Advice on first big project
Little background about myself... I've been editing video for about 8 years, mostly events. I had plenty of little projects that involved music or cinematic videos, documentaries, etc, that involved After efects, tracking and composting. My knowledge in AE is between above average and advanced. My knowledge in 3ds Max is above average. My overall learning skills are excellent, in other words, there is nothing I can't get done in either of those programs... it all comes down to time. Since I don't use advanced AE techniques on a daily basis, I haven't had the opportunity to be fast (like I am when I edit events).
My dream is to work full time in composting, tracking and motion graphics. Over the years, I've spent literally thousands of hours in self teaching but again, if you don't do daily work in that field, you'll never get fast.
Since I opened my own editing business 2 years ago, business is flourishing but mainly in events so I don't have time to brush up on the other things I want to do. Last week I got an offer for a big job. I didn't get all the details yet but it will involve green screens, real explosions in building and they are even going to blow up a car. Many cameras and cranes will be involved and police and fire department personnel will be on all scenes. What I was told is that I will be given ready made files of rendered models and scenes (maybe more cars andor buildings) to be composted into final shots. I guess this will include Z-passes and ambient inclusions etc...
This is not something I'd give up as I see it as an opening to new carrier path - the one I always wanted. But I don't want the client to know about my excitement on accepting this project or my "lack of experience" since I know I can get it done... but what I don't know is how long it would take me. What I DO know is that it will definitely take much longer that a seasoned compositor so I don't think I would be able to charge a daily rate. How do I go about giving a price estimate and project time-table if I've never done such a big project before? I understand I need to get ALL the details before figuring out prices (I'll get back to you when I have them) but until then, I'm asking in general.
Although you're excited, you've also got to realize that your treading in dangerous territory. By taking on a project without knowing how long it will take you, or how to get there exactly, you run the risk of disaster.
Get the expected drop dead date from the client, then all of the details - get rid of the "guess this will include Z-passes and ambient inclusions etc...", and find out exactly what you'll be getting, final delivery formats, approvals process...everything.
As far as pricing it out, it sounds as if you're going to be better off pricing it out at a price per minute, finished. That way, you'll lock into a price no matter how long it takes you. That's the trap, though. If you take way longer than anticipated, and blow past deadlines, you may risk working for next to nothing, as well as your reputation, which you're hoping to build, not destroy.
Here's a recent post I replied to on a similar request, and how I work out just what's involved in a project, so that the unknowns get minimized, and the time billed is close to reality:
Yes, I said that I understand that of course I'd need first ALL the details. I think your response is wise and I liked the "per rolling minute" charge idea. I will be in touch if I need more help. Thanks!!
Beside the advice you've been already given here's what I would say:
Use this job as a learning opportunity. Hire a good compositor to work along with you on this job. You'll make less money but you'll gain a lot of experience and you'll be more likely to be on time.
Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist