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Old May 19th, 2009, 02:16 PM   #1
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Learning a Lesson

This topic section is so far down in the forum, I wonder if anyone will read it.

Golly, need some honest positive suggestions...if possible.

Here's the situation. My wife, Linda, and I had a friendly verbal agreement to video a local high school musical. We are Christians and the school is a Christian school.... Still reading :-) ?

Ok. We first went to a practice on Tues. evening to get a feel for the job. even took pictures for the DVd entrapment. Then we attended the dress rehersal on Thurs. evening.

We had everything covered. Camera placements, multiple audio backups.... digital sound recorder, XLR cable from the sound board to one input on my camera, we both have great quality shotgun mics on our cams too. So, we had a total of 5 audio sources for the Friday night production. We have 2 Canon GL2 cams. I even recorded the dress rehersal on Thursday night (audio) as a "safety backup". Everything looked and sounded great.

We shot the production on Friday night. Of course the sound board , wireless mics and lighting were all done by students.
Long story short, Friday's production was a video disaster. Not on our part but the kids doing the sound and lighting. There were multiple instances of LOUD feedback squeals continuously.... about 15 times during the first 3 minutes alone. Several of the main actors did not have their wireless mics turned on until they had spoken several sentences. At that point the music was so loud that our shotgun mics could not pick up the dialogue

It was so bad that the teacher (first year drama teacher) called us and suggested that the video would not work, due to the sound issues, and we should forget it. What ? I'm thinking,, but, but whose fault was it?? Man after three nights of work ???? Bummer !!!

As a courtesy to the school, I did not charge a production charge up front. We agreed on $10 a DVD with a minimum of 30 DVDs sold. Don't fuss at me for being so cheap, please.

Now he wants to back out due to the poor audio quality.

I have taken this problem on as an editing challange and now, many , many, amny hours later, using the Thursday night recording of most of the music and singing, I have been able to come up with a fairly good soundtrack. He previewed Act 1 and he feels it is acceptable. All 5 recordings made Friday night were bad with feedback and a very loud continuous buzzing from wireless mic. That continued throughout the whole performance. I tried all type of filters and processing but they just messed up the dialogue.

We have done videos of many events over the last three years and this has never happened in the past. What should I do in the future to avoid a potential loss of this type? Suggestions appreciated.
thanks, Tom B.

Last edited by Tom Blizzard; May 19th, 2009 at 03:15 PM.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 02:34 PM   #2
 
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Take 50% payment, up front, and/or make your cancellation policy clear. This is your business and your livelihood, correct? There's nothing about being a Christian that requires you to be the brunt of other peoples' problems. As a business with integrity, you can extend charitable considerations on a case by case level, but, that's your choice.
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Old May 19th, 2009, 03:17 PM   #3
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Thanks Bill.... Great suggestion. That's the type of thing I need to know. Now I've got to compose a contract with a cancellation clause.....
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Old May 19th, 2009, 08:54 PM   #4
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I feel your pain. But get things in writing (note, I've filmed for my church before and video productions are my full time job... and I've filmed for them with out a contract).

the above suggestion about payment up front is a must (if you want to stay in business). Otherwise you will experience exactly what you did. House audio problems could totally wreck the production and the customer will try to back out of the deal (religion or no).

The problem is that you have already invested lots of hours in getting the production to a semi-watchable state. If the director has seen what you produced and is OK with it, then I would just burn it and ship it. Call it good.

As far as "next time" I would make sure you get time with the audio crew to 1) chew them a new one for massive screwups and then 2) build them up a bit and be a part of the solution by teaching them how to run a live event (if you know that is).
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Old May 19th, 2009, 11:20 PM   #5
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What Bill said, and I would also recommend you never do a small-time video job where your fee is paid by DVD's sold. You WILL get the short end of that stick. Arrange a deal where you are paid for the shoot/edit and you sell the DVD's to the school at a bit above cost and allow THEM to resell the DVD's.
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Old May 20th, 2009, 12:16 AM   #6
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Stuff happens, that's a part of any live event shoot, doesn't matter what your religious persuasion...

I'm not sure why you should be in the uncomfortable position of eating your time and labors because the live performance went south, though I understand the desire of the director to blot out the memory of the unfortunate procedings... it wouldn't surprise me if the risk to his pride is a bigger factor here than your video - it's painful to have a "memory" of something that didn't go well...

Any live event shooter eventually will be faced with the thrill of trying to "fix it in the mix" to alter the reality of a drunk guest at a wedding, a absentminded officiant, a horribly out of tune live music performance... etc. Use your imagination, "live" is live, you take what you get, although a video artist may be able to "help" smooth reality over a bit... I just mixed a wedding that my backup audio was the ONLY usable audio as the officiant forgot to turn on his mic... video was better than being there!

Since you looked ahead and got a good audio track of the DR, if you can patch it over you should be able to deliver an acceptable product at the originally agreed upon price - "a worker is worthy of his wages". Frankly though it's more work, if it yields an acceptable final product, you should be thanked and bonused for saving the day and delivering a good "performance". If your video uses pre-recorded audio, who cares? You're the artist here, and I think you can make a lot of people very happy (and they will forget how "reality" went... thankfully!)

I'm surprised that there were such huge issues between DR and performance - rehearsals are for working these bugs out, but sounds like stage fright on steriods took over...

My feeling is if you can overtrack the DR and sync it fairly well, plus a bit of ambient audience noise salvaged from the performance track, you'd be the "genius" here. Hopefully that skill and talent will be appreciated and compensated.
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Old May 20th, 2009, 03:49 PM   #7
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Thanks Jason, Travis and Dave for taking the time to give me some insight....

OK.. here's the latest. I talked to the drama teacher today and now he tells me that he has contacted the company that issued the license of the play and the school is not allowed by the copyright laws to video and/or sell DVDs of the production............ WHAT ?????

I think we will contact parents and do the sales ourselves... Never heard that one before.
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Old May 20th, 2009, 05:23 PM   #8
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Hi Tom,

Be careful with this one. If the school did not arrange for the right to video the production nor did it arrange for the right to sell DVD's made from a video, then it is likely you do not have those rights either. Just to make matters worse, I am willing to bet the actors and musicians (or their guardians if they are underage) didn't sign releases either.

In developing your contract for future events like this, you will need to cover the model releases, licensing and copyright agreements and be sure they extend beyond the school to cover you as the videographer and producer of DVDs.

I do hope this all ends well, but it looks pretty dicey right now.

Best regads,
Alan
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Old May 21st, 2009, 11:55 PM   #9
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Stick a fork in it...

Hi Tom -
My gut instinct is the "drama" teacher (I put that in quotes for a reason) is looking for an out to kabosh the project. Cut your losses, put their caller ID on your blocked list and don't look back.

If you were shooting this for a family member, finish it off, enjoy it, let them enjoy it, whatever. BUT you're on very dangerous ground here - the "drama" dude (re-reading I see you mentioned they are "new"... that expalins a LOT) should have cleared the rights for videotaping and limited DVD's up front, before even thinking about this project. I find it odd that they called AFTER the Titanic went down... red flags flying everywhere here, and though I know it's frustrating to have invested what you did, take the thread title "Learning a Lesson" to heart, and dump the project.


We've beaten the question of copyright to death, resurrected it, beaten it to death again, reanimated it, tortured it, frozen it, microwaved it and left it on the counter overnight... killed it again, etc... over and over in the wedding event section - it's like a recurring horror movie... "The Undead Copyrights". I won't claim it as an interesting read, but might prove helpful if you wanted to take the time to see the various viewpoints expressed in a realtively professional public "debate".

The bottom line is that the "owner" of the IP (Intellectual Property) which is "the play" has various "rights", which include the right to license performance, videotaping, and distribution of a taping of a specific performance. Logic would suggest that these are so interconnected that they are inseparable, but the way copyright "theory" is currently practiced in the USA... the general feeling is they are separate...

My personal position is that if anyone can come in and make a video tape, it's tough to argue that a "professional" videotape with better production quality is a "separate right" - see the thread by Chris Hurd on the Carterphone, and my commentary on it in the Wedding/event threads.

Technology has made it possible to make very high quality video for realtively cheap up front costs, even for Uncle Bob... I feel that making a good quality video of my kid's play is my right, if I want to lug the gear in, but I'm not looking to make any money doing it. It's that magic moment when you are considering doing it "for profit" that the sharks start circling around. And honestly, you don't want to be the one in the meat flavored wetsuit. IP laws are farily arcane, generally well designed for a Vinyl (as in vinyl RECORDS) world, not a digital one. You don't want to be the test case unless you have very large, very deep pockets.

The situation WILL change, but until then, you need to learn as much as possible to protect yourself against this sort of situation and make sure clearances/releases are worked out before investing your time. I notice you described the situation as "a friendly verbal agreement" - this time out, it looks to me to be turning otherwise. This happens to "casual" arrangements when something doesn't go "as expected", so don't take it overly personally, better to just move on.

Hope this is helpful to you, but methinks "the writing is on the wall" here...
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 11:36 PM   #10
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Tom, I think you got everything you need to consider in doing live productions in this thread.

The most important is to think ahead and try to avoid getting hurt.

Know your business and avoid non-yielding situations.

For example: Plays are off limits. Period. unless the institution hires you to make the one archival copy they are allowed to make.

Also, this is sad to say but never take people's word for future sales, demand, interest etc... This will run you down a long path.

Have a busniess model and stick to it. You will find that a lot of these situations are to be avoided because everybody wants it, but it is not always organized and not everybody wants it enough to pay for it.

Now about what you charged, I have to go there. $300 for a two camera, two person shoot with multiple days involvement? This rate is worthy of the mess that ensued. When there is that little on the table, you will always be treated as expendable. Seriously, this is like uncle Bob money with a trip to Dairy Queen after the show.

My overall point is not to bash you, but people respond to decent rates as quality and respect. When you give your time away, people do not take you seriously for what you are doing.

You mentioned that you and the drama teacher came to $10 per DVD. Well, the drama teacher is not your customer, the parents who will buy the DVDs are your customers. You are taking the risk, so you should set the price.

Written contracts sound good, but so often the schools do not want to be on the hook for hiring a video guy, so they will avoid any upfront payment. Your best shot is to make sales at the event while the parents are there and are focused on the event. This is your risk to bear and demand should be gauged by you before taking the job.

I have tried the "group buy" approach where I tell the teacher the amount I require to shoot the event and then a DVD price is lowered if enough people participate. This is a pre-sale approach that never works because the commitment has not been there, even if the DVDs are cheap due to the numbers.

Kind of a fork in the road. Charge more and eventually avoid the work because it pays so little or give it away and deal with the mess to help the institution out.

Good Luck
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 06:00 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
...
The bottom line is that the "owner" of the IP (Intellectual Property) which is "the play" has various "rights", which include the right to license performance, videotaping, and distribution of a taping of a specific performance. Logic would suggest that these are so interconnected that they are inseparable, but the way copyright "theory" is currently practiced in the USA... the general feeling is they are separate...

My personal position is that if anyone can come in and make a video tape, it's tough to argue that a "professional" videotape with better production quality is a "separate right" - see the thread by Chris Hurd on the Carterphone, and my commentary on it in the Wedding/event threads.

Technology has made it possible to make very high quality video for realtively cheap up front costs, even for Uncle Bob... I feel that making a good quality video of my kid's play is my right, if I want to lug the gear in, but I'm not looking to make any money doing it. It's that magic moment when you are considering doing it "for profit" that the sharks start circling around. And honestly, you don't want to be the one in the meat flavored wetsuit. IP laws are farily arcane, generally well designed for a Vinyl (as in vinyl RECORDS) world, not a digital one. You don't want to be the test case unless you have very large, very deep pockets.

The situation WILL change, but until then, you need to learn as much as possible to protect yourself against this sort of situation and make sure clearances/releases are worked out before investing your time. I notice you described the situation as "a friendly verbal agreement" - this time out, it looks to me to be turning otherwise. This happens to "casual" arrangements when something doesn't go "as expected", so don't take it overly personally, better to just move on.

Hope this is helpful to you, but methinks "the writing is on the wall" here...
Let's see if I understand this ... it seems like you're saying that because it's easy and inexpensive to make high quality recordings and copies of intellectual property, when a work that someone such as a songwriter or playwrite has created becomes publically available, it is fair game for an individual to appropriate and profit from it without compensating the creator? Isn't that kind of like saying that it should be acceptable to use your neighbor's car without permission if you happen to have a skelton key that makes it easy to start? Or perhaps is it about the evil coporations, with corporate entities bound to respect IP rights but creative work becomes public domain as far as individual users are concerned? If Sony Pictures wants to film the performance of a script written by Dave Blackhurst and use for its theme song some music he's composed, they should have to pay for it but if Dave wants to film a script owned by Sony Pictures and use music they own the copyright to, it should be fair game because they're so big and rich and he's so small and poor?

The people who create intellectual property are usually not doing it as a hobby, it's a business and their livelyhood. When an individual appropriates it and profits from its use without proper payment of the royalities and licensing fees required for the usage you wish is coming very close to the ethical equivalent of shoplifting from a craftsman's shop. Just because technology has made it easy doesn't mean it's made it right - it's just as wrong to steal from an open display shelf as it is to steal from a locked case.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 07:35 AM   #12
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Let's see if I understand this ... it seems like you're saying that because it's easy and inexpensive to make high quality recordings and copies of intellectual property, when a work that someone such as a songwriter or playwrite has created becomes publically available, it is fair game for an individual to appropriate and profit from it without compensating the creator?
I don't think Dave is saying that at all. What I see in his comments are that this area is a potential quagmire and it's important to have all the necessary rights up front and in writing. Which is completely reasonable from my perspective.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 07:51 AM   #13
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A few comments, but all really too late. For nearly a year, I was in business with a vicar! I'm not particularly religeous, but respect those who are - and have done some interesting stuff with religion as the key. We made a series of training videos for people studying for their Doctorate for a university in the states, with a Director flown in from Australia. My main complaint was that virtually every job had no legal contract, just verbal agreements. I'm not sure how it is in America, but here, verbal agreements are perfectly legal, but just have the disadvantage of proving they were made. If the verbal contract can be proven, then the piece of paper doesn't matter too much (but paper is far more 'provable and valid' - I believe the phrase is "reliable and robust evidence". Christians here seem to hate written contracts - but do get ripped off as a consequence.

If you believe it is fair that you should at least get something for your time and out of pocket expenses - why not simply issue an invoice to the accounts office - not the teacher for a reasonable amount, that would be seen to be fair? They may well pay up, if they see what you actually did. If they got an electrician in, or a plumber - and then they cancelled the job, they would expect to receive an invoice for a callout - they may well simply accept your aborted work in the same light. It can't hurt to try?
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 08:52 AM   #14
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I don't think Dave is saying that at all. What I see in his comments are that this area is a potential quagmire and it's important to have all the necessary rights up front and in writing. Which is completely reasonable from my perspective.
Aye, he does say that, and I'd certainly agree with that part of his statements. But he also says that the sharks are circling because the present laws are unreasonable in requiring you to do that. That I disagree with. While I think some adjustments in licensing procedures could be made to make it easier for small operators to comply with the law, I feel that the idea of protecting the IP creator's right to retain control of his work and to exploit it financially is sound. I feel it's just as important for the sole operator, small-time business person to be as scrupulous in their dealings with IP as it is for large-scale businesses such as the networks and the studios. The only difference between Joe Event-shooter and George Lucas is the size of their budget and if George has to pay for rights to use some material, so should Joe. And as far as the cost, look at your own business - do you use a sliding scale for your fees, charging more if your client earns $100,000 a year than you would if they only earned $25k? Or is your time and talent worth the same regardless of the client's financial status? As far as Bob Songwriter is concerned, a use of his product is worth, say, $5000 regardless of whether his customer is Travis Woelfel or CBS and it's his right to put any price on his work that he wants - he has no obligation to make it affordable for you because you can't use it otherwise. Does the Rolls-Royce dealer have an obligation to drop his price on a new Ghost down to the $25,000 you want to spend because you can't afford the $250,000 sticker price? Lucas has to clear everything he uses and pay its creator to use the fruits of his labours, and so should Joe in the small-town wedding/event studio down the block or Mary working out of her home office. Technology hasn't changed the smaller operator's obligations, if anything it's made them more vital. When Joe's output was a grainy, streaky VHS tape with warbly low-fi sound, nobody cared much and it probably didn't make much difference, but now the fact he can make something for a couple of kilobucks in gear expense that looks and sounds almost as good as Lucas's million-dollar opus means that he is in the same ballpark as the Hollywood studios and should be playing by the same set of legal requirements when he takes his service to market. In the matter of the OP's problems with shooting the school play, if NBC can't come in and shoot it for, say, a reality TV series on high school drama, without clearing the play for taping and broadcast with its publisher, neither should an individual event videographer expect to do so when he wants to seel DVDs of the show to the audience. For a parent to shoot his own kids it's one thing. But for an individual to offer himself as a professional for hire doing it and/or selling the results of his shoot is another. It's at the copyright owner's sole discretion whether he's going to allow either NBC or Joe's Big Events to shoot it and I think it's perfectly proper for him to retain that control and to require the party wishing to use his materials to respect his decision. When a shooter markets himself as a professional, even a part-time one, he has to play by the grown-up's rules and the grown-up rules say that all copyrighted material must be licensed for it's specific use regardless of whether that usage is in a program sold as a network TV series intended for national broadcast, a sales training program for a chain of real estate offices, an ad for a retailer run on regional cable TV, Central High School's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" sold on DVD to the parents, or Bill and Mary's wedding sold to them for sharing with their friends and family.
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Last edited by Steve House; May 23rd, 2009 at 10:35 AM.
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Old May 23rd, 2009, 09:39 AM   #15
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...I'm not sure how it is in America, but here, verbal agreements are perfectly legal, but just have the disadvantage of proving they were made. If the verbal contract can be proven, then the piece of paper doesn't matter too much (but paper is far more 'provable and valid' - I believe the phrase is "reliable and robust evidence". ...?
Same in North America, with some statutory exceptions - a purchase contract for real estate or a transfer of copyright must be in writing, for examples. But in general verbal contracts are binding.
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