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First Studio

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Charles Mercer
First Studio
on Dec 4, 2009 at 4:20:45 pm

It's crunch time at Pearldrop as we are bursting out of our home studio/bedroom. The big question is - do we now go for rented studio space? I want to set up a green-screen to provide backgrounds for talking heads and it seems to me a great advantage to have the client visit me for an interview under controlled conditions. What worries me is the overhead cost - these premises sure aint cheap. But my guess is that the advantage of a studio is that it would make us look more professional and attract work in its own right. Has anyone else been in a similar position? What are the pitfalls? Should we invest in poles and stands for background supports?

Charles Mercer
Pearldrop Video Productions


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Mark Suszko
Re: First Studio
on Dec 4, 2009 at 4:33:40 pm

We had this discussion a while back, and my opinion continues to be that unless studio work is a huge part of what you're doing, owning more than a simple insert stage/ alcove may not be good ROI, if there are bigger spaces around you can rent only as needed. Even if that bigger space is just a shell without Tv ameneties. So much about this decision though rests on what your main kind of shooting is; will you mostly do location work, are you making "no-shoot" spots, are you making training videos... and especially on the last, are they like COW training videos that are screen movies with voiceovers, or are you needing to re-create an office or other location on a semi-regular basis? Even then, with the economy in the current state, you could likely scrounge a closed vacant set of offices in town or strike a deal with an office supply guy to use his demo rooms... I just would resist the temptation to get a big aircraft hanger of a place to heat and pay rent and taxes on if it wasn't going to get near-daily useage. ALso, due to zoning, the large studio space may place you in a geographically bad place ergarding clients geting to you regularly. The small space in the nice part of town versus the warehosue district where you're not suer your car will eb there int he morning? Easy choice for many superficial clients.

The argument about if owning such a space would impress a client as more "pro" is a non-starter with me. They would be more impressed with a blinky-filled edit bay than a studio space, I figure.

Most impressive of all to a client worth your time, is a piece of paper that shows how your crafty use of other people's stuff and space is saving them huge expense.


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grinner hester
Re: First Studio
on Dec 4, 2009 at 6:13:42 pm

Charles, I now work out of my house, having use to run the sweetest boutique in my market. I bill out exactly half of what I use to and often I feel cramped and sitracted (we home school our kids).
That said, man I enjoy the much less than 50 percent of the stress I use to have and a day off now feels much closer to having the day off... not a day in the red. Overhead is why you see fussy bald guys roming the globe, brother. Trade that for a streamlined worflow and a little creativity and you can be a happy balding guy.

I do understand varying needs. There are days I wish I still had the freedoms to create and market anything under the sun. Truth is, there are simply more days I am thankful for not having to put butts in seats a cartain amount of the time. Chunk ya a poor man's cyc (a painted roll of linolium hung by c-stands) then throw that bad boy in a clost when company comes over for burgers.




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Jeff Bonano
Re: First Studio
on Dec 4, 2009 at 7:00:15 pm

Charles,

I too was debating the same question, but in the end I also picked the at home studio option. As far as the green screen, I just ordered a green screen set up from tubetape.com and have a great portable setup that I can even take to client locations if I see fit. Less stress, and more time I can spend at home with loved ones instead of in an office! Think about what's most important I would say!

Jeff Bonano
http://www.bonanoproductions.com

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano


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Chris Blair
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 1:36:52 am

Nothing against the home studio folks, but there are clients and projects that you simply cannot do using a home based studio. As someone noted, it depends on your clients and your needs.

Probably half our clients simply would not use us if we didn't have a decent size facility with a studio, edit suites, conference room etc.

In fact, we're in the process of upgrading our conference room and studio after doing some shoots at some huge studios on North Carolina and Pennsylvania for a large client. These studios had anywhere from 12 to 36 "stages" that ranged anywhere from 300 to 1000 square feet each. Their lobbies and office areas were VERY impressive and made us re-evaluate what we provide to this particular client in terms of internet access and just general amenities and "looks" of our office.

Believe me, many, many clients still like to be made to feel important and still like to work in stylish surroundings that cater to their needs. They enjoy getting out of their offices and working in other environments..and they like those environments to be nice and comfy.

If you want these clients (and many are well worth the effort), you can't do it bringing them into your home studio unless you have talent and bookings out the wazoo.

So I think there's a trade-off in play. You can work out your home-studio and forego the investment of a facility, but there will be some clients that will not consider you for work, especially if they're the type that like to come to edits, come to planning/concepting sessions (at your place), supervise shoots etc.

But...again...many people prefer the home-studio route because with many clients, it's just not necessary for them to ever come to your "facility." So bottom line, it depends on the needs and demands of your clients.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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grinner hester
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 2:46:29 am

All valid points. Getting any client to overlook the trike on the porch, the kids at the table and the dog pouncin' em requires some consessions. This is a delicate dance. Go lower than 100 bucks an hour and you'll lose business in the name of not being taken seriously. Try to hang with the post-houses at full rate and they'll plum ask ya why they should come to your house. The bottom line is every gig we bid on is a test of our marketing and talent. Working from home only magnifies this.



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David Roth Weiss
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 3:11:42 am

There's nothing written in stone that you have to own every facility at which you work. Chris & Grinner have left out a very valuable option, which is one that many of us Hollywood guys opt for.

You can have your cake and eat it too -- that is, build your own modest studio, be it at home or in an office, but also hook-up with one or more larger facilities with better digs as well. This way, you can do your own thing in your own modest studio, and you can both freelance and/or work out of the bigger facility with clients who want something more elaborate.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 4:18:57 am

The anaswer to this lies in client demand and what you really want your business to be. Editing, producing... or real estate? Owning a shooting studio means you have to "keep it occupied". It's kind of like owning shopping center buildings except your timelines are much shorter. You have to keep the space "rented" to pay for it.

If you don't mind being in the real estate business (of sorts) it can still be profitable, but your attention will have to turn from the creative to "how can I rent this space this month?".

I have a friend in another city who rents a nice (finished walls,lots of power outlets, green room, etc.) warehouse space to other production companies when he doesn't have it booked for his own shoots - and he rents the same space out for large, high end parties and corporate meetings. He said that he has to make sure that he covers his expenses knowing that it may only be occupied 30% of the year (including setup and teardown time, which he also bills for). In simplistic terms, this means that he has to charge more than three times his mortgage rate just to break even. He charges about four times the rate and "does ok". But it's a lot of stress - and it's not the creative type of work that he got into the business to do.

So... just realize that it adds a new dimension to your business. This can be a plus or a minus for your clients and for you.

My personal opinion is the same as I would give for any other expenditures (and if you've been to this forum much over the past ten years you've heard this before) "Don't buy unless you can't rent". Until then, if you need the space for specific shoots, subcontract a la cart. At the end of a fiscal year you do an analysis and find that you can save tons of money by having "a space that you can depend on", you can always jump in then. I just wouldn't do it until I had the data to support it. That data is paid invoices from clients that you typically bill back for renting spaces to shoot.



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Steve Wargo
part 2
on Dec 5, 2009 at 9:01:56 am

Ok. I read the other posts.

We had partnership studio downtown for 9 years and got tired of driving to work and staying till midnight editing and then driving home.

We hunted for the perfect house for 2 years and bought a third of an acre where we could split out house and also build an 1100 sf studio for a total of 3000sf of business area. Our kitchen sits right in the middle, separated from the office by french doors we put in and we can open those doors and close doors on the other side to make the kitchen part of the company for those time when we have lots of people over.

Our 3 pugs come meet everybody. Sometime we keep them on "the other side".

We have parking for 12 cars.

Several of my neighbors love it because we are here every day and our block is crime free. Several others hate the traffic.

Here's some pics: http://www.sntvideo.com/pictures.asp?id=studio

Our office is an 18x18 former family room. Our main edit room is a second master bedroom 14x23. Our machine room used to be a 2 1/2 car garage and the studio is a 25x43 foot soundproof building with a 12' ceiling, a 20x16 cyc corner and a full lighting grid.

The zoning guy from the city came after us with a slew of city ordinances and we beat them all down with letters from our immediate neighbors. It been a blessing and it's been a fight but we like it right where we're at.

Several large local companies folded during the recession because they were saddled with high overhead. Our studio and related costs are about $500 a month and we certainly make a lot more than that in studio rentals to others.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

Ask me how to Market Yourself using Send Out Cards


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grinner hester
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 3:21:00 pm

It depends on who ya pay rant to, of course. The last slum lord I had shook me down for more than 7 grand a month while putting my content on his demos. lol
I paid less overhead at my own lil shop and got to put the thermostat lower than 80.




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Scott Carnegie
Re: First Studio
on Dec 7, 2009 at 8:44:16 pm

"The bottom line is every gig we bid on is a test of our marketing and talent."

Yep.

It's tempting to make the jump to a "real" office. It depends on how busy you are, what the client demand is and how many people are working with/for ya.

There have been a few times where we were on the brink of a big contract and looked at getting office space with a small studio to accomodate the shooting we'd be doing. It didn't happen and I still work out of home.

http://www.MediaCircus.TV
Media Production Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


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Steve Wargo
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 8:36:04 am

I haven't read anyone else's response yet but if you're concerned about the cost of a couple posts and stands for a background, you are already doomed.

You need to stop all production work and go to business school for 4 years.

Once you have a location, things get VERY expensive. Nick Griffin wrote an article on "The True Cost of Doing Business" for the COW. You need to read that.

hint: We are a company of myself and two full time employees. Our annual cost for office expense averages $2300. In the 28 years I have been in business, we have spent over $300,000 on video tape.

Our company is attached to our home in an estate neighborhood and has been since January 1998. We spent $200K on building and outfitting the studio and my accountant says that we have saved over $750k by having the studio here instead of somewhere else. Which means, If I were operating somewhere else, I would have had to make $750k more than I did, just to be where I'm at now, financially.

If you were telling us that you had ton of business and you were being overwhelmed with long term contracts, I would say Go For It. But don't let a couple good jobs convince you that the work will keep coming.

Good luck though, on whatever you decide.

Do not start a business on credit card debt.



Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

Ask me how to Market Yourself using Send Out Cards


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Charles Mercer
Re: First Studio
on Dec 5, 2009 at 9:44:55 am

Thanks to everybody who responded to the studio conundrum. I ought to say that here in the UK real estate is so expensive, and in short supply, that building an extension to my house would not be an option. I think it would be an ideal way to go in terms of reduced overhead, but we just don't have the space you guys have in the USA.

I accept your cautions on taking on too much in the way of overhead, but one or two people suggested the necessity of bringing clients to the studio for edits. I think this is where we are at the moment. Can we ask them into the bedroom to sit down to look at the Apple iMac - nice bedroom but it lacks a certain cache!

I work with my son in the business and I've put my experience of 30 years in sales and marketing to good use - combined with his Internet savvy we are generating a capacity work-flow and the orders are now coming in by recommendation. (You can view our work on http://www.pearldrop.com) In fact, it seems the business is growing exponentially. The office space situation in the UK is much the same as in the US - the managers are desperate to shift it. So I can get a very good deal, with a receptionist to field the client calls, and a building that is dedicated to rented offices. They use the hot-desk principle - I can walk away after a month's notice, and there is some subsidy by our local council keen to attract new enterprise to our town.

I've done the sums and we can afford to make the move - with the caveat the business keeps coming. I can only say from what I've seen so far, I wish I'd started in Videography years ago. As far as buying stands and equipment goes, I'm a great believer in making as much as I can at home, before going to the fancy priced catalogues. Our camera dolly, running on skateboard wheels courtesy of Youtube plans, gives us Hollywood shots (that's what the clients say!)

So, negotitions for our studio continue and I'll keep you up to date as to how we get on. Thanks again to everybody for the advice.

Charles Mercer
Pearldrop Video Productions


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Jeff Bonano
Re: First Studio
on Dec 7, 2009 at 2:00:24 am

Well, it sounds like you got a plan and it's working out well! Best of luck to you and happy filming :-)

Jeff Bonano
http://www.bonanoproductions.com

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano


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Charles Mercer
Re: First Studio
on Dec 29, 2009 at 9:15:15 am

Happy New Year to all!
Well, we moved into our studio yesterday and we have a space to die for, courtesy of the glut of office space here in the UK. There is one snag - there always has to be one - the building has air-conditioning and, although we can turn our own unit off, we can hear sound from the ducting supplying the other offices. This seems to be a low-level white noise which is intermitent, but it's enough to be an irritation. Does anyone have a solution to this bane of the videographer's and sound recordist's life?
Our first thought is to park a bookcase in front of the sound source with some deadening material behind it - this should cut down the resonace a bit.

Charles

Charles Mercer
Pearldrop Video Productions


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Mark Suszko
Re: First Studio
on Dec 29, 2009 at 10:09:32 am

My advice is, you may chuck this dream location and get a proper one designed for good sound, because by the time you add the fixes to damp transmitted and conducted acoustic noise, it may add up the same.

The ducts are resonators, like a guitar body or drum. To stop them resonating, you have to add mass for the acoustic energy to spend itself against, This could be sheets of lead foil, or elastomeric membranes. Or you add baffles to bend and break up the air vibrations. Then you have to make an air gap between the noisy wall/ceiling and your own walls/ceiling, or the vibration still gets transmitted through.

The fact is, making quiet HVAC is a really hard thing and generally takes a pro to handle everything from spec'ing brushless fan motors, special serrated "hush kit" fan blades, acoustic "turn-arounds" to bend the sound back on itself, Vibration-isolated duct hangers and grommeted screws for hanging everything from, etc.

You don't just hang a few Sonex panels and corner bass traps around a room and call it "fixed". Our studio has walls and windows over a foot thick, sound-absorbing batting on all walls and ceiling, and solid metal doors with gasketed edges that seal as they swing shut. You can't hear a bomb or sirens go off outside of it when buttoned up. And yet... we STILL hear air handler noise sometimes, though the mics don't always pick it up. You may have to do the same and build a "room within a room" that's de-coupled from the floors and walls and overhead, to get it *really* quiet. Or just hang a lot of floor to ceiling drapes or carpeting. Depends on how far you need to go.

Your best bet to SAVE money may be to pay for an hour of on-location consulting from an actual broadcast engineer who specializes in facility planning. They will tell you best how to fix what you've got and avoid false starts, or that you may need to find other digs.


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Charles Mercer
Re: First Studio
on Dec 30, 2009 at 10:08:35 am

Thanks for this. Regrettably I came to a similar conclusion while I was sitting on the floor assembling a flat-pack desk. The noise wasn't there when we went to view the space and it just chimed in and out all the time while I was working. Fortunately we can bail out at no cost if we have to, but it's a real disappointment.
In general, the Brits handle sound insulation in buildings very poorly. I once lived in a semi-detached house where I could hear the news on next door's TV in my living room. I built a false wall to try to cut this out but it wasn't dense enough, so we moved house. By contrast, I stayed in the Gershwin Building in New York with apartments all around me and heard nothing. I was amazed at the level of sound insulation.
Ok, we have to give this aspect our work a little more attention, so we'll talk to the engineers when they return from hols next week.

Regards
Charles

Charles Mercer
Pearldrop Video Productions


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Charles Mercer
Re: First Studio
on Jan 6, 2010 at 9:16:11 am

Better news - with six empty offices on our floor to choose from we moved to a quieter location. We still have some minor issues but we can live with them, but the previous air-con noise turned out to be a water feed to the ground floor toilets. We've moved away from that area and the problem seems to be resolved. The background noise is no worse than filming on location so we are going to stay here for now.
What I really enjoy about our building is being able to talk to clients in the cafe - we had a visit yesterday from a prospect and the studio premises have also promoted one of the other tenants to enquire about making videos with us. Let's hope the year continues in the same way. I've just ordered the greens-creen supports from ebay, so that's the next job when they arrive. We're snowed in at the moment and frustrated at being delayed, but there are some tax returns pending and, now, no excuse not to get them completed.

Regards,

Charles

Charles Mercer
Pearldrop Video Productions


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