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Taking Care of Business
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Old November 25th, 2009, 12:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Salisbury, MD
Posts: 122
Legal Video Survey

Hey Everyone

Is anyone else who has been doing legal videography noticing as national reporting firms are edging out the little guys that pricing is dropping dramatically. I just got a call from a national firm to do a depo 2 hours from my home and the compensation was $150 guarantee for the first 2 hours and $50 an hour after that. They wanted 6 channels of audio, audio casssette tape for the reporter(why should I do their job for them) DV tape backup, light kit, and a portable backdrop. Who in their right mind would bring out all this gear for a 2 hour drive each way and a $150 guarantee?? Here's my pricing structure:

$250 minimum first two hours
$75 an hour after that with a maximum $600 a day and discounts for multi day events

My Kit

2 cameras
DV deck for backup
Light kit(have never used it)
4 channel audio board(never needed more than 2)
2 wireless lavs
2 high end shotguns(with backup)
Soundproofing material for ambient noise dampening

My usual audio setup is wireless lav on the deposed and a shotgun for counsel. I know this is minimalist and some would say is unprofessional, but here's the thing. I've been doing it this way for 5 years, I've done hundreds of depos with lots of repeat business and not ONCE have I had a complaint about audio quality. On the contrary, I've received many compliments on the clarity and crispness of my audio. I've gotten hired again and again BECAUSE lawyers request me on account of my minimally intrusive setup. No wires, nobody strapped in because of a gazzilion mic cables. I'll admit it does help having an audio production background and knowing where to place mics and people for optimum sound quality. I know my gear inside and out, am highly professional, confident, and offer a 100% guarantee. I have NEVER had a dissatisfied client and most firms don't mind paying my fee because they know what they're getting.

I would like to hear from others as to their experiences concerning what I see as a trend towards more requirements without fair compensation. I would also like to hear from those doing work for these low prices as to how they make a living while paying for all that gear, insurance, vehicle, etc. Thanks in advance everyone.

Mick Haensler
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Old November 25th, 2009, 10:35 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,229
I agree, the trend is downward.

Here in Texas, the legislature passed tort reform about 4 years ago and the industry has been on its heels ever since.

As a career or sole source of income, the era has passed imho.
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Old November 25th, 2009, 11:59 PM   #3
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 2,032

Part of the business plan for these new national players might be for them to "feel you up" (and any one else) as to how low you will go .... to in turn develop a profit margin for themselves.

The price that lawyers pay for this will have already been set by the market and they won't be able to charge more. So this is the only way they can establish a business model ... becoming middle men. They'd most probably stuff you around with payment too.

I'd advise saying "no". Work may suffer for a while, but they will only need one or two screw-ups for you to suddenly look good.

You've got a good thing with your minimal setup and exceptionally clear audio. Stick to your guns.

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Old November 26th, 2009, 10:51 PM   #4
Join Date: May 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 1,189
I'm new to the field so I couldn't tell you if it's trending downward. Since I contract for a firm, they keep the majority of the money. I can't complain because its steady work in a down economy. On average I think clients pay $1,000 full day, $500 1/2 day.

As far as setup, Shotgun isn't a good idea because it can't isolate and pick up quiet talkers especially in a room with background noise such as A/C. The standard in my area which I use is:
* 4 channel mixer with the following mics
* 3 wired lavs: witness, plaintive attorney, defense attorney.
* 1 omni table mic that is used as a safety net or when there are multiple attorneys on both sides making objections.
* 1 wired lav I have as backup or substitute for the table mic if I have a translator or another attorney who wants to be miced.

Court reporters irritate me asking for audio tapes, I won't oblige. I have a mountain of equipment that takes me 1/2 hr to setup while they fly in and out in a few minutes.
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Old December 1st, 2009, 04:51 PM   #5
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Southeast USA
Posts: 129
I have a handful of attorneys I've worked with for years and they continue to hire me because they know I'll show up, get properly framed shots, have clean audio, keep a low profile, a quick turnaround and a disc that always works. That's worth a premium to them. It can also lead to providing related services.

Stick to your guns, Mick. Sounds like you are worth it.
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