This is the last and final post of the business of sound design series. Here are a few things to expect after you make your pitch to film and game companies
- No Response
- No Budget
- Low Budget
- and new learning experiences.
Having patience is important. Some companies won’t get back to you for weeks, months, even years. This is typical in every industry. These clients (indie/commercial) have a lot on their plates.
There’s a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes that keep companies tied up. What they’re doing currently is probably more important than you, keep that in mind.
When you do hear back from the company there are a few things that you’ll need to discuss in order to make the business run smoothly.
What Is A Non Disclosure Agreement?
Whenever a client mentions the NDA, they’re talking about a non-disclosure agreement. This a signed document between you, and the client agreeing that you will not leak or share information about the project.
Leaking information about the project could cripple your career, word spreads fast and you can get sued.
Also, if an NDA is handed over to you, it’s likely that the client is interested in working with you. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t bother going into detail about their project. Something to smile about 🙂
Once you’ve signed your NDA, the client will send you a contract and project outline (brief). Depending on the project and client, this could be very detailed or extremely vague.
Sometimes you’ll get a contract after you sign the NDA or they’ll send them together it depends on the client.
There have been times where I’ve received my NDA 4 months into a contract. A little on the late side, but it happens. I’m not a person who likes to share what I’m working on anyway so they weren’t at risk.
In the event that you’re not given an NDA, be professional about it. Don’t go blabbing on the Internet about what you’re working on and yada yada yada, it’s highly unprofessional.
Film/Video Game Brief
This is where you’ll find out exactly what the project consisted of, what’s expected of you, the team, etc. The outline will include the following.
- Needs (sounds/music)
- Length of music
- How many sounds
- Type of sounds
- Deadline(s) – Yes more than one!
Notice budget was thrown in the outline. I put that there because sometimes clients will merge their outlines and contracts together.
Film/Video Game Brief Examples (Really Basic)
Now, I want to share two project outlines I received within the past six months. Some of the details have been changed to keep the integrity of the project as well as the client(s).
Greg this is what I need from you.
1. I need 22 sound fx for (name of a video game)
2. Sound fx must be layered with instrument notes to keep in key with a music theme.
3. Deadline is 2 weeks
4. My budget for this $200.00
There’s a lot of detail missing from this brief, for example.
What type of game?
Which instruments would you like?
How much memory do I have to work with?
What format would you like the sounds in?
What kind of sounds do you need?
These are very important questions and without knowing them I could be spinning my wheels for the next two weeks.
I spent one week with this client just getting the details in order. I was not upset, I wanted the project, but after all, was said and done it left me with one week to hit the deadline which eventually got extended, but you get my point.
Greg as a project sound designer you will be responsible for overseeing all audio sound effects, composition, sound design as well as assisting with beta testing the game.
Game – FPS (Gta like)
Here is a beta copy of what you will be working on:
Video Game Download Link (please don’t share it)
The focus of this game is very similar to grand theft auto. I am looking for is 13 musical pieces in the genres of Dubstep, hip-hop, rock, and Trap.
The length of music is undecided at this point but will be updated shortly.
Please follow the following links as this is the type of sound we are after any genre
All audio must be delivered clean, 441/16bit (wav) with no sound going past -3dbfs. Follow this for guidelines
Music Cues: -20 to -16 dbfs
Hard Sfx: -3dbfs
Soft Sfx: -20 to -16dbfs
Voice over: – 3dbfs
If you’re more comfortable with making all audio go to a peak, make it -3dbfs and we will handle the rest
Where Music Is Needed Most
- All menu screens
- loading screen
- Victory tag
- Defeat tag
- Boss encounters
While the sound list is partial here are some general sounds for you to work on
- car horns(jeep scooter bike)
- shattering glass
- barking dogs
- busy traffic
- crowd noises
- police sirens
- hit impacts (Giver/receiver)
This will be an easy process
1. Place all audio within a project folder with your name and the type of sound category or music. Subfolders are highly encouraged for organizational purposes for example:
Main Folder: Greg Savage Main Menu.
Sub Folder: Greg Savage Main Menu SFX
Sub Folder: Greg Savage Main Menu Music Theme
Within each folder please give detailed name descriptions of each sound. Avoid using generic names structures like
2. Once the audio files are in the folder and labeled properly compress them and upload them to our FTP server
etc etc etc
As you can see, this can be rather extensive, but all of the detail is necessary and makes a project run a lot smoother.
Revising Work In Sound Design
This is what drove me away from working with artists…With the constant revision of work, I couldn’t take it. That’s not to say that there aren’t revisions in other fields, they’re everywhere.
There is a slight difference. When working with artists if you record a bad vocal take is not only your fault it’s also the fault of the recording artist.
With sound design, you’re in control over the tonality of whatever you recording, thus making it a lot easier to fix and avoid mistakes… or spice things up.
Also, most revisions I’ve encountered in this field are nowhere near as difficult as they are when working with recording artists and musicians unless of course, you’re working on a project that requires the use of live musicians.
There have been some times where I had to start over completely from scratch, but it was easy because I knew exactly what I needed, I had the tools, and I didn’t have to wait for anyone, it’s just me.
Please, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, I have nothing against artists, I just have to be in space or with people where things can be changed quickly and that’s always hard to coordinate when working with multiple people.
Every Sound Design Project Is A Learning Experience
This goes for any field of audio, but more specifically with Sound design. When you’re making music for the typical client; artist, producer, tv, etc the only thing you have to worry about delivering is an audio format: mp3, wav ..96/24, 48/24 ..whatever.
With sound design, there will be projects where the client needs the format in their native platform. Meaning they want you to mold the sounds with their tools and sometimes they don’t even give you a manual so you have to learn as you go.
I remember the first time I had to work with a game engine. The first thing I thought was “you guys can just take the wav and import them”, but that’s not what they wanted. They wanted me to tweak the sounds within the engine and then deliver the project file so I had to learn the game engine well enough to work with the audio. It was frustrating, but an excellent learning experience.
How Much You’ll Be Paid In Sound Design?
How much does a sound designer make? That’s the most popular question I get when I talk about Sound design.
Here’s the answer:
You’ll be paid whatever you and the client negotiate. I’ve had projects that paid $4,000 and up as well projects that paid as low as $50.00. Again, whatever you and the client negotiate. Some gigs will allow you to negotiate price, others will be fixed rates.
If you’re fortunate enough to be in a situation where you can negotiate, be smart about it. Negotiate for more work vs more pay. Some will tell you to charge big because you’ll never know when you’ll get another project.
I think this is a silly idea, especially when starting out.
Having more projects on your resume looks better when approaching new clients; they have no idea what you’ve charged previously so don’t get into the mindset of
“If I start off cheap it’ll be impossible to raise my rates later”
You can charge whatever you want, whenever you want.
I Have No Budget
Means room for negotiation. With my first video game placement, I negotiated royalties over time on a monthly basis until they were able to pay me in full. I’ve done plenty of work for free or service trade.
There are all sorts of ways to negotiate this stuff, don’t let it stop you from getting your feet wet
I Don’t Have A Big Budget
Remember what I said about how to get paid with sound design? Take what you can and move on.
That concludes this series, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Please let me know if have questions or if you need further help to cross over into this field.
Please leave questions and comments below.