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Decibel Dives into Divergent Deliverables

By Steve Harvey. Lively Group has founded a new sound division, Decibel, dedicated to providing post for every audio deliverable an ad campaign needs, from Snapchat and Instagram teases to traditional 60-second TV spots.

New York, NY(December 14, 2017)—Lively Group, a New York- and Paris-based creative collective that provides branding, design, production, visual effects and editorial services, has now added a sound division. The new company, Decibel, offers two identical rooms outfitted for 5.1 surround operation with Avid DAWs and control surfaces.

Sound mixers Tom Goldblatt, formerly of Manhattan post facility audioEngine, and Mat Guido founded Decibel along with executive producer Kate Albers, whose resume includes New York’s Sound Lounge and agency mcgarrybowen. The team called on Brooklyn-based Crossley Acoustics to provide acoustic and technical design, and integration in the new rooms.

“One room was already a sound room; we kept the bones of it and moved the mix position to made it a little more client-friendly,” says Guido. “In the second room, we went all the way down to the concrete slab and redesigned it from the ground up.”

The Lively Group, which also includes Spontaneous, BlueRock and Scarlett, occupies four adjacent floors at 575 Lexington Avenue, offering some clients a one-stop shot, says Guido. “They start on the 27nd floor for the edit and work their way down to us on the 22nd floor.”

But the mixers also retain their own clients. “It was important for me coming on that I could still service my outside clients and they would be comfortable,” says Goldblatt. “Tom has his clients and I have mine, and we service outside editorial and agencies. It’s the same with our sister companies—they have projects they finish elsewhere.”

Both mix rooms are outfitted with Avid Pro Tools|HDX systems. “And we’re using the S3,” reports Goldblatt. “It’s a nice, compact but versatile worksurface.”

The pair opted for 5.1-capable monitoring systems, but have allowed for future expansion. “We’re using the Dangerous Music monitoring setup, so we can always add more units and go up to 7.1, 9.1 or whatever we need,” explains Guido.

As for speakers, JBL 7 Series 708 models are installed in the walls with Amphion One15s positioned for nearfield listening. “We also have Avantones for reference, and we run a soundbar so we can hear what it will sound like on a consumer setup,” Gudio says.

Inexpensive Mac computer speakers provide an additional critical reference. “I was mixing some music-only spots for Snapchat. We had them up on the JBLs and they sounded awesome,” Guido recalls. “I said, if people are going to be listening on Snapchat, we should just monitor through computer speakers. Let’s make it sound good on these $5 speakers.”

There’s no disputing the fact that the internet and OTT platforms are having an impact on audio post shops such as Decibel. “One campaign might encapsulate TV, web and mobile. Before, it was 100-percent broadcast,” says Guido.

“Now, we have a list of deliverables for every single project. We might start with a TV campaign and then we will do Snapchat and Instagram versions, six-second pre-roll versions for before a YouTube spot, and there might be a :30 and a :60 TV spot. We might be spitting out different mixes for Hulu, Netflix, Snapchat and broadcast, so we have to keep up on our spec sheets.”

“One of the first things I did here, a Cigna campaign, went for several weeks, with all the different formats,” Goldblatt reports. “We even did a pretty massive number of spots that were customized for the 50 different companies that Cigna delivers to; that was unusual.”

The turnaround and longevity of campaigns is also changing in the new media landscape. For instance, says Guido, one of Decibel’s sister companies might shoot something for Snapchat in the studio upstairs. “We’ll mix it and an hour later, it’s out there. Twenty-four hours later, it’s disappeared. It’s made quick, up quick, then it’s gone, replaced by the next thing.”

Virtual reality is also presenting advertisers with new creative options. “When I started out in VR, you could get a job just because you knew how to do it. If you had the tools and you could deliver it, you got the job,” says Guido.

“Now that Pro Tools has integrated first-, second- and third-order Ambisonics, it’s getting easier and easier to do VR. We’re working on a few VR campaigns right now, working with a big tech company that is developing a headset and we’re doing some original music, immersive sound design and mixing for VR.”

The team at Decibel places no limits on its service offerings. “We’re trying to do it all; whatever we can to service our clients,” says Guido. In addition to the VR campaigns, Goldblatt and Guido are working on several original music projects, potentially have a feature-length film coming up, and regularly work on TV commercials, long-format work and a variety of sound design, mix and record jobs.

“You can’t be that specialized these days,” Goldblatt stresses. “You have to cover all the genres.”