The Post-Production Sound System for Managing Bookings

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In post-production sound, there is a formal system of booking time at studios which can easily be applied to professionals trying to juggle a lot of clients with fluid schedules.

In studio scheduling, there are three main terms used:

  • Putting a session on hold
  • Confirming the session will happen
  • Releasing the time

It’s the same process and terminology whether you’re booking crew or studio time. If a client needs to book studio time, they will call a studio and ask the scheduler to put time on hold. Sometimes the scheduler is a person dedicated to scheduling, or it can be the operations manager, who has other duties. 

Once the studio has a session on hold, they will book crew (if they don’t have a full-time employee for it). It could be a part-time employee or a contractor. Part time and contract are generally only booked to come in when there is a session scheduled to do. This is often used for ADR, Foley, and re-recording mixers. When a scheduler asks you to hold time for a session, it’s a tentative booking. The date or time could change (or it could cancel completely).

If a client decides they for sure want to book the session, they contact the studio to confirm the time. Sometimes the scheduler has to contact the client to confirm in the days leading up to the session. Once the session is confirmed, everyone has committed to showing up. At this point, depending on studio policy, the client is responsible for paying for the session (studio time and the crew) even if the session cancels.

The time can also be released, which means the studio and any crew that was on hold can book something else for that time slot.

Scheduling In Practice

Let’s say you are on hold for a session on Monday but a second client calls and asks if you are available the same time that same Monday. If the first session is confirmed (not just a hold), good etiquette would be to tell the second client you’re already booked. But, if the time is only on hold, it would be appropriate to contact the first client and say you have someone else asking for the time. This process is calling “challenging” for the time. At that point, The first client would then have to decide whether to book (confirm the session), cancel (releasing the time), or reschedule.

There’s also a second hold, which is a backup hold. It means the second client is ok if your first hold books your time, but they are willing to wait and see if your time clears up. It’s not going as far as challenging for the time. It’s not necessary to tell the first client when you have a second hold.

Where this really comes into play is in short-turnaround content, like news and promo, part-day sessions (like ADR or VO), or when the project has a fluid schedule.

Sometimes promos are being edited and mixed up til nearly the time they air, but they still need a voice-over artist to record, who may have a busy schedule working for other clients. It can take a bit of back and forth to find a time window that works for everyone and meets the deadline. ADR sessions can change depending on an actor’s availability or shoot schedule.

For television shows, it can depend on editorial. If a show is scheduled to turnover from picture editorial to sound on a certain day and there’s a delay of even a day, it means the sound crew (everyone from sound editors to ADR, Foley, and re-recording mixers) has to be shuffled around to meet the new schedule. It’s possible the due date doesn’t change, which means the same amount of work is required but in a shorter schedule. ADR, Foley and re-recording mixers might only be booked for a day or two for an episode of a series, so if they are working for a studio on multiple shows at once, it can take a lot of scheduling Tetris to find times that everyone is available.