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Chicago’s Periscope Expands to L.A.

By Steve Harvey. Chicago’s Periscope has acquired Sonic Pool’s former 22,000-sq-ft. Hollywood complex and is building out a full-service post house, with an Atmos room already working on a streaming show. General manager Ben Benedetti and co-owner Michael Nehs share the company’s plans and accomplishments to-date.

Hollywood, CA (September 24, 2019)—Since Periscope Post & Audio’s first day in business, the company has taken off like a rocket, expanding from a literal hole in the wall in Chicago to a multiroom complex on the city’s Cinespace studios lot to a recently opened facility in Hollywood—all in just six years. And as with virtually every room the company has built for picture or sound, projects were waiting to get underway at the new Hollywood location almost before the paint had dried.

“We were awarded all the ADR for ABC’s Betrayal in 2013,” says Michael Nehs, recalling the company’s inception. Nehs, steeped in audio, and business partner Jonathan Bross, who focuses on finance, had already begun building Periscope’s first rooms at the sprawling Cinespace Chicago campus to handle dailies, color correction, picture editing and sound. But Nehs needed to start working, so he approached a friend at Chicago Studio City, where the show was being shot, who offered two adjacent offices.

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“I walked in with a Sawzall, cut a hole in the wall and put a window in,” says Nehs. “My gear was backordered, so I built an ADR rig out of Guitar Center.” From that hole in the wall, Periscope was off and running.

Periscope expanded at Cinespace, building out three dedicated audio rooms to handle music production, mixing, sound design, ADR, Foley—you name it. “We got the first room open and had two shows simultaneously from Fox that we were doing out of that room. It became evident that we were growing at a very fast rate,” says Nehs. Indeed, there was so much work—including all the music and ADR for the Fox hit series Empire—that it took 18 months to complete the new rooms, he adds.

Nehs has long traveled back and forth between Chicago and Los Angeles, meeting with studios and show producers, many of whom suggested he open a Hollywood location. After a lengthy search, he reports, viewing more than 100 potential sites over the course of two years, he found a 22,000-square-foot former post-production facility that fit the bill. The building had seen better days, so industry veterans Ben Benedetti and Rich Ellis, newly appointed as general manager and executive sales manager, respectively, set about refurbishing, replacing and reshaping the infrastructure to handle a full slate of sound and picture post-production services, including dailies, editorial, color grading, sound editing and mixing.

Benedetti believes that Periscope picked a good time to open a Hollywood facility. “There have been changes in the climate and the culture of Hollywood,” he says, with some major players going out of business in recent years. “There’s a void that we’re lucky enough to fill here.”

He notes that Periscope Hollywood provides more than sound and picture post services. “We have over 40 production offices and cutting rooms, and are able to house a significant number of clients in the building,” he says. At least one production has already taken advantage of that space, setting up writers’ rooms and accommodating executive producers in proximity to the in-house post services, effectively creating an independent studio within the building.

Ellis notes that the offices can be flexibly combined to create a pod of, say, six or 10 rooms, according to a project’s needs. Periscope has invested heavily in security—a necessity in today’s content creation environment—and the building offers 24/7 secure access with all the necessary amenities, unlike some other four-wall workspaces in Hollywood, he says.

Periscope has reworked the building layout so that sound is handled downstairs and picture services are upstairs, with the additional office spaces distributed between both floors. “Between the physical construction, technical implementation and install, this place has been going around the clock,” Ellis reports.

The first two of four planned mixing stages have been built and are online. Studio A, a Dolby Atmos-capable theatrical mix stage for cinema, streaming and broadcast productions, features a dual-operator Avid S6 mixing console, Avid Pro Tools Ultimate workstations with MTRX interfaces and JBL speakers. Audio Intervisual Design (AID) handled the design and construction of Stage A, which was completed in less than five weeks. Veteran re-recording mixers Rick Ash and Ron Eng, the first to join the Periscope Hollywood sound team, immediately went to work in the room on a 10-episode streaming series set to premiere this fall.

“We’re hiring the right vendors and the right construction specialists to build these rooms,” says Benedetti. “These aren’t just four walls with a coat of paint and some speakers hung on the wall. We’re putting a lot of science into the rooms.”

“The room is built to meet or exceed what the Hollywood community expects in a high-end dub stage,” says AID principal Jim Pace. “It’s a very tight sound with a lot of headroom.”

“The bottom end of the room is extremely tight and responsive,” agrees Ash, a three-time Emmy-winner. “It rocks!”

The second mix stage to be completed, a dual-operator room certified for Dolby Atmos for Home, also features an S6 console and Pro Tools Ultimate. Re-recording mixers Fred Howard and Ross Davis have joined the team and are already working on two projects in that room.

AID also supported the completion of an ADR stage that can accommodate up to five people, plus a layback/QC room. Two more rooms have been earmarked as single-operator Atmos for Home mix stages, equipped with Avid S4 consoles, and are due for completion before year’s end. Current plans also call for construction of a second, more spacious ADR room.

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As Benedetti observes, the gear is simply a means to an end. “We focus on creativity and support the creative talent. Without the right talent, it doesn’t make any difference what equipment you have. Mixers and colorists are the bastions of true talent in post-production. They see and hear things differently than most of us,” he says. “These people are real artists.”

With multiroom, full-service complexes in Chicago and Hollywood and connectivity between them, Periscope can spread the workload when necessary. That said, with an eye on the work schedule, Nehs has started planning for the inevitable next step. “I’m already looking at another building,” he says.

Periscope Post & Audio •

Audio Intervisual Design •