Reflective summary

This project set out with the overall aim of creating a website that depicted work over the last 5 months. This work would then be showcased to both potential employee’s and industry professionals with the aim of gaining paid work and gaining feedback from industry professionals. Throughout the past 5 months, I and fellow audio production student Ed Richardson have worked on three separate projects with different collections of students each time.

 

My first learning objective centralized around website marketing, a research section that I wasn’t overly familiar with 4 months ago. An initial challenge in regards to this was determining what method of marketing we would focus on implementing with either; social media marketing or SEO type marketing. I decided to go down the social media marketing route due to the fact we were working with a minimal budget. I believe that overall, I met this aim due to the fact that we have ended up securing future work under the Sound-Ink banner. A main reason for the overall success was conducting primary research into marketing techniques in regards to social media use and overall layout in terms of contact details. This allowed me to create a marketing strategy going forward for the website that focuses on our primary target demography (young directors within the Lincolnshire to Nottinghamshire area), that focuses around the use of social media. We have implemented this strategy somewhat through examples posts within social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter but going foreward we will have to consider the possiblity of using somewhat of an marketing budget for SEO and key words. Another method of feedback we were able to get a hold of was through a local producer called Simon Hopkinson who gave advise in regards to our website in which he declared looking into SEO but again, this is something we will have to revisit when we have somewhat of a budget in place.

 

My second learning objective focused on working within films groups and improving overall my professional collaboration. To do this I ensured to research various texts into on set etiquette and such. I would also insist on turning up to various meetings with fellow project members as a way of ensuring that I was constantly in the loop with what was currently happening, this proved to be important as it ensured that I was able to obtain various documentation from producers such as sound requirement sheets and testimonials. If we were to redo this project, it might be worth reconsidering how I dealt with project setbacks. For example as opposed to simple okaying setbacks in regards to picture locks being pushed back, it might have been worth me informing the director that whilst this Is fine, it would eat into any spare time we had for potential re-recordings. This would of possibly lead to the directors not pushing back picture locks various times after this.

 

My final objective was based around using professional mixing and editing techniques to ensure that we presented industry level work to our clients. To do, I initially set out a fair amount of primary research into mixing techniques before  devising a 12 step plans in terms of mixing that influenced from an online website entitled SoundTrack. This allowed me to really narrow in on specific sections of research such as Equalisation and Noise Reduction. A lot of the techniques and tips read from The Mixing Engineers Handbook and Audio ProdProcution for Film and Video were used within my post production experience. For example; within Jay Rose’s audio post-production for film and video, he mentions the importance of not spending hours trying to removing a piece of noise that is within a recording unless it is evident that that noise sits within a very specific frequency. Using this mindset allowed me to not go around in circles for hours on end when it came to specific takes within The Way I Am Wired film. Instead of trying to completely rid takes of specific unwanted frequencies, I decided to spend time reducing them down; this meant that the shift in atmosphere wasn’t noticeable overall throughout specific scenes. The fact that we have also received testimonials from both directors shows that they are overall happy with the post-production work that I have done.

 

Overall, it is clear that a lot of my overall initial learning objectives have been met. In terms of creating content through professional collaboration it is apparent through testimonials from both directors that we were able to achieve this to a very acceptable level that they were pleased with. A reason for the overall success, is that I believe that we maintained a constant level of communication with the directors of all three films projects, assuring that we knew what was happening and when it was happening. In terms of working within post production, it is evident that my main skills still lie within location recording however, although through the use of research I have been able to produce mixes on short films and documentaries that have appeased the directors which shows that I have somewhat developed this skill within the last 4 months of this project. In terms of marketing, I have been able to discover first hand through primary research, how production houses gain and maintain audience interaction. By researching this and taking secondary research about paid for advertising into consideration, I was able to come up with a marketing strategy going forward that will hopefully allow us to grow as a company.

Feedback

LO1: Apply professional marketing techniques to a showreel website to gain feedback from industry professionals.

 

One of the main objectives of this overall project was to gain feedback from industry professionals. To do this, we took it upon ourselves to get feedback from both producers and the directors of the film. This was done so that we could understand where we needed to improve going forward.

 

Feedback from producer Simon Hopkinson

Feedback from producer Simon Hopkinson

I decided to email a former employee Simon Hopkinson as I wanted to find out what he as an industry professional thought of our website and the overall marketing of it. Simon Hopkinson runs a successful music production company within Nottingham and he primarily works with younger bands, due to this; his website is relatively modern and he relies heavily on promotion through social media. Due to this, we though he’d be useful in terms of feedback. From his reply it is clear that our website has some positive aspects. In terms of recommendations, both SEO and removal of the wix logo are things we have looked into, however they require financial input. These are considerations we will take seriously going forward though. In terms of visual content, this email was sent before we finalized some of our film projects so this has since, been amended.

 

We also received feedback from both of our producers through testimonials:

 

“I have worked with both Aaron and Ed from Sound Ink on two projects now, a Documentary and a Short Film, from January until May. Working with them both has been incredibly fun and I have been extremely pleased at how they both manage to retain a constant level of professionalism. As Director of both pieces of work I am over the moon with how the sound has been recorded and edited. They are both well organised and motivated and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a well-prepared sound team.” – Sam Renew (Director for Fight Factory and A Christmas Proposal)

I’d thoroughly recommend both Aaron Strickland and Ed Richardson for audio production. They worked fast and to the brief that was given, but were not afraid to take initiative with their creative flair. Both were always up for tweaks and carried out specific tasks to optimal precision. Overall both Aaron and Ed made for a wonderful contribution to the Stonethrow Films team and we would happily work with them again. – Harry Marshall (Director for The Way I am Wired)

Both of these testimonials, are overall positive and show us that we have produced artifacts that we can be proud of.

A Christmas Proposal: Post Production

LO2: Create audio material for film makers through professional collaboration.

LO3: Apply professional Pro-Tools editing and mixing techniques in a Audio Post Production situation for a film project.

 

The post production for A Christmas Proposal proved to be quite a long winded edit. Although a lot of the recordings were very crisp and clear, there were multiple issues with the kitchen scene. This was due to the fact we were running short on time and the director insisted we did it in one take just so we had it. We did make it clear with the director that there was a lawn mower that was audible no matter where we positioned our boom microphones and he was fine with it due to the fact he wanted to get something recorded, no matter how bad the quality.

 

Due to research, I was able to know what file to ask the editor to export in, an OMF. After receiving the project, the first call of action was to separate all the dialogue into character specific tracks, this allowed me to edit aspects of the characters voices accordingly such as making Angus’s voice less boomy/basey. This was done as the direction mentioned it when we initially handed over the project. We also did this, so that we could layer in our own atmos tracks. This all together created an edit where we able to control all independent aspects. This was bought up as a positive step within 344audio’s comprehensive guide to audio post production in which they argued that the most individual aspects that are separate, the more control you will have over the final mix.

 

Once everything was separated and ready, I would refer back to SoundTracks 12 step guide for my work flow. A scene we specifically had issues with was the kitchen scene. The first initial idea I had to separate the dialogue and label it under track  titles such as “Angus: Kitchen Dialogue”. The idea would be to work on all the dialogue tracks separately, going through each and attempting to remove the lawn mower sound. The idea was then to place our own kitchen dialogue in to fill the gaps. A massive issue we discovered early on though is that the room sound was incredibly inconsistent. Taking into consideration research from Bobby Owinski’s Mixing Engineers Handbook, I gauged that a better approach would be to apply the same EQ, de-essers and d-verb plug in settings to the whole scene, this immediately resulted in a more consistent room sound whilst also allowing us to control individual elements such as dialogue volume for each character.

 

In general we had quite clean takes, however I still decided it would be a positive step to attempt to clean up dialogue in the sense of removing unwanted hums and fuzz. To do this, the vast majority of dialogue tracks feature a 7 band EQ that sweeps the low end frequencies. This was done due to a recommendation within Jay Rose’s text within a chapter entitled “Dialogue editing”.

 

The final step taken was mixing every element in, for this; I following Bobby Owinski’s advise into a final mix. Following the order of; dialogue, atmospheres, sound effects and finally music.

 

 

 

 

The Way I am Wired: Post production write up

LO2: Create audio material for film makers through professional collaboration.

LO3: Apply professional Pro-Tools editing and mixing techniques in a Audio Post Production situation for a film project.

 

For this particular film, we were not involved within a field recording sense. Due to this, we were working with audio files that were not recorded by us. This raised some issues in regards to sound quality as a lot of the interviews were done over Skype and recorded by just sticking a microphone in front of a laptop speaker. An immediate issue with is Skype hasn’t got the best overall quality as it relies on wifi. This meant that a lot of interview recordings were quite muffled in places.

 

The first call of action in regards to this was using some of the advise put forward by Jay Rose and applying some form of EQ to the track in an attempt to remove the fuzz that was audible throughout the recording. The involves bringing up a 7 band EQ and first, trying to find where the hum was most prominent. This turned out to be at around 60Hz, it was clear though that there was still an obvious hum so I proceeded to find another frequency where the hum was prominent and put the gain way down. It was however still slightly prominent so I rolled off the low end frequencies and that just about sorted it out to an audible level. Editing interviews so they were clear and consistent proved to be where most of the post production time on this film was spent;

 

Dialogue tracks

Dialogue tracks

 

As seen within this screenshot here, a lot went into editing the dialogue so that it was both consistent with other pieces of the film and also, to remove various unwanted sounds such as knocks, plosives and hums. The reason why we focused so heavily within the dialogue tracks is there various industry professionals who I have researched such as Jay Rose and Bobby Owinski often state the importance of dialogue in comparison with the rest of the film.

 

Towards the back end of the overall edit, I would discover that a lot of the recorded narration was incredibly plosive. Upon hearing this I initially set out to remove these or at-least attempt to reduce. Firstly, I singled out the specific letters in which the plosive could be heard, turned it down and cross-faded it with the rest of the track. Whilst this worked to a degree; it was evidently still quite noticeable. After then spending time working with de-esser and high pass filters, I thought it’d be beneficial to re-recording the narration as the director(who narrated the film), was in later that day. The reason behind doing this was that I felt that I was going around in circles in attempt to salvage something that would never be 100% perfect and according to Jay Rose, it is important to know when to settle with an edit.

 

ADR with the narrator

ADR with the narrator

This was a simple session but we were able to quickly get it done due to efficient planning such as setting up the microphone at a 5 degree axis and getting the line of dialogue printed for the director.

Marketing strategy

LO1: Apply professional marketing techniques to a showreel website to gain feedback from industry professionals.

 

To summarize and draw upon both the primary and secondary research done, I thought it would be beneficial to write up a marketing strategy as it would help us have a clear of how we will promote ourselves.

 

Drawing upon initial research into both SEO and Google Ads, I recommend that we place no initial budget on algorithmic based marketing such as bidding on keyword searches. This is due to the fact that we have very little funding to begin with. Also, drawing upon earlier research, it is evident that a lot of successful production companies do not use tools such as Google Ads so this tells me that we can be successful without paid for promotion.

 

The next form of marketing we have to consider is contact details. This is an important consideration for both legal reasons and reassurance of potential customers. In terms of legal requirements it is important that we include the following; business name, a geographical address and a contact email address. This it too fall in accordance with various regulations such as E-Commerce Regulations 2002. It is important that we consider where about the contact information is situated however as this will allow for the website to be user friendly. To do this, we will include contact information such as an email address on the front page right at the bottom. This is due to the fact that when conducting primary research into how other production house depict their contact information, I discovered that a lot of the companies within this field place there contact information within the front page. In regards to a contact number, we will include that under “Immediate Inquiries” within the actual “Contact Us” page. This is again due to the fact that most other production house websites feature it within this page as opposed to on the home with only 6 out of the 20 featuring it prominently on the home page.

 

The final element we have to consider in terms of marketing will be our presence within social media. Social media is an important aspect of free marketing that we will need to utilize to ensure maximum user engagement, as looked at earlier in this blog by esteemed marketing blogger Dan Shewan; social media is a great way of advertising to a specific audience. With this in mind, I have decided that it’ll be beneficial to have somewhat a social media presence. By looking into other production houses social media presence, I have also determined it’ll be beneficial to include widgets for these pages within the front page of our website as 13 of the 20 websites I looked at did so and these companies websites were predominantly modern. In terms of social media presence, the vast majority of websites posted quite regularly with all posts being about upcoming work, availability, releases and mixing based tips. Due to this, we will market ourselves with similar sort of social media content.

 

Example of social media use

Example of social media use

Example of social media post

Example of social media post

 

 

In conclusion, our strategy will be social marketing based with no form of SEO or paid for ads due to the fact that we will be starting with very little budget. In terms of social media presence, we will be using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a lot of content being cross platform. We will be posting semi-regularly with posts revolving around what we are doing and open slots. This is due to the fact that a lot of other esteemed production houses run there social media platforms in a similar manner. In terms of contact details, we will place an email address within the home page for general inquiries and a phone number within the contact us page for immediate inquiries. This is done to push a lot of potential projects to our email address but also while taking into consideration immediate inquiries.