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Archiving fees

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Bob Cole
Archiving fees
on Nov 7, 2014 at 1:52:43 pm

What do you charge for archiving client materials? I've never included it in the cost of the current job, but I do try to hold onto past material, because "you never know."

And, how do you persuade clients to pay for something that is "done?" I have a client who, two years ago, declined to pay to archive their past projects. I did it anyway. Then, this year, the CEO retired, and they immediately wanted to make a video that tapped all of that material.

But that is just one client out of many! For the most part, I've been maintaining other companies' archives for them, which was not that hard when everything was tape-based, but is now out of hand with file-based acquisition.

Bob C

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Nick Griffin
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 7, 2014 at 2:26:14 pm

[Bob Cole] "...but is now out of hand with file-based acquisition."

And that's why I'm happy to have stuck with XDCam disks. Like you, Bob, I'm an old guy who likes having what used to be tapes and now disks on a shelf. Because our digital files (Cannon & GoPro) are only a small portion of what we shoot I archive those files, as well as finished programs on data BluRay disks.

And to answer your initial question, we do not charge archive fees mostly because it seems to be an expectation on the clients' part that they can always get something that's been done in the past. Then when they ask for it a small "recover from archives" search fee is charged.

I'm reminded of a recording studio/video production facility (Sheffield, Bob) that back in the day would archive masters and work reels free of charge. BUT if you wanted to take them out of their archive they had a fairly lengthy release form where you agreed that you were taking responsibility for the materials and were holding the facility harmless if you should lose the tapes.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:05:21 pm

Hear, hear, Nick! Old Guys club, repre-ZENT!. I think for smaller file sizes Blue Ray disks on a shelf are a terrific solution, and you just add the stock to the bill.

If you know the project is going to be big from the start, it probably makes sense to add the cost of an external backup drive to the bid.

If the volume of files is something unexpected that sort of sneaked-up on you, again, add the cost of a drive to the editing bill. These days, it's almost a negligible expense.

As for hours, I wouldn't likely charge for renders/uploads that happen unattended, overnight.

In your contracts, you might want to protect yourself by having the client sign off on a clause that you guarantee file retention only for x number of years, after which you are held harmless against things like failed media or drive mechanisms, etc. Additional long term archiving is an "added-value" issue, or something you can build a separate billing around.

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Steve Kownacki
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:31:38 pm

Well, I don't give my clients the option - their scope of work says "Archive all materials" and it's usually about 30 min to an hour of editing time. I use LTO5 now, but was mainly drives, CDs and DVDs & BD data in the past. LTO tapes now are only a few dollars that I don't directly charge unless the job is huge and requires their own set. And as part of that "Old Guys Club," it was easier to have a Media100 file and a few graphics on a CD along with a few physical videotapes on a shelf, rather than 600gigs of data.

It all goes back to relationships - I assume my client will be with me for life and we'll need something from a prior project at some point. This might be grabbing a DVD authoring template, an AFX file, or logo to make the next project that much more efficient. They're hiring a professional and the archiving is part of the process an amateur does not give consideration to.


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Todd Terry
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:49:43 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Nov 7, 2014 at 4:04:31 pm

We don't give a client the choice either... when budgeting, every project has a line item "archival."

It's a pittance, really, I think we charge $70 or $75... but it's more than enough to make up for the cost of the drive space and the time to drag to it.

Now... we often don't invoice for archival, sometimes that charge is hidden somewhere else. I don't want a client's project to go corrupt and then ten years from now some cranky guy is yelling at me "But we paid for you to save it!" We archive mostly for ourselves, because those projects will likely come up again. The fastest way to guarantee that a client will call about an old project is to accidently not archive it.

Since we mostly live in the :30 commercial world, our projects aren't huge, data-wise. I'll rarely shoot more than 16GB of footage for a single project (maybe twice or three times that, but it's rare), and a final whole project might be in the 30-100GB range, so it's not huge. Depending on what they are, I've had as many as 50+ projects archived on a single pair of backup drives, so in those cases we were actually making money on archival... although that's not the goal.

We archive entire projects on mirrored drives, and we archive another copy of all camera raw separately on other drives. We often have need to grab some original raw footage without hunting through an entire archived project, so having another copy of just the raw footage makes that faster.

I'm not sure how other NLEs handle this, but we realized after a while that with our particular editing platform (Adobe Premiere, currently cutting with CS6 in all our suites) that we were saving more than we have to. When you start a new project in Premiere, it automatically generates a folder called "Adobe Premiere Pro Preview Files" in the root of the main project folder. This is where all renders go. If you work on a sizeable project for a long time with tons of tweaks and changes and lots of filters or effects that require rendering, this folder might very well turn out to be by far the biggest chunk of data in your project... and there's no need at all to keep it. So we blow out the preview files before archival.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mads Nybo Jørgensen
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 8, 2014 at 9:55:45 am

I don't charge for archiving either. But I do like to back everything up. These days I mainly use, BlueRay, and do one master and one copy of every disc.

However, if a client does want to get access, this is where I charge for my time and efforts. And have in the past won editing jobs based on having the archive.

All the Best

@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Twitter: @madsvid

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Tom Sefton
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 10, 2014 at 12:42:06 pm

Same as Nick, we invoice the client for archival of materials. We explain the size of the project and the unfeasible request for us to store all projects we work on forever. So far, we haven't had a client that was unwilling to pay £50-100 for archiving their projects. Sometimes, they are happy for something to be deleted, but we would then render out a high quality ProRes of the timeline and delete the rest.

If we are working on a large budget project, we would usually hide the line item, but occasionally we charge more if the project requires large amounts of RAID storage that require additional purchases before the start.

In many cases we are working on RAIDs with large projects so we can't afford to keep work on them for much longer than the project lasts.

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David Roth Weiss
Re: Archiving fees
on Nov 18, 2014 at 8:54:05 pm

Hey Bob,

Set a fee based on a unit of storage, i.e. something like $25 to $40 to $50 per terabyte per year. That's what the big facilities do.


David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

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Patrick Ortman
Re: Archiving fees
on Feb 16, 2015 at 4:14:09 pm

Funny/sad story, we had a very large client who refused to pay us to properly archive their project. So, I delivered the masters to them, and warned them that they'd refused to pay for the archive, that this means we won't have a copy in the future if they need files, etc.

Well, 2 years later, they need the archive they'd refused to pay for.

As a Boy Scout, despite the client's vocal unwillingness to pay for archiving, I'd run a copy to a drive, on our own dime. Unfortunately, that drive has failed.

Which, I think, is the Universe's way of saying "Hey, dummy! Pay for the archive next time!".

Of course, we're trying to recover the files for them.

Los Angeles and New York video production for businesses and brands:

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Bob Cole
Re: Archiving fees
on Feb 18, 2015 at 12:56:37 am

I hope you charge them what it actually costs to retrieve the data.

I'm with Todd about explicitly charging for an archive, though -- unless, as David says, you charge for every year. Guaranteeing an archive in perpetuity is not feasible under most circumstances. Even if the media stays intact, the changes in software and hardware can make it extremely difficult to USE that data readily, after even just a couple of years. In the case of a Final Cut Pro 7 project, you have to make sure you export an XML version, in case your future computer doesn't run FCP7, and your future software won't open a proprietary FCP7 project file. And who knows how long that XML trick will work?

I think that one of the great national institutions (Library of Congress or National Archives) stores its moving-image archive on 35mm film, not just for the stability of the film itself, but also because the way we access it is not going to change with some new operating system or software.

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