What You Need to know from a Client – Part 2
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM A CLIENT BEFORE UNDERTAKING A MOTION GRAPHICS PROJECT – PART 2
GET THE INFO YOU NEED TO SAVE TIME AND MONEY IN THE LONG RUN
This is another essential need to know, and can again change how your budget is used. Most projects are being delivered in High Definition these days, but it is important to know this for sure, bearing in mind that the file size, storage and rendering times between Standard and High Definition are so radically different. Many music videos are still made SD, so why waste time and resources rendering HD, or even worse, imagine you made your project in SD only to be told it needs to be delivered HD? or you make a commercial in HD only to learn later that the client wanted 2k delivery? The basic rule of thumb for safety is to always make it higher resolution than you need and downsize it at the end of the project, but there are many considerations with this apart from computing power and file storage. How about mixing resolutions of different source material? Using a typeface that looks too thin when the film is downsized? Using lines that can create a buzzing or moray effect when reduced? How about working on a multi screen project, or having to display from more than one projector simultaneously? Knowing the full range of formats you will need to deliver including the master, dvd, blu-ray or web versions is vital for planning and successful delivery.
As well as resolution, ensure you clarify the video standard and frame rate you are required to deliver. If you work in the UK all the time and are used to delivering PAL, it’s still worth checking with the client in case they forgot to mention to you that they were delivering directly to a broadcaster in America and needed the NTSC standard at 29.97fps or 24fps for film instead of 25fps. This basic question can often be overlooked or presumed, only to cause all sorts of complication and extra work to sort out later. This is of course the case whether you are shooting or not, but imagine if you shot a whole load of studio material in the wrong frame rate? A costly mistake either in the pocket or in the quality of the final result. This leads on to….
Sometimes your client may give you a full list of requirements, but it is still worth checking the broadcasters individual requirements for yourself, especially with issues such as title safe areas, and strap line or lower third sizes. Broadcasters tend to vary in their various rules and guidelines, as well as constantly changing aspects of their delivery requirements, whether it’s safety cages, end credit rolls, text sizes or any other number of specifications.
Web video, projections, event screens and cinema all have their own specific requirements, so it is well worth doing your homework and speaking with the necessary people involved with the display or broadcast of your work to ensure it looks and sounds it’s best. After all the work making it, it would be a terrible shame if it looked the wrong shape or speed, sounded wrong or displayed in a strange colour or gamma level, it wouldn’t reflect well on you or your client, so although it may be a pain initially, the extra research will not only give you confidence in your approach, it will give your client the confidence in you to deliver whatever they need without bothering you with questions, or relaying confusing and misconstrued information from whoever displays or broadcasts the film or animation. The final important question you must of course ask is….
Knowing your delivery deadline is obviously important, and will force you to think about what needs to be in place in order for you to meet the specified deadline. There is no point leaving the rendering too late in the day so that the final online, soundlay and grade are delayed and the editor is snoring in bed instead of laying off your masterpiece to tape. The deadline (along with the budget) are the first guides for you to decide how complex your idea can be, what can be achieved in the time allowed and how big a team you need to assemble.
If you are working on a project alone, you need to ensure that your equipment is sufficiently up to the job, and that you have a backup plan if something goes wrong. What if you had signed a contract promising delivery but were suddenly taken ill and unable to finish the project? What happens if a drive fails? These and many other questions are always an issue for a designer or editor working alone, but things can be made easier by building in a series of deadlines during the process of the project. Most clients will want to see the projects progress anyway, so it makes sense to ask the client for a copy of their schedule if they have one. This spreadsheet will usually give you a clue as to when they will need to see parts of the project, when they are available to see them and if they have to meet deadlines of their own. For example, your client is a production company, their client is an agency, and their client is an airline. You are the final piece of the jigsaw, so if your delivery is late, then it sends a ripple all the way through the chain. By building in pre agreed approval deadlines, you can keep everyone calm and up to date, as well as make any minor adjustments as you go along. This will help your client put something into an offline to show their client, which in turn can keep their client happy, knowing that the project is running smoothly. It also means that if you get written approvals as you go along, any changes that are made that have already been approved, can be charged for. Everyone knows where they stand and the project benefits from it in the long run, even if you end up rushing to meet 4 different deadlines instead of just one at the end. And lastly….
It is always a good idea to get a clear picture of the hierarchy at your clients end. Find out who is the decision maker, who deals with the budget and who has the technical expertise. Not only will you know who to contact for a quick answer but it is invaluable in relationship building. Increasingly these days, designers and motion artists are working remotely and you may never meet face to face, so a really good telephone and email manner can be a very useful tool in your arsenal. Don’t put the email address in the ‘to’ section until you are absolutely ready to send the email, if you click send my mistake you may end up spending the next hour explaining or apologising. You will gain their respect if you ask the right questions of the right people, and get their names right!
The whole guide can be downloaded as a complete pdf file here.