Toluca Lake, CA—Supervising sound editor and re-recording mixer Joe Schultz recently opened audio post-production facility Waterman Sound in Toluca Lake, partnering with James Longeretta, owner of post-production solutions provider Vortechs. The boutique sound shop offers a mix stage, ADR stage and an edit and utility bay, plus a lounge and other client amenities.
The San Fernando Valley neighborhood once home to Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and numerous Hollywood actors retains a small-town feel despite being just minutes from the Warner Bros., Universal and Disney studio lots. Waterman Sound occupies 3,000 square feet on the first floor below Vortechs’ new 40-bay picture editing facility, sharing the building’s celebrity-friendly on-premises parking lot—with complimentary car wash—and private entrance. Vortechs, headquartered in Echo Park, also recently leased a space across the street, building out 10 more picture edit rooms. With a third partner, picture finishing house The Foundation, just a short walk away, clients have everything they need in the immediate neighborhood.
One-stop shopping is part of the concept, says Schultz: “We’ve done a couple of shows where clients have been upstairs, then mixed down here.” For instance, the titular hosts of Rhett & Link’s Buddy System, a YouTube Premium original series, worked with Schultz, who supervised, handled sound editorial, ADR and dialogue editing chores, and mixed the audio while the show was being cut upstairs.
Originally from the Midwest, where he started as a musician and luthier, Schultz arrived in Los Angeles in 2001, initially working with Sound Dogs. He has had a long association with Walt Disney Pictures/ABC Television and, like many in the sound for TV and film business, has worked all over town. But it was a friend, Craig Henighan, who recently completed Terminator: Dark Fate, who most influenced Waterman Sound’s design.
“He built a stage at his house,” says Schulz, “and I asked who he was using for gear and acoustics. He put me in touch with [executive vice president Hamid] ‘Gadget’ Hopkins at Westlake Pro and Jerry Steckling,” founder of JSX Acoustics, who supplied a couple of his subwoofers for the stage and has been consulting on sound isolation between the upstairs and downstairs facilities as well as the mix stage acoustics.
Schultz—a three-time Emmy nominee for his work on Lost, for which he worked on every season but the first—has long been a devotee of in-the-box workflows. Having experienced some of the limitations of standalone digital mixing desks in the past, he’s happy to now be working on a dual-operator Avid S6 console and multiple Pro Tools HDX systems on Waterman Sound’s 500-plus-square-foot mix stage. “It’s much more of a hybridized workflow than when I started,” he says.
The stage is set up for 7.1 work, with JBL’s 708 speakers on the walls and M3 monitors behind the screen, in addition to Steckling’s subs. But, as Schultz reports, the room is about to get slightly larger with an upgrade to Dolby Atmos for Home certification.
“I have my DARDT numbers done, so I’m ready to do the demo,” he says, referring to the Dolby audio room design tool that specifies speaker selection and placement for an Atmos stage. The rear wall, separating the stage from a producer’s room, will be moved back, making space for another row of seats, he says, and he will add a half-dozen JBL 705 overhead speakers, plus two more 708s, for a 9.1.6 configuration. That will not only enable him to work on Dolby Atmos shows, but by offering more accurate translation to larger stages, it will also allow other mixers to pre-dub projects in the room if they wish, he says.
Schultz has hired Marilyn Morris, who until recently was working as a dubbing mixer for foreign television series and features at Dubbing Brothers in Burbank, to head the ADR department. From the Bay Area, Morris worked as an ADR mixer and associate chief engineer at Hollywood’s Bell Sound for six years before a two-year stint at Skywalker Sound.
“I was doing mostly mix technician work, supporting six DFC consoles,” she says of her time at the Lucasfilm facility. “I got to do some editorial work on Captain Marvel, and sound effects recording, spotting ADR and doing conforms, but I missed Los Angeles and ADR mixing, which is what brought me back.”
Waterman Sound’s ADR stage accommodates up to eight actors. “The room sounds great. It’s an amalgamation of some of the rooms that I’ve liked in town,” says Schultz. “It’s a perfect TV-sized stage.” The associated edit room is outfitted with JBL monitors, a Pro Tools HDX rig and an Avid S3 work surface, as is the edit bay positioned between that room and the mix stage.
After being hired, Morris immediately went to work recording ADR for the series Castle Rock, for Warner Bros., and NBC’s The Good Place. Waterman Sound’s list of ADR credits also includes ABC Studios’ Blackish and Fox’s What We Do in the Shadows on the TV side, plus feature films including Charlie’s Angels and Jojo Rabbit. The facility has also provided mixing services for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, Facebook’s Queen America and the ABC TV series Once Upon a Time, along with its spinoffs, that Schultz has worked on since 2012.
Connectivity between the upstairs and downstairs facilities, plus a link across the street, further expands the dub stage’s potential. “Charlie’s Angels was upstairs and came down to use the room for some screenings, and Jojo Rabbit finished here,” says Longeretta. Vortechs has contracted with a company to do dark fiber between the building and the facility across the street, he says, “so they can be connected to our [Avid] Nexis [storage platform] and down here.”
“We have a Media Composer machine that we can tie into their Nexis. Charlie’s Angels was thrilled because they were able to cut past the 11th hour,” says Schultz.
Waterman Sound • www.watermansound.com