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Old April 3rd, 2010, 12:11 AM   #1
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How much Budget?

For a $250,000 indie feature, how much should one budget for sound - location work all the way to a Dolby 5.1 mix?

Is it possible to reach Hollywood standards within this budget? I know one only gets what one pays for, so am I asking for too much?
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 11:37 PM   #2
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It depends on far too many things to list, really.

The two general areas are production sound (location sound mixer can review the script to give you an estimate), and post sound (supervising sound editor can review your script and estimate).

Find experienced professionals, and generally the quotes will be accurate. The guys who seem way below everyone else may seem like a "deal" but more often than not they don't follow through.

Check this out for suggestions on production sound

And if your production sound is good, you minimize ADR and the post budget can be spent artistically instead of looping everything by necessity.
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Old April 3rd, 2010, 11:55 PM   #3
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Wow, Sareesh............

For someone living in the heart of BollyWood, I'm astounded you're asking the question here.

[I know we haven't got Regional Codes sorted yet, but soon].

You'd be better off asking this question around Bollywood than here, given your location, or are you considering doing this in the West?

(Even so, Post would be infinately cheaper in India than the West)

250 G's is a lot to drop on an Indie production - tell us about it, not a lot of meat on that first post.

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Old April 4th, 2010, 10:47 AM   #4
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i know about the open letter. :) presently interviewing people in India, but rates here are different from the U.S.

Yes, it's way cheaper in Mumbai than in the U.S. But I'm shooting in the U.S or Europe, where I'll be forced to use a foreign crew to save money. It's a whole different ball game!

My last feature cost $19,000 to make (in Mumbai), and the sound budget was around $2,000 all inclusive - I'm not happy with the results. With a 250K budget, I understand I'm still in indie territory and can't afford union rates but I still want great sound - how do I budget for something like this? Asking people in India is cool, but the quotes will be way cheaper than what I'll get overseas...that doesn't help.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 12:41 AM   #5
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How long a shoot is it, are there tough locations sound wise, 250 grand should be able to get you great sound. so long as you find a good mixer.
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Old April 6th, 2010, 09:51 AM   #6
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I agree with the other posts in this thread. Sound is too complex to just arbitrarily assign a budget percentage to. Is your film a musical with mainly just dialogue and playback or is it a spy thriller with shootouts, explosions and lots of sound effects? How big and involved are your dialog scenes?

I would urge you to hire an experienced sound pro as your sound mixer. You need to break down the script with him/her in order to derive a realistic number. Typically on small features, it is a two person sound crew, the mixer and a boom op/assistant but if you have scenes where ten actors need to be rigged with wireless all day, that is going to take another assistant, just to keep up with rigging the lavs and changing batteries. Do you have a lot of scenes with walk and talks where you might need two or three boom ops? How are your locations? Have they been scouted with a sound mixer? A stage makes life much easier for a sound mixer, location sound is much more challenging.

Post is a whole other ball of wax. A dialog driven simple story, shot mostly indoors or on stages is going to require less post work typically than group dialog scenes shot on location. What about sound effects? Finding and or creating sound effects can take up a lot of time and budget. How many final mixes will you need? Theatrical? Home video? Web?

There are just so many variables. Variables can cost a lot of money. IMHO, you should allocate a very good budget for your sound mixer. A good sound mixer can save you a lot in post. Post is expensive too. Business is slow though, you can probably strike a good deal on audio post if your script is good and you know what you are doing. Post houses will make package flat rate deals to low budget indies, I should know, I used to own a small audio post facility and we did exactly that, for films of a similar budget.

Post houses will feel much more confident in striking a fixed price deal with you if you have a clue about making films though. Amateurs with some mommy and daddy money make post supervisors nervous because it means that the amateur won't hire a good sound mixer, won't scout locations with sound in mind, won't get the sound mixer and audio post team involved early in the process and won't be realistic about budgeting for the soundtrack. If you are experienced, confident and have a track record, it will mean to the post house that there is at least a chance that your script and ambitions are semi-realistic, which means that they might actually at least break even on your project or heaven forbid, even make a small profit on it. That will tend to make the post supervisor happier about dealing with you and helping you solve problems before and as you shoot in conjunction with your sound mixer/sound team.

Typical low budget producer shoots a film with so many sound problems and issues that the post house spends 80% of your time and budget trying to fix crap audio that should not have been recorded in the first place. Producers and directors don't care about audio until they hear their finished film and when it sounds like crap, then audio becomes VERY important, even though they have already spent all of their budget and "have no money left for audio post". So would you rather waste all of your post house's time in solving audio issues that should have been fixed in the field during production or would you rather have them, oh, I don't know, be able to actually do sound design and polish good audio into something amazing? The answer for 98% of indie producers is, "I didn't give a (bleep) about good audio. I didn't care enough to listen to my sound mixer, invite my sound mixer on location scouts, and shoot with sound sound quality in mind. And I wonder why I am not happy with the sound?"

Your finished soundtrack will be as good as you made it. You create a good soundtrack by planning, pre-production, hiring a good sound mixer, listening to the sound mixer during production and following his/her advice and forming a good partnership with an audio post facility. If you don't do these things, I guarantee that your soundtrack will be lousy. Smart producers and directors do these things.

Best of luck,

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Old April 6th, 2010, 09:55 PM   #7
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Thanks Dan. Whatever you have warned me of, I have already been through on my first feature. Won't be repeating it again!

It's a single-location family drama and thriller, with almost the entire action set in a home+plus a few outdoor scenes. No transformers here. But I really want the sound design to shine through, as there are six main characters and I instinctively feel it will have a very important part to play.

My only concern is whether I'm aiming too high with less money. On a 250k budget, can I get a great 5.1 theatrical mix? I don't mean just a professionally done mix, I mean an award-winning mix that stands on its own against the visuals, acting and other departments. Is that possible?
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