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Budgeting for unknown editing

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Grant WilberBudgeting for unknown editing
by on Jan 23, 2013 at 12:52:36 pm

I got a decent sized job that I'm trying to budget and has like 12 different videos I'd be creating. Half the videos have a script and the other just a bullet outline. I don't want to screw myself and end up having way more editing then I thought. I've worked with this client before and it hasn't been unusual for me to give them exactly what they want and then go through another 5 drafts as they get pretty particular or the CEO wants it all done differently.

Kinda one of those situations were the client say's "the person will just talk for 5 mins" but you know it'll be closer to 20 mins.

Whats the best way to protect myself? I was gonna give the budget and tell them my hourly editing rate and say that if I'm under then they don't pay for the extra hours but if we go over proposed hours then they pay per hour. Is this the best way to handle it?

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Chris TompkinsRe: Budgeting for unknown editing
by on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:08:28 pm

Always a tough spot to be in. Lucky you have a history with them.
You either bill it hourly or ballpark the whole job for one number.

There's no easy answer, we have all been in the spot before.
I would give one big number for the whole edit and try your best to nail the amount, go a little high to protect.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Budgeting for unknown editing
by on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:45:46 pm

When you have this many unknowns, only compute using hourly rates. Don't commit to one flat price for the entire thing. That's the surest way to under-bill them.

But let's take a step back for a minute and see where the problem really comes from. IMO, You don't have an *editing* problem, so much as a *writing/organization* problem. Especially if its common to have to do a lot of revisions and then more when the CEO sees it. The CEO is not in the loop at the front end of the process and everybody is guessing what he or she will like. Or worse, everybody is trying to please some middle manager's vision of what is needed, and it pleases that "suit", but it isn't geared to the actual target market, and it fails when it is deployed to the actual target audience. Or it is perfect for the audience, but nobody explained that audience to the CEO, who then applies their own taste criteria to the project, which may have nothing to do with the target audience. Again, the project fails.

The real problem I see here is that nobody is effectively being the Producer or Director here, and what would really help a LOT is to put all these programs through the Creative Treatment step, BEFORE it get to the shooting or editing step.

The Creative Treatment is not a script: its a blueprint for the script, that describes each scene in order, and justifies why it is the way it is. It doesn't have any actual dialog in it. But, a good writer can write a script directly from the descriptions in a Treatment. This is a flexible, evolving document that the people in charge circulate and modify at no cost, until it reflects the shape of the program as everyone understands it, by consensus. This way you never get to hear: "That's exactly what we asked for, but not what we wanted."

When the Treatment is approved, it becomes a guide for the casting, the number and kinds of locations, you'll know what kind of props and effects you may need, and how many cameras and shooting days. So it's a budgeting tool as well. Can't afford a location? Erase it and write in a new one, no charge. The beauty of the process is that changes at this step cost nothing, whereas fixing things in post as you well know, cost time and money, if they can be accomplished at all. You show this Treatment to the CEO, and he modifies it or signs off on it. Then he or she is not surprised and calling for all kinds of expensive changes after viewing the final product. You know what you are going to get, and roughly what it will cost, before you make it.

So what I'm saying is, if they put each of these vids thru that process first, your editing job would be pretty easy to estimate in straight hours. And they would only have to do the job one time, saving a lot of money that could be plowed back into better production values, or just applied elsewhere in the company budget.

Since they are not yet doing that, you have to take each job as a separate estimate, figuring in the extra time for graphics here and there or audio repairs or whatever. This is not a commodity business; each job is a custom job, no two are exactly alike.

I like your last paragraph and that's probably the way to go, but I might phrase it more like: "for the projects that end up getting done faster than anticipated, I will apply the saved hours as a discount to the less-organized projects that may run long." I would try to do all the best-organized ones first, if possible. I would bill each project independently, based on your best time estimates or each situation. Your rate is the same for each job, so time is the only variable.

Suggest gently to the client that they could streamline this process and make it cheaper for themselves by adopting the Creative Treatment process in pre-production planning. This is where I plug Morley's book on Corporate Scriptwriting, which is where I learned all about the Treatment process. It's a good and easy read, for you, or them.

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Grant WilberRe: Budgeting for unknown editing
by on Jan 26, 2013 at 6:13:00 am

Thanks for all the feedback and thanks Mark for the good post.

I try hard to implement alot of those things but sometimes I get clients that no matter how much I push for a script and plan and am willing to sit down and write everything out - they just don't get it and see how much it effects the video and cost. For this project I ended up over estimating the editing hours and then pretty much saying I'm only gonna charge for the hours I work. Good enough client were I'm fine doing that.

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walter biscardiRe: Budgeting for unknown editing
by on Jan 23, 2013 at 4:01:04 pm

Your estimate goes something like this:

Based on the information provided, I estimate this will take X hours/days/weeks to complete the project. Estimated price is $Y

Any additional hours/days beyond this estimate due to additions / changes by the client will be charged at $X/hour $Y/day.

That's how I approach all projects honestly because EVERY project has unknowns.

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