Chris Parker | Emmy Winning Media Designer

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Dr Strange Client or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Clients – PART III

Dr Strangelove

Welcome to part three of my continuing series on the relationship between multi-media producers and their clients.  Last time out I talked about the different ways producers manage their client’s budgets.  This time I will be focusing on the different ways producers can stretch their client’s budgets to deliver those high-end quality projects every client expects and loves.

Any producer will tell you that no project ever gets ‘over-budgeted’.  Let’s face it when it comes to cash the bean counters hold a tight purse string. So how do you make that quality project that the client will love?

Well, as I said in Part II of Dr Strange Client, the first thing you need to do is to find out if your client’s vision fits within his budget.  As I said, there are limits to what is possible with a limited budget.

Once you and your client have established a reasonable budget, you can now start the process of allocating funds by stretching what is probably an already tight spreadsheet.  This does not mean cutting corners.  Just the opposite, in fact now is the time when good producers will meticulously pre-plan and prepare every phase of the project making allowances for the expected and the unexpected scenarios.  Pre-production is the ‘holy grail’ when it comes to saving time and money.

The producer must dissect each parameter of the project.  Decide what needs to be done and who will do it.  If the project involves video, do you need any special gear, do you need a large crew and how long will it take to shoot?  If the project is a website then what kind of site is it?  Does it need a blog, flash animation and video or does it just need to be a static page?  Also, how much design work does this project require?  Do you base the designs on what the client already has adopted or do you need to create a whole new look for the project.

All this planning and strategy pays off in the end.  You’ll spend less time re-doing and revising a project and more time executing, which in turn creates a higher quality project. You’ll also be able to foresee the problems ahead of time thus avoiding mistakes and keeping unnecessary costs down. Lastly the time it takes to complete a project will be decreased dramatically.

Simply put, ‘measure twice and cut once’.  Taking the time to plan will always result in a high quality and affordable projects.

Another way to keep costs down and quality high is to enlist help.  Now this may seem counter-intuitive at first, I mean won’t hiring others increase the budget?

Well, it could, but the payoff is dramatic.  Hiring a specialist, whether it’s a photographer, animator or web developer helps the producer stay focused on the quality, time and costs of a project.  It also brings a unique set of skills and perspective to the workflow that may dramatically improve a project’s look.

For example you are hired to produce a TV ad for an insurance agency.  You and your client decide the spot will feature an animated character.  So you go ahead and get started.  This means you must write the script, design the character, storyboard the action, model and animate the character and finally edit the spot.

Whew!  Now, finally, after months of long hard work you are done. But wait, the finished spot lacks any real focus, seems flat and choppy and just plain fails to deliver. Not only that, you are tapped physically, creatively and financially. Being a ‘one man army’ has lost you the battle.

Now, if you brought a 3D character animation specialist on board from the beginning, you would be freed up to focus on the big picture while adding more talent and perspective to the project.  This time out, the finished TV ad comes alive with a bright polished look. Meanwhile you have saved yourself a goldmine in time, money and angst.

Probably the most important ‘trick’ to ensure high quality production values is simplicity.  Keeping a project clean and simple does more to increase the quality look while at the same time drastically decreasing costs.

It’s very simple, really.  The less information, the less crowded and the less production means less time, less materials and less costs.  This in turn will create a less cluttered, more focused, more elegant and much more attractive multi-media message.

A good example of a simple and clean website.

Many clients have trouble understanding this concept.  It’s probably because it’s so counter-intuitive to the consumer marketplace.  More is rarely ever more in the world of multi-media.

Consumers are inundated with an overwhelming amount of messages each and every day.  The more focused, cleaner and simpler the message the easier to remember, retain and act.  Don’t believe me? Just check out all the major brands and companies to see how they do it.

Examples of simplicity in multi-media are many:

Make use of white space.  Just because you have a certain amount of screen or print real estate doesn’t mean you should cram it full of text, photos and design elements.  This will create a hectic landscape distracting the viewer from the important message.

Use simple and easy to read fonts and messages.  A fancy font, especially in video, is too hard to read and retain.  Also, short, even sentence fragments, will drive home the messages better than long and wordy descriptions.

Don’t be afraid to leave silence or breathing space in video. A voice over reading fast and furiously will drive the viewer away just as fast and just as furiously.

Never be too fancy with your design or effects. This may show off your creative flair, but it will create an ugly and busy design.

These are just a few examples of how simplicity wins out over confusion and complexity.

The last topic I will be focusing on is targeting your budget to what is the most important aspect of your project.  Stretching a client’s budget may mean spending top dollar on one or two elements while cutting back on others.

For example, if your client is a restaurant that wants a new website with an online menu the producer may decide to spend most of the budget on a professional photographer and crew to capture all the menu items on film.  It’s really easy.  The restaurant is selling their gourmet menu.  So the food must look it’s most appealing and appetizing on the web.

Spending money on costly flash animations, interactive web apps or the creation of page after page of unnecessary information misses the entire point of the website and your client’s business.  Creating an attractive menu will make for a more effective website drawing customers in to dine.

A modest budget doesn’t mean producers can’t create high-quality multi-media messages.  By employing proper planning, specialized talent and assistants, simple designs and productions while targeting funds on what is important, a project may have that look of a multi-million dollar Hollywood extravaganza.

Yet it still all comes down to working with your client and your client working with you.

Next time out, I will be touching on a very touchy subject.  What it takes to ‘fire’ and not be ‘fired’ by your client.

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