One thing that can throw a monkey wrench into the editorial budget is when they get into revisions. "Often you have to take into account the client, the agency and the job itself," says Mary Caddy Reigert, executive producer of Avenue Edit (www.avenue-edit.com) in Chicago, a full service post house. "If you're working on a new image campaign, the agency and the client are going to want to see it cut a number of different ways so they feel they've gotten the best possible product. There's a lot more exploration to make sure everyone is happy."
Hornet's Michael Feder: "Free tests have become a big part of the business."
Revisions can eat away at a budget and lower profitability. And the post pros we spoke with say the number of revisions is increasing. "Projects are taking longer to get approval so lessons are learned the hard way," says Rafoss. "You need to make sure you err on the side of having extra Avid days. Otherwise you end up working for pennies a day on revisions. If a client demands a flat rate, I bid a flat rate not to exceed a certain number of days. If you don't do that you get into this hair-splitting thing where you are arguing over what constitutes a change in specs."
Agencies usually make it clear with the way they operate and how long the approval process will take. "Our agency is a tough place for suppliers," says David Frankel, senior VP/associate director of TV production at BBDO, New York. "We like to try things, we like to change things, we like to sit with a change and then see it with fresh eyes a day later. Then we may want to change it again. If an editor knows that at BBDO - no matter what we say - it's going to take two weeks before we get a rough cut everyone is happy with and they only budget for a week of Avid time, that's a difficult situation."
While editorial and other post suppliers can usually be bid accurately, the process for production and visual effects is another ball of wax as budgets can vary widely depending on the company's approach.
"If the visual effects are very complicated, we have to be confident in our choice of suppliers and their estimate of how long it will take," says Frankel. "We did a Pepsi Twist spot and there was one effect the spot was built around. I got bids from two days to three weeks. At that point I had to wonder if I had expressed myself properly. But sometimes effects are hard to visualize and explain. You tell someone that a motorcycle will morph into a rocket ship and then blast off to Neptuneâ€¦ well everyone has a different concept about what that should look like."
Spots with a lot of effects require the agency and visual effects company to be as concise as possible to ensure an understanding, creatively and monetarily. "We try to get a treatment from the director and have talks with them and the agency so we can accurately bid the job based on their vision," says A52's Hassen. "We try to be up front about what responsibility we're taking on. Do we have a post supervisor on set? Are we getting the live-action elements we spelled out in our methodology letter? If it's a flat bid and we don't get the elements that were expected, then we tell them that it's going to probably run over."
Often, agencies will tell bidders what the overall budget is. Sometimes they prefer to withhold that information to see where the bids come in. And other times agencies will simply issue a flat rate for the work. "Sometimes we will offer a flat fee but you have to be careful, you don't want to offer $50,000 if it can be done for $20,000," relates BBDO, Atlanta's Pietrangelo.
A52's Rick Hassen says it's financially wise to have a visual effects supervisor at shoots. They did just that for this recent effects-heavy AOL spot.
Hornet's Feder will often ask what the total budget is before submitting a bid complete with budgets and schedules. "When I ask them for the overall budget, I tell them, it's not a trick question," explains he. "If something is $100,000 or $200,000, there's different ways of approaching it. There's different ways to do effects, character animation and design."
With more effects required in spots these days but with shrinking budgets, visual effects artists are finding themselves thrust into the role of a quasi-agency creative. They are now being asked to come up with a plan that will achieve the desired result but will also fit in with the budget constraints. "Being on set, working with production can help," notes Hassen. "We can figure out what elements we can get on set and have the same essence without spending all the money to do it in post. Everyone across the board now has to work more collaboratively. It's nice to sit down with the directors and the agency creatives and have them actually listen to you."
If a spot is based around the effects, the agencies are more likely to let the production company, or the editorial company, handle the supervision of the visual effects.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
While sound design and audio post remain fairly constant in terms of rates, music production can fluctuate tremendously depending on the style and scope. "If you're wanting an 80-piece orchestra to score an original piece of music, that's going to be very expensive," notes BBDO's Frankel. "If you do it electronically, that's much less costly." Even though music can be quite expensive, competition among a wealth of talented composers makes music production "a buyers market," he explains. "You can shop around and get bargains. There's lots of deals to be made and lots of music houses will do stuff very inexpensively, and just about all will do demos."
The demo process is essential to the music bids because it gives the agency an idea of what a certain composer can bring to the project. In addition, it has made the life of agency creatives much easier when dealing with their clients. "If you show a client a rough cut with the Beatles on the track, and the client loves it, you're in big trouble," says Frankel. "Instead of using an existing piece of music that you're not going to be able to get, you can explain to a composer what style you're going for. Most music houses will crank out a lot of variations on the same theme."