Tech Tours at Outpost Studios
Outpost Studios has been involved in presentations for those interested in audio. From the 129th AES convention tech tours in 2006, during the AES convention in 2010, to the 133rd AES Tech tours in 2012, where Dave Nelson and Jennifer Myers showed how they track Foley for the Audio Engineering Society, Outpost is proud to host visitors. Audio students from many schools schedule visits annually. Dave also has been an instructor for new generations of aspiring audio engineers at the San Francisco City College and at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. The following article was written by a student that toured Outpost during the spring of 2017…
Outpost Studios Trip Reflection
I was extremely excited going into this field trip. Not only was I looking forward to seeing how the skills I learned in this class applied to “the business”, I desperately needed some sort of affirmation of the possibility of having a career in media arts after college. Until taking this class, I viewed the media industry as an esoteric flurry of studios, entirely unaware of my career possibilities outside of being a career musician or producer. My experience at Outpost not only gave me a solid example of one of these media entities, but proved to me that even at the highest caliber, most professional level, working with sound is still something that is done with spontaneity and passion.
The source of that spontaneity and passion—in this case—was Dave Nelson, who while even being in charge of one of the most sophisticated studios in the state managed to exude a sense of wonder and curiosity while discussing his work. For someone whom most of the older men in my life are disgruntled, cynical, and defensively plain, it is refreshing to actually talk to someone whose worldview hasn’t decayed in vibrancy with his hair color. Hearing about the techniques and software he has experimented with—starting with the multimedia band he was involved with in the 80s up to the remarkably complex sound generators he uses now—was absolutely fascinating and made me realize that as long as I am a creator things will never become dull, because the field is always moving forward in technology and taste.The studio itself was quite something to behold.
A trip up a cavernous industrial stairwell brings us to this long, contoured hallway with offices and storage rooms on either side. Mr. Nelson talked at great length how remarkable the facilities were. Building a facility that blocks out the sound from not only adjacent rooms but the ambient sounds of the city—the wind-tunnel like effect the streets in this city have can make a distant sound echo roaringly—is extremely expensive. There is nothing prefab about this space. It is expensive and sure as hell quiet—if only I could stuff whatever is in those walls in my ears when I’m on muni. Even though Foley and sound seem like fun and games a lot of the time its astounding to think about how much capital it takes not only to start, but maintain such a space and practice. Hiring people to come make perfect footsteps to people they’re seeing for the first time on mute video is not cheap.
Despite the multimillion-dollar setup, it gave me hope to see that the bottom line of everything was a copy of ProTools, which Mr. Nelson had open to the movie he was working on currently. He played different scenes with various tracks muted, showing us the pieces of the soundscapes he had constructed for this film. Having all of this picked apart piece-by-piece made the professional recording studio seem much less foreign and monolithic in my mind, and reminded me that behind all of the money talk and stressful business deals are people who are passionate about sound and willing to break boundaries. And it sure is satisfying when you hear the whole thing come on in that theater room—harnessing sub-aural bass to wash around you like a wave. Sound is powerful indeed.