Studio Unknown/PopMark Media's Confessions of a Small Working Studio—Secrets of Audio Post Survival

Jan 11, 2011 6:12 PM, By Lisa Horan and Kevin Hill

Tips from the Pros

Survival Tip #4: Make Use of the Natural Environment
Both Bronow and Taylor strongly suggest that field crews collect as much natural sound as possible. “I’m not in Alaska with the crew, of course, so there’s no way for me to know what kinds of sounds are present in that environment,” says Bronow. “To effectively re-create it, it’s very helpful to have actual sounds that I can include.” In some cases, the acquisition of natural sound can even save a production from potential embarrassment. “If a shoot is taking place in a French café in Northern France, for instance, I want to make sure that any background dialog that is included is in the same dialect,” says Taylor. “Any French person who hears the program is going to know that we got it wrong if we start incorporating dialog spoken in a southern dialect." While it does require a few extra minutes on the part of the camera operator, it can make a world of difference in post.

Survival Tip #5: Don't Hold Back the Facts
“I am always very direct and honest with clients from the very beginning when it comes to what they can expect in terms of final product and budget,” says Taylor, who spends time fully evaluating a project before providing a quote. After he has the opportunity to judge the audio of a project, he explains to clients where it is and where he can take it, and he lays out how much it's going to cost. “The heart of business is client communication, so I always try to get information to my clients as soon as possible and ensure that we’re all on the same page,” says Taylor. “I tell them honestly if what I can do will improve the quality by 15 or 40 percent and how much it will cost to do it. Usually, clients are pleasantly surprised by what can be done, but even if I can’t be a miracle-worker, I don’t withhold information from them because the longer I keep them on the line, the harder they fall.”

With the multitude of settings in which programs are being shot today and the high expectations of clients, the job of a sound designer can be more pressure-filled than ever. It's a good thing that those who have experienced just about every situation in the audio post world are willing to provide their insight into ways to survive. "Schedules and turnaround times might be fast and tight nowadays, but the networks don't care if you didn't have as much time as you once had to clean up the audio, and neither does the viewer," says Bronow. "It's not like we can put a disclaimer on the program that states: 'We didn't have the time to get this done properly.' Audiences and clients expect the same quality whether you have 10 or 20 hours to work, but the good news is, there are some great tools and techniques out there that can help us to produce high-quality audio post under just about any circumstances."

Studio Unknown is full-service audio post-production facility and recording studio that specializes in helping clients discover creative sound for film, video, Web, gaming, and artist projects. For more information, visit

PopMark Media is a creative partnership developed to help music industry professionals, filmmakers, advertising agencies, and business professionals make sense of the changing requirements, develop effective strategies, and stand out in a sea of competitors. The company offers innovative and personalized services that include a full range of promotional, social media, and strategy consulting; original music composition, jingle production and music supervision; and sound polishing for various projects. For more information, visit

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