Inside View: Sync Sound
Bill Marino Co-owner with Ken Hahn
New York City • www.syncsound.com
By Christine Bunish
Markee: Sync Sound is celebrating its 25th anniversary — quite a milestone in the audio postproduction industry today. What was the company like at the beginning?
Mr. Marino: “We started with one mix room but had about 11,000 square feet of totally raw space. We gambled a bit that we’d be able to fill the extra space, and it worked out for us.
“Ken (Hahn) and I met at Regent Sound which became one of the first sound-for-television facilities in the country. I was the chief engineer and a mixer, and Ken was the studio manager and a mixer who had developed a nice following. After several years at Regent, and a brief stint for me at NBC, we dreamed of starting our own place and jumped in.”
Markee: What was different about Sync Sound back then?
Mr. Marino: “We decided to start a place specifically dedicated to sound for television. Regent Sound was originally built for music recording and retrofitted to do sound for TV. But we were the first facility in town designed with a whole infrastructure for television. Although we were a small facility, we were unique. People could see we were groundbreaking.
Markee: And you had the good fortune to launch at a key time in television history.
Mr. Marino: “TV had just become stereo nationwide, and the audio frequency spectrum had increased from 7 kHz to 15 kHz so the full range of audio was now possible with stereo. That meant a new demand for high-quality audio for TV, from turning old programs into stereo shows to mixing new programs like the 25th anniversary of Lincoln Center, documentary-style shows for the NBA, 3-2-1 Contact for The Children’s Television Workshop, and promos for cable television.”
Markee: What are Sync Sound’s current capabilities?
Mr. Marino: “We’re still in our original location. We have nine editing and recording rooms and five mixing rooms, including an Art Deco film mixing stage. It’s the largest and best mix room in New York with a 26-foot screen and film and video projection with 5.1 and 7.1 surround capabilities. Right now we’ve got Ben Stiller’s new feature, Greenberg, in there with independent mixer Paul Hsu. Last year we did Notorious, the Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.) story, with another indie mixer, Lew Goldstein. In fact, a lot of New York film mixers have made use of the stage. We also do features with our staff mixers. And a lot of our TV work is done on the stage, especially documentaries which often hit the film festival circuit first: Rory Kennedy’s The Fence for HBO, about the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, went to Sundance, for example.”
Markee: What technologies are you keeping an eye on these days?
Mr. Marino: “We look for what will help us be more efficient in organizing our work and things that help us create and design new sounds and manipulate sound. We also watch what goes on in the video business since we have to have all the popular video formats here. Clients want to see better work picture these days so we’ve started using HD work pictures. We’re integrating, on our Pro Tools/HD systems, Digidesign’s Video Satellite and Satellite Link options. With Video Satellite, picture playback is offloaded onto a separate computer to maintain the full audio track count and processing power of Pro Tools/HD. The Satellite system provides virtually instantaneous lock up and scrub of HD picture. We’re using it on Greenberg and plan to expand its use.”
Markee: Bring us up to date with Sync Sound’s recent work.
Mr. Marino: “2009 was a really busy year for us. We’re working on our fourth season of NBC’s 30 Rock (Editor’s Note: Marino and mixer Tony Pipitone won Emmys for the show’s second season). We did 13 episodes of Michael Green’s Kings and Tom Fontana’s The Philanthropist for NBC. My partner, Ken, mixed two episodes plus the overall web content packaging for HBO’s The Alzheimer’s Project. We are also very proud to be doing all the Metropolitan Opera programs that air on PBS and are released on DVD.”
Markee: What’s ahead for the next 25 years?
Mr. Marino: “Ken and I will still be mixing. It’s really important for owner/operators to be hands on; I feel that’s been a key to our success. It has allowed us to be very much in touch with our clients and our staff through all the changes in the industry and helped us survive and grow.”