RALEIGH, NC—Established eight years ago and located outside the traditional metropolitan centers, Blazing Music+Sound is the epitome of the latest generation of audio post-production facilities. Co-located with video post and production companies under the Trailblazer Studios umbrella, the audio division has been set up as a standalone venture that can handle any job, from traditional through the latest new media.
Executive producer, engineer and composer Eric Johnson, a current SPARS board member, was tasked with setting up Blazing. “From a pure business standpoint, diversity of work was extremely important. We didn’t have the luxury of relying solely on record labels or the television industry or any one particular industry,” he comments.
Shar ing the 20,000-squarefoot Trailblazer Studios building with editorial, animation and motion graphics division Serious Robots, commercial film division Red Truck Films and TV and film producers Distillery Pictures, Blazing Music+Sound enjoys some synergy with its siblings, to be sure. “I’d say maybe 40 percent of our work comes through the building. The rest are things that come directly to us for sound only or for sound primarily,” says Johnson.
There are four audio suites onsite— three equipped with Pro Tools|HD rigs and the fourth now running Version 9. A reflection of the way audio post is organized in the 21st century, Blazing is actually larger than its physical facilities. “We’ve got two laptop-based systems, so folks can work pretty much anywhere. And one of my engineer/ composers has a home studio that we outfitted to line up with the resources that we have here. If we have a post-heavy day and he needs to be working on music, we can take over his suite here for mixing and he can compose at home. We also have freelance composers that write for us for commercials and television projects, in New York, Nashville, Puerto Rico, L.A.”
Engineers Aaron Keane, Eric Johnson
and Willie Elias (l-r) at Blazing
Music+Sound. Certain clients demand a physical presence, Johnson notes. “They want the comfort of knowing they can come into a building and that the building is going to be here tomorrow and next year. They need the assurance that we have a workflow setup that’s not dependent on an individual. If they call and I’m out of the office, we have systems in place that can get them what they need in a reliable fashion.”
Located in “The Triangle,” the high-tech region around the Raleigh- Durham-Chapel Hill axis, Blazing is able to take advantage of various less traditional post opportunities. Johnson notes his company’s ability to easily travel back and forth to the 40 or so nearby video game developers when working on dialogue, sound design and music projects, for example. “At the absolute other extreme, we’ve used that same process for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team,” he shares. “We’ve done some in-arena audio; we’ll start here, then go to the arena and collaborate with the producers, then come back and tweak.”
Trailblazer’s sound stages attract projects such as Samsung’s Smart TV instructional web videos, which were shot onsite before motion graphics were added and editing was performed. “For those, we did some sound design, and I composed the music for that particular series,” Johnson reports.
With the area’s standard of living attracting a variety of professionals, says Johnson, voiceover work is not infrequent, with celebrities such as Cybill Shepherd and Clay Aiken dropping by for ADR sessions. “One of our engineers, Willie Elias, is fully bilingual—in fact, Spanish is his first language—so there have been many opportunities for us to do both English and Spanish versions of projects. We’ve done a few Spanish-only projects, which are becoming more and more common these days.”
One major locally based client, Figure 8 Films, has brought various broadcast network series to Blazing for audio post. “Between those, this will be the third year in a row that we’ve done over 100 hours” of reality TV, says Johnson.
In short, he says, “We never know from one day to the next what’s going to be on the calendar. That keeps it exciting for us.”
It also appears to make sound business sense. “We’re in the middle of our best year ever,” reveals Johnson. “Our second-best year was two years ago, when things were going south for many people. So we’re really fortunate, and we don’t take that for granted.”