MONTREAL - By consistently expanding into new markets, Canada's Audio Post Production SPR has been able to survive a bevy of changes in the film, television and corporate markets over the past 25 years.
"We do anything audio for video, film, training programs, television," reports SPR president Normand Rodrigue. "The bulk of our work is television programs, [but] we also do feature film soundtracksâ€¦ anything that has to do with sound."
SPR's first assignments came from corporations looking for slide-show soundtracks. The two-person company has grown to 18 full-time staffers and has a roster of 600 freelancers for its dubbing department. "Dubbing is very labor intensive," Rodrigue explains. "We offer turnkey dubbing packages - they send us an English videotape of a television program or a feature film and we'll dub it into French. We'll supply the client with a final French version of the program from titles to voice."
For the documentary Sable Island, SPR handled sound design, Foley and both the 5.1 and Dolby Lt/Rt mix.
According to Rodrigue there is a big demand for that kind of work in Canada, and SPR is handling eight animated television shows, a couple of live-action reality television shows and a number of feature films and documentaries.
One of the most recent projects is Hollywood Dream Chasers, a reality TV show about people who move to Los Angeles looking to make a living as actors. The show is a co-production between three companies, based in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. The tri-country co-production is something Rodrigue is seeing more and more of these days. "The only way to have a decent budget is to sell it internationally."
The company is also working on a series called May Day, which is about plane crashes and is a co-production between the UK, France and Canada, along with a one-hour program about martial arts around the world called Bushi Do.
In addition to the dubbing and editing work that SPR performs, the company boasts a pair of Dolby approved mixing stages and a full complement of ADR equipment. Over the summer the company hosted a bevy of Hollywood stars ranging from Sharon Stone (Cold Creek Manor), Charlize Theron (The Italian Job) and Josh Hartnett (Hollywood Homicide) who performed ADR work there.
All six of the rooms at SPR are outfitted with Digidesign Pro Tools and ProControl. Studio B has a Fairlight MFX3-Plus along with a 72-input RSP Technologies Project X digital console. Studio 99, SPR's mixing room, features a pair of Yamaha DM2000 consoles, Pro Tools, ADGIL multichannel monitoring matrix, TC Electronic System 6000 and an Otari RADAR. The DM2000 consoles were installed in July. The entire facility is networked for easy file exchange and there is a central patch bay that can handle all video and audio gear via Soundmaster ION 7. In addition to Pro Tools, RADAR and Fairlight, SPR boasts recorders as varied as TASCAM DA-88 and Sony Digital Betacam, as well as analog multitrack machines by Otari: MTR-90, MTR-10, MTR-12 and MX 55. Pro Tools AV systems in all of SPR's editing suites enable integration with Avid video workgroups and provide digital video playback. The company will be purchasing Dolby's metadata converters within the next six months.
SPR's Normand Rodrigue sees both film and TV projects coming to the studio for audio services.
The company's most important purchase, Rodrigue says, was Pro Tools. "It makes life a lot easier for us, because we can work with everyone in the United States and in the UK," he says. "Because of the co-production aspect of things, everyone is exchanging Pro Tools files. It's a lot easier than it used to be when you had to put a 2-inch tape under your arm, take a plane to wherever you were working and then align the tape." Most of the time, he adds, the SPR staff will upload Pro Tools files onto the company's FTP site to be worked on by another post house. "It's a lot simpler than it used to be," he reports, "especially with all the different people involved. Often the director will be in England and the producer is in Canada and we have to communicate with them all the time. The Internet facilitates our lives."
Additionally, SPR has invented a process, called SPR Digital Creator, which takes either a mono or stereo mix and converts it into a 5.1 digital surround mix.
To date SPR has not received any calls for television and commercial surround sound mixes that will be broadcast in Canada. "The CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Company] has been broadcasting in mono for the past 50 years and it just turned to stereo about five years ago," Rodrigue reports. "We're so far behind [the US] in that regard it's unbelievable. We're ready for it. It's just that the demand is not here."
Surround is on the horizon, though. "We know there will be a lot more demand," Rodrigue says. "More people are talking about it. We know that within a couple of years there's going to be big demand. We're very encouraged about the future, especially in the documentary film department because there's more demand for high-quality documentaries that are sold internationally."