When most people think of
the Fenway area, they think of the Red Sox. The myriad
pool halls and bars. Student-centric shops and fast-food
joints. But what a lot of people don't know is that
the area is also home to a nationally-respected, world-class
sound recording studio. One that is frequented by
Aerosmith and other national recording acts, Hollywood
production teams, as well as local filmmakers and
film production houses. Its name: Sound Techniques.
Control room for
where the bulk of our big music
sessions take place.
But while Sound Techniques
may seem like a well-kept secret to some, it's long
been part of the vocabulary of local filmmakers .
According to Bestor Cram, an award-winning director
at Northern Light Productions in Boston, "It's the
premier place to do sound engineer work. I used to
go to New York, but there's no need anymore. They're
first-class all the way - a unique blend of talented
artists who also happen to be engineers." Cram has
worked with Sound Techniques for ten years, mainly
on his 5.1 surround sound audio mixes. They've collaborated
on several visitor center presentations, such as Mt.
St. Helens, Minute Man, and the Salem Visitor Center.
"I can do things at Sound
Techniques that I can't do in my own facility. They
give us the capacity - particularly when we're using
5.1 surround sound - to replicate theatrical environments
and create very complex soundscapes. They also happen
to have a wonderful foley studio that lets you make
some wacky sounds. For the Mount St. Helens presentation,
we blew straws into yogurt to mimic the gurgling sound
of volcanoes about to erupt," Cram explains.
From Cram's perspective, the
advantages for Northern Light don't stop with the
technology and facilities. He also depends on Sound
Techniques for their artistic instincts.
"We work mostly with Chris
Anderson over there, and I always ask him for directorial
contributions, for his feedback on an actor's performance,"
says Cram. "He's a real ally in terms of ensuring
consistency of performance, as well as coming up with
ideas as to how to reach deeper into an actor's capacity.
The work just gets better after Sound Techniques has
touched it. They're great at interpreting emotion
and knowing when enough is enough."
Our Mix One suite
(also 32 tracks
and fully digital) with sound designer
Jim Sullivan at the helm.
Sound Techniques has been
riding the sound wave since the '80s, when musicians
Jim Anderson and Lance Duncan first met and eventually
bought out the original owner of Sound Techniques.
They moved their studio from Watertown to their current
space - a former taxi garage and bowladrome in the
Fenway. Originally, the space was geared mostly toward
album recording, with two large control rooms and
two performance rooms as well as a smaller control
room. This isn't too surprising since both Anderson
and Duncan both started out as composers with backgrounds
in scoring and jingle writing. But as they built out
the studio and assessed the marketplace, they decided
to incorporate post work to their repertoire of services.
Today, the company does anything
related to sound. They still have music recording
rooms and continue to attract household name talent
such as Aerosmith, who were in the Sound Techniques
studios recently working on their latest album. Sound
Techniques also does a lot of post work for FRONTLINE
and the Discovery Channel. In addition, whenever Hollywood
production teams are in town, they often call on the
studio to provide various kinds of sound support,
including dialogue replacement. Erik Per Sullivan
(the character "Dewey" on MALCOM IN THE MIDDLE and
a Massachusetts resident) is also frequently in the
studio for dialogue replacement.
According to Chris Anderson,
supervising sound designer/editor (no relation to
Jim Anderson), what attracts music, TV and film professionals
to Sound Techniques is its passion for having the
latest, most advanced technology combined with its
staff of artistic engineers.
"As far as technology, we
were the first in the country to buy DSP workstations
which are technically and ergonomically much more
advanced. We were also the first studio in Boston
to install foley pits," explains Anderson.
Sound Techniques has two DSP
32-track systems and a 16-track system with full-blown
editing and mixing, as well as a hard-disk video store
that allows you to cue instantaneously. They also
offer 5.1 mixing, as well as regular Dolby stereo
mixing which is used for most 35mm prints.
According to Anderson, it
used to be that only true audiophiles got excited
about the intricacies of sound design and mixing.
But now with the advent of HDTV and surround sound,
more and more filmmakers have become tuned into sound
design - and how to use it to enhance their films.
Mix One's Foley
(Boston's first), with
(L-R) Jim Sullivan,
Austin Powers, and staff
audio engineer Don Goonan.
"In general, filmmakers are
getting very sound savvy. High Definition is making
them think about sound in ways they haven't before,"
Anderson explains. And that couldn't make Anderson
- a self-professed preacher of the gospel of sound
design - any happier. "At B.U., I teach a course on
sound design for TV and film and I always tell my
students to think of sound as the third dimension
of film. You can take an okay film and make it much
better with a good soundtrack. At the same time, sound
design is a bit of a masochistic profession, because
if you do your job perfectly, nobody notices. Good
sound design is not supposed to be noticed."
Personally, Anderson has a
passion for working on independent film - something
that the staff at Sound Techniques seems to share.
"We're indie-film friendly,"
says Anderson. "Of course we do promos, commercials
and industrials. But when a film comes in - especially
one with a lot of talent behind it and care put into
it - we all get really excited about it. We'll do
whatever it takes to make it happen."
Over the past few years, Sound
Techniques has worked on local independent films such
as BLACK WHITE AND RED ALL OVER, on which they did
the sound design, music scoring and mix. They've also
created and mixed soundtracks for shorts such as GAS
HUFFIN' BAD GALS and most of the student films that
were screened at last year's B.U. Redstone Festival.
Recently, Sound Techniques completed work on Wil Lyman's
MOVING THE EMPIRE, a documentary about the relocation
of the Empire Theatre in Times Square, which just
won honors at the TamBay Film Festival. And now they're
getting set to work on ABOVE AND BELOW, produced by
CS Films, which was shot last fall in an old state
hospital in Belmont and will have a late spring/summer
As far as Sound Techniques'
longevity and stellar reputation locally and around
the country, Anderson chalks it up to the fact that
"we're jacks-of-all-trades, yet each of us has our
favorite areas. Jim Sullivan is into documentaries.
I'm the indie film guy. David Porter's passion is
music. Don Goonan's forte is talent direction. He
possesses and uncanny ability to squeeze a professional
performance out of even the most amateur-sounding
voice. In total, we've got 13 people who each bring
something unique to the party and who are all into
working as a team. Which is probably why our turnover
is next to nil. We're an odd combo of techno-geek
and creative, using both sides of our brain - not
just to get things done fast, but to get them done
right. The key to our success is always asking each
other and our clients, "What can we do to make this
Holly Madden is a creative
director at Leo Burnett/Boston and a 13-year veteran
of the Boston advertising industry. When she's not
writing for print, radio and TV, she's working on
her various screenplay ideas.
Madden is a creative director at Leo Burnett/Boston
and a 13-year veteran of the Boston advertising industry.
When she's not writing for print, radio and TV, she's
working on her various screenplay ideas.