Should I give client the .blend files on completion of job?

Hi all,

I’m quoting on a job for a client and they have asked for the .blend files to be included as part of the price.

  1. Should I give them up at all?

  2. Should I charge extra? For example some photographers would provide prints and if you wanted to purchase the “negatives” that would be extra…

Interested in other artists experiences/thoughts on the matter…

 - andrew

I’ve only ever sold the individual rendered frames. Sounds like they are developing in house 3D graphic art capabilities, or they are going to hand your file to a competitor for more work. I would be tempted to put a huge price tag on the blend file hoping they would just come back to me instead for any additional work they need.

I had this for the first time the other day. It often happens with bigger clients as they want some security in the project they’re investing in. The industry standard, after asking some fellow film makers, is 5% of the project value for camera footage, so I went with that for the client I was doing the motion graphics for. I wouldn’t recommend putting a huge price tag on the project file. From the sounds of it, you’re still quoting for the project and don’t have it in the bag yet. If another artist of similar skill level to you offers a cheaper quote soley on the value you’ve placed on the project file, it could look quite bad and could loose you the job…

Also, as far as if you should give up the project files in the first place, it completely depends on the project. If it’s something that they’re scripting, paying for and have ultimate control over, I’d say go for it, it’s theirs anyway, may as well make a bit of extra money from it. Do a good job, deliver on time and they’ll come back to you for future updates. If it’s a simple project where they want regular updates (maybe it’s a seasonal graphic that needs the date updated every now and then), they’re probably planning on doing that themselves, I’d say let them. You don’t really want to be continually working on the same project, even if you would charge for it…

I think you should charge a bit for it. Maybe not a huge amount, but do a bit of reading and see what others have done. That might help you decide.

To protect yourself, always make these arrangements in writing before the project starts. In other words, put some language in there that says if the client wants the source files, there will be a small extra fee. Also, you may put something in there that gives you permission to use the final results for your portfolio/self-promotion purposes, unless it would violate a non-disclosure agreement.

Just some thoughts.

Of course you should give them the files. That is what they are buying. I have never worked anywhere where the final files were optional. Your client needs to protect themselves against the “If you are hit by a bus” scenario. That is like the program not wanting to give up the code. Besides, who else is gonna be able to make use of a BLEND file? They are going to call you for changes.

Great, thanks everyone for your thoughts.

I have had a think about it overnight and it comes down to what they are buying - are they buying the “output” (i.e. art) or the “mechanism” (i.e. how the output is produced).

There is going to be a lot of rigging and multiple approaches (key frames/shape keys/constraints/drivers/armatures). There is very little modelling, composting and rendering. The client could do it themselves but it would take them a long time to get to grips so it is more efficient for someone else to build it for them.

So, to me, in this case they are purchasing the mechanism not the final output and it would make sense to include the files (albeit at a small cost).

@safetyman - thanks for reminding me; I had missed that bit in the quote doc (need to build myself a template :slight_smile:

Thanks again everyone…

- andrew

Yeah, this should be under the section called “Deliverables” in the contract. And you’re totally right; it depends on what they are buying. If it’s a model that’s one thing but if it’s an animated scene that’s entirely different. You have agree on what you’re delivering to them in the end. And you’re also right that if you do indeed deliver the scene files in addition to say, rendered frames, there should also be a fee associated with it. You are basically giving them permission to reproduce and alter your work at anytime afterwards. It also gives them the ability to heir someone else next time. I’m not to keen on this if couldn’t tell. been burned many times before.

A very analogous situation to this one … which I encounter every day (and, uhh, have encountered for heh… decades) :rolleyes: is “source-code.” They want to have, not only the final-result of whatever you’ve done, but the means by which you produced it.

And-d-d-d-d… the lesson I quickly learned is: “sure, give it to ‘em … with a smile … they’re not goin’ anywhere!”

They’re merely coverin’ their butt … and, heh … “if it was your​ butt, you’d do the same!” :yes:

Never-mind the “per-project C-Y-B details.” What (both-of-you!! are) looking for is: a long-term relationship. You want the client to want-to “return to you, voluntarily and willingly, again and again and again.” And-d-d-d-d… so does the client!

Give the client, freely, not only the finished work-product but also all of the constituent files. Offer to be happy to explain to any other-company exactly how the various files work … “exactly how,” to the smallest detail, “you did it.” Yessir, there are no secrets here, there’s nothing strong-arming you to me … but if you’re satisfied with my work and want to do business like this again, I’m the Devil-You-Know!

… and, so you are. The Customer does return to you. Again and again. And furthermore, he tells his friends. You “wow!” them, too. The word gets around.

Of this, a career is made. (And you never stop workin’ your butt off… :wink: )

Do not undersell yourself. Don’t give away .blend file or sell it cheap. And here is why. When I worked for a sign company, we used to have same thing - people would ask for Corel Draw or Illustrator file, all vectorized and ready to go for production. We never gave away / sold cheap source art. The reason is simple - customers could have easily gone to one of those garage sign makers, handed him source art and he would only charge them for materials / labor time. And that could have been a way cheaper than dealing with us.

Those very few customers who refused to understand the concept and never came back didn’t hurt business in any way. 99% of customers always came back for more, without ever asking for a file. Larger business entities paid what we’ve charged for source and never complained.

If you give them .blend file, they don’t need you anymore. And if they do need you, why do they want .blend file in the first place? Think about that.

When people order animated ad, or still rendering from reputable art houses, they don’t get source materials because there is absolute no used for having those in client’s possession.

So think about how much your work worth, and sell .blend file (be realistic, calculate hourly cost and add a healthy margin to it). If they are giving you hard time, they are not worth your time.

If they are asking you to make a quote to include the blend files then they expect you to put a price on it, and you should. You wouldn’t be giving the files away, you would be selling them.

If your blender files include models from other projects you’ve done, or models from your own library you’ve built over time you should be careful. In some scenarios they may want exclusive rights to the models in the blend files.

I would recommend you read through ‘terms and conditions’ as stated for different studios around the world for reference on the matter. Also consult a trade law attorney in your country.

For example:

What you will find is that the client usually only acquires rights to the end product, and the ‘know-how’ resides in the company producing the product. There are exemptions to this, but they may cost the client additional expenses.

I’m not sure creating physical items and creating digital artwork can be compared this way. Rendering is part of the pipeline that is time consuming and could be expensive if sent to a farm. If a client were to ask you to create the animation, but just provide the project files so that they could get it rendered somewhere else… Well… I just don’t see that happening… But that’s the closest comparison I can make to what you are describing with the sign business… If the client had the expertise to hunt down a cheaper render farm, set the project going, add sound, music and colour grade etc, well, they’d probably have the expertise to do the project without you in the first place… It sounds more like freelancing for a production company than producing a finished project to a client…

As I and others have said above, the client is just covering their backs by wanting the project files. They’re not going to finish off your job for you in an attempt to save a bit of money… I completely agree with you following this advice in the print industry, you have to protect your print side of the business, but I don’t think the same mentality can be transferred to this situation…

Thanks again everyone for your opinions and experience. I have provided the quote with the cost of the files included (no extra charge).

Yes, I am taking a risk that they will re-render it in different formats and distribute on the web etc… they may reverse-engineer the rigging/animation solutions so they can modify the animation themselves cutting me out in the process or even ship the files to others once the “heavy lifting” is done.

My rationale is that this is the first of potentially a number of linked jobs and if I provide a high quality, on time, responsive to client needs experience then it will greatly increase the likelihood that they will come back to me for more work.

If they take it and ship it off to someone else for a few bucks less then you have to ask yourself do I want them for a client anyway?

There’s an approval process for the quote that is going to take a while, if people are interested I’ll provide updates of how everything goes…

- andrew