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Hi All,

I recently got feedback from a client that they prefer an in-person approach for sound design, preferring to be in the room as the sounds are created. This is something I understand from a composition perspective, improvising on a keyboard to hone in on what they're looking for. It seems more difficult for sound design though.

Any tips on processes that work where the client can be more present?

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"Any tips on processes that work where the client can be more present?"

  • Listen to your client on the front end. Get in their head and figure out what they are trying to communicate to you even if they are not familiar with the language of sound design. Ask yourself how that directly applies to how you will go about the session.

  • If you feel that your client is rushing to judgement on your work (this will happen because design takes time) explain to the client that the first thing they hear out of the speakers is not the final result. Tell them, "let me take a moment to build whats in my head for this and then chime in on direction." This is key because otherwise you can let your client derail your creative flow without seeing/hearing the big picture.

  • If you need to, explain to your client that sound design like any other creative art takes trial and error and not everything tried will work but that's ok and part of the process.

  • Don't fear taking risks just because you have a client behind you. Have the same guts and courage you do as when you are working all alone.

  • Feed off your clients reactions and learn from their input. You can learn so many things by listening to others feedback and allowing yourself to be open to criticism, critique or different direction even by those not experienced in sound. At the end of many sessions with clients present I've found myself surprised at the end result. I'll realize that even though the work may not be exactly what I would have created on my own, it's a great collaboration in it's own regard and I've been pushed into directions otherwise not explored on my own and have learned from it.

  • Working with clients present is a different skill set than working alone. It takes years to get good at and comfortable with but you will grow as a professional from it.

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So you mean that the client cannot sit in the same room as you?

I think you need to define that you cannot simply come up with sounds at given times, but rather, you need some time to prepare them. Then you can have meetings where you can play the stuff that you've come up with.

You may also explain to the client that your job is not about sounds (it would be, if it's e.g. a sound logo, but generally no), it's about the whole (or the segments of the whole). Therefore instead of having some fairly useless "lets hear the sounds" -meetings, how about having regular meetings where they can approve the parts that you've already done (and if they don't approve, then you can make changes). It makes a whole lot more sense to be interested in the wholes than be interested in the sounds, plus it's more effective (= fewer meetings) that way, plus it may result in fewer adjustments (everything always sounds different when in the context, rather than when extracted from the context, for which there's no good reason). Besides, creative work entails that certain freedom is given, i.e. the client trusts you to do your job the best you can, and there's generally no need to have the watchdog attitude in making sure that you do your job the best you can, because what matters is the results.

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