You have finished shooting your footage of the wedding, special occasion or boat show and are ready to edit. Posting these kind of videos are different than editing from a script. In most cases the editor has creative control over how the story unfolds, but more on that later. Sometimes editors don’t even know what’s on the footage. I have personally had projects working with previously unseen footage I did not shoot. You get what you get, and that’s all you get. If this is the case, you may also spend extra time previewing the footage in deciding what to use.
If you operated the camera you have a distinct advantage. You already know what you have, and probably have gone over it in your mind the last day or two. This will make the job go quicker while digitizing because you already know where the good takes are. Some editors will digitize everything they shot at this stage. Then they choose clips from that footage. Or they will batch the clips with a compatible video camera. Every editor has their own style, and I do it a little differently for a couple of reasons.
First, I don’t often work with a compatible camera or deck for batch digitizing on my system. Secondly, raw camera footage doesn’t always have usable shots. I digitize entire interviews but there are always multiple takes, unusually long zooms or pans, flubs and shots that didn’t work. I spend time previewing footage, so I already have an idea of which clips will or will not be used, and smaller clips are easier to handle anyway. Why waste space digitizing crappy shots? But how you digitize clips onto your computer is really up to you.
If you’re going to be doing this type of work, do yourself a favor and buy some production music. There is a ton of affordable production music out there. In the old days you had to purchase specific rights per song, project, distribution, etc. and for big bucks. These days you can buy production music with full lifetime rights for pennies. I bought an entire music library on eBay for about sixty bucks, and I’ve seen CDs with 8-10 variously timed songs online for less than ten. Granted. A lot of it is electronic music made on a keyboard, but most production music is well produced, sufficient for the task at hand (mainly providing background music), and it sure beats the heck out of getting sued or having a project legally pulled from any type of broadcast. Anyway.
Previously I said that the editor often has creative control over how the story unfolds on projects of this nature. Yes, but this doesn’t mean the editor has a license to go artistically hog wild either. After all, you’re telling a story, not trying to visually stimulate your client. If you have to explain it to them then you went overboard artistically. So here are a few words of advice on several fronts. Give them what they want. More importantly, give them what they expect. It will save you many hours re-editing to satisfy your client. This is especially important if you quoted them a flat rate.
As a general rule, nobody wants to spend money paying you hours to add in a bunch of fancy effects. I can understand using occasional special transitions or effect templates. I’m talking about custom effects and graphics. In all likelihood you’ll be doing most of these jobs for a flat fee. Custom graphics and effects will only lower your hourly rate average. I’m not saying don’t use effects, because clients want them too. Just give your client what they expect within reason, using picture-in-picture or other pre-made templates, while keeping special transitions down to a minimum. It looks more professional if you only use one special transition anyway, and not every one you got.
If you have a client who’s hinting they want custom graphics (flying logos, titles etc.), or other custom effect (image/video layering, animation, etc.), be careful how you calculate the value of your time. If you can provide some of these services, you already have a general idea of how long it will take to accomplish your client’s requests. In most cases the client won’t know or won’t really care. Gently make it understood before you take any job that custom effects will add more hours to the project, resulting in higher costs. All they’ll want to know is how much more.
Every local media market is different. When making bids, try to be realistic, remember the economy, and above all don’t bid yourself out of the job. You may feel that your vast amount of creative skill and experience justifies a hundred-fifty+ an hour for editing. Come on. You know the tricks. You can easily get around a graphic program. You know your software like the back of your hand. How hard is it? Then again, a client’s aspirations may require several hours or more to accomplish. Time is worth money.
So how much is your editing time worth? For that matter, how much is your camera operation time worth? It’s a delicate balance. Too much, and you may not get the job. Not enough, and you’ll be spending hours of your time for minimum wage. I’m not going to tell you a set price because that changes and varies too much.
What I will tell you is to first make sure to ask what they’re looking for, and know everything they want ahead of time. Ask a lot of questions. How do they envision the final product? How long do they want it to be? What key moments are critical to them? What information is important? Are there photos or previously shot footage they want you to use? How many? Then I’ll usually ask what their budget is, and negotiate from there if they give me an answer. If they don’t, I always do my research ahead of time in anticipation of this.
How much should you charge? You’ll know by doing some market research. Every city is different and research is the most important thing to do if you want to get a fair price. So call around. Ask your competitors. Pick out a few from the phone book. Check out the want ads and find a few who do it on the side. This way you’ll get a better idea of the price range. You may not be able to charge $2,000 using a mini-DV camera, so find out what somebody with a camera like yours charges. Pretend to be a customer and ask about prices for packages and any options. What kind of equipment are they using? Are there different prices for different cameras? What are you getting for their prices? What do they charge for editing? What does that encompass?
If you know these things ahead of time, negotiating your bid will go smoother and more in your favor. Just remember that unless your client has money to burn, or even if it’s a high-end production, work with them. Use your negotiation skills and be open to compromising. Try to keep their ideas down to earth and within reason. Charge accordingly and don’t let your own artistic aspirations get the best of you later on.
We’re not editing movies or art films here. In most cases the immediate family and a few friends will ever see it. Even if it’s a promotional video for local or regional television broadcast, it doesn’t mean you should charge outrageous amounts for your time. Keep in mind that there are others out there bidding on the same job. If you do your research you can give your potential client a fair market price you can live with, while hopefully bidding below any quote they’ll get from another competitor in your price range.
Getting back to posting. One way to make life more organized and easier is to create custom editing project templates if possible. For weddings, graduations, anniversaries or other private occasion it’s relatively simple. Generic openings, closings, PIPs, graphics, titles, title pages, effects, even music already set up as a template and ready to edit. With other projects you’ll probably have to edit on the spot. During negotiations, remember to (gently) insist on getting things like images video clips audio clips, correct spellings and other needed resources from your client way in advance before editing. Knowing what graphics, effects and resources they want you to use will also help you calculate what to charge upfront. You don’t want any surprises later on.
Above all remember where you are doing business. In the local industrial television/video market, the majority of your clients will not be from our industry. They don’t know how much the pros make, much less how much others in your particular market make. They only know what they see on TV or in movie theaters. They expect well-lit in-focus stable shots for their money. They want to see the standard shots and continuity they’re used to.
Even a wedding video is expected to have the ceremony, school photos of the bride and groom, the couple shot, the dance, the garter, etc. in the order they happened. If it’s a promotional for next year’s car show, the client will expect to see a wide variety of camera shots, the sights and sounds of the event, people having fun, and tightly edited interviews with b-roll covering the jump shots. If you try to re-invent the wheel you’ll only have unsatisfied customers and spend valuable time re-editing at their request.
I hope this has been of some use for those who are reading. Whether it is a wedding, retirement, anniversary or crafts fair, you may encounter many of these situations when video recording and editing events such as these. If you’re doing it part-time or for a living, the client comes first. What they want is essential to you earning money for your time and experience. Giving them what they want while at the same time assuring a fair market price is just another skill to develop, a highly recommended skill that will serve you well as you move ahead in the entertainment industry. Good luck on your next production, and have fun!