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All About Client at AnEFX

BURBANK, CA—It’s all about the client at AnEFX, a Burbank-based sound design house owned by Jack Levy.

A new audio room recently came online for sound editor Daniel Colman at independent sound design and editing house, AnEFX, in Burbank.BURBANK, CA—It’s all about the client at AnEFX, a Burbank-based sound design house owned by Jack Levy. Having been brought up in a family of retailers in Buffalo, NY, Levy’s focus is on customer service—in addition to audio work, of course.

“As my father said, ‘the customer who buys socks gets the same service as the customer who buys a suit,’” says Levy. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a feature film, a network TV show or a cable project, everybody gets Alevel service here.”

The company first got started in 1992, with Levy doing independent sound design work out of his house. He subsequently sublet rooms in a couple of other post houses before finding a building in 1998 in Burbank, just a short drive from three major movie lots.

The warehouse-like structure presented a blank canvas, which Levy and his staff have built into a variety of Avid Pro Tools-based audio suites, an ADR room and a Foley stage. The ADR studio offers a variety of flavors of ISDN monitoring, eliminating the need to rent-in a client’s ideal system. The Foley stage—AnEFX editors prefer to design from the ground up rather than lean on any library collections—unusually also includes a water tank large enough for two, has the pumps and filtration necessary to dispose of a full range of more viscous liquids, and offers direct access to the street for oversize objects.

“We’re still building,” reveals Levy, noting that a new audio room recently came online for sound editor Daniel Colman. Scott Putnam is designing another available space as a two-man Avid ICON room. “Then we’ll be pretty complete,” says Levy.

Colman, along with Vince Balunas, Jeff K. Brunello and the rest of the staff, are typically to be found working on half a dozen projects between them. The current slate includes TV shows such as Gossip Girl, The Event, Warehouse 13, Eureka, Psych, Covert Affairs, plus others. It’s not unusual for long-form projects such as Food Inc. and Robert Kenner’s Meeting Online, both for HBO, to also come through the door. “We have super-loyal clients—David Eick, Shaun Cassidy, Jeff Reiner,” shares Levy.

Battlestar Galactica helped put Levy on the map and earned the studio a 2009 Emmy for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, as well as a Golden Reel Award. A new video game from Germany’s Bigpoint closes the circle on the popular sci-fi series.

“They reached out to us since we’d done the show and the sound design. As far as their games go, they haven’t had that Hollywood treatment with sound, so they’re very excited,” Levy reports.

One point that the studio has been discussing with the developer is how the series sounds differ from those expected by young gamers. “One of the issues is that Battlestar was unique and had a very soft, round sound, more like being underwater than in outer space. I think typically in outer space, we hear the big rocket engines and laser shots,” Levy elaborates.

“The gamer wants to hit the fire button and hear something more primal, I guess. So we have to figure out a way to introduce enough of the sound that we like that still gives the gamers the experience that they want, and be true to the show.”

There’s no denying that AnEFX goes the extra mile for clients. A fulltime cook serves meals for anybody in the building, bringing everyone together around one big table and no doubt producing better projects as a result. Unlike the majority of post houses, there are no movie onesheets on the wall; instead, the walls are covered with cutting-edge art.

Levy and the staff also like to stay one step ahead of the client and anticipate how they can be of service in the future. For example, Levy offers, “Studios don’t pay us to archive, but I archive everything. We’ve had projects where the clients say they just want it in stereo or PLII, they don’t want 5.1. We’ll do it in 5.1, so when we get the call that they’re doing a DVD, we can pull it off the shelf.”

As a result, word of mouth is AnEFX’s best marketing. “If clients are happy across the board, it contributes to their overall satisfaction,” says Levy. “I’m proud to say that we’re unique in that we have no sales person; our clients do our selling for us. And instead of allocating any resources to sales, those resources are allocated 100 percent to service.”