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    Help on Reality Series Budget
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    I'm in the proposal submission phase of a reality series idea I'm developing. Up to now I've only produced a few documentaries of 25 minutes or less, but I've been encouraged to go forward with this idea. Unfortunately, I'm stumped as to budget and many of the submissions require this. We plan to use two HVX's with a full complement of decent sound equipment and edit in Final Cut. My research tells me that a budget of $30K per episode for 10 episodes is in the ball park for an unknown producer. Is that reasonable? Too high? Too low? There will be no paid talent and little or no travel.

    Thanks for the help.


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    Unscripted Mod Erik Olson's Avatar
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    Forest,

    Are you talking 10x30 or 10x60 for your episodes? What shooting ratio are you estimating? Your other parameters keep a lot of the budget under control and you should be able to accomplish a 30 minute episode for $30K if you don't have too much footage to ingest.

    Other stuff, like transcription services are normally flat-rated, so that is easy enough. If you're amortizing across 10 or more eps., you should be good on purchases.

    What producer package (as a percentage) did you figure?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik Olson View Post
    Forest,

    Are you talking 10x30 or 10x60 for your episodes? What shooting ratio are you estimating? Your other parameters keep a lot of the budget under control and you should be able to accomplish a 30 minute episode for $30K if you don't have too much footage to ingest.

    Other stuff, like transcription services are normally flat-rated, so that is easy enough. If you're amortizing across 10 or more eps., you should be good on purchases.

    What producer package (as a percentage) did you figure?

    e
    Eric-

    Thanks for the help. I'm talking about 10 x 30 for the episodes. I'm thinking about a shooting ratio of 20 or 30 to one. (Sound right?) I'll be camera on one of the crews as well as co-editor, so I'm not looking at a straight percentage. I figure 10 episodes is a six to eight month commitment, so I'm looking to clear $75-100K after equipment, payroll, and other out of pockets. I'm assuming the narrative arcs I'm anticipating will play out in that time period. I'm also figuring I'll be able to fit in some of the rest of my freelance business, so there will be other income streams simultaneous to the series.

    I'm very interested in your input. Thanks again, Forest


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    Unscripted Mod Erik Olson's Avatar
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    Your shooting ratio really depends on the subject and production from a technical standpoint. I've been on one show, which was not atypical, at 230:1 ratio. There was the one where we shot three tapes a day (four day weeks) for 12 months and ended up with ten episodes.

    Are you writing episodes based on a story arc or individual story threads which evolve "organically" through a given shooting period? Are you scripted? Somewhere in between. In my mind, this is the single most important factor which will affect your budget.

    So, did you separate the producer's package (~15%) or is the net simply a production company projected net revenue. The later is what it sounds like.

    Again, if your talent and travel are under control, then I'd say your numbers are realisitic. I've seen enough talent-side problems in the "follow the ever-developing narrative / character arc" style reality shows to know that there is no contingency that can cover problem talent.

    I can give you some offline details if you call me. At first glance, you look well within low-mid cable tier budgets and defensible norms.

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    It's a tough market, good luck with the project. It looks like Erik is giving you good advice. There are so many variables. 30K/ep is very low. BUT... it depends on the outlet. If you haven't shot/produced reality before there are many things to keep in mind. The HVX is a questionable call for reality because of P2. I have worked on many reality shows and shooting to P2 has never been a realistic option. There is usually just too much footage. P2 would be phenominal for post - but in the field, not realistic. Also, do count on narrative arcs playing out... You need to be able to produce them. If you just shoot with hopes of the story revealing itself you'll be kicking yourself over and over in edit. Transcription is a must. Definitely budget to transcribe your footage. That's another must have for post. It will save you tons in time in edit. Again, good luck with the project. I hope this has been informative.


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    Tumbleweed- Thanks for the reply. If not HVX and P2, what do you suggest? Sony Z1? Does the extra cost and limited length of P2 outweigh the time saved ingesting?

    Does my ratio of 20 or 30 to one sound plausible to you?

    Thanks again, Forest


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    A fair amount of cable reality shows are being shot (or partially shot) on the dvx. I believe they have recently started to switch to small HD cameras as well. I've heard of sony being used as well as jvc. I haven't worked on any of those shows.

    Reality shows tend to roll constantly and P2 just doesn't work for that. Also many of the cable shows are lower budget and do not have money to have an AC for offloading and reformatting cards. It just isn't a practical format yet for lower budget reality. With 32GB cards it may start to be an option. You would need multiples per camera and again - cost is the issue. Firestore is not recommended for reality handheld work either. Good old tape is the standard.

    That being said... it depends on the show. What are you following?

    As for ratio again depends on what your covering. How "real" will the "reality" be?? tough to speculate on this without more info.


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    Unscripted Mod Erik Olson's Avatar
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    P2 isn't the best choice for unscripted - unless you have very short shooting days with few cameras.

    That stated, if you're on two 64GB cards per camera (at 720/24PN), you would surpass the 4 - 6 tape day average of many reality shows. That one hurdle, once crossed, could bring a lot of HVX200 cameras into use in reality. If it isn't already too late from a generational standpoint.

    At that point, you would still need to offload to two HDD destinations, one for edit and (at least) one other for transcription. Based on your network, you might also need a second disparate transcription for the network. It depends on who you're working for.

    You don't want Firestore. If anything, you want tape or solid state. The nice thing about HVX200 and HPX500 for reality is the fact that you can do the lion's share of the field work in 720/24PN, while your more elaborate sit-downs could be shot in 1080i/24P.

    I would highly recommend, regardless of whether you can jam to it directly, that you consider using a ScriptBoy or ScriptLink with a dedicated Logger-PA who will take a big burden off your post-production team. She will stand in close proximity to camera and producer and take copious notes in real time as you follow your subject. Every reality show I've done has L-PAs working in this capacity. It will greatly streamline the edit process, though you'll still need (and be required to) transcribe.

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    Erik Olson



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    Bronze Member grinner's Avatar
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    It's very realistic to sell a 30k per episode show as long as your budget does not tear you up. If you keep it lean, personel-wise and you don't have a lot of travel and expendables, you can do well enough to renegotiate the next season.
    Do not undercut yourself in order to get a deal.


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    What network are we talking about here? $30K would be very very low for most B level networks even. I just got done shooting/producing a pilot, funded by a decent sized cable network, that had a budget of around $300K for production only, for a 22:30. That is NOT considered a large budget by the way.

    If you get to A&E, Bravo, Discovery, TLC, etc. they are going to want 1080p masters and will require 70% of your final edit to be shot by 2/3" CCD cameras. They will make exceptions but that is the standard for them. They all have a pretty obnoxious list of deliverables and specs.

    Just so it is clear, in nearly every case, these networks are buying shows/pilots based on a pitch and a "sizzle" video. Very rarely is something bought after completion.



    ash =o)


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