AES President Dr. Sean Olive is nearing the end of his term. LOS ANGELES, CA—With experience as a musician, academic (at McGill University), and pro audio manufacturer (director of Acoustic Research at Harman International), Audio Engineering Society president Sean Olive’s history well prepared him to lead the society of audio technology professionals into this year’s 137th Convention in Los Angeles.
Educated in piano performance then sound sciences at McGill University, Olive cultivated his career by first learning the art and science of the audio recording process. “Over the past 25 years, I’ve made music, recorded music, and am now focused on reproducing audio,” he explains. “In recent years, I focused on the perception and measurement of audio—a more scientific, rigorous approach to how we record, evaluate and reproduce sound—with the goal of making the process more consistent. I think my experience has given me good insight into all the many facets of AES, as we are known. AES involves musicians, engineers and scientists—those making, recording and reproducing music.”
Olive illustrates how an AES Convention is not merely a show. “As an organization, we compete with groups like NAMM,” he explains. “[At the NAMM Show,] there is a focus on audio, especially home and studio recording, but there isn’t an academic, educational or standards- making process going on. So there’s really no other place than AES to talk to those involved in design, manufacturing and end-use; all in the same room, they can discuss each of their needs.”
Manufacturers, notes Olive, are often key in informing the AES of the recording public’s educational needs. “Manufacturers come to us, saying, ‘Our biggest problem is that customers don’t know how to use the products.’ They want us to help train them. Pretty much anyone can record sound today, and more and more people have access to these tools. Yet the process—acoustics, choosing the right loudspeaker, monitoring environment, etc.— is still largely misunderstood. Users must understand what they’re hearing. Is it representative of a standard or are they mixing in an uncalibrated environment? A lot of people who record don’t have a basic understanding of perception of sound, acoustics and psychoacoustics. Those are things that they can learn about at an AES convention.”
Beyond the art and science, Olive attests that AES activities, from the conventions to local section activities, provide the opportunities to network and trade ideas in better business practices: needs that are more pressing today than ever before. “The democratization of audio is probably the biggest challenge in doing business for the average user,” he explains. “That means that everyone is essentially a small business owner. They aren’t going to sign contracts with record labels, so they must figure out how to better distribute and sell their products.”
Thus, the return of AES to Los Angeles provides a well-balanced service to both the creative and business sides of the audio production craft. “L.A. remains the entertainment capital of the world,” Olive continues. “We have thriving film, television and fairly vibrant music scenes. So much of the concert, sound reinforcement and gaming industries are here, too. It’s exciting to bring AES back to attract those people working in such varied facets of the audio business. In the past, one of the things we haven’t paid enough attention to is cinema audio. In March, we are going to host the first convention on cinema audio here in Hollywood, so I’m hoping that this convention will help continue the excitement surrounding AES on into next year.”
Audio Engineering Society