Pros and Cons of Full Time Employment

Pros and Cons of Full Time Employment

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08 FEBRUARY 2017

written by Mike

PROS AND CONS OF

FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT

 

For a few years I worked for a big movie studio in a post production department. Our projects were the biggest blockbusters in the recent times, and the inflow of work is quite steady. “Dream job!” you may want to shout. Well, just like everything this kind of career choice also has its faults. Let’s have a look at strong and weak points of working nine to five in a ‘factory of dreams.’ 

 

Advantages

Steady money.

I guess this is the biggest one. Nothing to do and you spend all day on your phone? Not to worry, a paycheck will be the same.

Is Christmas coming up? Holidays?

Not to worry, you can calculate how much you will earn and save. Every month you are guaranteed to receive agreed amount of money. It is your salary. If a company is doing ok, your salary is not affected. Profits rise? You can expect a bonus or a raise. Planning holidays, birthdays, family, house, cars and anything in between is much easier when you know you have a steady monthly income. It gives you that peace of mind.

Steady work.

All contracts are negotiated by company directors and can last for years. The company I worked for had schedule sorted for next few years, and this was only a core contract. There are usually small, short-term projects coming in too. You can plan and develop strategies months in advance. You can predict how difficult the project will be and how much additional man/woman power you will need. When you go on holiday, you go on vacation. Meaning, you don’t have to think about clients or money. You can rest.

The company is the brand, and you are helping to build it.

 

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Credit score.

Mortgage plans? Loan for a new car?

No problem. I don’t have to write that banks and lending companies will look at you with a smile when they see your job contract. It means your income is steady, and it means you can pay back your loans. The risk of your default is much lower than a risky freelancer, so it is easier to take advantages of modern world financial system.

Holiday/tax/insurance.

Again, you don’t have to worry about it too much. Your tax will be sorted by Finance Department. Insurance is paid before you receive your money. A pension plan should be in place too. And you get paid holiday (at least here in Europe). The money that you receive at the end of every month is yours. Meaning, you don’t need an accountant of a financial advisor. Just a bit of rationality and a good sense of what to do with your cash.

People.

I can guarantee that you will be surrounded with smart and experienced people.

And this is every day, at least, five days a week. It means it is an excellent opportunity for you to learn, develop your skills and get mentors. Some of the people I worked with had been with the company for over twenty years. Working on classic pictures and with analog sound and classic mixing desks. Their stories, experience, and knowledge are priceless. Trust me, six months with these people and I learned more than in four years of college. The environment will keep you motivated and inspired. And you don’t have distractions such as TV or games, which also helps.

 

Disadvantages

 

Comfort.

“Comfort?! How is that a bad thing?!”

I know, it is quite controversial. For a bit, I was contemplating how I should categorise it. For me, it’s a drawback, but for you, it can be the best thing. It is a personal thing so don’t take my word for it. I tend to think that people can get too comfortable.

Steady money? Check.

Regular work? Check.

Well, it means that you don’t have to worry too much, right?

It does. But it can also mean a lack of challenge. You can get complacent. And it can be a bad thing. You must know yourself and your priorities first, only then you can decide what is best for you.

Corporate ladder.

Big company means a corporation. Working in a small advertisement company may be different, but corporation means bureaucracy. Big means slow. Any change or request will have to be approved by three different managers, director, and board of members. For the people in Finance department, you are number 367. You are your tax code. And it also means office politics. You better learn how to play the game, or you will end up resenting it every day.

I know people who thrive in this kind of environment, but I also know a few who loathe it. Which one are you? 

 

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Can’t start/leave on your time.

You show up at nine; you leave at five. It does not matter that it’s not busy. That you end up sitting on a couch all day. You still have to clock in and clock out. And days like that can be slow. Of course in a busy environment, they are relatively rare but still can happen. And sometimes they can make you question your career choices.

Can’t choose projects.

Schedules are set; projects are negotiated without your input. Your tasks are selected for you, and you have little autonomy. Your freedom and creative input will be restricted, and you will have to conform to certain standards. You may work on the biggest film of the year, but you will have to do it in a certain way. And often you can’t change it as much as you would like to.

Can get boring.

Yes, it is exciting. Yes, there are big projects. But it still can get boring. I mean editing footsteps day in and out for weeks gets tedious for everyone and I don’t care how massive the movie or game is. Once your boss assigns you to a certain task, you will have a little freedom and flexibility. And like everyone else you will start watching the clock and wishing it was Friday already.

On the bright side, you must keep learning and developing your skills so you can be assigned to more interesting and exciting parts of the job.

Ok, that’s it. I hope that now you have a much better understanding what are the differences between these two choices, independent and full time. Some people prefer steady job and paycheck; others can’t imagine sitting in the same room every day. I would advise you to try both. Freelance for a bit but also work for someone too. It will give you a clear idea of it, and you will learn how do you prefer to work.

I know people who work full time and still freelance on weekends so you can still do both! Remember don’t think about it in black and white categories. I’ve done freelance; I was in full-time employment.

Try to shake it up once a while, as there is nothing like a change.

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Freelancing and Independent Life

Freelancing and Independent Life

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04 FEBRUARY 2017
written by Mike

FREELANCING AND

INDEPENDENT LIFE

Independent life or stable employment.

What do you prefer? Both choices have their merits and faults. First, let’s clarify the differences between the two.

Freelance means self-employment. You are a single man or woman company, and you hire your services out for different projects. Full-time contract means working for a company. Your typical nine to five kind of a job.

Why is this an important choice and is the choice necessary at all?

Well, yes and no. I have done both independent work and full time, and I would say trying out both is the best idea. Of course, there are many other factors that we need to look at too. Such as jobs availability. For sound, you may say full-time employment is scarce. And by comparison, with for example restaurant jobs, you would be probably right. And yet, I worked for a big film studio on nine to five basis as well as hundreds of other people who do the same.

But post production in somewhat different to production where they contract you for a fixed period e.g. until a game or a movie release. Today I want to share with you some of my insights, both good and bad, on these two choices.

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FREELANCE

I’m going to start with benefits of being independent first. Don’t want to ruin your mood just yet.

It pays more.

Generally speaking, it is true. But it is not as simple as that. Your pay as a freelancer will depend on your portfolio, completed projects, reputation in the industry, clients, equipment, services, standard of your work, marketing, and many, many, many more variables. You are your brand. Your last project is your calling card, and your reputation is everything. It can take years to build it up and one day to ruin it. I’m exaggerating of course. Remember that you can have the upper hand as you will negotiate your pay on a project to project basis. Salary does not restrict you.

Steady clients.

They will come with your reputation. Remember Danny Elfman and Tim Burton? What about John Williams and Steven Spielberg? I know these are the most famous relationships. If you are lucky enough to work on a successful project, you can be almost sure that the director or a producer will want to keep the ‘dream team’ going. And you will be a part of it. Casefile True Crime Podcast is an example of that, I was there since pretty much the beginning and as the show grew, I stayed on to help in developing it. Even with smaller projects you can develop a meaningful relationship that will go on for years. One of my colleagues has been working on small commercial mixes for years. He is the first one to be called upon when the production company has something to do.

Choosing your projects.

Big point for the independent team. You may not get as much choice when you are starting out. But as you will build you reputation, your skill set, and client base, you will get the power of choice. No one can force anything upon you, and you can say “no” to anything you want to.

You are your boss.

I would say this is the biggest advantage of being a freelancer. Yes, you will have to answer to clients, but you can do it on your own time. No one will order you to get up at six in the morning or stay late. Do you want to go on holiday this week? You can. It’s on you, but you know it. Being your boss will give you tremendous satisfaction and freedom. It can take years of building the reputation for doing that, but I’m sure it’s worth it. Sounds good? I bet it does. Unfortunately, like with everything, there has to be a balance. Let’s have a look at some of the disadvantages of being independent.

 

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Starting out.

It can be hard. More than likely it will be hard. For an extended period, you will have to do a lot of free work, a lot of “expenses paid only” projects. And you can consider yourself lucky if the so-called “expenses monies” will cover your petrol. If you still live with your parents, lucky you. For the rest of us, a weekend behind a bar or waiting tables is a standard practice. Of course, you can experiment. I used to set up student nights in local dance clubs four days a week. It paid bills when I was working on my portfolio during the day. Don’t give up and persevere. Also, remember that once you build up a reputation and skillset you must start asking for money. There is no shame in that. And people will pay if they see the value.

Building a reputation.

Sounds like common sense right? It is, but it takes a lot of smart work. You are judged on your last project so if you take one on you better give everything you got. Building a reputation also requires people skills. Persuasion, negotiation and diplomacy. A project from a month ago needs some extra work? No extra pay and you already moved on? Too bad. It’s better to stay a couple of nights late to do a “favor” than to say no. You never know when and how it will repay. And remember, word of mouth travels fast. Particularly on the internet.

Clients & Money

You can go on holiday whenever you want. But it’s not as easy to relax. You will always be thinking of future. Future clients, future projects, future income. Where do I find it? How much can they pay? Is it worth it? Yes, regular clients are awesome, but you will have to remind them that you are still available. What if you commit to one job, and you miss even better one because of that? And there are money issues too. A month passed. Two. Three.

“Where is my money?” You may ask.

“It’s coming soon. We’ve just had a meeting with another investor. I’ve got a good feeling about this.”

Yes, it happens, and it’s not a cliché. You will have to understand and make peace with a fact that not everyone will be as organized as you are. Or as trustworthy.

Instability.

A month passed in a flash. And then comes two weeks of nothing. Moments like that are rare for established freelancers. But in the beginning, it can be tough. Have something else ready. A backup plan. Thanks to the internet there are plenty opportunities waiting for you right now. They may not pay as well as production jobs, but they can help you to survive during dry periods.

Health/taxes/insurance.

I know I said you can get paid more being independent. But you will also have to take care of your accounting. At this means paying taxes, insurance, medical bills, pensions and everything in between. Looking to buy a house? I will tell you this. It’s not as easy to get a mortgage if you are freelancing. Even if you are making more than an “employee”. One of my teachers who was an industry professional told me once that taking a teaching job is a great way to stay in the system. “I only teach a couple of hours a week, but the info they need is there. I do whatever I want for the rest of the week.” A teaching job helped him to secure a mortgage. But it’s his freelance work that pays for it.

I hope you have a better understanding on freelancing and what comes with it. Also, check out this helpful list of the top resources, links and tools that will help freelance writers find more (and better) work. 

In the future, we will have a look at good and bad sides of working as a full-time contractor for a big company.

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How To Choose Studio Monitors

How To Choose Studio Monitors

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01 FEBRUARY 2017

written by Mike

HOW TO CHOOSE

STUDIO MONITORS?

 

I was on a phone to my brother the other day talking about sound, music production and speakers. In his spare time, he likes to dabble in electronic music production and he needed my help with few things.

One of them was speakers and headphones. He made me realize that most people don’t know how to monitor audio and choose the right studio speakers. I may write another article where we will look at headphones but now let’s focus on speakers.

Why monitors?

Monitoring is used to describe judgment on sound. For that, you will need your ears and something that will transform electric energy into acoustic sound waves. These magical items are called loudspeaker aka studio monitors. Don’t confuse it with a computer visual display, which we also call monitors. The whole process relies on transducer system that sets diaphragm or cone into vibration.

Think of it as reversed microphone. Speaker’s cabinet or baffle reinforces the capability of the cone. Now, I’m not going to write a detailed article how it all works. First of all, I’m not an electrical engineer and second, you don’t need to know this.

A single coil in the monitor cannot react very well to all frequencies. That is why the signal goes into separate speakers. Mid frequency and high-frequency coils should be included in most small studio monitors. High-frequency cones are called tweeters.

For low frequencies, you may need to set up an additional speaker called a sub or a ‘woofer’.

It depends on what sort of monitoring your mixes require. If you are working on YouTube channel, then a couple of mid-range speakers will do the job. Mixing movies will require a full surround setup.

 

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So what are the essential characteristics of a good monitor?

Well, if we want to have a formal answer then I would start with:

Full frequency range

Frequency range is the sound scope of speakers. The ideal monitor will respond to full frequency range i.e. 20Hz to 20Khz. The sound will not be enhanced or affected in any way, and it will emulate your clear and balanced mix. It’s quite hard to find full frequency monitors. If you are mixing with a dedicated LFE channel you will need to get a subwoofer. For other mixes, standard setup will do.

 

Dynamic range

Your monitor will play quiet and loud sounds in the same proportion. Your low, mid and high frequencies will stay in the same balance when you listen to them very low or blasting it out. Companies like PMC will often present the dynamic range during a demo session.

Speakers like that can be quite expensive.

 

Dispersion angle

The speaker will reproduce the sound with the same power and balance in every angle and changing your position will not affect it as much. In theory.

Sounds easy right? Well, it is not.

There are many variables that can affect the sound of your mix and there is only one way to conquer them. Learn your monitors. Spend time listening to all kinds of music, loud and low. And learn how it all sounds. Chances are if your mix is similar to your favorite song, it will sound good. I will come back to choosing the right speakers in a moment. I said that there were many variables that can affect your listening. Today we are talking about monitors so let’s have a look at some that have a direct effect on speakers.

 

Monitor stands

You will hear a lot of people talking about some super expensive, earthquake proof speaker stands. In reality, it doesn’t matter that much as long as there is some elevation. Make sure the stand is heavy, and your speaker sits on it well. If you have a pair sitting on your desk, you can get a couple of mini stands.

 

Room treatment

You can have the best speakers in the world, but if your room is not treated, your work will suck. No argument here. I’m going to write about acoustics in the future so for now just remember that it is very important to have correct listening conditions. And no, fitting carton egg boxes to your walls does not count as acoustic treatment.

 

Monitoring level and calibration

Calibration is linked to acoustics. You will need to measure your room and treat it first. Then measure it again and calibrate the speakers.

What does it mean?

For example, you mounted some acoustic tiles on your walls or couple of acoustic panels on stands. You measure your room again, and there is still a peak around mid frequencies. The bad thing is you’ve run out of money and room for new tiles.

The good thing is that not all is lost! You can calibrate your speakers or your audio interface, by cutting out some mid frequencies. It will help you to balance the frequencies. The second part of calibration is setting up the monitoring level.

It means that when the volume fader in your software is 0, all the speakers are set to a preferred SPL level (sound pressure level). For that, you will need a microphone (measurement microphone would be the best) and some white noise coming out from your speakers. Now, by listening to each speaker on its own, you can play with its gain. There should be a small knob at the back of the cabinet. Standard monitoring level is 79dB SPL for game and television mixes and 85dB SPL for cinema mixes.

Of course, these can vary but it’s good to have sit’s benchmark, even if it’s just a bedroom studio. There is a reason the YouTube videos sound bad and vary in volume so much; wrong monitoring level is one of them.

 

Distance

In small bedroom studio, a minimum distance from monitor to your head should be around 3-7ft/1-2m. For stereo monitoring, you need to place your monitors, so two speakers plus you form a triangle. Too close to your ears and the mix will be masked by standing waves. Too much distance and the reflections from your desk, walls, and ceiling, will affect the sound.

It’s important to make sure your ‘sweet spot’ is not affected by any reflections or phase cancelation. In the future, I will share with you optimal monitor placements with graphic guides.

Ok, so which monitors do you need? That is the question.

The answer I will give is – the ones that you like the most.

It all depends on your work, but it’s always best to get neutral speakers, the kind that will do well in every situation. I chose my monitors after a deep research and few listening sessions. I had a CD with a couple of songs that I knew inside out and tested them on different types of monitors.

There should be an audio and music shop near you. If they don’t have a dedicated listening room, ask if you can try some of them out.

I can give you my opinion on few that I know quite well. 

 

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Rokit KRK

I’m not a fan of these. I know they are very popular with electronic music producers but for me, there is too much low-end and it overshadows everything else. They have a lot of fans, though, and they are not that expensive.

Genelec

Expensive and used in many studios. I didn’t like them that much. Not sure why. I guess they sounded a bit thin for me, but I have friends who love them. I think the price put me off a bit too. 

PMC

British loudspeaker company. Very, very expensive. But also very good. One-time guys from the company organized a demo evening, so I got a chance to listen to them. Their unique bass channel structure makes the sound crisp and clear. And the balance was amazing. Low frequencies didn’t affect the sound when we listened to it on different volumes. Impressive. But pricey.

Dynaudio

Superb speakers. The company I work for uses them in all our editing rooms. They are a bit expensive, but you will know why. Great quality and balance. I would buy them as a second pair if I needed one. 

Adam

Well, I’m not going to lie. I’m biased toward Adam monitors. I own a pair, and I don’t think I would exchange it for anything else. Part of it is because I know them so well. But it was love from the first sound.

Crisp, clean with a delicate tone. Ribbon tweeter makes everything sound very smooth. And they can handle the bass very well too. You may prefer something else but if you have a chance try them out. By the way, I don’t even have their expensive line. I got a pair of AX5 which is enough for a small studio monitoring.

Alright, that is it for now. It’s only an introduction and in future articles, I will share with you monitor placements and why it is important to have at least a couple of different speaker pairs.

Both cheap and expensive.  

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