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Taking Care of Business
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 11:04 PM   #1
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First pageant video

Hi all,
Been a long time since posting. Decided to go ahead and register an LLC with my wife, figured since I do all the videos at church (Audio/Video Ministry leader) and for family weddings and such I might as well do a little freelance to fund some new equipment and get more experience. Right now I'm using our church's GL-1's/tripods and editing with Premiere/Encore. I'm not looking to jump to career mode anytime soon, but I do enjoy it and wouldn't mind having a self sufficient hobby <G>.

Anyway, I got an email from a local pageant director (statewide pageant) asking for a quote so I've been clarifying some needs with them and they basically just want the 2.5 hr event filmed single camera, minimal editing (down to 1.5-2 hrs), smooth shots, and decent audio (can't really mic anyone, but they say I can tap off the hotel sound system for overdub later)...that's about it....oh, and cheap.

All the physical stuff I can do...estimating is what I suck at. Can't seem to find much in the way of comparison shopping around here (Baltimore), everything's wedding events that don't quite match up. I pride myself on my attention to sound and smooth motions, and am comfortable with moderate editing skills, but am still definitely "starting out." I don't mind giving these people a good deal for the exposure and probably throwing in some small extras at no charge, but really don't know what to quote them overall.

Can someone give me some pointers? From what I've read on the many other similar threads I'm thinking maybe $500 total, but honestly that's just a guess. I won't be renting anything at this point, either. Oh, I also get the proceeds from any DVD/VHS sales, which I will most likely be duplictating myself.

Thanks, any advice appreciated,
Jeff
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 12:22 AM   #2
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I would say the best way to figure it out is to estimate how many hours it will take to finish the entire project. Count hours that it takes to meet with the pageant coordinators, time it takes to set up, shoot the pageant, take down equipment, and then how long you think the final edit will take. Then multiply the number of hours total by an hourly rate you think you deserve. I'm fairly sure most videographers would never go for anything less then $20 an hour.

An audio suggestion I think would work well is to use a shotgun mic. You could buy a high quality shotgun mic for close to $200. I have an Azden SGM-2X and it works beautifully. A good recorder is also necessary. Currently I just plug into the mic outlet on a GL2. A shotgun could pick up all the audio from the announcer and some ambient sound coming from the crowd.

Good Luck
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 02:47 AM   #3
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The above advice for calculating your estimate is good.

Is the pageant commission paying you directly for the production? I ask because I filmed a pageant once where the deal was that I got an ad in their directory (which I spent 2 hours designing), several mentions during the show, and they would not allow audience members to use camcorders during the pageant. My money would be made from DVD sales and I was obligated to provide the pageant commission with a DVD for free.

I took the job and ended up having all of my requests broken. My ad did not make it into the directory even though I delivered it directly to the commission director. I was not mentioned once during the pageant (even though each of the male 'escorts' were thanked individually). And I saw plenty of people using camcorders during the event.

Needless to say, when I spoke to the commission next I stated that I wasn't going to be working on the video unless I had a certain number of guaranteed orders from the pageant girls. When it came down to it no one placed an order, but yet the commission still requested a video from me.

Imagine how angry that made me. Here they broke every promise and left me with no way to compensate myself, and they were asking me to DO MORE WORK and give them product for free.

The moral of my story? I would recommend you put together an estimate for producing a video, and then give the commission duplication for near your cost. This would allow you to receive some payment up front and would put the burden of DVD sales on the pageant.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 07:16 AM   #4
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Patrick,
Yeah, I do have access to an Azden SGM-1X that we use for our church video skits that will do okay; lavs too, but I don't think I'll have opportunity to employ them. I also have the ability to hook up my personal laptop or Yamaha AW16G (digital 16 track recorder) to the hotel's system, according to the director, but I'll need to personally verify that feasibility. If not, I could use a room mic with the recorder (set up near a speaker maybe). It would probably be best to use the recorder and take the mixer output feed and add a room mix on another track. Then I'd have the PA output, room sounds, and GL-1 audio to play with.

Travis,
You bring up some excellent things to consider, thanks!
I believe payment would come from the pageant as a company (it sounds like a pretty well known gig with the National pageant coming to Las Vegas, at least a lot of my work friends have heard of it). This is something I'll have to ask about. Is an upfront deposit standard for these?

Regarding DVD/VHS copies, they want me to be able to take orders for copies at my chosen (fair) rates for guests/contestants within a reasonable turnaround time (2 weeks preferred, but as long as it's reasonable). I can do duplication and printing of small runs myself (I print on inkjet CD's with clear jewel/thin jewel cases).

I do not know if camcorders would be allowed but that's a good question. There is a note on the ticket buying site that says, "There will be no flash photography during the Mrs. Maryland United States Pageant." Would it be unreasonable for me to request that camcorders be added to that?

I'll have to ask about advertising and "mentionings", hadn't thought about that. I did notice that on the pageant Hompage they mention the photo company as their "official photographer", so I could probably at least get a mention there.

Thanks for the tips, always appreciated.
...now I gotta figure out a contract...

Jeff
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 10:42 AM   #5
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All I can say is that I have lost money on all projects based soley on tape pre-sales or post sales alone compared to the time and gear invested. Unless you can get pre-sales (cash or checks), not just orders, that will satisfy your bottom line, I wouldn't do it and I don't anymore after only one time. There was no deception in that project though. I knew what the risk was and I try to be open minded and will try anything once because you never know. Also, never take someone's word that oh, all the mothers will buy a copy after the fact. They will either put it off and forget about it or there's also the possibility of copies being made by the parents. If I shoot any event now, I charge the typical flat rates for production (gear, labor, etc.) and post services (editing, duplications, etc.). The producer is responsible for making their money back however they have to but myself and my crew gets paid our rates no matter what. This is the way it should be. We shouldn't have to work on commission because it's bad enough that we're already contractors working project to project! I think you just have to do a few of these to learn when to stay and when to walk away.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 12:29 PM   #6
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I totally agree. I used to produce dance recital videos as well, but I made all my money from the DVD sales. It was a major hassle and pain in the butt and I probably got paid around $1-5/hour when it was all said and done. I tried all sorts of different approaches, but nothing worked.

My advice is this:

Your contract should be set up so that you are paid for your production costs, and that includes HALF up front, HALF upon completion.

If they want to also allow you to sell copies of the DVD at your own rate, that's fine, but don't count on that alone for your profit. Also, don't for one second think that anyone will enforce the no-camcorder rule. I can't tell you how many events I've done that were supposed to be camcorder free but they weren't. It won't be a priority for them, and if you're counting on DVD sales for your payment, you will be sorely dissapointed.

As an example, the dance recitals I did for a few years pulled 200-300 parents, and for each recital I averaged about 10-15 DVD orders. Of those, roughly 5-10 would back out for whatever reason. In the end, I tried to do pre-orders and got only about 10 people. One of them cancelled a check on me because they changed their mind afterwards.

When you're making only a handful of dollars off of a DVD, 10 orders isn't worth the time.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 04:46 PM   #7
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I understand what you guys are saying. I'm not basing a lot of the cost on sales, but I might give them some wiggle room as well, since this is a first "official" outing and I'd like the experience (good or bad <G>).

One idea I also had about sales was to offer them a donation per sale towards their organization, kind of like a fundraiser to offset the main filming/editing costs. That would give them incentive to announce the sales and push for participation. What do you think, ever tried that?

One thing I AM worried about is music. I know I can get royalty free music, but as I recall pageants are rather musical, from theme music to talent competition phases. How do you guys handle the obvious copyright issues? I've heard conflicting reports and need some clarification (i.e. recording taped accompaniment is a no-no, but live musician accompaniment is okay to record).

Thanks,
Jeff
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 05:05 PM   #8
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The donation idea is interesting, and would give them more of an incentive to help you sell the DVD's. I also understand your position. You need the experience and the project for your portfolio, so you will probably charge less as a result. However, I do still think it's fair for some amount to be paid in advance and some amount afterwards. Even if it's just for your time filming.

Regarding the music, I don't worry about it myself. I may be wrong, but if I'm recording an event then it is up to the event producers to deal with music copyright issues. Ultimately it ends up being your own personal choice. I edit wedding videos using my clients' music all the time. Legally, this is wrong, but there is no feasible system in place for videographers to get music rights. So, I resort to just buying the music and using it. However, if I was filming an event where they were playing music through their own sound system I wouldn't even give the copyright issue a second thought. Again, that's just me.

I'm pretty strict about following laws, but this is one area where I think the laws don't work and most musicians could probably care less.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 10:52 PM   #9
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I do agree with the deposit idea, thanks for bringing that up.

Regarding wedding video music, from what I've read (although I'm no lawyer), if the client buys the music for a wedding video and they retain the ownership of the music via CD/iTunes/etc, then it falls under their fair use criteria. Not quite sure how that extends to their family and friends, though <G>.

The only thing I could find via Harry Fox (emailed them), and subsequently ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC was regarding Synchronization Licenses, but that seems to refer to adding music to videos rather than just happening to record a video of an event containing occasional music. The next closest thing discussed responsibility of the venue owner for obtaining copyright licenses for any music played or performed in their venue, so it looks like the old adage is still true: it's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission <G>.

Things that make you go hmmm....

Jeff
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 11:15 PM   #10
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Yeah, it's really unfortunate. I would have no problem getting permission to use music in a wedding video if there was a logical and sane way of doing it. But the fact of the matter is that it's not worth a company's time to deal with me, so they don't bother setting up a system I can use. That leaves me in a crappy situation.

So yeah, the way I look at it now, as long as I purchase the music or the client provides it (and I don't make copies to distribute), then nobody is going to care.

By the way, there have been many discussions in the "Taking Care of Business" forum on this issue, and from what I have seen, it IS technically illegal to use music in any project and redistribute it, even if the client provides the music and you only give a copy to the client. It's crazy law, man, crazy law.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 05:47 AM   #11
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This way of making a living or just making money is a hard sell no matter how it's done. Believe me, after a few times of doing it, you will be able to make up your mind real fast whether to continue or give it up and that will be based on your return compared to your input. It just takes a few times to see a pattern for this type of service to decide.

As far as the legality of using music, I wouldn't take any chances although it's unlikely that you would ever be persued because it's just not worth their time and you would be one of thousands or more for them to track down. And then when they do, what are they going to get? I have recorded many events with copyrighted content including locally produced events using music and lyrics and then major recording artists. I simply created a short and to the point disclaimer that I have all clients sign that are using copyrighted content. I don't know how legally accurate it is but it shows that I made an effort to not violate anyones copyrights and it is better than nothing. I agree and think it's the responsibility of the producer of the event to maintain these rights and clearances but the following just covers me just in case:


By signing this document I acknowledge that the media provided as audio, video or electronic file to be altered by editing, duplication and/or broadcast is to the best of my knowledge authorized for editing, duplication and/or broadcast and not in violation of ANY copyright infringement of its authors or creators. I assume all responsibility and DO NOT hold (YOUR COMPANY NAME) responsible in ANY way for ANY liabilities resulting from subsequent discovery of copyright discrepancies of ANY kind.

I shot a concert series with some huge names a few years ago and decided to post just one song from each artist with streaming video on my website for a demo of my event production services. Well, I got a call from the event producer saying that I had to remove that content immediately because Sony music wasn't too happy about it being posted. Now, I was not selling or distributing that music or video, I was just using it as a demo to show what I could do as far as video production. I immediately took it down which is all they really wanted. I think the event producer made it out to be more than it really was but I wasn't going to take any chances because Sony could have made my life miserable. For some reason record labels are real particular about allowing content to be played on the internet. I've been told it's because they can't accurately track who is using it, where and how it's being used and possibly sold. I just think it's a big unknown that they haven't figured out how to conquer yet. All I have to say to them is good luck with managing that. However, they are not as picky about their music or videos being used on television though, specifically cable. Comcast said that the use of music or video is covered under a blanket license that they pay which apparently covers use by people who use music or video in their local access programs. So it looks like you're covered if it airs on cable. I would still check just to make sure what is or is not covered specifically.

Anyway, I agree with Travis that this licensing thing is just a mess but they created it so it's up to them to manage it. I have heard so many different versions of what you have to do to be able to use copyrighted content that I don't know what to believe. It seems like they are in a contest to see who can make it the most difficult for all of us to legally use their content. I was told that if you pay an organization like BMI or ASCAP their flat rate annual fee, which is only a couple hundred dollars or so, that you are covered for all that they represent. At least it shows that you made an effort. It seems like they would create a very clear and easy way for all of us non lawyers to pay a fee and be done with it. Just think of how much money they could make if it was that easy. I think the reason that alot of us honest people don't even bother is because we don't know how or where to begin to pay them.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 06:30 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Travis Cossel
Yeah, it's really unfortunate. I would have no problem getting permission to use music in a wedding video if there was a logical and sane way of doing it. But the fact of the matter is that it's not worth a company's time to deal with me, so they don't bother setting up a system I can use. That leaves me in a crappy situation.

So yeah, the way I look at it now, as long as I purchase the music or the client provides it (and I don't make copies to distribute), then nobody is going to care.

By the way, there have been many discussions in the "Taking Care of Business" forum on this issue, and from what I have seen, it IS technically illegal to use music in any project and redistribute it, even if the client provides the music and you only give a copy to the client. It's crazy law, man, crazy law.
Yup, it's illegal to make even one single master copy containing copyright music and hand it to your client without obtaining proper rights and clearances. It's not a technicality, it's as illegal as holding up convenience stores, and individual videographers and companies run afoul of the law every day. If you haven't so far, it's pure blind luck and nothing else. No offense intended but the attitude of "I need to use it to be competitive and since it's too much of a hassle and too expensive to do it legally, I'll just do it anyway and the legalities be damned" seems to me the ethical equivalent of "I need money for new equipment and since the bank won't give me the loan, I'll just take my AK47 down there and take it from them." Call me crazy and old-fashioned but the attitude currently popular in society that says the only arbiter of what's right and what's wrong is whether you can get away it and if you can get away with it then it's acceptable to do it drives me to despair. Sorry, but a person's sense of personal honor should motivate him to adhere to a higher standard, even when it is inconvenient to do so and/or when their contemporaries may ignore the ethical issues.

You never know when it will spring up to bite ya. I heard tale once of a couple who played their wedding DVD for friends at a party they were hosting. One of the party guests' date for the evening just happened to be an intellectual property attorney on the staff of a music company who just happend to own copyright to one of the couple's favourite songs that had been used in their wedding video. Mr Wedding Videographer was treated to a surprise visit from Mr Process Server in just a few days.

If a company is disinclined to deal with you in licensing their music, use alternative music that you can license. If the client wants you to use unlicensed copyright music in violation of the law, explain to them why you can't do that. If they insist, decline their business and send them down the street to deal with Shady Joe's Video Emporium & Auto Chop Shop. Doing the right thing really is that simple.

As I understand it, rules about the capture of music in a pageant or other event video would be little more flexible. If the music *was* the soundtrack, such as might happen in a video of a dance performance for example, it is considered an integral part of the video work and requires the appropriate licensing. But if it simply audible as part of the general background ambience, such as snatches of music from the band or DJ at a wedding reception that just happens to be audible in the background during interviews with the guests, then it not a problem. So if you're showing the pagent evening gown competition with the contestants walking the runway as the music plays, you'll need the licenses. But if you're getting a B-roll interview of the show organizers while the evening gown competition goes on behind them and you overhear music mixed with crowd sounds, applause, and other general ambience in the background, it's considered incidental to the video and licensing would not be needed.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 06:45 AM   #13
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I agree with you about willfully inserting music into a project and using it for profit without paying for its use. But I still say that the licensors sure don't make it easy to know what to pay and how to pay them and even though it doesn't make it right, it kind of encourages that attitude that you described. I don't feel sorry for the licensors one bit because they created the rules so they need to manage them better and make it clear and concise. If I was a copyright holder and I knew how much more money I could make by others using my content under licensing, I would be making it real easy for the masses to do it. I also agree that anyone that uses content without proper clearance is just asking for it. Look what happened to me and I wasn't making a dime for it's use. I had my content used without my permission to sell someone elses product. In fact it was the former owner of a camera stabilizer product talked about on this board quite a bit. I simply contacted them and offered to let them to continue to use it if they would send me some upgrades to the system for compensation. I thought that was fair since they had used it for several months to sell their system without paying me, much less asking my permission. They said no, so I told them to take it down and they did. They were shady anyway and no wonder they had to sell the product line to someone that knew what they were doing. The new owner of the company did contact me and did ask permission to use my content.
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Old March 4th, 2006, 06:58 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Emory
... I simply created a short and to the point disclaimer that I have all clients sign that are using copyrighted content. I don't know how legally accurate it is ... but the following just covers me just in case

By signing this document I acknowledge that the media provided as audio, video or electronic file to be altered by editing, duplication and/or broadcast is to the best of my knowledge authorized for editing, duplication and/or broadcast and not in violation of ANY copyright infringement of its authors or creators. I assume all responsibility and DO NOT hold (YOUR COMPANY NAME) responsible in ANY way for ANY liabilities resulting from subsequent discovery of copyright discrepancies of ANY kind.

... However, they are not as picky about their music or videos being used on television though, specifically cable. Comcast said that the use of music or video is covered under a blanket license that they pay which apparently covers use by people who use music or video in their local access programs. So it looks like you're covered if it airs on cable.
I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that your disclaimer will do nothing to protect you. Since you are the one incorporating the music into the video, it is up to you to insure that you have poper clearances. And BTW, clearance and license for a public performance or broadcast IS NOT the same thing as the synchonization license that allows it to be matched to images in a film or video, the mechanical license that allows the original recording to be copied over onto the video soundtrack, or the reproduction license that allows copies of the resulting video to be distributed.

Same thing holds with your comment on cable (and the same would be true for over-the-air broadcast) - their license allows for their airplay of the music but does not cover your incorporating it into the material they're airing. If you go down to the store, buy a CD, dub it into a video, and give it to a station to air, they're covered by their ACAP/BMI license that allows to air the music but you're not covered and a separate license is required for the act of dubbing the same music from the original distribution CD over to the medium on which you gave it to the station. Ironically if station itself does the dubbing in-house to prepare the final program - copying from CD into computer memory or tape for an automated broadcast system, for example - it's not an issue for them. Doesn't seem logical, but when did the law ever?
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Old March 4th, 2006, 07:05 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by James Emory
I agree with you about willfully inserting music into a project and using it for profit without paying for its use. But I still say that the licensors sure don't make it easy to know what to pay and how to pay them and even though it doesn't make it right, it kind of encourages that attitude that you described. I don't feel sorry for the licensors one bit because they created the rules so they need to manage them better and make it clear and concise. If I was a copyright holder and I knew how much more money I could make by others using my content under licensing, I would be making it real easy for the masses to do it. I also agree that anyone that uses content without proper clearance is just asking for it. Look what happened to me and I wasn't making a dime for it's use. I had my content used without my permission to sell someone elses product. In fact it was the former owner of a camera stabilizer product talked about on this board quite a bit. I simply contacted them and offered to let them to continue to use it if they would send me some upgrades to the system for compensation. I thought that was fair since they had used it for several months to sell their system with paying me. They said no, so I told them to take it down. They were shady anyway.
I agree completely - but just keep in mind that the rights to the music are the personal property of the copyright holder and they have the absolute right to be as fair or as unfair, as easy or as difficult about the use of it as they wish, as you have to your own personal property. I have no right to come up to you and demand that you allow me to use your camera for $5 a day, which is all I want to pay for it. You can let me use it or not let me use it as you see fit and no one else has any right to a say in the matter, including me. It's exactly the same with popluar music - whether the licensing system is fair or makes sense is not the issue. It exists and non-compliance is not an ethical option.
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