Outlook 2018: Audio trends
Eric P. Sherman
Issue: December 1, 2017

Outlook 2018: Audio trends

Eric P. Sherman is the CEO/Founder of Bang Zoom! Studios (www.bangzoomstudios.com) in Burbank, CA. Here, he looks at some of the latest trends in audio post and whether or not technology should trump quality.

I’m a filmmaker first. So when I formed Bang Zoom! Studios it was from the point of view of a creator or producer, and I think that enabled us to adapt quickly and freely to meet the needs of almost any project that came to us. 

Over the years I’ve found that this adaptability has probably been the thing that has helped us grow and find solutions for an incredibly varied spectrum of projects. Processes that were once very compartmentalized began to overlap and become less and less autonomous. But in a lot of ways, I’ve noticed that long-established prejudices still exist. 

From where I sit, the more we break down those pre-conceived boundaries, the more rewarding the experience becomes. This is true not only from an efficiency standpoint, but from a creative one as well. No longer is it necessary to separate the edit from the mix or anything else, really.

That said, the trend of technology usually ends up putting quality in second or third place. That trend must be resisted, as tempting as it might be, especially from a budgetary point of view. Speed is seductive. But is it always better? (In case you’re not sure, the answer is definitely no, not always). Often spending a little time with your work opens the door to possibilities and solutions you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. 

We cut our teeth on a ton of dubbing or localization work, and we still do a lot of that every year. Starting out we idealistically set a goal to craft a dub that would rival the original product, and in fact, be on par with it in almost every conceivable way. A good dub, to our way of thinking, would allow the viewer to forget that they were in fact watching something not originally made in their native language. Usually easier said than done. 

Much has changed in terms of technology over the past 25 years. But the software that enables an entire film to be dubbed in a day or less leaves me cold and unconvinced that it is “better.” It’s true that it’s an amazing feat to be able to have your script populate the film automagically, and you can zip through all the dialogue faster than a speeding bullet. And this sort of tool will be useful indeed if you need to churn stuff out in large quantities, and you simply can’t focus on creating something that the end user, the viewer, will deeply enjoy on multiple levels. But if you want to create something truly localized, something that the talent can wrap their arms around, and get a little into, then you still have to hand-craft it, like a decent beer. 

In the age of streaming, requiring us to prepare 17-plus languages of 52 episodes all due in a month on the same day, the temptations to look for the greatest economy of efficiency are great. But I would urge those behind the scenes at studios like ours to hold on to the precept that with so much noise out there, it will be the good stuff that cuts through. 

There are exceptions of course. But this is something that I see becoming more and important in the coming years. Less is definitely sometimes more. And if the volume of work that moves through our studio can attest to the soundness of this point of view, then it might be interesting to note that the number of TV shows, feature films, video games and animation we post have increased dramatically year over year. And, somehow, we’re still able to do them on tight deadlines and on budget. I personally believe that this is due in no small part to the fact that each and every one of them is treated with equal measures of tender loving care. And it’s much less to do with the latest and greatest tech.