how many hours per minute do you charge

goodtimej wrote on 12/7/2009, 7:33 AM
Just wanted to get a pulse check from everyone out here. I'm getting ready to bid a job and need some help. I charge $40 an hour for an edit. I am aware that a lot of people generally charge by saying "it takes me x hours for a finished minute of video." How many hours per finished minute do you spend?
Just so you know, I will be including royalty free music from smartsound as well as a hefty dose of digital juice graphics and titling. I just want to be able to bid to the standard. Thanks.


Jay Gladwell wrote on 12/7/2009, 7:38 AM

There is no "standard." It depends upon your market and the specific requirements of the project, not to mention your experience.

What is the "standard" in the city where you live?

goodtimej wrote on 12/7/2009, 7:52 AM
I'm not talking rate per hour. I'm saying for bidding out how many hours I'm going to spend. Before I've had really easy bids. Someone offered me x amount for a project and I just said yes. This is gonna be a little different.
Dan Sherman wrote on 12/7/2009, 8:03 AM
There's an old rule-of-thumb thing from the "80s that's still spinning around out there.
Essentially it says corporate video is a thousand dollars a minute.
Heard that one?
I think every Marketing and Communications director has heard the myth.
But of course as Jay says there are many factors.
Among them, number of locations, on camera/VO talent, lightinging and audio needs, animation, text, graphics and the list goes on.
When preparing a quote don't forget to plan for the unexpected.
Build in a buffer so you don't get stung.
Try to get at least a third down once a contract is signed.
And do have a contract,
That's good for you and the client.
As for experience, if you quote for a job, the client will expect that you are a pro who knows what he/she is doing unless you tell them otherwise.
Rather than let the client down,hire some experience if you are lacking. Like a cameraman/DoP, editor.
That way you may have a satisfied client and return business, a great project for your portfolio and a relationship with another video professional that will lead to others.
All this adds up to the best promotion you can get, word-of-mouth.
Hope this helps somewhat.
goodtimej wrote on 12/7/2009, 8:34 AM
I was really just wondering if you quote an amount of hours you edit per minute of finished footage. Nothing more. Thanks though
musicvid10 wrote on 12/7/2009, 8:46 AM
I was really just wondering if you quote an amount of hours you edit per minute of finished footage.

I wouldn't go there with a client. Too many variables, and an open invitation to get burned imo.
Jay Gladwell wrote on 12/7/2009, 12:25 PM

"I was really just wondering if you quote an amount of hours you edit per minute of finished footage. "

Not trying to be difficult, but as has been said a few times already, you can't put it so simply! "Per minute of finished what, " straight cuts or elaborate special effects, motion graphics, graded or ungraded, how much sound mixing?

See what I mean?

jrazz wrote on 12/7/2009, 12:42 PM
For a 30 second tv spot I charge $100 for every 10 seconds of finished product; the same holds true for a 60 second spot. So it comes out to $300 and $600 respectively. However, I also charge on top of that by the hour for the shoot and tear down. Also, if they are wanting something more extravagant where I have to hire out some animation or something like that, this too gets added in.

I hope that was helpful. I am not in your area so my rates may be a lot cheaper or a lot more expensive than your areas economy.

j razz
mudsmith wrote on 12/7/2009, 2:26 PM
The original poster seems to be asking only about the edit, not shooting or other production time.

I am quite new to video editing, but have been doing audio for many, many years. I had a rule of thumb about doing audio post for a lot of my documentary work that was something like 15 minutes of finished audio per day of work, but this could go up or down, depending. When I was building the SFX track for a big documentary in the mid-90s, the audio producer and I only attempted to get about 7 minutes done in a day.

But that was for a fairly difficult project that required historical accuracy, and computers were a lot slower and less agile in those days, so it is hard to relate that to today's situations and expectations.

It seems, though, that this kind of ratio is what the poster is looking for. Although it is obvious that different situations will have different ratios associated with them, perhaps some of the more experienced editors here could give some ballpark answers in reply.

It is certain that most of us use these ratios from time to time when bidding jobs, so I am certain that these figures have crossed the minds of at least some of you more experienced cutters out there.
JackW wrote on 12/7/2009, 4:45 PM
"How many hours per finished minute do you spend?"

Editing only:
1. For a 10 minute photo montage, 120 pictures with titles and music: about 30 minutes per finished minute. (5 hours)
2. For a 1.5 minute promo, with music, titles, interviews: about 6-7 hours per finished minute.
3. For an hour-long talking head instructional tape, with PowerPoint inserts: about 4 minutes for each finished minute.

Total Production Time (pre-shoot, shoot, edit and post production review, etc.:
1. 10 minute photo montage: 4.5 to 6 hours.
2. 1.5 minute promo: 25 hours
3. Talking head: 5 hours

These figures are from specific jobs; the totals for similar jobs could run much higher. For example, a 4.5 minute promo we shot a year ago took two 9 hour days of travel, two 12 hour days of shooting on location and nearly thirty hours of editing.

Charging by the finished minute, especially for editing, strikes me as a dangerous way to go. There are just too many unpredictable elements involved -- color correction, audio adjustment, client ordered changes, etc. Better to charge by the hour, with an estimate given the client before you begin the edit. Base the estimate on your knowledge of similar jobs and estimate high.

Jay Gladwell wrote on 12/7/2009, 5:29 PM

"It is certain that most of us use these ratios from time to time when bidding jobs, so I am certain that these figures have crossed the minds of at least some of you more experienced cutters out there."

Most of my adult life has been spent in this business. And I can honestly say that such has not been the case, as you are so certain about.

When working with sophisticated clients (other businessmen), not just brides and grooms, such approaches to bidding are very dangerous, as Musicvid and Jack pointed out so clearly.

Unfortunately, too many people today appear to be looking for the quick, easy answer. My life experience has shown that such is seldom the case!


Muddy, I was born and reared in West Virginia just west of Charleston.

kkolbo wrote on 12/7/2009, 6:06 PM

I am fairly quick. For corporate style, music montage(event video), and short film, I cut at about two hours per finished minute. This does not include capture time and finishing, such as intricate color correction, or other than standard graphics. I always charge additional for music and graphics. Of course this assumes that a rough EDL is available at the start of edit. If you have to make the EDL choices, then only you know how long it will take. If I have to pour through hours of raw footage, all bets are off.

There is just no simple answer to an all in single price gig. You have to take your chances if you are going that way. How much are you willing to gamble?

In any contract you have to set clear limits; client reviews, recuts, delivery formats, viewing dubs, client present and turn around time.

To be honest, if you can not look at the job and predict YOUR time on the job based on your experience and your knowledge of the client's expectations you really should not bid on the job. You may not be ready for that. You are certainly at risk. I made a very good living bidding on custom work and services. I had a special talent for predicting schedules, controlling costs, and managing clients. Not everyone has that gift. I watched a lot of good companies go down in flames on projects that I came out clean on.
farss wrote on 12/7/2009, 6:59 PM
Minimum 1 hour per minute of program.
Now that's assuming it was shot with a real camera by a hardcore cameraman and the audio was spot on. This is for basic interviews and vox pops etc.
As others have said and very rightly so, 1,000s of man hours do go into some TVCs. The single most important thing to do when quoting for anything be it editing video, building a bridge or getting a man on the moon is defining the scope of work. You MUST put a razor wire fence with dogs and mines around what YOUR scope of work is. It needs to be 100% clear that you are only one cog in a machine and if someone else throws a spanner in the works fixing the problem is outside your quote.
You might be a good guy and fix it for free, done this a zillion times myself but the problem is of course forever the client expects you to keep fixing problems for free and they have a bad habit of getting worse and worse because you fixed up the last stuff up when they saved a dollar hiring a competant sound guy and this time they saved another dollar by not renting a microphone.

mudsmith wrote on 12/8/2009, 7:01 AM
Jay: I live in the other end of the state, the commuter alley of the Eastern Panhandle

....and I think the subsequent responses after yours point out what I was intending to ellicit from some pros. Most of us do think about these ratios and keep a rough tally in our heads, even if we are very aware of the potential for any details to knock these figures off the rails.

An awful lot of my professional life has been spent as a technical and production manager for large projects, including very large video pojects. I agree with your and others' comments about the need to set up very strong boundaries and to limit client expectations. This is, indeed, a given.

The original poster seems to be entering on a first initial bid, and I would guess is just looking for a way to calm the jitters a bit. This is understandable. Hopefully, he/she will get a handle on the complexity of the questions involved while moving forward. It takes experience......and we can all help out a little with ours, even though none of us can give a totally complete answer to a question like this in a single post.

mudsmith wrote on 12/8/2009, 7:21 AM
.....And another way to look at this whole issue is to think about the pressures on the person/entity paying for your services, and to figure that into the bidding process.

I often try to come up with an all-in price, whether I am the bidder or the biddee. This is anathema to many video editors, for all of the reasons described above....but these objections can be smoothed over if one promises to keep the boundaries clear.

When I was the line producer/project manager for a Blu-Ray project early this year, I managed to get the editors to agree to an all-in price after convincing them that all producer types would come in prepared and, more importantly, knowing what they wanted......In other words, they would be decisive, and follow the basic outlines that had been passed down to the editors as they were loading in and roughing together the material.....No big surprises would be coming at the first viewing session...

Even though there was one flagrant incident of indecisiveness, I was able to ride herd on the situation well enough that the editors were, in the end, happy and operating within their comfort range and workload expectations.

Whick is all to say that the "hours per minute" ratios revolve around a huge number of variables, not the least of which is the skill and vision of the overall producers......and locking yourself into any given ratio can be disastrous, as others indicated above, if you don't have a pretty solid handle on those ratios, or a way to adjust.
Dan Sherman wrote on 12/10/2009, 8:11 AM
Where'd goodtime go?
They guy who started this thread.
If you're still there, and you're still looking for the simple answer.
Let's see, through a dart.
Twenty-five dollars an hour.
Try that.
You'll learn a lot by trial and error.
But there's a wealth of information here to help with an educated decision.
Study it.
When you ask a question the answer sometimes isn't simple.
ushere wrote on 12/11/2009, 12:43 AM
wow! $25 an hour!?

to get a bricklayer cost $55au, a good chippie $60 - so i don't do anything under $70 an hour, and that's my discount rate. (and yes, i can lay bricks and do carpentry to a decent standard!)

for all the headaches the average client comes with, you need at least $25 an hour to cover the cost of coffee and asprins alone.

there was a great article written somewhere on the web called - rate prostitution. it was very concise and a good insight into how not to make money by cutting your costs...

btw. if anyone find / knows the article i'd love a link to pass on to my students...

Dan Sherman wrote on 12/11/2009, 7:42 AM
It's not the "rate prostitution" article you are seeking, but this link may be of some interest as regards video as a business overall.
Have found this thread helpful.
The point of the reply is that a quote of 25 dollars per hour can be as wrong as 500 dollars per hour depending on the job.
Without more information, asking someone on this forum could be like throwing a dart or picking a number of of a hat.

MTuggy wrote on 12/11/2009, 11:22 AM
This is a great discussion- very interesting scope of insights..

I purely do technical, educational work and have found that budgeting 1 hour per minute of final product has been pretty reliable estimate for cost projections for the buyer for editing. I do charge for recording video and audio separately as many others have mentioned is a good idea as well.

The sticky issues I have run into in some cases is with animations and 3D models that I create. I have charged for the time to create and render those as well but do not "sell" the model to the buyer unless they want to pay much more for the model since once it is out of my control it can be modified and sold again without me knowing it.

Always a good idea to try to get a contingency amount within a contract for time overages due to special requests or client related delays.