Shoot Concept: Video of a restaurant interior
Licensing: Use of all video content captured in multiple broadcast television commercials
Location: A single restaurant location
Shoot Days: One
Director: Architectural and portraiture specialist
Agency: Medium-sized, based in the Northeast
Client: Large restaurant chain
Here is the estimate (click to enlarge):
Creative/Licensing: A few months ago I worked with a photographer to successfully estimate an exterior architectural shoot that you can read about here. Within a week of delivering those files, the agency wanted to add on an extension to the project, and this time they needed video content to integrate into their commercial along with the stills. The concept was to capture video of the interior of one of their restaurants and stage a scene of professional talent interacting within the environment in the evening after the restaurant closed to the public. The final video would ultimately be edited down to just a few seconds, and the agency/client would be providing the location, casting, talent, wardrobe, styling and all of the video editing.
The photographer did not specialize in video, but based on his previous successful execution of the stills and the scope of this portion of the project, the client and agency were very comfortable with him taking on a directorial role, as opposed to being the man behind the camera. Therefore, rather than including a combined creative/licensing fee for the photographer, we simply labeled it as a “Director Fee” (hereafter I’ll refer to the photographer as “director”).
My first approach to determine the director fee was based on the previous estimate for the still photography. You can read how we arrived at a $50,000 fee in my previous article, but when analyzed in a pro-rated manner (which is how many agencies view estimates), it broke down to $2,500 per location or around $10,000 per day for 5 days of shooting (which is ultimately how long it took). Based on this information I felt that $6,000 was appropriate for a director fee, taking into account what the director had ultimately made as an effective fee on the previous shoot. I did, however, want to double-check this rate against other resources, and found that Getty charges around $4,200 for a 15-second clip for national broadcast TV use. Similarly, Corbis charges $4,500 for a clip with these specs. Based on my research I was confident that we were in the right ballpark.
I should also note that the format of our estimate in which we present the creative/licensing fee and the following expenses may be atypical for a video project. Since this was an extension of a still photo shoot, and since we were working with a print producer at the agency, the presentation and formatting of our document was appropriate. However, much larger video productions may warrant different formatting, and there are even industry standard documents (like the AICP bid form) that video production companies are accustomed to working with and are well received on the agency/client end.
Test Shoots: Prior to the actual shoot date, the agency and director agreed that a day was needed to not only scout the location, but to do a very rough test shoot using minimal gear to capture naturally lit video of the restaurant interior. It was an opportunity to give the agency a feel for how the location actually looked, while also allowing the director to test out gear with the camera operator that would be working on the actual shoot. The fee included $1,500 for the director, $1,000 for the producer, $300 for an assistant and $750 for the camera operator, along with mileage, parking, meals and equipment expenses.
Director of Photography: The director was very proficient in lighting still images, but the level of production the agency required for the video meant bringing in an expert to help guide the grip and gaffer to set up the lights. We were shooting at night, but the interior needed to look like daylight was flowing in through the windows, and the DP would help to accomplish this while the director could primarily focus his attention on the overall concept and execution.
Camera Operator: While the director would be managing the talent and determining the primary camera settings, we accounted for the camera operator to be the one who would actually manipulate the camera while capturing the content. The rate we included accounted for a very experienced camera operator who would also be able to provide monitors/feeds for live client review.
Producer: The producer would be responsible for wrangling the crew, compiling a production book and handling pre-production arrangements. Additionally, the producer would make sure the shoot day goes according to schedule while ensuring the project stayed within budget.
First and Second Assistants: I accounted for two extra sets of hands to help out with gear on the shoot day, and to support the producer and all of the crew members throughout the day with miscellaneous tasks.
Digital Tech: While the camera operator would be providing equipment for the client to see the video on monitors in real time, the digital tech would be able to quickly process the video content for the client/agency to watch repeatedly in order to approve the content. This included $500 for their day, and $750 for a workstation. On a larger scale video shoot, this role might be labeled as DIT (digital image technician), but as I mentioned earlier, we were integrating formatting and terminology more in line with a still photo shoot.
Grip, Gaffer and Grip Truck: The DP would give lighting direction to the grip and gaffer who would then be responsible for setting up and adjusting all of the lights. Both the grip and gaffer that I corresponded with about the project worked for an equipment rental company, and they would be bringing the gear with them in a truck. Given the last minute nature of the project, we weren’t quite sure what exact equipment would be needed, so I included the cost for a very well stocked grip truck. In addition to the truck rental (which would cost $675), this included a long list of HMI lights and generators, as well as an even longer list of stands, modifiers and grip equipment.
Additional Equipment Rental: This accounted for all equipment other than lights/grip, including two 5D Mark III camera bodies, multiple lenses, extra large memory cards and a buffer for any other last minute gear the photographer would need once he scouted the location. Some of the gear he owned, and some he would need to rent or buy.
Delivery of Video by Hard Drive: The digital tech would dump all of the video onto a drive after the shoot, and this included the cost of purchasing a drive large enough to hold the video content and the shipping fees to send it to the agency.
Catering: There would be about 20 people on set including the crew, talent and client/agency representatives, and I included $50 per person for dinner and snacks throughout the evening. Typically, I’d figure a client like this would provide meals, but since the shoot was happening after business hours, the restaurant wouldn’t be able to provide food.
Miles, Misc: The restaurant wasn’t located in a very convenient place, and I expected to pay the crew mileage to get out and back. I included $200 for mileage, and then added $300 to help cover any additional unexpected expenses that might arise.
Results: After submitting our estimate, the art buyer told us they had a budget of $20,000, and asked us to see what we could do to reduce the price. I knew we wouldn’t be able to come down by that much, but revised the estimate by removing the tech’s workstation (she’d just be providing a laptop which the client was ok with), reducing the assistant rates to $250/day (the director had a few assistants that were willing to work for this rate) reducing the fee for the grip and gaffer (which they confirmed they’d be able to be flexible on) and reducing the catering to $35 per person (and noted that it wouldn’t be quite as an elaborate spread). Those changes reduced our bottom line by $1,500. Even though we weren’t able to get under $20k, our estimate was approved and I produced the shoot a few days later.
Here was the final estimate (click to enlarge):
Hindsight: As the still photography and video worlds merge, it’s inevitable that clients will soon expect all photographers to offer video services (or at least expect to get stills and video from a single production). However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a photographer has to have experience shooting video. As in this case, photographers can take on the role of a director without actually being the one to light the scene or operate the camera. The director role still comes with great responsibility and pressure, but it’s ok for photographers to rely on lighting experts and experienced video crews to collectively get the job done.
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