June 30, 2016 at 2:17PM

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What do you charge for your video production?

I've been working on a way to dole out a flat quote to my video clients, right in the first call with them. If you've struggled with this too in the past (or present), what was the lowest you bid yourself out for? Mine was years ago, I quoted $150 for coverage of a Quinceañera (plus editing and pics), sad to say.

52 Comments

There's rarely a flat fee for me because every job is different. I work for a real estate company that owns one of my drones and we have agreed on a video type and price and I charge the same every time which is $60. They get a killer deal and I get 5-10 videos a week that take me about 30 minutes to shoot and edit each.

June 30, 2016 at 7:24PM, Edited June 30, 7:50PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1937

Just to make sure I understand you correctly. A video costs $60 which takes you 30 minutes to create total. So, thats $120 hourly rate? Im guessing you need preparation, traveltime, briefing time with the client and maybe location scouting as well, right? Is that included in the 60 bucks? Otherwise, damn thats a nice client! :)

July 5, 2016 at 9:41AM

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Jeroen Rommelaars
Animator - Videographer - Motion Tracking
1054

I used to but at this point travel prep and everything are usually included in that 30 minutes (I keep batteries charged and everything in cases so it's ready to go). The hourly pay is amazing I can't complain, everything is pretty close and we've been able to speed up our workflow a lot as we learn and try different things.

July 7, 2016 at 10:18PM, Edited July 7, 10:19PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1937

Great, those are the clients that allow you to create a solid base for your operation and start expanding from there.

July 8, 2016 at 2:25PM

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Jeroen Rommelaars
Animator - Videographer - Motion Tracking
1054

Everything is spec'd to the job and to the type of client.

Larger clients expect more and are happy to pay extra for this, while smaller clients often have very fixed budgets so you try and deliver as much as possible on their limited budget.

Sometimes I have to decline a job because the client's expectations are unrealistic given the budget they have to work with.

If they demand a flat rate, then I will quote a daily rate for a minimum number of days of work, and I explain that this flat rate is geared to how big the project is.

July 2, 2016 at 4:32PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30531

Thanks Guy!

July 2, 2016 at 7:31PM

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Charging is always an issues for me, even after doing this for almost 10 years.

Most people see this as your passion and they will exploit you because of this. Usually a client will tell me their budget, and I will decide if I can do the video for that price.

I have had times when I have dealt with larger companies, who had specs for commercials and I needed to send in a quote. This has been the toughest for me, mainly bacause of cost. Equipment, staff, time, and insurance all cost a lot of money but once you add these up its a price clients just aren't willing to pay.

An example would be a job I had for a cell phone company in Latin America named Gruppo Akkar. They had a spec sheet demanding several locations, including a studio, as well as the need for 4 actors.

I did as educated calculation as I could, calculating all costs and paying myself $300 a day.

The quote was something like $4K for shooting and editing. They laughed and said that's way too much, they expected something like $650...

That's the world we live in, prices have dropped drastically. Usually I have to work for very little to get any work, it's a tough game we are playing.

July 2, 2016 at 4:58PM, Edited July 2, 4:58PM

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Good luck! Thanks for chiming in!

July 2, 2016 at 7:33PM

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I wonder if this would have been possible shooting in a different country where costs are a lot lower ? ( I've heard of people shooting their feature in India because the costs are about one tenth of what they are here in North America )

July 3, 2016 at 12:10AM, Edited July 3, 12:10AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30531

I live and work in a not so big city in Mexico, running a small production company with my father, and I can tell you that $650 USD is a total joke on what they ask (at least here and for us). 4k sounded like an excellent almost unrealistic (on the affordable side) deal (now that a $1 USD = $18.50 MXN aprox.) and we are not even the top company in our city. Many people here are uneducated on the subject: there is so much ignorance about the costs and there are so many people working for so little just to bring something to the table to dinner and clients take advantage of it. Also, there are so many agencies trying to make a lot of money by paying almost nothing to filmmakers and sometimes even is a matter of poor valorization of the work that a production involves. But there are also many clients that truly recognize what this is all about and what a fair charge for the services are, and are willing to pay for quality work. In my little experience, one could give a try to educate and convince this people, but you also need to develop a radar to identify those that would make you waste your time, thus, they are not your clients. Something that I've learnt in these years is that networking and the way you sell your work has a lot to do with the kind of potential clients that you'll attract. I must stress that networking has a lot of power in sales. On the rates side, our rates come from a calculation of costs and earnings expectations (a business is not such a thing if it doesn't make earnings) per project basis that includes use of equipment and paying to the crew. Sometimes you need to adjust to a client's budget, but always have to be realistic and honest with the client about what you can and cannot do with it. One more thing: I once been told that you have one of two options, asking full price or better give your work for free, because if you ask just a little, that client won't pay you ever anymore than that.

July 4, 2016 at 9:30AM

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Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
404

Agreed. We have to charge what we're worth, not just for our sake, but our fellow microbudget filmmakers.

July 7, 2016 at 11:14AM

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A lot of companies seem to have unrealistic expectations because they are uneducated on the subject of video production. I have seen this happen many times before.

July 3, 2016 at 7:27AM, Edited July 3, 7:28AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

When I was working in the photography industry and promoters called me to cover events like concert or festival, they always laughed when I tell'em my prices, they always say : "hey dude, you make this as an hobby right ? it's something you like so you don't need any payment". Hard to stay nice to them ...

July 8, 2016 at 9:51AM

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NLSNLNI
150

NinjaMonkey please make more post like this that are helpful and educational instead of confrontational. Thanks! Now to the OP, it's hard for me to give a flat rate also. I usually deal with artist that want to shoot a music video that'll feature a tiger, when they only have kitty cat money. And I tried the whole "what's your budget" question and they always tend to ignore it or talk around it. I give a rate and usually my rate is "too high", so I have to decide, "if lower my rate and work with them will it be beneficial and possibly land me more work?" Speaking of that, people will tell you that working with them will get you more work; I have yet for that to happen. I get more work because I hustle to get it for myself, or let my previous work speak for itself. Setting a rate too low can have you doing more work than it's worth. Setting a rate too high can have you out of work. Pricing is hard! I'm looking forward to seeing others respond and share their knowledge on the situation.

July 3, 2016 at 2:04AM, Edited July 3, 2:06AM

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Reggie Brown
Cinematographer
322

Story of my production life. So very true that they talk around the "what's your budget" question.

July 3, 2016 at 8:28AM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
1223

Right?! The whole exposure line is such a bust!

July 7, 2016 at 11:26AM

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Flat fees only work for fixed formats (or with a very high flat fee).
Otherwise you'll end up with working for free, disappointing a client (or completely overcharging).

Know you cost of doing business:
http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2013/08/01/how-to-succeed-as-a-creative-l...
If you don't know this, you can't judge what a good rate really is.

Like others have mentioned before is true for me as well:
every project is different: different story, different expectations in looks and quality, differences in gear/number of crew/shooting days, differences in post (complexitity, motion graphics/animations).

I've had situations like NinjaMonkey describes: potential clients only having 10% of the budget that is required to deliver a video that truly adds value to their business. I'll just explain that they want the impossible. A few times they said: "But 'they' charge only this."
My reply: "If that is the quality you want, I wish you good luck."
Most of the time that video never got finished (which makes me guess: was it a bad negotiation trick, or did the producer run away before finishing it?) or it turned out to be terrible and contra-productive for their brand.

Never work for free for clients that don't appreciate what you have to offer.
It drains your energy and creativity as they are often the clients that demand the most, while paying the least.
If you are afraid of having nothing to do: find a (friend's) business/charity you believe in, so you don't mind helping them for next to nothing. And then make something you really want to make to show your skills. Put it in your portfolio and know what it would have cost if you would have charged 100%. Now you can easily give a ballpark with a great example.

Competing on price only is a race to the bottom where everyone will just go out of business. So you need to compete on added value: make videos that sell your clients' business/products. Know how to tell interesting stories. Know how to use YouTube to your clients' advantage.
Technology has never been cheaper before, so make sure you are more than a button pusher.

July 3, 2016 at 7:14AM, Edited July 3, 7:17AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

Walter, I agree with you and wish we lived in a world where most people could tell a product of higher quality.

Sadly most people cannot tell the difference between a low cost amateur and an expensive pro. I have seen it time and time again, in my wedding business and in film. If you have a better price, you will get the work.

An example would be a very successful DP in Miami where I used to live. The guy was a failed model 5 years ago, zero film experience. The company he was modeling for told him, look modeling isn't working for you but we are buying a Red, would you like to be the cameraman as an intern?

The guy started, with zero knowledge or experience, and decided he didn't need to train or go to school. The Red name is all that matters right?

He started underbidding everyone with more experience, notably a good friend of mine who is a spectacular DP. The production was for an actor friend of ours we had worked with previously. My friend recommended a black magic, it fit the budget and we were set for production something like a rate of $300 per day for him and the camera. This stranger model dude with zero work comes in, offers $150 a day and he will bring a Red.

Guess who got the job? Not the person with the better work...It was the better price and better equipment, this will usually win any job nowadays.

I have said it makes times talent and skill is largely a matter of opinion. Price is not.

July 3, 2016 at 9:49AM

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I've surely seen this kind of story before but it would be interesting if the work fullfiled the quality expectations for the client, and if they'll got to a long term business relationship or not. If it is not a quality work that they received, i'm sure that there will be a point where the client could value spending $300 and overlooking that "RED" name in favor of more skilled and talented work. One needs to be ready for that moment and take over the client.

July 4, 2016 at 9:40AM

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Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
404

I feel it was quality work, but that's really just my opinion right. In this case the director didn't look at the Red DP's work because they didn't have any, only the camera.

I have seen this a lot, Red DP's without portfolios with very low rates taking jobs from more experienced DP's who have to rent the gear.

Most people are not able to see quality differences, I wish everyone had a good eye but they don't.

July 4, 2016 at 10:06AM

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I was referring to the quality of the inexperienced-untrained DP, if it fulfilled expectations. But we get the idea.

July 4, 2016 at 12:02PM

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Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
404

I understand now, I really don't know when the line begins where you can say you are experienced. I have been doing this 7 years and still barely make anything.

July 4, 2016 at 12:58PM

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Ulises question is:
was the client who hired the RED owner happy with the delivered quality of the video? If not: there lies an opportunity for you.
Usually people say: "If you pay peanuts, you'll get monkies." But with your company's name that might not be the best explaination to why their video sucks ;-)

A 100 years of experience means nothing when someone still makes crap. Just like 1 year of experience doesn't say much when the delivered quality is great.

While many clients might not be able to judge quality before production. After a year they can surely judge the return on investment of the video.

July 4, 2016 at 4:27PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

Yup, they were happy with it. I thought it looked badly/flat lit, badly framed, and overall amateur looking.

My point was very few people can tell skill, many more can read Red on the side of your camera.

July 4, 2016 at 6:40PM

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But are they still happy now?
Most companies are in a happy bubble when a video is just finished: they are all excited to show it to mama and the kids. :-p
If the video is actually bad, that will sink in very slowly, unless the bubble gets busted by someone (but not by you).

And if they just don't see it: they aren't your target audience :-p

July 4, 2016 at 7:28PM, Edited July 4, 7:32PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

The point is to satisfy the client right, not all the critics? If the inexperienced RED kid can fulfill the clients expectations no harm done right? Sure maybe the client could have gotten a better result with the experienced guy but he would've paid twice as much for something he didn't necessarily need. Clients that actually care and are critics about the project will pick based off the reel not the camera.

July 7, 2016 at 10:22PM, Edited July 7, 10:24PM

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Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1937

You said that exemple already but don't forget that the guy with the red took a huge risk, if his red had fall on the ground he would have had only his eyes to cry as there is no way he can pay back his investment with that kind of rate.

July 5, 2016 at 5:48AM

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AvdS
1377

Couldn't agree anymore than that with AvdS. Much of the cost also comes form the equipment, rented or owned. Many people think (clients and "professionals") that owning an equipment makes cost lower or even inexistent because you already own it and don't have to charge anything for it. That's a big mistake for me, because they're your tools and you need to keep them serviced, and replaced if they got to stop working or need to keep up with new technologies.

July 5, 2016 at 9:37AM

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Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
404

Yep, that is all about knowing your cost of doing business.

July 5, 2016 at 10:21AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

Aye. Never work for free, and if we do, volunteer our skill set to a charity. Thx WB.

July 7, 2016 at 11:28AM

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It's always a difficult topic, you don't want to sound cheap but still be the one the client choose, I have lost job for asking too much and lost job for asking not enough. The only thing that you can do is do it think for yourself, what do you think is the right price for that job that will make you happy at the end, ask for that price. Also don't be too cheap as if you own expensive gear it can eventually break. It happens more often that we think that a 1000€ lens fall on the ground so this is why I always charge more when using my own gear.
In terms of number here is the minimum I charge for the day (+/- 8hours) according to the job :
- as Cameraman 250€ HT (no gear)
- as Video Journalist 400€ HT (300/day + 100/gear)
- as Director 400€ HT (no gear)
Also I have a 5year experience working for national broadcaster so that gives an idea.

July 5, 2016 at 5:42AM, Edited July 5, 5:44AM

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AvdS
1377

Busted. I had to look up the conversion for E -> USD.

Thanks Avds!

July 6, 2016 at 1:48PM

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How much you charge really depends on your reel and what the client wants in the video. There is a really good book called Producer to Producer which has examples of budgets, it's for feature films but you can get an idea of how they break down where all the budget is going. And prices for yourself will be will lower unless your in the union.

I found this random website that has a generalized breaking down of budgets, it's something you show the client so they can see where all the money is going and in my experience, if they client sees where the money is going there will be little change or fiddling with numbers because of the transparency on where the money is going.
Break down the labor, and break down rental equipment(even if it's your own equipment, charge rent for equipment, cause what happens if your camera breaks and you actually really need to rent a camera for the production, so I add all that in. Maybe you can do a "special deal")

http://tvinc.com/Page1166_new.html

Are you the producer, director, dp, a one man do it yourself band, etc? You need to figure this out. I break down everything into pre production, production, and post production. Even if you are shooting and then editing, you have to take into account that if you were to hire an editor, what would you pay the editor? It takes forever to create a real first budget, but once you have an outline, it's much easier to quote people.

I think half day and full day rates are easiest to handle, especially for a one man band type of deal. But I would base it off an hourly rate. So the lowest I would typically charge for a very low budget commercial would probably be $100 an hour these days(this is if I know the client and I'm giving a really good deal). As a one man band, I would be directing, producing, probably writing, and shooting. Your time matters, especially if you are producing, it takes hours trying to gather all the actors/call for permits/meet with the client to discuss the story/writing the actual spot(if the client has their own script, great, one less thing for you to do).

And for editing, most typical editors I know charge about $50-$75 an hour(and this is on the low end), for a 30 sec commercial. Should be 6 to 8 hours for a complete edit, you can probably do it fast, but take into account client changes, rendering times, downloading footage, etc.

I do understand though, that you need to make money to pay the bills, and you adjust the clients budget to fit.

And definitely, once you start charging higher amounts, do contracts and protect yourself. Probably the biggest lesson I learned, people will burn you.

And I leave you with this!! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

July 5, 2016 at 5:35PM, Edited July 5, 5:37PM

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Thanks Tony - I know how time-consuming the work that goes into this process of educating the client, producing, fact-finding, and so much more is, so I've been working on a way to automate the numbers for video production, instead of having to manually enter this info in all the time. It's such a time-saver!

Thank you for sharing that link - that's a goldmine!

Keep creating man,

Jake

July 6, 2016 at 1:47PM, Edited July 6, 1:47PM

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If you can automate the numbers you should sell it!

July 6, 2016 at 5:31PM

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Aye! That's what I've been working on! If you want to check it out, let me know: info@microbudge.com.

July 7, 2016 at 11:29AM

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I recommend checking out this excellent post from Vincent Laforet about CODB: http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2013/08/01/how-to-succeed-as-a-creative-l...

It was written a couple of years ago but the info is still completely relevant. It was a big help to me when I started out.

July 6, 2016 at 4:36PM

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Ben Ashmole
Visual Creative
21

Essential knowledge indeed!
And for that reason it doesn't hurt to repeat the link in the replies ;-)

July 6, 2016 at 7:58PM, Edited July 6, 7:58PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

Gotta love Vince. Thanks BA.

July 7, 2016 at 11:30AM

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What do I charge? As much as I can possibly get. It's your job as a business owner to make as much money as possible. (while still delivering an excellent end product) We are all running businesses here, not charities. Undercharging yourself is undervaluing yourself helps no one.

Unfortunately there is no 'flat rate' as all clients are different and have wildly varying needs for their video. The biggest advice I can give is don't be afraid to walk away and avoid price based buyers. This is your business and it should be done on your terms. The client should respect your work and ability and both parties should be happy when all is said and done. If you have a relationship with the client and they value you as more than just a random cameraman, they won't have a problem paying more for their video. If a client is constantly low balling or trying to cut deals with you, they likely see you as just a commodity and you need to ask yourself if they are good fit for you. There should be mutual respect. Building relationships, trust, and delivering great work will allow you to set your prices on your terms you can feel good about.

July 8, 2016 at 12:23PM, Edited July 8, 12:26PM

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Chris Stanley
Cinematographer
97

I'll give you a slant from an Irish perspective. Because technology has become more affordable expectations of cost have plumeted along with them in my experience.
I got a call recently from a Web design company that wanted to add in a basic video element to their product. When I gave a basic price to produce a no frills short video of €800 - €950 they laughed and said they would pay €250 as there was only a day or two involved. I then asked them if they would produce a basic website for a client taking a day for €250 and I was told I wasn't comparing like with like.
Costing projects is always difficult and I'm in the business 20 years. Work out what it will cost you first and then work from there factoring in stock costs, tax, travel and insurance. Only after those are covered are you making money.

July 10, 2016 at 4:11AM

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Onevision Ireland
Videographer/ Video Producer
13

Everything can happens, I had a client that wanted me to work two days on a video for 250€ (which i didn't do) and a few month after a dutch part of the same company asked me if I would be fine to do a voice over that would take an hour for 300€ (witch I did).
Sometimes clients expectation and price are hard to follow and understand, I guess the best is to do some client education and explain them why doing the job right has the cost that it has.

July 10, 2016 at 6:30PM

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AvdS
1377

Thanks for this insight, pricing is a huge challenge.

July 10, 2016 at 11:01PM

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Their response about building a website is laughable. I guess they don't consider the fact that you have to travel to a location with equipment to shoot, while all they have to do is work in front of their computer.

July 12, 2016 at 2:30PM, Edited July 12, 2:32PM

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I would agree, but sophisticated web design can be much more complex than the one man band work most of us will do. Anyone can turn on a camera, point it in the right direction and press record. Not everyone can learn HTML and Javascript, it is a much steeper learning curve and they can charge much more money.

July 12, 2016 at 6:36PM, Edited July 12, 6:36PM

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It's a global race to the bottom.

July 13, 2016 at 9:08AM, Edited July 13, 9:08AM

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Most videos have the goal of getting some sort of return - the company is looking to sell more widgets, gain exposure, or build their brand. I start by asking them what success looks like and how it effects their business.

I worked with a higher education client that was trying to raise multiple millions of dollars to fund a new building, a video that helps them raise that money is worth quite a bit, so you can price it accordingly. If they are looking to capture an event for posterity, their return is peanuts and your pricing probably reflects that.

Every client has a budget in mind, but if you can take their potential outcome/benefit and use that as part of your negotiations, you will always get a better rate.

July 11, 2016 at 3:15PM

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Eric Buist
Producer | Creator
440

I've been working as a freelance editor for a while now and pricing has always been frustrating. I know exactly how much I value my time and my service, but I agree with others in this post that in general, people are un-educated in the amount of skill, time and effort something will take - and sometimes - just want something for nothing.

I've been recently looking into going into production but I'm put off as I can see myself hitting the same pitfalls again, and losing moral.

SIDE RANT - I'm a video editor not a magician. If you over-expose your footage to the point that it looks like I'm staring up at the 'pearly-gates' or distort your audio so much it sounds like I'm listening to Slayer, there is very little I can do about that - SIDE RANT OVER.

July 12, 2016 at 5:33AM

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Daniel Coates
Filmmaker | Editor
105

Most people expect the editor to do magic. I hate editing Sony a7s footage for that reason, always shot badly in slog and they expect you to make it look amazing...shooters have gotten so bad, editing has become that much tougher

July 12, 2016 at 9:12AM

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It's not the camera that's bad it's the operators. The Sony A7s is a great camera.

July 12, 2016 at 12:38PM, Edited July 12, 12:38PM

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With a good shooter, yes it can be a great camera.

With an average to bad shooter, it is probably the worst camera ever made. The shutter ripple/jello in the image for even the slightest bump leaves most footage unusable for bad shooters who can't pan/tile smoothly or have bumps while they shoot.

The picture settings seem to also be a challenge for bad shooters with the A7S, I have some really terrible looking footage from it. Looks over sharpened and colors are super off. Seems like most people over expose it way too far, when Sony recommends settings zebras at 60 ire. Obviously bad shooters don't know this...

I think everyone got caught up with the low light capabilities of this camera and now everyone has it. Sure good shooters can get good footage out of anything but this is not a camera that should have become the industry standard.

July 12, 2016 at 12:47PM, Edited July 12, 12:48PM

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Shooting Slog on an A7s is asking for trouble: 8 bits for 14 stops. The risk of banding is enormous.

As for rolling shutter: that is very present as well.
I've only used the A7s on either tripod or gimbal: that surely helped to minimize jello.

July 12, 2016 at 2:37PM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9163

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