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Vaudeville Sound Group is an international post-production audio house with operations in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. Focusing on film, TV, animation, and branded content, Vaudeville has provided sound design, editing, ADR, and mixing for high-profile clients including Disney, Amazon Studios, Netflix, Cadillac, LEGO, and many more.
The company was also one of the first to fully commit to immersive audio production, and has now become one of the go-to creative post houses for major brands with ambitious ideas. Vaudeville has partnered with Dolby to sound design and mix immersive experiences featuring The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, and others; created sound for VR experiences ranging from Ultimate Dinosaurs XR to Barbie Dreamhouse Sleepover; and mixed plenty of immersive streaming content.
Vaudeville’s latest facility in Culver City, California was specifically designed and purpose-built for immersive audio production, featuring 9.1.4 and 7.1.4 mix stages as well as two dedicated ADR stages, all connected via a Dante networked audio system for flexible routing and latency-free collaboration. Working with Vintage King, Vaudeville's U.S. Managing Director Jon Plane outfitted the new facility with Avid control surfaces for flexible workflow, Focusrite monitor controllers for seamless monitoring, and Genelec monitors for pinpoint spatial accuracy.
We recently sat down with Plane to talk about the origins and expansion of Vaudeville Sound, selecting equipment for the new facility, and the promise and challenges that come with championing a revolutionary new audio format.
What’s the history of Vaudeville Sound?
We started in the U.K. 18 years ago and expanded to more sites in the U.K. before coming over to L.A. in 2014 and then expanding to Vancouver. Each of those sites has now grown; so Vancouver is now three studios, L.A. is now three studios, and the U.K. branch is now 14 studios—many embedded within production companies.
Although we have expanded organically over the years, we’re still a boutique creative company with great attention to detail and quality of output. We work across several genres including scripted, unscripted, commercials, animation, and branded content. Over the last four years, we’ve grown to become market leaders in experiential immersive audio as well.
When and why did Vaudeville decide to enter the immersive audio market?
We built our first Dolby Atmos studio in 2016 after seeing that streamers and studios were looking to implement immersive sound in their content. Atmos was very new at that time, but we could see this was going to be an audio format adopted throughout all genres of content creation and we wanted to be at the forefront of it, so we decided that every studio we would do from then on would be an immersive studio. In 2020, we built a team wholly dedicated to immersive sound work and R&D.
Now, we mix everything from Netflix documentaries to Apple music projects. We’re proud to be a part of this quantum leap in storytelling across all types of media. We just did the very first immersive audiobook for Penguin Random House, which is a fantastic children’s adventure book called Billy & The Giant Adventure by Jamie Oliver. We also recently built the world’s largest Ambisonic sound asset catalog for Shutterstock, which covers everything from designed explosions in Ambisonic format all the way through to environmental sounds as well as helicopters, jets, guns, tanks, and more. It’s a first-of-its-kind toolset for spatial content creators.
Tell me how the new facility came about. What were your needs and what kind of building were you looking for?
We'd been searching for a couple of years to try and find the right space in L.A. We've had our eye on Culver City for a long time because it's kind of becoming the new creative hub of Los Angeles. Apple is there, Amazon is there, and Sony is just around the corner. There are also a lot of ad agencies and editorial houses.
After an extensive search, we found a beautiful 3,000-square-foot warehouse that had these impressive vaulted ceilings. Height wasn't going to be a problem, so we could build our rooms at any height we wanted. It’s a fantastic space where we had the opportunity to build the exact sonic environment we wanted. It sounds really incredible, especially for high-resolution immersive work.
How did you go about equipping the studio?
We've built and equipped so many studios now that we already kind of had our Christmas list of stuff picked out. All of our mix stages across our facilities are designed to be as sonically aligned as possible. Everything from speakers to acoustic treatment and reflection is modeled and considered when we build a new studio, so what we work on in Culver City can be completely sonically interoperable with our London or Vancouver Atmos Facilities. It was really important for us, considering how many global projects we facilitate, that anyone working in one of our rooms can link to or playback in any other room with minimum friction or sonic variation.
Our whole facility runs on Dante. While all of our other facilities have Dante capabilities, this was probably one of the first ones to have all of the voiceover and ADR lines coming in via Dante as well. It's an incredible system that gives us so much flexibility to tie rooms together for larger projects and brings a level of interoperability to our studios. Mike Carnarius from Vintage King did a great job and suggested some great products to get the most out of the space and align it with the level of quality present in all of our other facilities.
What are some of the use cases for connecting the two studios via Dante?
Our main use for interconnecting studios is for bigger projects where you need the efficiency of a two-person mix but everyone still needs to work in their own space. We have had great success with this in the past when we want to do the editorial in one room and send playback to the other, or our picture finishing people can put up [Da Vinci] Resolve in the other room and connect together so we can have everything synced up for a fully flexible sound and picture finishing pipeline. Being able to seamlessly connect and sync our stages has been a game-changer. And with Dante, it’s the easiest it could ever be. We will never go back.
Are you also able to conduct sessions between facilities?
Absolutely. We actually do this a lot with our U.K. and Vancouver facilities. It’s been so great to be able to host project execs and showrunners here in L.A. while the mixer or creative team on a project is in one of our other facilities. We host the video locally and use Source-Connect to sync our studios together. With the addition of our flexible talkback and video routing systems, it’s fully turnkey.
Knowing that all of our studios have the same speaker systems, configurations, templates, and processes; it's totally seamless. We hit play, the two studios sync up, and we’ll hear their audio directly from their Pro Tools session—even in immersive formats. It blows minds. I was like, “Wow, this is crazy.” It just works really well. The technology is getting better and better.
We wanted a system that would be very easy and intuitive. I love the S4 and the S6 consoles—they’re very customizable—but with the S1s, you've got what you need in front of you and you're good to go. They’re fast and intuitive for all our mixers, who each have their own style of mixing and workflow.
We've got four S1s and a Dock in the bigger studio, and then two more S1s and another Dock in the smaller one. We mainly use the Dock for transport and visual representation, as well as a control surface. They've been great workhorses for us. And if someone does accidentally spill coffee onto the console, the S1s are easy to swap out, which becomes a factor when you own as many as we do.
We’re generally set up for a one-person mix because that's just the nature of the work we do, but more and more we're getting asked to do indie features. That's usually a two-person mix, but since the S1 is modular, I can just add a couple more and we're ready to go.
How about the Focusrite RedNet R1 monitor controller?
The Focusrite RedNet equipment is incredible. We use it in a few of our rooms. It's so intuitive and easy to use that it's just a joy to work with. The R1 is super customizable, so each mixer can have their own setup for it. If you’re mixing in immersive formats and you want to hear how something is going to sound in stereo out of the TV, you can switch to the alternate monitors and listen straight away. We’ve tried a bunch of different monitor control solutions and this is by far the most well-integrated.
I've been using Genelecs since 2000 or 2001, so my ears are used to them. Now, Vaudeville Sound Group owns around 300 sets of Genelec speakers globally. They're the de facto speaker to use in the UK and Europe, so they followed us over here. Their colorless, precise replication of the sound source makes them the perfect tool in our mixing arsenal.
Especially as we work across our global network of facilities, using these speakers has been a game-changer. No matter if you are sitting in our Shoreditch, Vancouver, Burbank, or Culver City studios, the sound experience at Vaudeville is singular and totally interoperable.
From your point of view, what’s the state of the immersive audio market right now?
Spatial audio as a technology has reached unprecedented milestones in its evolution over the last few years, from its applications in movie theaters all the way to the now-ubiquitous small earbuds capable of fully head-tracked spatialization. The technology has come a long way, but the way we use it has not seen the same evolution.
A lot of people and companies just don't understand it yet, so there's still a lot of client and brand education to really show people how amazing these technologies are. Immersive audio can offer stories and characters a completely new creative avenue for directors and brands—a completely new space and dimension to explore and create with. We’re going to brands and clients to showcase the work we have done here to get people inspired to think differently about their work from the concept stages. It's a really exciting time and it’s been so great to see how people are responding to our work.
We are really expanding the possibilities and engaging with our clients on larger concepts and ideas in this kind of experiential and immersive world so that it's not just a handful of streamers like Netflix, HBO, and Apple doing it. It’s one of the main reasons we have designed these spaces in our studios the way we have.
What are some recent and upcoming projects you’re excited about?
On the immersive side, we just launched that huge spatial audio asset library for Shutterstock, and we're expanding this work across other media types including spatial computing entertainment and gaming applications. It was such a great project to work on and it really enabled us to grow our team to include field recordists and sound designers who specialize in native 3D approaches to sound capture and design.
We are partnering with a bunch of brands in the immersive audio space, including Dolby and Genelec, to showcase the amazing tech they develop. We also have a few really exciting product launch partnerships we are working on but can’t talk much about, so stay tuned. The future of immersive sound is super exciting!
We also have a huge amount of content to mix throughout the rest of 2023 and well into 2024. There's a really big Netflix project that we are about to start on, some big video game titles, incredible branded and commercial work, some really cool experiential projects, and a 360 dome experience. It's exciting to come to work every day!