New York, NY — Wave Studios has enjoyed steady growth since it was founded in London’s Soho district in 1999 by sound designers Warren Hamilton and Johnnie Burn. Focusing on audio post services for advertising and film clients, the company subsequently put down roots in Amsterdam and earlier this year celebrated the first anniversary of its outpost in Lower Manhattan.
The New York facility, which opened in April 2018, features two rooms, says sound designer Aaron Reynolds, one of Wave’s founding team members, who relocated from London. “Whenever we have built a new facility, it’s always been a two-room start-off. You need two rooms because you need a second room for spillover.”
The original London location quickly grew to four rooms, adding two on another floor in the building, says Reynolds. When yet another floor became available, Wave built two more rooms; then, about four years ago, acquired the first floor. “Now we have the whole building. We put in another two studios, so we’ve now got eight studios in London.”
The company always had an eye on New York, Reynolds reports. About 12 years ago, he and Hamilton visited the city but decided that the time was not yet right to launch there. Instead, Wave built two rooms in Amsterdam, later adding two more.
Wave uses Nuendo DAWs at all three locations, having launched on the Fairlight platform. “When we opened Amsterdam four years ago, we toyed with the idea of going onto Pro Tools, but we were never fans,” says Reynolds. “Johnnie has been a real fan of Nuendo, so we decided to revamp London and put Nuendo in all the studios, with Avid S6 desks. That’s the standard across all three locations.”
Wave has standardized on Genelec speakers, he says, apart from a few rooms in London and Amsterdam that feature Exigy sound systems. One room in London was built out for Dolby Atmos in 2015 by UK design consultancy White Mark and features a 42-speaker setup that includes custom low-profile surround speakers developed by Exigy’s Matt Dobson.
Francis Manzella and FM Design worked with the Wave staff and interior designer Bruce Bolander to create the New York facility. Configured for 7.1/5.1 surround projects, both rooms feature soffited Genelec 1237A SAM series monitors for left and right mains, with a 1238AC SAM center channel.
“We don’t do a lot of post studios with in-wall monitoring,” comments Manzella. “Most of our post-production studios are smaller nearfield/midfield monitoring solutions, but they modeled this after their UK operations, so we kept the technical specifications of these rooms in line with their London studios.”
Much of Wave’s commercial work is mixed in stereo, says Reynolds, who reports that 99 percent of the work is sound design and mixing for television commercials. “Johnnie concentrates on the film side of the business; he solely does feature films,” he says. Burn’s credits include multiple films from Yorgos Lanthimos, including 2018’s The Favourite, and Jonathan Glazer.
It makes sense to do a master stereo mix because playback is so often on a laptop or other mobile device, says Reynolds. “I know some people do a 7.1 mix, then fold down for stereo, but we don’t like that because the algorithms are doing the fold-down. We start our work in stereo, then if we get a request from a client for a 5.1 or 7.1 mix, we do a separate mix from scratch.”
It seems unlikely that Wave’s New York studios will upgrade to Dolby Atmos any time soon, however. “I’m waiting for Atmos to take off,” he says. “It promised to be a big thing and is slowly creeping in, but not to the degree that we would have liked.”
The Manhattan team also includes Chris Afzal, an award-winning senior audio engineer and sound designer with two decades in the audio post business under his belt. Afzal, who started at J. Walter Thompson’s (JWT) New York studio and spent five years at Sound Lounge, joined Wave from Gramercy Park Studios, where he was head of audio. His credits include projects for Wall Street Journal, Under Armour, Fisher-Price, PlayStation, Cadillac and Facebook.
Executive producer Vicky Ferraro, another 20-year veteran, previously led Gramercy Park Studios, which is the creative services arm of agency Hogarth. She also started at JWT in New York, spent six years producing TV promos at PBS in Washington, D.C., and worked at Sound Lounge for 12 years.
Wave has long worked with some of the world’s biggest ad agencies and brands, so it’s hardly surprising that the New York facility hit the ground running. Indeed, one year in, they have already been recognized for their work, winning 10 Lions at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for “The Truth Is Worth It,” a multi-spot campaign in partnership with agency Droga5 for The New York Times.
“It’s been an exciting award season for us,” says Ferraro, who reports that the campaign kicked off at the end of 2018. “It won the Gold Lion for sound design. The ‘Perseverance’ spot won best sound design at AICP Post. It swept at AMP—best sound design, best mix, best in show. It won a Graphite Pencil for sound design at D&AD. It won a Silver for best sound design at the Clios. And we’re a finalist for the HPA Hollywood Post Awards.”
The facility isn’t resting on its laurels—it’s been racking up one major project after another. “We did a big job for Google, for G Suite,” says Reynolds. “We’ve also done a nice job for Harley-Davidson for their new electric motorbike, and one for Fisher-Price, with Wieden & Kennedy Portland and [actor] John Goodman. And we did some nice Volkswagen work with Johannes Leonardo, launching the new Camper Van.”
Honed over 20 years, the company credo is simple enough: “The Wave philosophy is to always do the most creative work you can do, and everything else follows,” says Reynolds. “It’s all about trying to make something the best it can be.”