BURBANK, CA—Award-winning audio post production house Bang Zoom! Entertainment, which also offers creative production services, including animation, recently added a second multi-room facility. The expansion into the new complex, which was already configured with multiple, fully- equipped, surround-capable mix rooms, enables the company to significantly broaden the scope of its operations and services.
Formerly the home of Oracle Post, the new facility has a colorful history, having been built in the 1970s by the consummate session player, keyboardist Leon Russell, who named it Paradise Studios. In 1977, Russell began expanding the complex to include video production before selling it in 1982, when it became Alpha Studios.
Bang Zoom’s Stage 3 is the facility’s largest room, sporting 7.1 surround monitoring. The expansion might be considered risky for Bang Zoom!, especially in this rollercoaster economy. Eric P. Sherman, president and CEO, comments, “I don’t take it lightly; I know what’s going on around us. Overall, we’re seeing a little bit of growth— just enough.
“But for us, it was about having the right tools, the right space. We thought it would be a game-changer, and it has been. We were barely in here for two days and Marvel came through and have already started working with us.”
The 7,600-plus-square-foot facility encompasses six stages, including a pair of two-man mix stages plus smaller ADR/mix/edit suites and a couple of VO booths. But of particular interest to Bang Zoom! was Stage 1, a large ADR space that was the original music studio.
“We were looking for a multi-mic room where we could have an ensemble cast,” says Sherman. “That comes with an entourage—producers, writers, executives—so we needed a space that could fit 20 people if we needed to on either side of the glass. There aren’t a lot of rooms like that.”
With the entire facility already fully outfitted, “There’s not much to do, just upgrading,” says chief engineer Pat Rodman. The technology is almost exclusively Avid Pro Tools throughout with multiple ICONs on each of the two big mix stages and smaller Avid controllers in the suites, plus an Avid Nitris with Media Composer in the video room, all networked to an Avid ISIS 7000 server. There is also a color correction suite outfitted with a Black-magic Design DaVinci.
Rodman’s first task is to upgrade to HD video in every room, and he is also rewiring where necessary. Stage 1, for instance, has multiple runs to and from the distant machine room; that stage’s machines will be relocated to the control room. But much of the legacy wiring infrastructure is fine, he says: “The music guys are notorious for their clean sound; they did a great job.”
Every room features 5.1 monitoring, but Rodman plans to upgrade Stage 6 with a 7.1 system, like Stage 3, the facility’s largest stage. “I’m trying to get Genelecs in every room,” he says. “We have 1032Bs and the newer DSP series.”
With the expansion, Sherman has had to hire more staff. Driving between the two locations, which are half a mile apart, he says, “I was thinking, I kind of long for the days when it was just ten of us.” But even now that the staff numbers two-dozen, he says, “It really is a family environment. We’ve been in business for 20 years and I love the people and would do anything for them—and our clients, too. I think that comes through.
“One thing we hear a lot is that the reason clients keep coming back to us is service. They have said that every time they’ve come into the lobby, it has felt like they’re coming home.”
The company was largely built on localization services, translating, casting and recording different language voiceovers, especially for anime and video games. While a lot of that work continues, it’s not as central as previously. That said, Bang Zoom! has been working on a localization project for a Japanese anime that started on the Disney XD Channel in July. “It’s already been localized into 31 languages around the world,” says Sherman. “A lot of territories are looking to see how it does in the U.S.”
Splash Entertainment recently brought in Mario Lopez to revoice the main character in a new cartoon. Over the last couple of years, the studio worked on Activision’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game, to tie in with the film’s release earlier this year.
“Nothing is a slam dunk; you really have to work for it,” observes Sherman. “Being in L.A., we’re constantly struggling with overseas and Canada. There are so many incentives; [producers] get 90 percent of their budget back if they go to Canada!”
“I was talking with someone about Ireland; with the government subsidies, it’s practically free. How do you compete with free?” asks Jonathan Sherman, VP new business development.
He adds, “A lot of pre-production and productions are going everywhere— it’s almost a mass exodus. But they’re still coming back for post in a lot of cases.”
There’s always downward pressure on budgets, he says: “We get people who come in and say, ‘We could get a guy with a Mac in his garage to do this for $100.’”
“It’s up to us to make it work if we’re going to be in the game,” says Eric Sherman. “There’s always the compromise between quality and money, and how much time you can spend on something.”
As for the home-based competition, he says, “There’s also the mixing; there’s no substitute for being in a studio environment. You can edit anywhere, but we’ve found there’s still a need for a post production facility.”
Bang Zoom! Entertainment