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Lights. Camera. Action! It sounds so easy, but there's much more that goes into a video production—which means there's much more involved than you might think when it comes to your video production contract.
Whether it's a highly-produced branding video for a business, or an emotional and compelling story, produced for a charity event, video productions really are a big … production. From planning and scripting to filming and editing, there are multiple moving parts–more than most people realize. So, before you roll the camera, or even hire the crew, make sure you cover these three details in your video production contract.
And yes, it’s a bit more involved than 1) Lights, 2) Camera, 3) Action!
Key Requirements of a Video Production Contract
Scope of Work
Just like any other contract, you're agreeing to a price for a product or service. But the finished product of a video production is created by complex process, with numerous moving parts. Whether you're working with a high-end commercial crew, a “one-man band” or something in between, your video project will likely take more time than you expect to coordinate, film, and edit. And that's before factoring in multiple characters, additional locations, and maybe even multiple filming days.
So make sure your contract clearly indicates exactly how much time is allocated for filming, how much time is specified for editing and other post-production needs such as graphics and animation, and how much time (if any) is provided for revisions. Specifying and agreeing to all of those terms on the front-end will save you time and possibly frustration when the project is complete.
PRO TIP: Video production teams typically bill filming in full-day (10-hour) and half-day (5-hour) increments–which may include drive time to and from the location. Editing and other work may be billed by the day, half-day or more commonly on an hourly basis.
Ownership of Assets
Few people think about this detail–which is why it's important. When the project is completed, who owns the raw video and finished product? Typically, the production company, as the actual producer, owns those files and all rights to the footage unless otherwise specified. And because video takes time and resources to duplicate, it's worth discussing whether you want to spend part of your budget to keep the raw files from your production (which would also require more editing in order to use again), or whether the video production company should store the footage for possible future use. And if they do hold onto the files, for how long?
Too many well-meaning assumptions are made with regard to raw footage, so be sure to agree upon possession and ownership of the original files once the project is completed, and who has the rights to use what. If you ever want to use the footage in another video, you'll be glad you did.
Timing and delivery are crucial details in ensuring a successful project. And this is where video productions differ from some other products or services. You're agreeing to a process as well as a product — so you need to have details of both in writing. In other words, you aren't just paying for the "deliverables," i.e. the finished video product, you're paying for planning, creative vision, strategic messaging, filming, script-writing,, editing, and revisions. So those stages of production, how much time is devoted to each, and a line-item of their cost, should be included in the contract:
- What happens during each phase of pre-production, filming and post-production?
- What are the important milestone dates?
- When will you have the final product in hand?
Video productions are much more complicated than pointing a camera and pressing record. so be sure to approach them with careful and thoughtful planning. Discuss these key details with your production company ahead of time and agree upon the termsThen you can get down to the business of producing a great video.
Editor's Note: This blog was initially published in 2015 and updated in August 2023 with updated information.
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