I can work on your project.

Find me! Call DAP at 214.350.7678 or email rene@dallasaudiopost.com. Also check out echocollectivefx.com for custom sfx, and tonebenders.net for my podcast.

Thursday, September 29

the kickstarter experience pt 6 - recording, editorial, metadata

Recording day was pretty stressful, but also all kinds of fun.

As soon as the regular work day wound down, I grabbed a coworker and our intern and we headed to the trolley barn.  

I posted some pretty heavy updates on the kickstarter site about the whole experience with photos and vids, so check that out here.

The long and the short of it was that I got some unexpectedly cool stuff and lost some mics unexpectedly due to various issues, as is to be expected in big complex time crunched recordings.

If I had it to do over again I'd have put the schoeps in the blimp outside of the car (although that blimp did have some near misses in traffic) and I would have not put the 421 on the controller because its recording was completely destroyed with RF.


Once everything was back in the studio I spent a few weeks editing.  Details and pics here.

My process was to put all of the files into a protools session and line them up chronologically.  This gave me about 7 different perspectives of 2 separate 30 minute trolley runs.  I did whatever processing was necessary per track (mostly gain matching and a little eq) and then came up with a composite mix to deliver in addition to the split out onboard tracks.

I then went through and listened to each individual track soloed out and edited out any craziness I came upon.  This process took for damn ever.

With the entirety of the tracks placed, processed and edited I listened through again and divided each set vertically by event.  In this way the files I delivered would be sure to line up to one another in post, so that an end user could potentially create a new mix from the individual mics that would line up quickly and easily.  I then used a quickkey script to rename the individual regions.  This also took for damn ever.


With everything edited and exported I then went into metadata mode. Details and pics available here.

Soundminer is really the best tool for metadata editing, as it can do batch changes with ease and will embed the metadata into the bwav header.  I used my standard process of copying the filenames into the description field and then using batch functions to add more data in groups.  I then copied the descriptions down to the bwav description fields, added the photos and embedded all of the metadata.  This took time, but not as much as the editorial.

With all metadata embedded I triple checked everything in the protools workspace and in itunes.  


Last step was to export the different versions into different folders and set up different logins on our ftp for the different backer levels.  Then post the files, download them from home as a test run, open the downloads and (finally!) distribute the links to the backers.

The entire post process is what really takes a good amount of time and is a primary reason that I feel one would have a heck of hard time raising any serious money doing even very successful kickstarters.  

Thursday, September 15

the kickstarter experience pt 5 - the interim

As noted before, I was fortunate enough to fund my goal within 5 hours of the project launching. Soon after that my project was posted on designingsound.org and before I knew it I had more than doubled my goal.
In addition to kind of blowing my mind, this show of support had the side effect of increasing the scope of my project.

I immediately booked two trolleys for a date a couple of weeks out. This effectively doubled my workload, expenses, edit time needs, and output to my backers but I was happy to do it in return for the amazing support I had received.

I made the downpayment on the trolleys out of my own money, and convinced my company, Dallas Audio Post, to front the costs of the trains so that I could get to recording as early as possible.

With money fronted I made it my mission to spend the next few weeks doing as much scouting and prep as I could, given the time constraints I knew I'd be under on the day of the record. I began spending some time at the trolley barn and getting to know the people I'd be working with. I met Dean, my motorman as well as a couple of volunteers that really knew what they were doing.

I was able to shoot some preliminary videos and really get a gameplan mapped out, which included things like finding mounting points, interesting sounding parts, and just generally befriending the train people.

During the two weeks prior to the shoot I was probably at the trolley barn 6 or 8 times.

I was pretty diligent to document stuff and post vids and updates to my kickstarter backers, which the website makes into a pretty simple affair.

The KS update page allows inclusion of audio, video and pictures and handles both emailing the update both to backers and posting it to the main kickstarter page. Uploaded media basically works as an attachment, meaning tha tyou can't really post it in-line the way that you would a blog post, and it insists on re-encoding everything.

Those minor things aside, its a very well laid out update mechanism that makes it easy to keep your backers up to date.

Recording day was coming down the road quickly, and making the best of my interim time ended up being incredibly important.

Saturday, September 10

the kickstarter experience pt 4 - the launch

After all of the prepro, scouting, dealmaking and decisionmaking it was finally time to launch the project.

Kickstarter makes a big deal out of how important it is to produce a video. They give you stats that show how many projects have videos and what the success rate of video vs non video projects have, which is pretty stark, thought that’s all that I remember about it.

The point is, make a video.

Most kickstarter vids are people talking into camera and describing who they are and what they plan to do. I actually cut one of those and then really hated it, so I went more towards what the sound design community has been doing and decided to shoot a little footage and sound of what it was that I planned on recording. I used my iphone and my PCM d50, holding the two together and just getting on the train for a ride. I figured that would be more instructive to potential backers and would have the added benefit for all of keeping me off camera.

I used text on screen to do the talking for me, and let the video just be an immersive experience into what the trolley car sounds like. In the end, I loved the result and felt it was pretty effective.

I’ll note here that KS re-encodes the video before posting, so you can see that some of my text ended up coming off a little lower-res than I would have liked. Just keep that in mind with text on screen.

writing your “about this project” page

In my case, I treated my about this project page basically as a blog post. I put some history up there about the trains, posted a sound clip that I had recorded while scouting, described the agreement that I already had in place with MATA, and stated my goals and needs for the project.

Pretty straightforward, but for those not comfortable with writing such things you may want to get a trusted set of eyes to look over it all before launching. You can edit this page after the fact, but when you launch the clock starts and you’ll want to be directing all of your KS energy towards the awareness push at that point.

I left descriptions of who I am and why I’d be any good at recording this stuff to my profile page, which is also right there on the project home page.


I found FAQs to be very helpful on other kickstarters, and I figured the biggest question people would ask is “how can I use the sounds you’ll deliver?” I knew people that would be most willing to pay for sounds will want max licensing freedom, so instead of creative commons I went for the more useful full royalty free usage common with purchased sfx libraries.

I also described my gear, metadata methods, and reiterated the exclusivity of the library.

The FAQ format is pretty good for bullet pointing things that backers will want to know before committing the cash, and the KS software does a great job of formatting.

Launch and push

With everything written it was time to launch and push. I triple checked the things I couldn’t change (deadline, funding goal, rewards and reward levels) and then published.

I had emailed Miguel over at designingsound.org prior to my launch to see if he would be amenable to putting my project up on his page. He was into it, so I sent him a link. I also sent out an email to a small number of individuals in my contacts list that I figured would be interested.

I posted to twitter and facebook as well. (google+ hadn't been launched yet)

In each of these pushes I explicitly asked for the two things I wanted - please back this and please share (or retweet) this.

Really that was it. When I launched I was shocked at how quickly people picked it up and shared it. I think to some degree it was the novelty of the thing, but regardless it was a pretty humbling experience.

I fully funded in 5 hours, and then after that the designingsound post went up and the funding really took off.

Monday, September 5

the kickstarter experience pt 3 - hard decisions

with all of the groundwork laid it’s time to make the hard decisions.

There are four things that you have to set in order to launch a kickstarter, and once you set those four things you can’t change them, so you really have to do your homework before committing to those numbers.

Lets start with the first and most difficult.

---your financial goal---

Setting a target goal is one of the trickiest aspects of launching a kickstarter. Set the goal too low and you may end up reaching into your own pocket in order to deliver on your promises to your backers. Set the goal too high and you risk not getting funded.

Here’s how I approached it:

First, calculate your expenses. For the purposes of this project I had a charter fee of $150, a planned gratuity of $40 for my motorman, and a small budget of $100 or so for gear rental, food/drink, and other minor expenses. I knew that delivery of the final assets wouldn’t cost me anything, but if you’re planning on delivering anything to your backers that costs any money to produce, be sure to factor that in to your expenses.

My total added up to $290.

Next I had to factor in the fees that both KS and Amazon payments were going to charge. Kickstarter takes a flat 5%, and Amazon takes somewhere between 3% and 5%. I decided to just assume that 10% was coming off the top. The proper math for this is to take your expenses (E) and to DIVIDE that number by 0.9.

To reiterate, your financial goal should equal E ÷ (0.9)

In my case 290/(0.9) = $322.22 I rounded the number to $325 and called it a day. $325 * 0.9 = $292.50, so I knew if I hit my goal I was going to be able to execute the project.

Time to define the next part of the project.

---your rewards---

I figured this would be pretty simple, and for many sfx style recordings it should be. I planned to deliver a fully fleshed out library of trolley sounds at various resolutions for the various backer levels. I would include photos and metadata.

Fortunately, much of the technology and indie sfx market has settled in on what are the general standards.

In my case I went with:
256k mp3s
44k 16 bit wav
24 bit 96k wav
and 24 bit 96k with broken out mic layers for the top tier.

The other thing that I offered was complete exclusivity. This meant that I would not put these sounds up for sale in the future, and you could only get access to them if you backed the project. I went with the total exclusivity route because I wanted to do everything I could to make sure the project got funded. In the future I’d probably go to some form of limited exclusivity given the results of this first effort.

The thing to remember is that once these specific rewards are set they cannot be changed, so consider carefully exactly what you want to give away and how you want to do it.

Also, its important to consider delivery costs. In my case I had access to an ftp that I was able to set unique passwords for, but in some cases you may want to budget for a delivery service or medium.

Rewards were set, another big decision in front of me.

---your backer levels---

Again, in this case I’m fortunate in that the indie sfx community has basically put up some general pricing standards that backers would be familiar with.

I swam around it a bit and came up with the following pricing:

$1 for thanks
$5 for the mp3s
$15 for the 44k wavs
$25 for the 96k wavs
$40 for the 96k wavs with broken out individual mics
$120 for the 96k wav with borken out mics and a personal meetup

I assumed that everyone would gravitate towards one or two levels, so I calculated how many backers in each level it would take to fund my goal on its own:

65 $5 backers or
21 $15 backers or
13 $25 backers or
9 $40 backers or
3 $120 backers

Looking it over I felt that I could pretty safely assume 9 $40 backers, or at least 5 or 6 and then a few $25 backers to make the diff, so my pricing ended up looking pretty doable.

I also honestly thought that the $5 level was the biggest bargain and could possibly skew my numbers too far down, but the network of people that got the message on this project skewed much more towards the sound designer crowd, so that helped me out tremendously.

with my goal, rewards and levels set I had one more critical decision to make.

---your deadline---

In kickstarter, deadlines are less defined by dates than by time periods. you can go anywhere from 1 to 60 days out.

One important thing to keep in mind when setting a deadline is that there is a time-lag in between the deadline passing and the funds from a successful kickstarter hitting your operational account.

Kickstarter does not start transferring you money the moment you meet your goal. In fact, it does not charge your backer’s credit cards until the deadline date that you set, so if you hit your goal early (as I did) you still have to wait until your deadline passes before payment processing begins.

Kickstarter advises that it can take up to 14 days to process all of the payments and transfer them to your amazon business account. You then have to account for the 3-5 business days it takes to move funds from amazon into your operational account. This all happens AFTER your projects deadline passes.

That means if I set a deadline that’s 30 days out, it could be as many as 45 days before I can gain access to the backer’s funding needed to execute the project

In my case, 80% of the backers funds transferred into my amazon account on the day of my deadline and the transfer out to my operational account also only took one day, so I got my funds very quickly compared to their predictions, but I’d still approach timing with regards to seeing the funding with extreme caution.

The other complicating factor there is time frame with regards to booking the trains. I couldn’t confirm a date with them until I had reached my funding goal, and they required a two week lead time. Fortunately I reached my goal quickly and was able to book the train pretty much right away, but if I had been in a huge funding push to reach the goal at the end it would have added two weeks to my turnaround time.

All of this is to say that Kickstarter is in no way an instant gratification kind of thing for you or for your backers. It’s a process, and that process takes days and weeks to get done just from pure logistics, so be sure that your backers and vendors are informed and updated as to what’s going on behind the scenes.

With all of that under consideration I chose a deadline date of 21 days out, mainly to give potential backers a chance to get a paycheck in set some $ for the project aside. Even though I funded much more quickly than that I’m pretty happy with the total time I ended up choosing.

---final thoughts---

once these decisions are made they are no longer in your control. It's as though you set them into a boat and floated them out to sea, and now you have to chase them all down.

This means you really have to do your homework on the front end with regards to monetary needs, timeframe commitments, and vendor bookings. It also means constant communication with both your vendors and backers.

If you mess these decisions up it could be the difference between a successful project and a failure, so triple check your work and then send it off!