SWOT: The ADR business
Jeffrey Wood
Issue: December 1, 2011

SWOT: The ADR business

Fantasy Studios is a part of the Zaentz Media Center and provides sound services for the music, film, video and game communities. The facility is comprised of three recording and mixing rooms, acoustically-tuned for quality sound. All three are equipped with Avid Pro Tools|HD3 systems. Fantasy is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

STRENGTHS:  “As long as there are films, television shows, commercials and video games, there will be post work, specifically for additional dialogue replacement and voiceovers. Established post houses, like Fantasy, are the backbone of this industry. In the current environment of pop-up studios, there are very few facilities (or skilled professionals, for that matter), who have the history and expertise that large post houses possess. The art and craft of recording is continually being honed because of the wide spectrum of artists that come through established studios.  Having decades of experience working with these mediums, we have been able to consistently attract the high-level of business that we do.”

WEAKNESSES:  “We have found that a consistent weakness in ADR/VO work has to do with miscommunication from the production houses, especially when it comes to last-minute changes. It’s common to work with clients who are under a lot of stress and pressure, which in turn leads to last-minute demands and mismanaged session scheduling. These elements will subsequently trickle down to the post world in scenarios such as sending files that are unrecognizable or mislabeled, or cue sheets that are incomplete or no longer up to date. Unfortunately, this is just the nature of the business, as with any other gigantic production akin to a feature film.  If this can be widely understood, these communication breakdowns as well as a stressful, hurried environment may be avoided in the post phase.”

OPPORTUNITIES:  “This is a particularly exciting area of the post world, with the entertainment industry as a whole leaning heavily on the post production phase of a project. As recording at a studio is more economical than shooting on location, it’s no wonder why. But it’s not just the case for film or television. When it comes to the tech field, namely gaming, we have noticed that business has increased more than in any other types of clientele. Gaming has become so realistic in such a short amount of time — from an 8-bit technology to a full-spectrum audio experience. Developers have come to require our expertise for tasks such as matching microphones to replicate what had been previously recorded or using a specific type of audio processing to correspond with scenes of the game. Furthermore, developers will task us with creating the audio mix for a soundtrack and, when things get really fun, recording Foley for their games.”

THREATS:  “One of the biggest threats, in my opinion, is the general assumption by many professionals that changing technologies are better simply because they are new. A red flag goes up whenever I speak with early adopters who praise a new technology before it’s been fully vetted.  It’s more than just the financial risks involved with incorporating partially-tested products into one’s business; what’s more concerning is not yet knowing whether this new technology is actually more functional than its predecessor. When dealing with a concept as complex as sound waves, there is little room for error in its transmission. One good example of this revolves around establishing an ISDN connection between two studios.  There are certainly newer technologies available to accomplish the same goal, and most of them are hosted via an Internet connection. The reality with these programs is that it’s the Internet which cannot yet reliably handle a broadband connection. There will be diminished sound quality no matter how well the program has been developed. With an ISDN connection, however, the broadband connectivity — and thus the full-spectrum sound quality — is uncompromised. A testament to this is that while we are equipped to use the latest online programs, 98 percent of our clientele still prefer the reliability and sound quality that an ISDN connection provides.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2012:  “The outlook on 2012 is extremely optimistic. With the aforementioned growth in gaming coupled with the ever-present film and television industries, we expect to see the post business as prosperous as ever. As we are specifically fortunate to operate in the Bay Area, we find ourselves well positioned as a post house who can service the gaming and technology industries, as well as a small-but-thriving market for filmmaking.  In 2011 we had a great time using the mobile Foley pits —which were built to spec from the dimensions of our Studio C — for Sony and working with our neighbors at Pixar with their various post needs, just to name a couple of things. We have a feeling that 2012 will be even better.”

Jeffrey Wood is the Studio Director at Fantasy Studios (www.fantasystudios.com) in Berkeley, CA.