Before you output your edit/piece/whatever, lay in some viz code (aka BITC — Burnt In Time Code). The timecode on your client’s comments should match the timecode on your timeline. Don’t rely on what is displayed in the player your client will be using to screen the review cut — that is at best imprecise, and at worst inaccurate.
In an editing tool, laying in viz code is pretty straightforward, and usually involves something like creating a transparent layer and applying a Timecode effect to it. For example, in Premiere Pro CS6 (which I used to take the screengrabs in this article) this is accomplished in 5 steps:
Create a transparent video clip, lay it in on a new layer on top of your timeline, stretch it to fit the duration of your edit, apply the Timecode effect to it, and modify the Timecode effect so it’s framerate matches your sequence framerate.
Go to File > Export > Media (or whatever the command is for your editing tool), then give the file a name. Use a solid versioning system, to track changes. I like to use something similar to the way software releases are versioned, i.e. “1-0” is the final cut, and anything before that is “0-x”. Use dashes instead of dots, otherwise it will mess up your file naming.
The 1st cut would be called “joes_garage_0-01.mp4”
The 2nd cut would be called “joes_garage_0-02.mp4”
And so on, until the final cut, which would be called “joes garage_1-0.mp4”
This also gives you the flexibility to iterate on your “final cut.” Never forget that with some clients, today’s “final cut” occasionally becomes tomorrow’s “first draft.”
Once you’ve set the file name, set your encoder’s “Format” setting to “H.264” and then set the video and audio settings as seen in the following screengrabs. I think 2 Megabits per Second is a good bitrate for reviews. I also think that forcing a keyframe every 3 seconds results in better quality.
The only caveat is that the audio settings assume you’re not creating something where monitoring of final-quality audio is essential to the reviewer. In most rough cut scenarios it isn’t.
Once you have your output, deliver it via a file sharing service such as Send Now or You Send It. Don’t e-mail review videos — not only are they too big, they tend to get caught in spam catchers. Send Now, You Send It, and similar services will automatically notify your client via e-mail once the file has been uploaded and is ready for them to download. A single click in the e-mail opens a new browser window with a link to directly download the file. If what you’re sending is of a sensitive nature, make sure you read the Terms of Service of whatever service you use to make sure you’re comfortable with what can and cannot be done with what you are uploading by the company who owns said service.
Tell the client to send you comments via e-mail, referencing the file name of the video, and the vizcode seen onscreen for each comment. For example:
COMMENTS ON “joes_garage_0-01.mp4”
00:23:11 – Can you find alternate b-roll here?
00:57:03 – Cut away before she yells “turn it down!”
01:01:16 – This is a strong statement, can we move it to the front of the piece?
This is a simple and no-cost workflow that anyone can use. There are more elegant solutions out there. Are there any you use and like?