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How Small Business And Nonprofits Can Afford Multimedia For The Web
Multimedia is everywhere on the Internet, in the form of floating ads on major websites, streaming videos or animated presentations. Of course, there’s a good reason multimedia has become an integral part of the online experience: it’s an effective tool for attracting attention or getting visitors to buy or engage with the site owner. For this reason, many educational institutions, businesses and other organizations want multimedia presentations. Unfortunately, at first glance, multimedia is often expensive for small businesses and non-profits. Below are several ways to control the high cost that often accompanies multimedia production without sacrificing quality. We believe these suggestions will save you money, but also make you feel good about your investment.
Let’s begin by understanding the components of professional multimedia production, which are the various stages of creative development, actual production, and revision.
The lion’s share of multimedia production costs usually comes from creative development. This is often the most controversial line item for humble business owners, “shouldn’t the cost of creation be part of the design or production costs?” As with fine clothing, where the designer’s choice adds more to the cost of your product than the actual material or stitching, multimedia design costs depend on the creative input. For example, if you hire a designer with more experience or a track record of creating unique and engaging concepts, your creative development costs may be higher. Of course, it can cause the final product to be more impactful. The solution is not to pick the most expensive creative professional, but to understand their process to help speed up production (thereby reducing cost).
The second component of multimedia production, the design and production of the piece, usually requires less guesswork in defining the cost. The cost per minute of production depends on certain parameters, such as the complexity of the animation and the overall quality of the selected design agency. There are generally three types of companies (from a cost perspective) you can choose to work with: a purely onshore company, a purely offshore company or a hybrid offshore/onshore company. The type of organization you choose will have a lot to do with the quality and price you pay.
The third component, client reviews, is the most easily controlled area, and is usually the cause of media development costs being inflated or deflated beyond a designer’s original estimate or your expectations. The most basic revisions consist of three rounds: changes to creative concepts, changes to a draft of the final product, and a final revision. Often, further revisions may be required when a designer is given inconsistent or incomplete information. This always results in a higher cost than expected.
With the time-consuming nature of some multimedia presentations, the effort of creative professionals and skilled developers, it’s no wonder that multimedia presentations and advertisements are expensive. Why then consider it? Are they effective?
Multimedia presentations are very successful in attracting people’s attention. Multimedia leads to greater retention of marketing information by the audience or greater enthusiasm for an offer. Compared to static text, graphics, or audio, multimedia is more compelling because of its ability to trigger multiple senses at once.
According to DoubleClick (cited on ZDNet.com, Joseph, 2002) multimedia ads are 71 percent more effective than their static counterparts. Similarly, in 1997, the California Community College system “implemented a trial design to evaluate the effectiveness of multimedia technology as a form of non-traditional instruction” (Luna & McKenzie, 1997). As the survey determined after the test, “40% of the students believed that the understanding of the multimedia had improved and 73% had a positive addition to the course”. Finally, a study published in the Journal of Management Information Systems (Benbasat & Lim, 2002) determined that multimedia “facilitat [es] storing and then recalling explanatory information…” The study consisted of two test groups. One group processed information through a “text-based system” and the other a “multimedia system.” Subjects who were tested based on a “multimedia system” received a higher mean score of 2.70 compared to 2.10 for the text-based group (p. 114); clearly proving that greater retention is possible with multimedia.
The case for implementing multimedia in your marketing, sales or advertising is clear. What can your business or nonprofit do to reduce costs?
The first method involves separating creative development (message, concepts and storyboards) from production (design, animation and sound production), or at least finding ways to control it.
An article by Mark Frits for EMedia Professional (1997) discussing a fax survey of 100 different multimedia production specialists determined that “creative time spent by designers and project managers is the single most expensive factor in production.” Therefore, if a company has already developed a detailed creative concept, storyboard, schematics, or other to-do documentation, it can reduce the total cost of media production by using a small or freelance design firm. Costs are reduced because the time and skill spent on a creative is replaced by an in-house team. Of course, to ensure success, only small businesses that believe they have strong creative assets (those with professional advertising or marketing experience) should attempt this approach.
Remember, if you’re asking your designer or design firm to manage the creative, going the route of working directly with a designer (rather than a creative team with a firm) can reduce costs and quality as well. Companies with creative professionals who aren’t involved in full-day design are often able to create unique storyboards that describe and explain their products, services, or company mission in memorable ways. Freelancers are a bad choice for strong creatives, as they often work alone and have limited resources to brainstorm and perfect concepts with other creative professionals, the main distinguishing feature and benefit of working with a company.
If you choose a company for your creative and production, make sure the creative team understands the message you need to convey. Is a creative company with a great portfolio and attractive style really able to effectively promote your product and/or service? Only customer testimonials, references, case studies with solid results or market research can tell you that. Even when getting creative from a top company, if you do your homework, you can keep costs down. Prepare as much information as possible about your target audience, goals, customers, products and services. Develop a few of your own concepts at home to help guide the creative team. Finally, discuss these efforts with your chosen company and negotiate a fee reduction if you both agree that the information you provide is helpful.
A second way to cut cribs is to request fixed price development. This direction may mean losing some flexibility in your site design. However, the trade-off can be worth it if you are capable of self-discipline. Therefore, when choosing a fixed price development, limit yourself with revisions because you only have a few as part of a fixed price. Avoid common mistakes like not being sure what design direction you want or being unsure of your marketing message. Consider each delivery carefully to deliver all your comments in as few stages as possible. Take at least a couple of days for this.
Finally, when working with a company, make sure you give them a single point of contact so they don’t spend extra time coordinating between people in your company; As funny as it sounds, this mistake is quite common, especially with growing businesses. . Asking your designer to handle the internal coordination of ideas results in dramatic extensions to project timelines, so be sure to designate someone internally to act as a point of contact and guidance for internal discussion. Another way to save on multimedia costs is to concentrate on developing powerful ideas while keeping implementation simple. When too much time is spent on design and not enough on concept, you will waste production money and effort. To make this strategy effective, conversational companies can front-load creativity, but also display portfolio pieces that focus on conveying ideas rather than showing off a lot of special effects. Work with the designer to simplify the production process by exploring easy ways to animate key concepts, and be open to using less labor-intensive “vector” animation rather than 3D animation or video production. For sound, look for talented and “unknown” freelance musicians who work from home, or voice actors who can provide original audio to keep licensing costs down.
As a final point, the operational structure of the chosen design firm can also affect cost and quality. Offshoring software development is well established, but overseas design work is less common and can lead to interesting results due to cultural differences or lack of marketing knowledge. At the same time, larger multimedia projects often benefit from repetitive offshore production. Depending on your needs, a “full-fledged” offshore company with only a sales presence in the US may not be able to provide you with the customer service you need. On the other hand, an all-US company will double your production costs.
The best option for small businesses is a design firm that uses a hybrid approach, where creative development and high-end design are managed by professionals you can meet and build relationships with, but where larger production is cost-effectively managed by an offshore team.
By controlling media costs, your business can have a highly effective communication tool that can capture the interest of site visitors or ad viewers. Remember these key points:
– Think “simple” when producing animations; focus on strong ideas.
– Be disciplined with your revisions to avoid the costs of multiple rounds of revisions.
– Take the development of creativity and let your designers produce your vision when your home creativity is strong. Alternatively, look for a trusted design agency with a strong track record of creative development.
– Work with companies that use an optimal mix of US and off-shore development.
Quality should never be cut while cutting costs. Strong concepts and ideas will make the biggest difference in the success of your presentation at the end of the day.
Benbasat, I., Lim, KH (2002). The effect of multimedia to improve the understanding of organizational information. Journal of Management Information Systems, 19, 114-115. Retrieved August 5, 2004, from EbscoHost, http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=6976838&db=buh&loginpage=cpidlogin
Frits, M. (1997, February). Cost of computer training: directory of development houses. EMedia Professional, 10, 109. Retrieved August 12, 2004, from InfoTrac Web: General Reference Center.
Joseph, P. (2002, January). Beyond the Banner: new strategies in online advertising. Technology Update, DZNet.com. Retrieved 27 August 2004 [http://techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/stories/main/o,14179,2841691,00.html]
Luna, CJ, McKenzie, J. (1997, February). Testing multimedia in the community college classroom. THE Journal, 24, 78. Retrieved August 5, 2004, from EbscoHost, http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=9707163770&db=afh&loginpage=cpidlo
Copyright © 2004 Polar Design
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