Production budgets in today’s television industry are constantly being squeezed leaving production companies under increased pressure to cut costs and save money wherever possible. More for less has become the norm and producers are having to find new ways to make their budget stretch further.
For most television, when it comes to sound post production the bulk of work is usually done unattended in the dubbing suite with the client only attending for final review and sign off. Expensive real estate in Central London is not always necessary to complete the nuts and bolts of the work and is an added cost that is passed onto the client. Along with this, rents in production hotspots like London’s Soho have soared in recent years increasing the cost further.
Producers are getting wise to the fact that it makes no difference to the final sound of their production if it’s mixed in Soho, Bradford or Brighton, the only real difference being cost. There is a new model for completing sound post-production; if you are willing to embrace a remote workflow, shift expectations from luxury facilities in Soho to the talent and value for money found outside the capital, significant savings can be made.
Although cloud based audio post-production is not a new concept, in the past it has generally been an additional service offered by already established post houses. Previously technology hadn’t been mature enough to enable a smooth collaborative remote workflow and the cost of setting up a small to medium scale studio was unobtainable for most freelancers. Now with computers capable of running complex mixes and a Pro Tools system, once a preserve of the high end facilities, and the introduction of new technology, the industry has opened up to allow a new generation of engineers and mixers to hone their craft relatively easily and inexpensively. The barriers to entry have been greatly reduced through the availability of low cost/high quality equipment.
As a consequence, a network of some of the best talent in the industry are choosing to work freelance and set up their own remote facilities, and connecting with them has become easier than ever. With tools such as Avid’s Cloud Collaboration, multiple engineers are able to work across the same project seamlessly with assets being sync’d in one master session. An engineer can be working on dialogue in Australia, another tracklaying in India, and someone in the UK doing Foley. All can be done at the same time, in the same session.
Increased Internet speeds have also helped make remote audio post viable, as it is now possible to transfer large files relatively quickly. Platforms such as Digital Pigeon, that use the world’s highest performing, cloud based infrastructure service, Amazon Web Services, specialise in the transfer of large files and make it easy for producers to review work and add notes at specific timecodes, all through a browser and in HD, without having to download the file first.
Other innovative ways to review and feedback on work include Source Live Pro 3 by Source Elements. This ingenious software allows you to stream high quality, low latency, encrypted audio and video direct from Pro Tools to multiple simultaneous listeners, enabling producers to attend virtual sessions and give instant feedback from anywhere in the world. This saves bouncing out a Quicktime that you then have to upload to the cloud.
The development in technologies, industry software and connectivity has coincided to streamline the review process and make for a more fluid, flexible and efficient client experience when working remotely.
Remote working can also be a timesaver for producers. Production companies can’t always afford for someone to oversee the dub and quite often the director is already on the next project when the previous one gets to post-production. An attended session can also take twice as long as an unattended one if you’re explaining to the client how you are doing things and seeking assurance once you have done them! Using the online review tools outlined and spending more time in pre-production setting out the audio blueprint for a show encourages a more collaborative and quicker workflow.
Having the scalability to expand capacity, depending on the workload and project, without carrying the fixed capital cost of an expensive facility allows cloud based audio facilities to post produce TV more cost effectively than pretty much anyone else, sometimes saving as much as 40% compared to a traditional post-house!
There is a flexibility in this model that is appealing to producers as it means they only have to pay for a larger, more expensive studio for final review and sign off and obviously only if they feel it’s necessary. Multiple online reviews and refining can happen leading up to the final review so less time is spent in an expensive suite.
There will always be a need for large scale end to end post production houses though as it’s the quickest, most efficient way to post produce high end TV and Film to strict deadlines. It would be difficult to effectively post produce multi episodic dramas, for example, without these facilities but for the vast majority of TV programmes the lower cost, flexibility and creative benefits cloud based audio post brings will be a welcome relief to production companies who are looking to save money whilst not compromising the quality. For post houses it also means that if they reach capacity or budgets are tight on a particular project they can easily recruit freelancers to work on it remotely.
Being able to tap into a 24hr worldwide pool of talent means that there is always someone available to complete last-minute requests. Talent is at the heart of this new workflow and forms the foundation of our company Brown Bear Audio. Our aim is to bring together this world class talent and give producers a flexible platform to access any audio post production service they require, managing the whole process along the way.