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A reflection on trends

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Rich RubaschA reflection on trends
by on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:58:00 pm

Lots of discussion has been made about the new economy...that everyone has access to the tools so anyone can do it.

A long time ago in the days of the black box ($100,000 plus proprietary hardware/software tool) entry was prohibited along with the number of professionals in the business. If you weren't that good, no business owner was going to have you run his Quantel needed skill.

At the same time hourly rates for post were 3-4 times higher than what they are now which meant not everyone could do video. You needed a budget...a pretty big one...even to do a local spot.

We can shoot and post a TV campaign of three spots for a client for about $6000 but you couldn't even edit a single spot for that back then.

So what the lower cost of admission also means, besides more editors out there, is more clients. Now just about everyone can find a price they can afford and someone to produce it for that amount. Quality will probably vary much more than it used to but so do the prices.

You need to determine at what price point you can play within. the high end, the corporate middle, or the low end...or somewhere in between. Build your business plan around that and you'll be fine.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage

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Steve MartinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 3, 2011 at 3:46:15 pm

Hi Rich,

I think you are spot-on! Back in the day (circa 1990?), I think I was in one of the first waves of relatively low cost gear.

To be sure, the Video Toaster had some really cheesy effects (seriously, who remembers the "Kiki Wipes and the really pixilated DVE") but the opportunity to build a real A/B roll edit suite with a CMX style editor, Time Base corrected signals, scopes and other goodies without having to spend $250k+ made it possible for little guys like me to make inroads into the big-boy club.

It allowed me to continue to develop my skills and get better clients along the way. I'm sure the guys who ran the big post houses who were billing $400/hour+ hated it. The world changed for them - just as it continues to change for us. The ones who adapted are still around. The ones who didn't went the way of the "buggy whip maker."

As for fees, again - I think you're right! Yes, fees are lower, but so are costs. It's up to us as business owners to provide real value to our clients. To address their needs and requirements as best we can. And finally, to understand the ultimate business truth: The person that signs the front of the check makes the most of the decisions. The ones who sign the back of the check rarely do. The latter serves at the pleasure of the former.

There's an old saying, "The Customer is Always Right!" I don't think that's really true because clients are sometimes (often?) dead wrong. So I'd like to modify the saying... "The Customer is Always The Customer."

It really puts the task on us as experienced producers and story tellers to help clients understand that there is so much more to our craft that the tools. Insert your favorite analogy here about Carpenters/mechanics/doctors/etc... here!

P.S. - Just for fun, we still have one of the old Amiga computers with 3 TBC cards, a waveform/Vscope card and a Video Toaster Board inside. Believe it or not, it still works and we use it in our our duplication rack to check scope levels for the occasional analog dubs!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Nick GriffinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 3, 2011 at 5:31:55 pm

At the risk of quoting myself, here's part of an intro to a COW article I wrote last year directed at people who seldom upgrade their software and suffer the consequences.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Let me throw a little perspective into the subject for anyone under 35. When non linear editing systems first came on the scene in the early nineties they were replacing three conventional ways of working: on-line/ broadcast quality editing (done in rooms using hundreds of thousands of dollars of gear), off-line editing (usually done as a less expensive way to work out in advance what you would be doing in an on-line session, but many times used for a non-broadcast products like industrials), and third of course was traditional flatbed editing which involved splicing together lengths of film. All three were expensive and the latter two were, out of necessity, almost always cuts only.

Early non linear systems we're in the low to mid tens of thousands of dollars. Media 100 was one of the first capable of working at high enough quality that for most things there was no need to take an edit decision list (EDL) from it over to an on-line system for "finishing." The picture I'm painting for you is a world in which several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of decks, controllers, switchers, audio consoles, DVE and other specialty boxes, etc. -- along with the people needed to run them -- were replaced by off the shelf computers housing a few specialized cards, some big and fast (for the time) hard drive arrays, a single record/playback deck and a monitor all brought together for as little as $20,000 or so. What a revolution! Real work for a fraction of what it used to cost.

Jump ahead to today and we've almost taken another decimal point off the cost. In fact with many flavors of DV and with file-based rather than tape-based cameras, functional NLE systems can be assembled in the low thousands of dollars. To simplify, in twenty years the cost of being in the video editing business has gone from $400,000 to $20,000 to $2,000, or one half of one percent of what it used to cost. Oh, and don't even get me started on the fact that 1990's $400,000 facility was SD and 2010's NLE, with the right storage, is likely capable of glorious high definition.

What's my point and why have I offered a three paragraph history lesson? Because it makes me nuts that some people and some businesses are frozen in time, not updating their software for years and years when it is so unbelievably inexpensive to do so. Different production facilities have different cost structures and therefore different abilities to absorb operating expenses. I get it. But at my company the cost of a version upgrade or even a one year service agreement routinely gets earned in part of an afternoon. So why would we, or anyone else for that matter NOT want the multiple advances and improvements that come with successive upgrades? Read on to learn more about what they are.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anyway, that's what I had to say on the subject in 2010.

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Steve MartinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 3, 2011 at 6:16:49 pm

And it will probably still be relevant in 2021 Nick!


Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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grinner hesterRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 3, 2011 at 9:34:35 pm

Flat bids have been my saving grace as the tideas have changed. While folks use to stand in line to pay 450 an hour for cuts and disolves, charging a quarter of that an hour for anything they can dream up often runs em off today. That said, I know how long I'll spend on a project. It's just a matter of finding out their budget then explaining what I can do for that.... or letting them tell me exactly what they want and when they have to have it by and I can come back with one flat price for the whole enchelada. IMO, if a company can't do that today, they are not competing like they can.

The truth is "they" CAN do it themselves today. Our job is to simply educate them on why and how our companies can benefit them more. That's the bottom line... it's not a come see ME business world anymore. It's a here is how I can improve YOUR bottom line world.

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Steve MartinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 4, 2011 at 3:20:02 pm

I like the flat bid idea and have been using it here more and more often. It takes a client/prospect willing to trust you with all the details up front. But when we are able to set up a project that way typically everyone is happier in the end!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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Nick GriffinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 4, 2011 at 7:33:31 pm

[Steve Martin] "I like the flat bid idea and have been using it here more and more often."

Yea, we have too, but usually for the projects we really want, knowing that when we go over the amount of estimated time (especially for editing and all the little touches at the end) we'll end up eating some, if not most, of the overage. How strict we are on changes and overages is in direct inverse proportion to how interesting or important the job is.

We're also going to cut more slack for people who are easy to work with and just the opposite for those who aren't.

About a year ago we had a referral who started showing all the danger signs from the start. He was an hour late for the start, didn't want to pay any attention during the shoot -- constantly leaving the area to make cell calls, to then complaining when showed some rough dailies that we didn't exactly get the angles that he (and his absent partner) had in mind. He paid full boat and the final check had to be FedEx'd before anything was released.

On the smaller, and therefore more straightforward jobs, it's much easier to say 1 day shoot is X and 4 hours of editing is Y, so the price with expenses will be Z.

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Bob ZelinRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:02:25 am

the real saving grace of all of this (so far) is that the reality of sending "little Johnnie" out with his iPhone to shoot the new video for the company has not become a reality yet. Certainly corporations have purchased Canon 5D/7D and FCP for in house video's but it still requires SOMETHING - it still requires knowlege and investment, and most real companies will still go to a production company, or bring in freelancers to do real jobs for them. So the industry is still "alive", and people are still watching TV - I think more than ever (even if TV is a video on the web).

So the doom and gloom (we are being put out of business by the iPhone and YouTube) had not happened - yet.

Bob Zelin

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walter biscardiRe: A reflection on trends
by on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:17:49 am

The two keys for me have been quite simple.

Price yourself fairly for the quality of your work.

Build long term relationships over maximizing the profits for each job.

My rates are lower than most "comparable facilities" but we're at a price point where we've built relationships with clients going on 10 years. So the profit per job might be lower than it could be but over the long haul, the strategy has allowed a steady growth that has enabled us to expand twice.

Moving forward we're branching into original content production and expanding on our training offerings.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

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