For the past couple of weeks, my team an I have been negotiating an Arabic dubbing project with an Indian film TV station based in Dubai, which got us to do a calculation exercise that i thought i’d share with you.
It all started when we got approached by an Indian TV station who was looking to partner up with different recording studios in Lebanon and hence get the best out of their investment. They were looking for studios that can provide them with recording services in Arabic, and more specifically Syrian dubbing for their Indian movies at the lowest cost possible and they sent us a request to quote them accordingly.
A few things we learned from this exercise:
1- Syrian talent prefer to get paid per scene instead of hours.
2- On average, there is 200 scenes in a 100 min Indian movie and an average of 15 main actors in each movie.
3- Client likes to go with a fixed price per movie when it comes to dubbing into Arabic.
4- The cost breakdown for an Arabic dubbing project are as per the below:
- Cost of actors.
- Dubbing director.
- Music and effects track creation (M&E).
- Mixing and mastering.
- Script translation into Arabic and adaptation into the Syrian dialect.
- Studio time.
When we came back to client with our quotation, we were surprised to find out that our cost was 20% higher than the other studios. 20% was our profit margin, and hence we did not understand how the other studios could afford to take on the project and still make profit. So we had to re-assess the project scope and re-do the calculation a couple of times and every time, we realized that if we charged 20% less we wouldn’t be making any profit and since it was a fixed cost, we would actually loose money if the Indian movie had more scenes than the expected average.
After doing a couple of test, we figured out that the only way to cut the cost is by reducing the price of all the recording services and especially the costs of the dubbing director and the M&E track creation. Consequently, less time would be spent on dubbing direction and the M&E track creation which would reflect directly on the quality of the final product.
In fact, in order to make sure that we were right, I asked the client to send me a demo of an Indian movie dubbed into Arabic that has been produced by another studio that charged 20% less than us. I looked at the video and in deed, there was a major difference in quality. Basically, the lip-sync was way off and the M&E track was all over the place and that made perfect sense since in order to get a proper lip-sync and M&E track both the dubbing director and the mixing engineer need to spend a substantial amount of time on the job which was out of the question, since more time means more money and a higher cost.
Bottom line, I believe that quality should never be compromised for price because when you have a high quality product, your audience will be more engaged with your movies and hence would come back for more.