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I dream of the day when I can telecommute. Wake up, stroll across my backyard to the studio and begin my workday of mixing, editing, and recording. Because on that day, I don't have to live wherever the industry is. But I'm pretty sure it's a pipe dream, not because I won't have a backyard someday, or a studio in it, but because it seems altogether unlikely to be viable.

There is definitely a stigma against the "home studio": Low-end gear, poor acoustics, hobbyist talent. And some of that is well deserved. But I know a number of engineers who work as professionals who have studios at home, whether they are for side work or pleasure, that are hooked up. But yet it's never their primary source of income. It's always for work on the side, or studio for fun.

I can't put my finger on why producers and directors need to go into a major studio. Is it the image? Cause I can redecorate. Is it the budget? Cause I'll gladly charge you more if you really want. Is it reputation? Cause everyone who works at a studio takes their reputation home with them at the end of the day. Is it the invasion of my home? Cause pretty much everybody's welcome (until you piss me off).

What spurred this thought was this cool new feature that one of our FCP editors is using with his producer called iChat Theater. She's in Austin, TX he's here in Arlington, VA and she supervises the offline session through iChat. It blew me away, it's not perfect, but it's phenomenally cool and has great potential. I instantly projected the technology onto my own dream scenario.

Previously I had heard of independent studios running fiber channels to production houses allowing producers to stay at the office (poor suckers) to review a show's mix. But that's a huge outlaying of cash for a single stream of business. And of course Source Elements with their whole line-up is attempting to put us all a single DSL connection away from one another. I've heard tales of issues, but it again is phenomenally cool and has great potential.

I recognize that half of the business is relationships, drumming up business, and staying visible. So that's the problem with living in the middle of Montana (my apologies to any working pro here living in Montana whom I offend with that comment). But for the other half, do we really have to drive in to work everyday with the rest of the world?

Honestly, I'd settle for edit at home, mix in the studio. That sounds like a nice balance. Do any of you pros have home studios that you bill primary clients for the use of? Do they know that you're working from home? What are your opinions on the matter?

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4 Answers 4

I don't know if its my marketing degree talking (what i studied before audio engineering) or the experience from going around various studios in my city and picking up on money spent on image/their brand vs how much work they get. To me, (and it makes sense) clients like to be treated well, looked after, made a good coffee, sit on comfy couches etc. As they are the ones paying good money for the audio job and they are the ones with the power (ie: can take their business elsewhere). I think half of the audio post business is just like any other industry. It comes down to satisfying the customers needs, and quality audio is only half of that. The other half is normal business stuff. keeping the customer happy. (most) clients don't want to walk through someone's house tripping over children's toys, getting barked at by the dog or get wet shoes from the overgrown grass (for example). Its like, why stay in a Motel when my company has the budget for a me to stay in a Hotel?! One of the first small post studios i went looking for work, after reading my CV, the guy said "well all your barista (coffee maker) experience will be a good attribute for getting an audio job". i thought he was joking but he said that he knew of some clients that would choose one studio over another because they knew they could get a really good espresso!

I'm only starting out in the audio industry so I may be speaking naively but this is what iv been noticing and thinking about.

So to me, reputation and glam hold their weight in gold for high paying clients. You could work in a well reputed studio doing the hard yards for a while learning and building your own rep. but if you choose to make the home studio/freelance shift make sure you have your own personal rep and not just the rep of the studio you worked for and clean your house!

I guess two studios (ultimate dream) would be key. one glamorous one in the city for showing clients too and using the gear/rooms you need and another smaller one at home where you can feel more comfortable and get the editing/more routine work done.

food for thought. what do you think?

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I just spoke with a sound editor the other day who works 2 states away from L.A. He started out down here, but moved for familial reasons and continued working for major studios, but from his home out of state since. While he really enjoys the perks of working at home, he's still had to fly to the studios here for spotting sessions and the like.

I think that it would be great to live wherever my family and I want and have steady, reliable projects completely out of the house. The technology affords it, so why not? I think that setup would be easier if employed by a studio, and less so for freelance, but I would love to be proven wrong.

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Dallas? No, when I put "here" I probably should have specified "the Los Angeles area". –  Matt Cavanaugh Jul 15 '10 at 19:59
    
If Voice Talents can do it, Dialogue Editors can do it. You just don't have residuals and insane amounts of up front money... –  Utopia Jul 15 '10 at 20:29
    
That's funny, Steve. No, the guy I was referring to isn't named Dallas. –  Matt Cavanaugh Jul 16 '10 at 3:21

This question is exactly what I am going through right now. I do mostly SFX editing and I had a studio downtown with a full up protools and then a LE system at my home not far from the studio. I found I was using the office/studio when clients were around and then doing the majority of the work at home. This system was working great for me until my studio got broken into and cleaned out completely. Thank god for insurance, I got new gear and I am mostly no worse for wear after the shock and panic of the first few days.
As a result of the robbery I have left the building I was in and moved my full system into my house. This was originally to be temporary but it has been going really well so far so now I am on the fence about getting a new studio space. I have been doing a lot of work over the last few years completely remotely and I am wondering if the future might be going in the direction of - as long as you do good work it does not matter where you are located.
I did the SFX edit on two animated series for the same client, one 52 episodes and one 26 episodes and I only ever actually met the client face to face once. I did the rest of the work entirely remotely, via ftp, phone and video chats. Strangely the client and I live in the same city (Toronto) but this system worked great for us. We had a quick bond and trust right from the start and they were the smoothest productions I have probably ever worked on. Granted I was not doing the mix on these projects so there was not as much need for client final approval but we did have an easy back and forth going. So I am really on the fence about where to go from here. I assume I will be getting another studio space but having the home studio forced on me has been a bit of a blessing as well. I look forward to reading other peoples experiences and thoughts.
(sorry for the long post, I got a little carried away)

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@AzimuthAudio I guess the caveat would be "as long as you do good work and people know it it does not matter where you are located." You can do the greatest work ever, but if nobody hires you it's hard to afford the gear. –  Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 12:44
    
I do a lot of work remotely also, but it's with clients that I have a long established rapport with who are usually too busy to supervise and know that I'll get the job done and it'll sound great. –  Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 12:48
    
@Steve Urban - Totally agree you gotta put your time in within the bigger studios and get a reputation and some connections before the home studio becomes a viable option. Client trust is the most valuable part of a studios business. –  AzimuthAudio Jul 16 '10 at 16:27

When I was freelance I never liked bring clients into my own home, too invasive for my tastes.

Most of the work I do is done remotely. We use ISDN to send the audio from the mix studio to LA while the producer/director watches a HDCAM. I can make changes to the mix as if they were in the studio with me.

There was a discussion about working outside of Soho on LinkedIn recently.

It was more concerned with working outside of the hubs like Soho. There are clear advantages such as lower rent. With broadband technology it is easy to work like this. I guess the power remains with the producer, would they prefer to watch a mix in a mix studio or some nice comfy screen room?

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@ianjpalmer At this point, I agree, clients in the house only works if they're regular drinking buddies and have been over for a non-professional reason. –  Steve Urban Jul 16 '10 at 12:55

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