My job as a visual media audio specialist is to help clients solve problems. And a large chunk of these problems aren't even audio related - Budget Allocations, Strategy, Talent sourcing, Execution and Supervision. And in this article, I will discuss about the most important issue of all - BUDGET
With audio budgets constantly getting slashed and high quality professional audio service providers being stubborn with their rates. Content creators often get hit with an audio dilemma. They want the level of audio quality that matches with the visuals that they had likely spent 99% of their budget on. Even with 1% of the budget left, content creators could still get some high quality audio treatment if they know what to do and where to look.
We often hear from others or say ourselves "Nothing good comes cheap and nothing cheap is good". I believed this to be the universal truth not just for audio, but for virtually any tradable commodity. From a traditional, one dimensional perspective, this is actually true. But after years of dealing with client's challenging budgets expecting AAA+ quality works, I will be sharing 2 of my creative budget workarounds that has worked for me and helped make many people happy.
1) Outsource to places where wages and living standards are lower
This one is actually pretty straight forward and is a practice that many companies adopt. This is also the most effective solution to a budget constraint situation. Of course, there's no truly perfect solution and any seemingly good deal could very well come with its own sets of challenges and obstacles. As the saying goes "Do the best you can with what you have".
Unless you have personal connections to the reputable high quality local service providers, there's a high chance that you'd be paying low prices for very low quality work. So it's best if you engaged with a your local visual media audio specialist who are resourceful worldwide to design a solution and source talents for your project.
Pros: You'd most likely be spending a fraction of the cost of what you would normally be paying in your home base for a similar quality output.
Cons: Potential timezone differences, language/cultural barriers and varying professional practices, inconsistent quality.
2) Better 50% Perfect Than 100% Mediocre
Say a project has a little budget for audio, and whatever that's put aside is enough to engage a cheaper audio provider to handle all the audio treatment for the project with a mediocre result. Now, this is something what most content creators would do, and one that makes most sense - Finding a service provider whose rates matches with what clients are willing to fork out. From the looks of it it's like the perfect final piece of the puzzle, right?
Yes and No. I've spoken to many content creators who executed this arrangement purely because they felt like they had no other option...and less hassle. Even if they weren't happy with the result, they had to accept it and move on...until they met me.
I proposed an alternative treatment that directs the audio budget to high quality providers and buy however much time the budget can afford them to work their magic. My reasoning was that it's better to have a master spend 1 hour to beautify than to have a mediocre spend 10 hours and is nowhere near the former's quality. It's the experience and judgment that counts here, not the hours clocked in. And clients always walk away happy with a high quality audio experience without having to break the bank. Better to be 50% than 100% mediocre!
The problem with this approach for most clients is that they have it fixated in their minds that the more time spent by the service provider equals value for money. This is very typical consumer mentality that I'd like to encourage content creators to rethink. The focus should always be on the quality of the audio experience, and whatever solution that's best in achieving this goal should be made the go-to method - Within budget, of course.
My philosophy for my line of work is very simple: "Don't say no unless you have to" when it comes to getting gigs. But I'm not saying that we should be "yes men" or pushovers. I treat each gig as a good challenge for me to break out of my usual routine and pushes me to come up with new solutions for the projects. By operating in this capacity, it will result in a win-win situation for both audio professionals and the clients.
No two projects are the same, and each will have its own sets of challenges that will in one way or the other require the audio professional to flexibly adapt and device new solutions for its treatment - It could be a combination of the 2 methods mentioned above, or could be a newly devised hybrid method. The key is to not be too rigid - Rigidity destroys creativity and ruins business opportunities!