New York, NY—Working for a company with operations on both sides of the 49th parallel has given Tag Goss, CCO/partner at Pirate, something of a unique insight into the differences between the respective post-production industries in Canada and the U.S. Indeed, Goss, who has been running the New York studio operation for 18 months, is hoping to introduce some Canadian practices into the States.
“In Canada, they tend to award [post-production services] as a single package,” he elaborates. “If you’re doing a Bud Light commercial, you’re going to do all the voiceover casting, the sound design, any ADR, as well as all the music and final mixing. They bid it out as one parcel. Whereas here in the United States, everything is very piecemeal.”
So, rather than have clients take some other part of their project to another New York facility, he says, “We’re actively trying to sell our clients on this being the one place to stop for all your audio needs. First of all, it makes it a lot easier for them. There’s so much to be gained in time efficiencies, and cost. Second, we can do a better job creatively if we have the composers in one room, the sound designer right next to them and the mixer working with them from the beginning of the project.”
The facility, which formerly was home to McHale-Barone’s operation on Irving Place, is well appointed to handle any task, according to Goss. A large live room, capable of accommodating up to two dozen singers or VO artists, or a group of musicians, incorporates a number of iso booths and is surrounded by three main control rooms. Each room is set up for 5.1 work and includes a five-card Avid/Digidesign Pro Tools|HD3 system.
As the former VP/general manager of New York’s Elias Arts, Goss has some perspective on the evolution of Pro Tools over the years. “It’s been interesting watching Digital Performer and Logic, as sequencers, on one end, and Pro Tools as the digital recorder, on the other, moving towards each other. You can’t beat Pro Tools in the audio editing areas, and now it’s great for MIDI and sequencing.”
The DAWs are supplemented with outboard analog devices, including new Focusrite OctoPre 8-channel mic preamps. “They sound really good, and for the money, they’re ridiculous,” observes Goss. “We have a pretty extensive mic collection, and we have a lot of old Neve and API stuff that we use on the front end.”
But, of course, audio tools are not everything. “We have a whole approach to doing audio and audio identity, which we call brand amplification,” says Goss. “Our biggest focus has been trying to come up with a framework, where we can really use a strategic look at brands to inform all of our audio execution. From our standpoint, it isn’t so much a technical issue as it is a creative one, and a whole approach to how we’re trying to do our sound.”
He continues, “What we’re trying to do in our commercial work is try to change the way people approach music. In our business so much of the business is now going to licensing.”
Using the brand amplification concept, he says, “is a way to look at brands and a brand’s DNA, at what their rational attributes are, and think, how can we take music to turn these into something that’s more emotional that can connect with consumers? Can we construct a framework and a language that the clients can use to evaluate that music and that audio beyond just liking or not liking it? Can we move beyond personal taste, whether someone thinks a band is hip or they like guitars or whatever?”
Pirate New York is bucking another trend, says Goss. “We’re trying to push back some against the tendency for people to work alone, to just do this stuff in a computer. We’re trying to have a much more collaborative creative process with our composers, sound designers and mixers.”
Something that Pirate has been unable to fight is the paucity of 5.1 commercial work in the U.S. “In Canada, everything is 5.1, 100 percent of the commercials; the disparity is laughable!” says Goss. “We’re sitting here with three 5.1 rooms and when we get called for mixes, it’s almost always for stereo. But the picture is in HD—why aren’t they taking advantage of what you can do with the sound?”
Perhaps it’s because, on many projects, sound is still the poor relation, he considers. “Audio is such an afterthought; it’s all being left to the end. All they can see at that point is the finish line, and they’re not really thinking about it in a creative way.”