What’s the single most expensive element in a video production or web site development project? Perhaps it’s the scripting or content writing? Maybe the shooting or page design? The editing or programming?
If you ask me, it’s none of the above.
The single most expensive element in any video or web project — in terms of money, time, frustration and overall quality — is the untimely request for a change or revision.
Don’t get me wrong. Revisions and tweaks are all part of the process in a custom project such as a video or web site design. The client and production team need to collaborate on any number of decisions and directions throughout the project.
It’s the untimely part that makes change so ugly and divisive. You see, every production schedule includes very specific time periods that allow for changes and revisions throughout the life of a project. For instance, once we’ve written a script or web content and presented it to the client, we usually build in a good solid week (or more) for the client to mull it over, share it internally, gather comments and then come back to us with an organized, collated list of requested changes and revisions. The same is true for design work such as storyboards or page layouts. Stock photography, video and music selections all have a scheduled period of time of client consideration and approval or requests for change. The rough cut of the video has it’s own review period.
During those review periods, the production team busies itself with other unrelated work. We don’t move forward until the client has approved the direction we’re going.
I like to compare video and web projects to the process of building a house. Most of us would expect to pay a premium if we changed our mind about the color of the shingles just after they’d all been nailed to the roof. Or if we decided we really needed an extra bathroom after the foundation had already been laid and the framing had begun.
It’s not any different in the world of video production and web site design. Changes made at the wrong time usually have a domino effect. Especially with web sites. “Just” adding one more section usually has the domino effect of requiring changes to the site navigation on every page that’s already been designed. “Just” adding another paragraph of narration to a video requires more shooting or time in the sound studio as well as more stock footage or b-roll shooting, more music to license, more of an editor‘s time in an edit suite to make all of these changes. Additional graphics may need to be created as well.
So, from the client’s perspective, how can you guard your budget and your delivery schedule? Here are a few tips that can help everyone in the process:
1. Identify the decision makers in your organization and make sure they’re prepared to be part of the approval process throughout the life of the project.
2. When you receive the production schedule, immediately distribute it to your internal team and make sure that decision makers are actually going to be available during the scheduled review periods. If not, tell your production company immediately so that a new schedule can be drawn up.
3. Once you have a workable production schedule, make sure all important landmarks are blocked out on the calendars of the decision makers — well in advance.
4. Be prepared for the unexpected — Part I. C-level execs have a habit of ignoring their calendars. If one of your decision makers suddenly isn’t going to be able to meet a production schedule landmark — let your production team know as soon as possible. We can often adjust our schedules to compensate — or suspend work that might have to be undone, once the exec does his review.
5. Be prepared for the unexpected — Part II. Because CEOs and other heavily scheduled execs can be unpredictable, we suggest that the client set aside some portion of their budget (beyond the amount contracted with the production company) for last minute changes and revisions. Padding your deadline by a few days to a week can also come in handy.
Bottom line: in the world of video production and web site design, change is inevitable, but if you take the right steps upfront, it’s possible to minimize it’s more unpleasant consequences.