Don’t fear the NDA, (Non-Disclosure Agreement)

•April 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

nda.jpg    If a client asks you to sign an NDA, don’t fret, it is all a part of the business.  Non-disclosure agreements may seem a little weird at first but they are mostly harmless.  It is simply a contract between you and another party to protect a client’s confidentiality.  All you have to do when you sign an NDA is keep quiet about what you and the client discuss.  Usually you have only to keep the secret until the company makes their product or service public, nut once in a while the duration of confidentiality is permanent.  In my freelance career I have had to sign a number of NDAs for gigs.  Sometimes a company will give you no details at all until you have signed on the dotted line.  Agreeing to keep a client’s work secret is not an agreement that you will take the job, just that you won’t tell anyone about what you learn.  For example, I had a meeting with a major software company in San Francisco for some video work.  They wouldn’t tell me what I would be doing until I signed a NDA.  After that was done, the project manager was free to tell me about a new product that is scheduled to roll out.  The product is cool but I am not at liberty to tell you about until it is officially announced.  I didn’t end up taking the gig but I am still bound to keep my mouth shut.  On another occasion I was contracted to create a commercial for someone under mysterious circumstances.  I did the work with the understanding that I would take no credit, nor use the material in my own demo.  I don’t know why the client wanted this because the video was nothing untoward, but that is how they wanted it.  I agreed and got paid about fifty percent more than usual.  No sweat!

            Companies rely on Non-disclosure agreements to keep their secrets.  One editing gig I did was an in-house video for a software company that was shot during a weekend meeting.  I promised not to show anyone the work and to turn over all materials to the company rep when finished, deleting all footage and audio from my hard drive.  No problem.  I personally couldn’t tell what they were talking about on the tape.  It was all very esoteric and would only appeal to their competitors, hence the need for secrecy. 

            NDAs are similar to keeping one’s word and, frankly, just good business.  If you break the agreement, you can get sued, damage your professional reputation, and loose potential clients.  That could mean a future of eating Top Ramen for weeks on end until that next wedding gig comes around.


Wiki article about NDAs


MINI DV Tape repair.

•March 24, 2008 • 16 Comments


A lot of my work is done through the US Postal Service. I have clients that I have worked with for years and never even met before. Clients in Los Angeles, Maryland, and a cool cat on Maui, have trusted me with their work without ever meeting me in person. I don’t plan it this way, it just seems to happen. They find me online or through references and contact me. It usually works out great, but recently; I had a bit of a nightmare. I received a Mini DV tape in the mail and went about the process of capturing the footage to my machine. I cringed when I heard the horrible crinkle sound of tearing mylar. I stopped capture and pulled a shredded mess of broken Mini DV out of my capture deck.

So, I have this torn mess of tape in front of me and a head full of worries that my equipment might have damaged a client’s material. I examine the deck with a flashlight to see if anything looks out of place. The heads and capstans look fine. Luckily the broken tape didn’t damage anything, reinforcing my belief in always using a dedicated capture device for playback. It would be a shame to mess up the tape transport mechanism of your shiny new camera with a broken tape. I ran a couple of expendable tapes through the machine. Everything checked out, leaving my client’s tape as the logical suspect.

I carefully inspected the tape and found no visible trauma to the case or tape shell. It appeared that there was some sort of mechanical failure inside the shell that prevented the playback reel from moving. The take up reel was fine; it let out enough tape to run through the mechanism, but snapped when it met the immobile playback reel.

I broke the news to the client, who was understanding and accepted the situation without blame. The client offered me a bonus if I could salvage any of the footage. The tape broke towards the end so I assumed that the client never rewound it before mailing it. This meant that the footage was probably still on the unbroken portion of the tape. I am familiar with repairing larger tapes such as Hi8 and VHS. The internal operation of video tapes is sort of fascinating. If you have never seen one from the inside, grab a VHS tape and a screwdriver and tear it apart. Notice how there are little brakes on the reels to keep the tape from unspooling when not in a machine. This is what I believe failed in my client’s tape. If I was dealing with a VHS or Hi8 tape, I would simply remove the playback reel from the bad case and insert it in a new case. The only problem is that Mini DV tapes are very small. The screws that hold the case together are miniscule. I have a double ought Phillips screwdriver, but even that was too large to get a hold of the tiny screws of the Mini DV.

Flummoxed, I called up a colleague up at a Production house in San Francisco. The word was that a place called Pacific Video Repair in Santa Rosa, California specialized in all sorts of tape repair and recovery. With my client’s permission, (This was proprietary footage,) I sent the tape out for repair.

Pacific Video Repair did a fine job of seating the playback reel into a new tape shell in a matter of days. The best part if that they only charged twenty five bucks. Their website has other options and charges for various repairs. In extreme cases you can have them transfer recovered footage to DVD. The tape worked fine when I got it back in the mail and my client was elated. I cannot recommend Pacific Video Repair enough to fix a broken Mini DV tape.

Gregory Solis: Digital video editing, an introduction.

•February 29, 2008 • 1 Comment

Hello and thank you for dropping by my digital media blog. Here I will discuss real world problems and solutions that I and my colleagues run into as freelance digital media professionals. I am primarily a video editor but also work in photography, image retouching, graphic design, digital audio and motion graphics. Freelancers have to wear many digital hats now-a-days, so you never know what you might find here. I will talk about different software, cameras, and equipment, which may be of interest to indie filmmakers, students and other freelancers. I may also cover some ideas and strategies for special effects, both practical and digital.


My professional experience.

My junior college has a top notch broadcasting department where I studied Television production. In 1994, the head of the department, Michael Lee, recommended me for an editing gig at a local production house. I ended up working for Lamb Productions, in Concord Ca, for three years, cutting analog Super VHS with the trusty Panasonic WJ-MX30 edit controller. I was paid per job and allotted a certain amount of hours depending on the needs of the project. The faster I worked, the better the pay and I could move on to another project. I learned how to manage my time and focus on the editing in that environment. Some sessions were with a client present. Some editors lack the patience to sit with clients, but I am a friendly sort. I also learned that it is helpful to walk them through the process and explain why I think a certain cut or effect is important. It is always good to be generous with your knowledge and build a stronger relationship with your clients.

I left that job in 1997 to attend film school at San Francisco State University where I earned my B.A. in Cinema. I cut a number of projects for friends in that time and built up a lot of equipment for my studio over the years. My education both formally and in the field runs the gambit from preproduction: writing scripts, casing talent, and planning shot lists, to shooting on location and in the studio, make-up effects, and recording audio, to all aspects of post production and DVD authoring. In 2002 I began to offer my services as a freelance editor and have been supporting myself ever since.

Oh yeah, I also have a bit of a career as a horror author.

Well, have a look around and let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to help.

Here is a book to get you started. The DV rebel’s guide. I cannot recommend this one enough for the budding digital film maker.

Gregory Solis