How to estimate a quote for video editing

Photograph of editing timeline showing different video and audio layers with effects
Avid Media Composer editing timeline

10 things to think about when quoting for video editing and post-production

Many factors can affect how long the post-production process can take for any particular programme, film, trailer or video.

As a BBC trained freelance video editor, I am usually asked to respond quickly to new client requests, so an overall understanding of what factors can impact on the estimation of time which will be required for video editing and post-production is essential. To work out an accurate quote, assess the man hours that it will take from receipt of the content to processing it all in the edit (and/or other post-production) through to the actual final delivery. A good starting point can be to gain an overall sense of the project being commissioned or produced.

Questions to ask

Questions that might require some clarity from your potential client include:

1) What is being filmed? How much footage (in time or data) will be filmed per day?

If the cameras are going to be constantly recording then there will be more media to manage to start with.

2) How many cameras are to be used and across how many days of filming.

The more cameras that are filming will mean more media to manage, view and edit, therefore, increasing edit time.

3) If possible, what type of cameras are to be used and also what codec?

With ever-changing camera technology, UHD, 4K, various raster sizes, bit rates and frame rates its good to check that your post-production workflow is completely compatible in advance. If you are involved in the process before shooting commences, it can be a good idea to talk with the camera team or DoP to ensure the workflow is optimised for quality and efficiency.

4) How is the media to be delivered?

Content may be coming from many different sources e.g. couriered hard drives (that have hopefully already been backed-up), FTP or web file transfers. These files will all need to be transferred and backed up onto the edit system and also there may be some transcoding to be done, depending on the media type and compatibility. Production may also require some additional content to be sourced or created by the editor during the edit. This additional content could include, for example, animations, stills, graphics, text elements and music which all take time to source and may require additional client approval. Understanding what is required at the outset will ensure that an adequate amount of time is scheduled to allow these processes to take place.

5) Is there a brief, script or any time codes of the best takes?

A short film or drama based programme may come with a perfectly time-lined script. Alternatively, some short-form content will arrive for you to view and then to build the narrative with no guidance at all provided. To ensure the best quality edit is produced, it will take time to listen to all the sync so that you can edit together and build the best story.

6) What other processes will be required?

A bespoke colour grade? Different types of sound mix? Dolby? Surround sound? International re-versions? Delivery to an external facility for some kind of finishing? These are just a few of the many post-production processes that will take additional time to manage.

7) What is the sign off process?

How many people are to be involved in the sign off process? Is the edit to be attended by your client or a representative? Do they wish to monitor the edit remotely with weekly or daily versions uploaded for viewing?

When I present a quote, I usually agree to include one or two sets of changes to the first edit delivered to brief so that they know this upfront. Additional sets of edit changes can then be charged extra at an hourly or daily rate. This can help the client focus on ensuring a smooth delivery in the first place. I have known edit changes to extend the original anticipated edit time for many days so it’s essential to be clear about what is (and is not) included in your quote.

8) What are the deliverables?

Any quote for editing should also be based on what the final deliverables are. This quote can be broken down into how many separate films (and how many different versions of each film) are to be delivered, what platform they are to be broadcast on and the overall duration of each film.

For on-line projects, website delivery, internal communication films and similar, the delivery may be quite straightforward. The client may require a digital file to be delivered to them, uploaded to YouTube or copied onto physical media. Burning onto a Blu-ray or DVD for playback will require an additional time allowance, dependant on the length of the programme and the number of copies required.

Films which are required for cinema release may need a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) to be created which then could be delivered on a hard drive.

Programmes to be broadcast on network television or internationally will need to adhere to the complex DPP process and/or agreed technical standards.

9) Does the client require any archive or back up?

Will they require a copy of all the edit media e.g. Project information and/or camera rushes? Factor in some time for all of this as well.

10) Different ways of thinking and approaching post-production.

Of course, the post-production process can also be a fixed time process. Your client may ask for a fixed time to edit a fixed duration and an editor will make the best possible use if their time to deliver this type of project. Equally the post-production process can be creatively led. This is where the creative lead will continue with the post-production process until they are or their client signs off the content.

Have I missed anything? Do you have any tips that you use and could help others?

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Julian Langham

Julian started his career in media in 1994; shortly after Julian was invited to join the BBC where he was quickly promoted to Editor. Julian left the BBC to develop his freelance career in 2009. Highly-practised and skilled in constructing engaging narratives, Julian’s key strength is his ability to produce strong visually-led stories. In his work, Julian shares his passion for creating powerful synergies between story content, visual rhythm and music.