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Upload Fees?

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Todd Terry
Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 3:30:59 pm

Hey kids...

Got a question here about "upload fees," and if any of you are charging them...

We produce tons of broadcast commercials, and for years they all went out as Betacam dubs... which, of course, there was a charge for (and by the way, we only invoice for dubbing service rather than for "dubs," so that we don't have to charge clients sales tax on them... but that's neither here nor there).

But now, like most of you are probably experiencing, we are getting more requests for FTP file uploads rather than dubs (it's mostly cable outlets, the broadcast stations still seem happy to get the Betas).

Just to throw out numbers, we charge clients $25 for a Betacam dub of a :30 spot. We're not making any money on dubbing... that 25 bucks pretty much covers the $6 raw tape, the wear and tear on the decks, and the few minutes of labor that it takes to make it. The FTP uploads, on the other hand, require making a new/different/additional file, use of a computer for a while for uploading (and each suite only has the NLE as a computer), and the bandwidth.

And it's not one or the other... each spot we produce might go to ten different places... some getting the Betas, two or three getting individual FTP uploads (and while we have reasonably fast service we don't have a gigantic pipeline so they do take a while).

So far, this has been limited to the standard-def world (all of our clients that will broadcast high-def take those from us as files on Data DVDs), but I know it's coming for HD as well.

For those of you who do that... how do you charge for it (if you do)? Like a dub? More? Less?

Thanks!!


T2

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






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Mark Suszko
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 3:56:52 pm

I think you should still charge a nominal fee for it, just maybe not as much as you did for physical tape dubs and poastage. Maybe half. And eventually budget for a dedicated, networked uploading workstation that can grab any file from one of your suites and send it on out. The conversions for specific formatting, I would charge under the existing billing for the edit.

If there is no edit associated with the job, say, it is something already in your library and the client calls up and says: "Please shoot a copy via FTP to so-and-so", then just the rate for sending anything out of that dedicated workstation applies.

There is something to be said for waiving the FTP charges in the name of "added value", and advertising that. While you lose the minor income that would have offset some of your costs for time converting the file... neither are you out the time and money from making multiple runs of tape dubs in real time, Q/C'ing them, boxing and getting them ready for shipping, handling inventory of blank stock, cleaning machine heads, etc etc etc. Unless they are asking for something exotic, FTP has to be easier, cheaper adn faster than tape dubs, so encourage going that way by passing on the savings to clients.


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 4:12:00 pm

As an aside on the topic of FTP uploads for clients, we are working on plug-ins for some of the NLE applications to allow for direct "Export File Preview to COW FTP."

The mechanism will enable users to give the preview recipient's email address and will send them the link when it is successfully uploaded. It will also send you a "file viewed" receipt when the client previews it.

It's just one of the many things we'll be adding to the site this year.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom


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Mike Cohen
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 4:29:25 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "we are working on plug-ins for some of the NLE applications to allow for direct "Export File Preview to COW FTP."

Ron - we have been wondering why Media Encoder cannot upload to an FTP automatically. I think Squeeze has this feature. Likewise, there should be a way to automatically upload the contents of a watch folder to a specific location.

Mike Cohen


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Todd Terry
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 4:16:59 pm

I get what you're saying, Mark, in a perfect world... but our little world here is far from perfect.

So far, we've been discouraging FTP uploads in favor of good old fashioned tape dubs. For one simple reason... the tend to look like crap on the air (even though we give them pristine files). Comcast here admits it. Knology admits it. Charter begrudgingly admits it. And it's not just us, it's everyone who sends them files.. whether it be us, another production company, or DGFastchannel.

And frankly the uploads are a pain in the butt. They are an additional step we have to make (we're already having to make Betas anyway... tie up machines, and take a long time to go. I'd rather make Betas any day... but then, I fear change. But... times will change, and our equipment and capabilities will change, but even if we did have another dedicated computer for uploading somewhere in the building, just transferring the files via the intranet to that computer and then starting the upload takes a lot more time and personnel energy than running yet another easy-breezy Beta dub on the stack.

And I understand the "value added" theory, but you also look at who is getting that added value. It's largely the broadcasters and cable outlets. They no longer have to drive over here, pick up a dub, sign it out, drive back to their place, transcode, or upload it. These are things they are already doing for free, basically. They are not the client, or the ones who get our bills... it's the advertisers who are our clients. So, basically it's not the people who pay us for a living that are getting all that added value... with the exception of not having pay a measly little amount for a dub.

Hmmmm.....


T2

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






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Chris Blair
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 5:39:14 pm

We charge the same as we would charge for a dub. If we do 8 different encodes and FTP uploads, we charge for 8 of them. We initially got complaints (a lot of complaints) from clients, until we explained the procedure, which as Todd points out, is more time-consuming and complex than just making good old fashioned dubs.

Almost all of our commercial delivery is digital now, all via FTP. There's only one station we still make dubs for out of probably 30-40 stations we deliver to in a 200 mile radius.

There are some buys where we have to make literally 4 or 5 totally different encodes for a spot, because each station or cable system has different requirements. They either need different formats/codecs, with MPEG2 and H264 Quicktime being the most prevalent. But some stations want bars/tone and slate, some don't. Some require the file be exactly 30 seconds, not a frame longer. Some require ONLY slate, with no bars. It's a pain. If we have a campaign we're sending out, say 4 spots, we might have to encode each spot 4 or 5 different ways. That's 20 encoding passes, then the time to upload on our T1 line, which can take several hours for 20 spots.

We've actually brought a couple clients in to show them what has to be done. When we did dubs, we could make 3 BetaSP copies at a time, so we could dub, check and label a 4 spot campaign (all on the same tape) in less than 30 minutes. Encoding that same spot and uploading via FTP takes at least twice as long, then uses resources on 3 or 4 computers for another hour (and our slows our internet to a crawl).

I actually think we make very little from doing this considering the time it takes. Not to mention the issues of then troubleshooting with the stations/cable systems who can never seem to find the spots, despite the fact THEY'VE setup where they go on their servers. They go to the same place every time and we invariably get half a dozen calls every time we upload from reps asking, "where's the spot?" We say, "same place it was last time you asked."

Then there's the issue of the stations/cable operators taking your high-quality digital file and re-encoding it. Never mind it's in a format that can be loaded and played directly from their playout server. When they re-encode, several of the stations reverse the fields on the spots, so they look even worse because not only are they re-compressed at 10:1 or higher, but now the motion jumps and stutters. This happens because most of the encoding systems are automated. People are not involved. We've talked to stations and they admit it. NOBODY looks at the spots before they hit the air. The file is uploaded. After a certain amount of time, it's automatically moved to the encoder, re-encoded and then automatically placed on their server. Once there, it's assigned for air. It's not checked, it's not viewed. They look at the ISCI code the file is given in the file name and that's it.

We joke that it's a miracle they get to air at all. And then there's the whold SD, HD issues. But that's for another rant!

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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Rick Sebeck
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 5:45:04 pm

You should check out ExtremeReach (or DGFast Channel). We use them for delivery of spots. We upload one HD, on SD version of a spot, then they deliver the files to all the stations either digitally or on tape. Every station has a different deliverable - especially when it comes to HD -- this way you don't have to worry about any of it. And Extreme Reach has an awesome website to keep track of your creative library, traffic instructions, and orders. I can tell my client the minute the station has received the spot!



Editor


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Todd Terry
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 5:50:47 pm

I've never heard of Extreme Reach... but I've seen nothing but severe quality issues with DGFastchannel.

It's heartbreaking to pour our sweat and tears into a spot to make it look great (not to mention bucketloads of a client's money), only to have it look like crapola on the air. Especially when it doesn't have to look like that, if anyone cared enough to do it right.

T2

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






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Todd Terry
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 5:45:48 pm

I think Chris hit the nail on the head about the process... in that what seems to be IN THEORY a quick-n-easy thing that should be a lot easier than making old-fashioned dubs with your bare hands like an animal... is really a lot harder.

And he's right that the quality control seems to be zero.

Just watching the boob tube this past weekend, I noticed that on whatever channel I was watching about 75% of the local-inserted commercials had the fields inverted and were naturally jittering like crazy. I wanted to scream "Is nobody checking this??" The answer of course being, no... they're not. Sad.


T2

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






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Mark Suszko
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 6:42:57 pm

I take your point abdout the random QC, Todd, but surely, (I'm not calling you Shirley) this is something that's going to settle down over time. It pretty much HAS to, eentually, as part of the new way of doing business. Doesn't it? Whether or not you'll have any hair left to tear out by that time, I couldn't say.

So, why isn't your encoding just part of the edit?


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Chris Blair
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 12, 2010 at 10:37:11 pm

On the DG FastChannel suggestion. We've used them many times over the years, along with Vyvx (they may be one company now). And like Todd said, they're no better than the local stations.

Plus, local stations in our region rarely use FastChannel anymore. They want the spots uploaded directly to their server, which is setup as a "watch" folder. When it "sees" a spot get uploaded, the software control is set to wait a certain amount of time (usually 5-15 minutes after upload activity stops or a total amount of time for the upload once it has started, typically 45 minutes). Once it stops or gets to it's time cutoff, the spot is automatically loaded into the encoding system, compressed, then automatically moved to the playout server.

Also...many station groups and cable systems have a remote encoding station, say at one station or in cable's case at one of their larger systems like Chicago. ALL spots get FTP'd there first, then they're distributed to the stations via FTP or in some cases they're actually played from the remote location's server. So you can see the need for some serious compression and small file sizes whether they're sending via FTP or playing them over it. This is part of the reason the spots look like dog poop. I actually didn't believe Insight here locally when they told me in some markets, spots are played from a server in Chicago...but it's true.

If they get it via DG, a person usually has to do something with it. They don't want people involved. They have to pay people.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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Larry Melton
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 13, 2010 at 8:52:43 pm

Todd, everything you're saying here is stuff my partner and I have discussed many times. Recently we did a spot for a car dealer that was going to 14 stations in three different markets. But every station got a different version of the spot, with a specific phone number graphic that allowed the client to track which buys were generating calls.

So that's 14 different exports. And of course, one station wants MPEG-2 with slate, one MPEG-2 without slate, some QT H.264 with slate, some without, some MPEG-4...you get the idea.

My solution has been this: it's editing time. Whatever time it takes to export these files takes my time, computer time, knowledge of compressions, proper software, constant communication with the stations to determine what their specs are....so I just charge them the same hourly rate as I do for editing. And really, when you calculate how long it takes to export, upload, etc, it ends up being about the same cost as a Beta dub for the client - I might be able to do 6-8 per hour, and our rate is $200.

Regarding DG, I believe that even if you upload just one spot, that as each station retrieves it, the advertiser or agency is charged a fee - something like $25 (if anyone knows exactly please correct me), so the client would still be paying the equivalent price of the dub. And we just found out that for HD delivery, DG is charging $250 per spot!

Like you, I've been doing this a very long time, and I still have to slap myself whenever I hear the words "simple" or "easy" come out of my mouth. Nothing is ever as simple or easy as it seems.

Larry Melton
1041East
http://www.1041east.com


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Mark Grossardt
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 13, 2010 at 8:53:54 pm

Todd, I'm surprised that the local stations in your market seem to handle Beta SP dubs with care. We went with DG because we were tired of our local stations jacking up the tapes we were sending out. It seemed like a no-brainer since DG's internal QC is pretty good. Their mpeg 2 specs are really specific, and every now and then we'll even get a call from their people about some problem in a spot that we didn't catch.

But in the end, I'm not sure if we receive fewer complaints about spots looking horrible on air now or before we started using DG. What plays on the air is obviously not what we sent the stations, and they just don't seem to care. It seems that once a tape/file is in the hands of a local station, all bets are off.



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Chris Blair
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 13, 2010 at 10:10:37 pm

In response to Larry's post, DG does charge the client or agency a fee. So if we (production company) upload to DG, we charge the client a fee, and when DG sends the spot to the stations, they charge the client a fee. Hence the reason a LOT of ad agencies DO NOT want to use DG. If they send a spot to 300 stations a month (nothing for a large advertiser), and DG charges them $25 per send, that's $7,500 a month or $90,000/year. If an agency has their production company send directly to stations/cable systems, they can eliminate that expense!

We even know ad agencies that don't tell their clients this and continue to charge the same fee for the traffic delivery as before. They now pocket that $90,000. A little shady in my opinion but it's being done.

On the DG quality control. I agree they likely do a better job than stations, but when we were using DG, they'd take our file, then they'd re-encode it for satellite delivery. Then every station in our market would take the DG MPEG2 file and they would RE-ENCODE it into their system. So by us sending them an MPEG2 file we at least eliminate one encoding pass and one chance at it being screwed up.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog


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Rich Rubasch
Re: Upload Fees?
on May 15, 2010 at 3:01:52 am

gotta jump in here. We use a combination of DG and Beta and FTP uploads. FTP is mostly for local and cable that accept HD files for spots. Local stations who accept Beta and are SD only get Beta. We use DG Fastchannel for SD spots delivered to cities in other markets or statewide buys.

We charge $40 per spot no matter what, and $50 per spot if it is a :60. DG charges $25 per spot and :10 for each :30 increment over the initial :30. A beta costs less for just the stock and by the time I output and make labels I could have encoded and uploaded the spot to DG.

DG is greener. Tape is toxic. Do we need more tape? I can encode the file once and send it to 20 stations in a few clicks. I charge $40 each and I am making money.

Someone said each station has different requirements and that is true and that is why DG is a better and faster option if you are sending to multiple stations the same spot in SD.

We have not seen any difference in our market between a DG delivered spot or a Beta spot. BUT, DG' audio will be digital 48k stereo all the way to the server, but Betacam audio is about as good as the cassette deck in your 73 Gremlin. DG sounds better....is that important.

I just did four spots to 25 stations, delivered them all via DG, took about a half hour and I gave the client a break on price because of quantity.

We have been very proactive sending HD spots to the stations who will take them, so we go the extra mile to encode those to the right specs and send em out.

I prefer DG for larger orders of the same spot to many stations, use FTP for HD spots or if I am only sending a single spot to one station who we have an FTP for. Beta for local SD stations sometimes.

$40 per spot per station.....oh and I will discount if I put multiple spots on a Beta....$40 for the first, $10 each additional.



Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production and Post
Owner/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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