What You Need to know from a Client – Part 1



I think we can all agree that re-rendering projects after delivery, or losing a commission after days of pitching can be frustrating as well as a huge waste of time and resources. It seems a common cause for going down the wrong avenues of thought at the outset, or delivering material with the incorrect format, ratios or text safety, is when designers, editors and motion artists fail to wring enough detailed information from the client when taking a brief or commission on a project at the initial briefing or enquiries stage.

Whether pitching or embarking on a confirmed job, there are certain key bits of useful information that many clients don’t write in their briefs, don’t want to write in their briefs or simply don’t know the answers to. Here is a breakdown of useful questions everyone should consider asking before embarking on a project whether it is paid or not, in order to have the best chance of winning the commission, delivering on time, keeping the client for the future and not wasting your own time.

This is often a difficult issue with many people, mainly because money is something we don’t want to start off talking about with a client, after all we are supposed to be creative people, not accountants. That said, and stating the somewhat obvious, it is essential that the budget constraints are known from the very beginning. What is the point of producing an amazing pitch, elaborate storyboard, detailed treatment and wad of reference material, even to go so far as producing a test animation, when the budget may be considerably smaller than your idea allows?
As suppliers we need to balance the clients expectations and hopes against what their budget can really afford to deliver. How many times have you been sent a link to an amazing commercial or music video, with a brief asking for ‘something like this…’?
Excitement starts to build with the thoughts of working on such a cool project that looks so expensive, the mind starts to think about motion control shoots in huge studios, or exotic locations, or getting a team together to do months of cg work, when in reality the budget allows for a weeks’ worth of After Effects animation on a bunch of photos.
There are other budgetary elements to consider too, which leads me on to….

Many clients have a very specific idea of what the music, sound effects, and/or audio bed will sound like, many have not even considered this aspect. It is well worth getting a clear idea of what your client is thinking along these lines, to allow you to consider the various aspects involved in this vital part of the process. Getting this clear early will make your life easier all the way through the project. Music or sound effects can initially help inspiration, trigger thought processes, give you a sense of pace, atmosphere and emotion, so if the client has a track ready to go then this answers many questions immediately, and gives you a great starting point. If the music has not been considered, or at least not been reduced down to some options or a reference, then the next question should be whether a composer needs to be brought on board for the project, or whether stock music is a viable option. These are of course additional costs, so going back to point one regarding budgets, is the audio aspect of the project your responsibility, and will this affect your budget? Not only do composers need paying, or stock audio bought, but it is worth assessing how much time it will take you to deal with the composer, acting as middle man between your supplier and the client, as well as the hours it will take trawling through stock libraries to find something suitable. The audio also defines the next point….

Is this a 10 or 30 second commercial, a 15 second title sequence or a 3 minute music video? Making sure you know the duration of the piece before you start work is another obvious but key bit of information which will shape your concept and approach. Many times, you will be expected to produce multiple durations of a project or cut downs from the full length finished video. Often cut downs are not as simple as chopping up a finished piece, they can sometimes require longer shots, clean shots without transitions, retimed animation, or new audio mixes and re-titling. All of this can be planned for if the durations are clear from the outset. It is often the case where different length versions are only thought of by the client at the delivery stage, which can cause many problems during the last hours before delivery, and you can be certain that there will not be an increase in the original budget. If the question is asked initially and you have the information in an email, then there is scope to charge more money if the goal posts get moved later down the line. The duration also guides your concept towards one style of animation or another, one type of film, camera or technique. Designing a full length music video to be animated in 3d, or stopframe may be a great idea, but is it viable in the time and budget you have available? Perhaps that looping background with some simple greenscreen is more realistic, even if you really wanted to try something more adventurous, but at least if you know this in advance you won’t have any nasty surprises sprung on you later, and you can plan your schedule and resources easier. The next thing to know is….

Part 2 will follow soon and include a full downloadable pdf of the article, follow the blog and twitter to stay tuned, and get notified of all the content coming in future.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Siosi

    Interesting take but it would be nice if you could break up your paragraphs a bit – would make it a bit easier to scan through while reading. Thanks for your contribution!

  • admin

    Thanks Siosi,
    will bear that in mind for future articles. You can of course download the pdf at the bottom of the post which may be easier for you to read.

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