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# Project Studio and Clientele Questions

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### #1Megs  Members   -  Reputation: 124

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 04:42 PM

Hi everybody, I waited a long time to start this topic because I spent so long looking at archives and trying to find any references that I could find. Now I'm a little concerned I waited too long..

Anyway, I am writing a paper for a class (due Thursday ._. ). The assignment is to choose a career that requires a DAW and figure out how much you could make in a year, and then "build" a home studio with the budget based on your projected income. I am having a really hard time with this.

I should explain that I am not involved in the game industry (unless spending money and hours playing games counts -- hah) but I would like to be someday. I don't know what I would want to do, besides knowing that I want to be involved in the creation of them (that could be art, audio, QA, or anything really). I would be changing careers; I have my BA in lighting design for theater and I'm just not wanting to do it anymore. That's why I'm back in school (just at a community college) trying to see if I could fit myself anywhere in video games.

Hence this audio class, and this assignment that I am finding so hard. I have no audio experience besides this class (being a lighting person since I was 14, audio has always really intimidated me).

So the whole paper revolves around what we would use the project studio for, and I suppose since I would be owning this DAW I would be doing freelance work. I assume my clientele would be indie game developers. I think I can get through the part of the paper where I talk about marketing myself and the operating costs of doing so and the shopping list to build the studio. But in order to get to those parts I have to estimate my gross monthly income. And we are supposed to acknowledge that this will be the beginning of our career and not the peak of it.

I don't write music but for the purposes of this project let's pretend that I will be offering music as well as sound effects (which I am more comfortable with at this point) in order to make myself more qualified for this sort of work. I will also pretend that I have talent in this area; meaning potential to have a future in this business, even though I would have zero experience. So I figure I could give myself semi competitive pricing and get away with it here. I'm not entirely sure what that would be, so I'll just throw some figures out there and anyone can tell me if I'm crazy wrong.

Let's say I charge $300 for a minute of music (exclusive) and$50 per SFX. I know that this is high for someone who is just starting out and probably way too high for indie game developers too, so is it super unrealistic to put these prices into the project? Remember this is supposed to be the price for the whole year. I could put $150 per minute and$25 per SFX and feel like those might be more realistic for someone at my level (or even too high still, but I'm not a kid anymore so I know how I value my time, and even at this price it seems like almost giving it away), and then I would have to work a LOT more to be able to make a decent amount of money. Any input here?

Ok so that is one question, but the harder part for me that I can't seem to find any information on is how many clients I can expect to get in a month. Obviously this is a lame question because it seems like you can't expect any clients at all if you don't market yourself well (but let's pretend I do -- any advice given here will not be spurned though!).

So not only do I have to estimate the amount of clients I could get, but how many minutes of music and SFX they would need. Any help here? I can't seem to find any specific information anywhere; in order to get more information from developers you have to be looking for the job, and most audio people don't tend to share that sort of information (from my limited experience scouring forums and emailing people).

Other info we can put into the paper are related streams of income from our studio, so I'm thinking voice over work/ recording, film audio, animation.. anything else? Are the prices about the same for stuff like that? I guess voice over is priced totally differently, does anyone know anything about how you would price that or sell it if I were to sell voice overs?

I will keep looking around and emailing people even though it hasn't been too helpful, and I guess I will start trying to make up numbers and just get the paper written for now, and I can adjust figures and what I would be able to buy with it later on. Thanks so much

EDIT: I just wanted to add that you can PM me (I think?) if you don't want to put anything up publicly.

Edited by Megs, 05 May 2013 - 04:56 PM.

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 02:23 AM

So maybe people don't want to answer, that's fine. Honestly I can just come up with random prices for things and feel ok with that, even though we are supposed to provide sources for our information. I have looked around enough that I feel I could justify the price I come up with.

The stuff I am really looking for is how many clients per month. Is it one? Or more like 10? I just have no idea.

Other questions I have are how do they pay you, would you be on a payroll and receive a paycheck, or do you charge with PayPal or something? Do you usually meet them in person or just talk over email or the phone? Is there some sort of cool computer program you use to talk and share documents and stuff? When I say "you" I mean you individually, I am not assuming that you speak for everyone.

When it comes to actually creating the studio, what are the most important things to have the latest version of? I would assume that it would be the software, if anything, so please correct me if I'm wrong. What are the most important things to spend money on? Microphones or monitors? Or an expensive interface?

Now I'm just putting up more questions hoping someone will respond... ; _ ;

I know, it hasn't even been 12 hours yet! Maybe I'm just procrastinating.

### #3CRFaithMusic  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 874

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 05:02 AM

PM'd

### #4bschmidt1962  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1578

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 09:48 AM

Hi Megs,

For the purposes of your assignment, I think you're overthinking things ..

Don't be afraid to be hypothetical.  For example, you could assume that you do 1 small game/month that needs 3 minutes of music, 50 SFX and 50VO lines.  Or you could do an estimate of 6 small, but more professional games/year: eg 10 min music, 300 SFX and 500 VO lines.

It be good to take a couple of different "clients" scenarios and a couple different "how much I charge" scenarios and see how they compare (Excel makes that kind of comparison trivally easy).  So do each of those 2 client scenarios against your two different costs (125/min vs 300/min, etc.) and see what kind of $that brings in. I think the reason your question didn't get a response right away is 1) you asked a lot of stuff and 2) there are no hard and fast answers to your questions. A game composer/sound designer can range from 0 gigs/year to so busy they have turn away work and there is no 'typical'. Good luck with your paper! Brian Schmidt Executive Director, GameSoundCon: GameSoundCon 2013: Nov 3-4, Los Angeles, CA Founder, EarGames Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC Music Composition & Sound Design Audio Technology Consultant ### #5Megs Members - Reputation: 124 Like 0Likes Like Posted 06 May 2013 - 10:56 AM Hi Megs, For the purposes of your assignment, I think you're overthinking things .. Don't be afraid to be hypothetical. For example, you could assume that you do 1 small game/month that needs 3 minutes of music, 50 SFX and 50VO lines. Or you could do an estimate of 6 small, but more professional games/year: eg 10 min music, 300 SFX and 500 VO lines. It be good to take a couple of different "clients" scenarios and a couple different "how much I charge" scenarios and see how they compare (Excel makes that kind of comparison trivally easy). So do each of those 2 client scenarios against your two different costs (125/min vs 300/min, etc.) and see what kind of$ that brings in.

I think the reason your question didn't get a response right away is 1) you asked a lot of stuff and 2) there are no hard and fast answers to your questions.  A game composer/sound designer can range from 0 gigs/year to so busy they have turn away work and there is no 'typical'.

Thank you so much! Yeah I kind of thought I was overthinking it after I started writing it, and I figured I could just guess. The problem was I really had no idea what even the ballpark range for amount of sound effects for a game. But I think I could guess that it was sort of a lot. I have to admit it's been a long time since I used excel for calculations but I will mess around with it.

At least I know that I wasn't completely off with the numbers I had been just randomly guessing I could get. I mean, assuming this world was perfect and I could get exactly as much work as I wanted... Hah

Sorry I asked so much, I was just trying to get it all out there. When I was emailing people I started out with just a few questions and tried to get them to warm up and get conversational, that's more my style, but by the time there were a few emails back and forth and I started really asking the important stuff they would just sort of... stop answering haha. I felt like I had learned my lesson about starting off with the small questions.

Thanks so much for the input!

### #6nsmadsen  Moderators   -  Reputation: 3086

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 10:59 AM

Like Brian said, the issue with this is the sheer amount of variance contractor to contractor and project to project. I have set rates but I'm more than willing to accommodate an indie developer if the project is really interesting or I really want to build a new relationship with them. When you add in the amount of new developers and contractors popping up monthly and how much haggling tends to go on in this industry and it's clear there's going to be a wide range! I've been freelancing full time since 2010 and my earnings differ month to month. There was a game developer's salary survey that you might be able to reference but those are mainly in-house positions.

I agree with Brian - set things up so you can produce a responsible budget and your prof should be fine with that.

Composer-Sound Designer

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 11:06 AM

Other questions I have are how do they pay you, would you be on a payroll and receive a paycheck, or do you charge with PayPal or something? Do you usually meet them in person or just talk over email or the phone? Is there some sort of cool computer program you use to talk and share documents and stuff? When I say "you" I mean you individually, I am not assuming that you speak for everyone.

Most pay me via Paypal but I have a few, mainly larger companies, that send me a paper check. If a client is local then I'll gladly go into their office for meetings and such. Especially if we're doing implementation and I can get my hands on the device(s)/build(s). Other times the client is in another state or even in another country and then it's mostly Skype. Dropbox is my main method of sharing files.

When it comes to actually creating the studio, what are the most important things to have the latest version of? I would assume that it would be the software, if anything, so please correct me if I'm wrong. What are the most important things to spend money on? Microphones or monitors? Or an expensive interface?

Hardware is important - mics, monitors and the interface. This is especially true if you're recording source material. Some folks deal almost exclusively with library samples and therefore don't use mics too often. But so is software. For many, including myself, setting up a studio is a long process buying bit by bit. I simply didn't have enough cash to pay for everything I needed up front so instead I did it piece meal.

What I did (and I think most do the same) is figure out:

- how much cash can I spend now?
- what exactly do I need to get the job done now?

- what can get afford to wait and get later on to further enhance my studio?

Edited by nsmadsen, 06 May 2013 - 11:08 AM.

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 11:32 AM

Most pay me via Paypal but I have a few, mainly larger companies, that send me a paper check. If a client is local then I'll gladly go into their office for meetings and such. Especially if we're doing implementation and I can get my hands on the device(s)/build(s). Other times the client is in another state or even in another country and then it's mostly Skype. Dropbox is my main method of sharing files.

I read a few other topics where implementation came up, and I was wondering how you did that if it was distance. It makes sense that it would be for local clients. I think I might be in a good area for that (San Francisco). Also thanks for the file sharing info, it was something I realized I forgot to ask about

Hardware is important - mics, monitors and the interface. This is especially true if you're recording source material. Some folks deal almost exclusively with library samples and therefore don't use mics too often. But so is software. For many, including myself, setting up a studio is a long process buying bit by bit. I simply didn't have enough cash to pay for everything I needed up front so instead I did it piece meal.

What I did (and I think most do the same) is figure out:

- how much cash can I spend now?
- what exactly do I need to get the job done now?
- what can get afford to wait and get later on to further enhance my studio?

This makes absolute sense, I think I would be using mics a lot. But knowing myself I would also want a number of plug ins and samples if I were doing music, since I don't play any instruments.

And yes, that part of the assignment sort of confused me. It seems like what he is saying is we are calculating this number in order to take out a loan (or know how much we need to have saved up) so that we can spend this money all at once -- which seems a pretty extreme to me -- and then be out of debt within a year. That last question is definitely something he wants us to address in the paper though.

Thank you thank you thank you for you response, this really helps me out a lot!

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 11:40 AM

If a client isn't local and they're not able (or willing) to provide a method for me to set the asset then it's on them to implement the audio. While not ideal, this happens often... at least in my experience. In these kinds of situations, I try to play the game and provide them with notes on any issues I find. To be completely honest with you, sometimes audio is an after thought. For example if I say "hey the roll off for sound A is a bit extreme. Let's flatten it out a bit more." it might be met with "we'll get to that when we finish these other items." Other times I've been promised systems to help speed up implementation only to later find out that's not going to happen.

And yes, that part of the assignment sort of confused me. It seems like what he is saying is we are calculating this number in order to take out a loan (or know how much we need to have saved up) so that we can spend this money all at once -- which seems a pretty extreme to me -- and then be out of debt within a year. That last question is definitely something he wants us to address in the paper though.

I see. Most of the folks I've talked to had a more gradual entrance into the industry. I don't have much experience with business loans but I've actually heard it's harder to get a loan under around 100K or so. For example to really get my studio off the ground, I'd probably only need about 20-30K if I wasn't doing an expensive studio construction and mainly just concerned with hardware/software. While talking with a mentor of mine he explained how he was actually turned down when seeking a lower loan amount and the bank explained they'd happily give him X more if he was willing to borrow it. He did and just didn't spend it, instead paying it right back.

Edited by nsmadsen, 06 May 2013 - 11:44 AM.

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 11:51 AM

Sounds pretty rough :/ having to spend time doing your own QA and then not even being able to be there to make sure the changes get made. Yeah I would much rather be involved with the implementation now that I realize it's kind of like doing the final mix of everything. That really sounds like it could be a nightmare (for myself), but I guess maybe I'd just have to learn to let things go. Thanks for that insight!

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 03:40 PM

One thing that might be good for your paper...

You want to make sure that you have a minimum-bar of production quality from day 1.

Just to pick on one aspect, I hear a lot of demos with really poor sample-sets.  A couple time's I've talked to them about it and they responded "well, something like East West is at least $500....". To that I usually respond that if they want to work, they need to invest in a minimum professional tool-set. You wouldn't build a house these days without a power screw-driver, and if you showed up for a construction job with only a manual one (or even a cheap electric one), you'd be sent home. So although Nathan is correct that people build up their studios gradually, there is a minimum bar you need to be competitive. As for "how they pay you" for what you're talking about, you set up an "Independent Contractor" status with the game company(s). Generally, you'll get a downpayment when you agree to do the game, and then future payments tied to delivery milestones. They don't take out taxes, Social Security, etc. It's up to you to take care of all that paperwork with the IRS yourself, typically by paying the IRS every 3 months in 'estimated tax payments." Brian Schmidt Executive Director, GameSoundCon: GameSoundCon 2013: Nov 3-4, Los Angeles, CA Founder, EarGames Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC Music Composition & Sound Design Audio Technology Consultant ### #12nsmadsen Moderators - Reputation: 3086 Like 0Likes Like Posted 06 May 2013 - 05:28 PM Completely agree Brian! This is actually what I was trying to convey with the "- what exactly do I need to get the job done now?" bit but re-reading it now I see I should have been a bit more clear with "what exactly do I need to land the job and get it done on par with current tech right now?" I think the core of my thinking and experience is there's always something else you can buy for your studio. Most of us cannot afford to get everything at once so start with the absolute essentials and then build up over time and as the need warrants it. Personally, I immediately begin to drool over a new product (hardware or software) but if I don't see an immediate need it would serve or a gap it would fill in my studio, I wait. If I'm still lusting after it for a while, I'll buy it if I've got some spare funds. If I've forgotten about it... then it was just shiny and cool (i.e. basically good advertising). Edited by nsmadsen, 06 May 2013 - 05:31 PM. Nathan Madsen Composer-Sound Designer Madsen Studios ### #13Megs Members - Reputation: 124 Like 0Likes Like Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:40 PM I don't have much experience with business loans but I've actually heard it's harder to get a loan under around 100K or so. For example to really get my studio off the ground, I'd probably only need about 20-30K if I wasn't doing an expensive studio construction and mainly just concerned with hardware/software. While talking with a mentor of mine he explained how he was actually turned down when seeking a lower loan amount and the bank explained they'd happily give him X more if he was willing to borrow it. He did and just didn't spend it, instead paying it right back. That is so interesting, I had no idea it had to be that much. Your friend was smart to do it that way, but I can imagine it would be really scary while it was happening to all of a sudden be in debt that much. He must have really good credit now! Haha. Yeah I do find the premise of the paper to be a little backwards for me and how I might choose to do something, but dropping over 30K on a simple studio is a hella fun assignment now that I've actually gotten to that part of it. I hear a lot of demos with really poor sample-sets. A couple time's I've talked to them about it and they responded "well, something like East West is at least$500....".  To that I usually respond that if they want to work, they need to invest in a minimum professional tool-set.

if I don't see an immediate need it would serve or a gap it would fill in my studio, I wait. If I'm still lusting after it for a while, I'll buy it if I've got some spare funds. If I've forgotten about it... then it was just shiny and cool (i.e. basically good advertising).

Thanks so much for this advice guys. I don't know a lot about sample libraries yet but for this paper I am planning on "buying" some, so I will definitely keep in mind the quality aspect. I am pretty poor but \$500 doesn't scare me (maybe that's why I'm poor...?)

As for "how they pay you" for what you're talking about, you set up an "Independent Contractor" status with the game company(s).  Generally, you'll get a downpayment when you agree to do the game, and then future payments tied to delivery milestones.  They don't take out taxes, Social Security, etc.  It's up to you to take care of all that paperwork with the IRS yourself, typically by paying the IRS every 3 months in 'estimated tax payments."

I was actually thinking about this before and forgot to ask about it. In order to become freelance do you have to set yourself up as a business or anything? Or can you work as a contractor without having your own business? This is not something I've looked for online yet so there might be a handy forum post about it that I should look at.

Thanks again!

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 09:05 AM

The assignment is to choose a career that requires a DAW and figure out how much you could make in a year, and then "build" a home studio with the budget based on your projected income. I am having a really hard time with this.

Do you need to pick freelance work as your chosen career?  Plenty of jobs use DAWs on a more nine to five basis (meaning estimated income is a piece of cake), and you could build a fairly low-end 'home studio' for relatively small amounts of money.   I'm wondering what the specifics of your assignment are, and what you study?  Also, I apologize ,but I couldn't muster the will to read everything in the thread; it's a very warm day!  If this doesn't help, you may disregard it.

My sound design: (Under construction!)

My music: https://soundcloud.com/echo-gecko

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 09:38 AM

In order to become freelance do you have to set yourself up as a business or anything? Or can you work as a contractor without having your own business? This is not something I've looked for online yet so there might be a handy forum post about it that I should look at.

In 2005 I started out just doing the job, seeing if I could land projects. I had minimal gear and no industry experience so I didn't become an LLC or do the whole s-corp thing until several years later. Setting up your business in the legal sense becomes more important when or if:

- you own a house

- you have a good deal of personal assets

- you have a family

- you're making a certain amount of cash (for example I've heard making about 70-80K or more is when an s-corp set up could work well for you)

- if you have customers/clients coming to your place of business you could need insurance to cover for accidents. I teach piano and saxophone lessons on the side (only two days a week) but since the students come to my place of business, I signed up for insurance to cover me and my business if someone tripped and broke an arm, etc.

Most folks seem to try it out first especially since the entry doesn't require that much (i.e. a computer, some sound hardware and software, etc). If things go well, they continue to grow their business. If not, they go into a different industry. Keep in mind, I'm not a lawyer so please seek professional advice before starting your own business. I'm just sharing what's happened and worked out for me.

Edited by nsmadsen, 07 May 2013 - 09:45 AM.

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 03:44 PM

Do you need to pick freelance work as your chosen career? Plenty of jobs use DAWs on a more nine to five basis (meaning estimated income is a piece of cake), and you could build a fairly low-end 'home studio' for relatively small amounts of money. I'm wondering what the specifics of your assignment are, and what you study? Also, I apologize ,but I couldn't muster the will to read everything in the thread; it's a very warm day! If this doesn't help, you may disregard it.

Blowing my mind over here! I would love to know the answer to this haha! So if you have a 9-5 job and have a DAW at work, do you still need a studio at home? I mean obviously you would want to work on stuff in your free time for yourself, but I sort of don't think the paper has that in mind (unfortunately). I suppose if I worked at a big game company with a cushy (sometimes) job I could still use the studio at home for recording and editing my own sound effects library (that's something I'm really interested in doing).

That's really something I need to think about. I kind of already wrote the paper with freelance in mind but I might start writing a second paper with this new idea. Still I'm not entirely sure that it fits the premise of building a DAW for a career... It would help to have the home studio in this case but it wouldn't be the main workstation...

And hey I fully think being too hot is an excuse for anything. Native San Franciscan here though, man do I hate the heat.

EDIT: I forgot to answer your other questions. This section could get long... The specifics of the paper are we have to explain our career, what we would be doing and with what equipment, our clientele, how we would find them and contact them and how much they pay and how, explain in detail our day to day work in and out of the studio, and then what we would plan to do after one year is up (in terms of expanding our business and our studio etc.). On top of the paper we have to use our estimated yearly income (deciding whether or not we would have a day job to pay our living expenses or whether we would use the money from our studio to support ourselves [if so break down what expenses we will need to cover with it]) to build, all at once, our "project studio". We have to create a shopping list with list prices as well as deals we can find, to match that income/budget. I hate even talking about this because I think my teacher is a genius for coming up with this paper and I hate to just give it all away, but at the same time I wish all of my teachers required a paper like this so I think it's maybe a worthwhile idea to steal/ spread around.

I am studying a generic "game development" certificate at the local junior college, I'm not looking to get my masters or really even complete the certificate. I just wanted to learn which area of games I'm most interested in. Still having a hard time deciding, but even though I don't WANT to do QA (playing buggy games is one of my least favorite things to do -- sometimes I wait a year after a game has come out to even buy it) I honestly think I would be really good at it (I love complaining about things! J/k). But I am studying art, audio, game design, a little programming, animation, storyboarding, everything I can think of. I have a variety of interests

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 04:13 PM

Most folks seem to try it out first especially since the entry doesn't require that much (i.e. a computer, some sound hardware and software, etc). If things go well, they continue to grow their business. If not, they go into a different industry.

This makes a lot of sense to me, I didn't know for sure if you could legally work like that but it is good to know you can. I can see wanting to do it a bit further on like you said. Thanks so much!

### #18nsmadsen  Moderators   -  Reputation: 3086

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 04:35 PM

It's less a question of if you can legally work that way and more if it's smart to work that way. Someone with few personal assets, working where they're not making a ton of cash has much less risk then someone who has more personal assets, a family and is working on high dollar projects and making a good living. It's like a good buddy/mentor told me once - you don't go after bad money. Early in my career, I sued a guy once who violated the contract, stole my work and didn't pay me. I've yet to see a dime, even though I won. If he had been a large company, I probably would have seen at least something but this was a young guy with little to no personal assets. It's all about potential risk.

Edited by nsmadsen, 08 May 2013 - 05:33 AM.

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 10:49 PM

Yeah that makes a lot of sense :/

Ugh that is so terrible about the lawsuit. Some people man...

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 01:07 PM

Blowing my mind over here! I would love to know the answer to this haha! So if you have a 9-5 job and have a DAW at work, do you still need a studio at home?

The only reason I mentioned 9-5 jobs was so you didn't have to calculate in-calculable figures based on freelance work!  If your project is going to based on hypothetical figures, then a little rounding off the numbers won't hurt, but basing figures on freelance might make your work more difficult than it needs to be.  Okay, it doesn't seem like that advice helps with your specific project.  When you say 'home studio', do you simply mean a setup for recording and producing audio, or do you mean the kind of thing Dave Grohl has in his house?  'Home studio' often refers to a very basic set up (pair of stereo monitors, computer w/DAW software, recording interface, and perhaps some microphones).  You couldn't do freelance audio work without a basic set up such as that, and I imagine it would be rare for someone to get a nine to five DAW gig without previously owning a DAW, so yeah, they would have a 'home studio' too, in all probability.

Setting up a professional level home studio i.e a room built for that purpose, plus all equipment would be much more expensive.  You'd need proper acoustic treatment for the room, which involves mathematics relating to the volume of the room, and the sound absorption properties of the surfaces in the room, sound proofing etc so you'd most likely be hypothetically hiring people (acoustic engineers) to do this work for you, meaning more hypothetical costs.  Do we have an infinite hypothetical budget?  If you had the nine to five job, costs of living would still seriously limit the amount of money you have left over for a home studio, at the end of the day.  Based on a typical salary, you could estimate your MINIMUM income after a year, while adding a potential range of profits based on freelance, as well.  I'm not sure how 'true to life' you need to be, mind you.

I'm also wondering if you have a word count, or anything indicative of the scale of this paper?

And hey I fully think being too hot is an excuse for anything. Native San Franciscan here though, man do I hate the heat.

I live in Scotland.  Seeing the sun is as frequent here as a solar eclipse, so I fry very easily!

I'd like to let you know that I am a student too, studying sound production at a similar level to you, and have been tasked with somewhat similar projects/papers, and that's why I thought I might be able to relate to this.  The other members of this forum who have been replying to you are top dogs though, so take everything I say with a pinch of salt!  Their word is law.  Speaking as an Asipe though, if it doesn't make sense to me, it doesn't make sense - period

Edited by Olliepm, 08 May 2013 - 01:10 PM.

My sound design: (Under construction!)

My music: https://soundcloud.com/echo-gecko