more gear). Another way to bill is total duration of all clips. A one hour clip going to three encodes is 3 hours. Personally I prefer to bill for hours of labor and hours of encoding it takes. I thought you should be aware of all (or many) of the details to consider though.

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Chris BlairRe: How do you invoice this?
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 6:16:17 pm

We do a lot of compression and we've tried all sorts of pricing for it. What we've settled on is the following:

$50 setup fee for up to 10 videos.

$35 encoding fee for each codec/format of EACH video up to 10 minutes long.. Additional pixel sizes or data rates for the SAME video CODEC are $5 per.

Videos longer than 10 minutes get a $2 per minute additional charge above 10. So a 60 minute video would be a $50 setup fee and $135 to encode. This is basically what we would charge for editing for an hour so if it ties a suite up for an hour or hour and a half, then we've made a decent amount of money. But that said, we usually encode overnight or on non-edit suite systems.

So if someone has 15 videos to encode to H264 and FLV, there would be two $50 setup fees, and 30 charges of $35 because they're encoding to 2 different codecs/formats.

If they wanted 15 videos encoded to H264 but at two data rates/pixel sizes, then it would be the same setup fees, but 15 x $35 for the initial compression, and 15 x $5 for the additional size/data rate versions.

Why the reduced charge you might ask? Because the software encodes faster to the same codec/format on multiple encodes than it does to different codecs. It can usually do both versions in one pass, whereas it would have to do one pass for an H264, and then another for FLV. Not to mention the differences in encoding time when you're doing single pass versus multi-pass encoding.

Craig brings up all the same points I was going to bring up about the time it takes to get compression done correctly. While we have presets, you cannot rely on them for every type of video, especially depending on the quality and source of the original. We usually spend about 30-60 minutes prepping, running short tests and watching encodes before actually running a job. We also often test them on a website to check for streaming performance.

We also use software that allows us to do encodes in batches and add filters and such right during the encode. So if we need to encode a 10 minute video to H264/MP4, WMV and FLV, we can do it in one encoding pass. If you have to do it in several passes, then you might want to charge more.

Compressing video well is time-consuming and involves one part science, one part art, and one part voodoo to deal with all the quirks in formats and codecs. You need to charge accordingly.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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