Remember the movie Rumble in the Bronx – the one that unleashed martial arts actor Jackie Chan into the film world?
Now another equally deft, sonic maneuver is unfolding one borough over. Rumble Audio has officially opened in Brooklyn, providing yet another sign that NYC audio post is undergoing a rapid expansion.
With his surprising new facility that straddles the line between East Williamsburg and Bushwick, mixer and founder Ryan Billia intends to open up new options for content creators of all stripes. The centerpiece of his studio is a world-class mixing stage suitable for Hollywood directors, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a Coppola to come through the door.
Instead, the idea here is to provide a creative home for everyone from independent filmmakers to Web producers to video gamers, ad agencies to art installations, and anything else with sound that you can think of. For those that have felt like the large Manhattan stages were out of reach, and that smaller studios weren’t quite cutting it, Rumble Audio has emerged to provide a most welcoming middle ground.
Bridging a Gap
Created by Dave Ellis of Ellis Island Design, the lines of Rumble Audio are strikingly clean and minimalist – all the better to emphasize its impressive infrastructure and focused mission.
The heart of the facility is a main mixing stage with a 7.2 Meyer Sound Acheron EXP monitoring system installed. A 17 x 23 x 10-foot space, according to Billia it stands as one of only three Meyer Sound-equipped audio post rooms in NYC and the only one to inhabit Brooklyn. In addition, Rumble provides an edit/sound design suite and an ADR/Foley stage, along with an appropriately zen lounge.
“There are so many independent film projects that have budgets and are looking for professional audio, but can’t really afford the bigger spaces in Manhattan, while many of the smaller rooms don’t go far enough,” Billia explains of the original inspiration. “I built Rumble Audio with the idea of being a one-stop shop — a producer can give me their audio post budget and say, ‘finish our film.’ Were set up to do dialogue editing, sound effects recording, ADR recording, and Dolby encoding — and mixing, of course.
“If you’re piecing together your audio post and doing it à la carte – a mix here, ADR there –paying hourly rates at these places, it can get pretty high. I wanted to be able to keep the budgets low and control the whole thing. The other side of it is building a room with the speakers built and tuned by Meyer, and being a solid and professional as possible.”
In addition to being the final mix room for indie films, another use scenario that Billia is already experiencing is one where Rumble serves as a temp or pre-mix facility. “One director came in here recently who does a lot of mixing at Skywalker Sound,” explains Billia. “He said, ‘this is amazing. I can spend more time with you for less money while I do the nuts and bolts and experimental things. Then I can work for two weeks at Skywalker and spend less money there.’ I’m fine with that as well.”
In addition, Billia sees Rumble Audio as a launchpad for freelance mixers in search of a larger room where they can raise their game, affordably and comfortably. “There’s someone coming in this month for a film that he’s sound supervising,” Billia offers by way of example. “He’s a sound editor, but he wants more mixing credits. He’s renting the room for a week — I’ll second him and provide some guidance.”
A Fresh Approach to Post
A seasoned mix engineer in his mid-30s, Billia built up an extensive list of credits in the film, TV, and advertising worlds across stints with Ear Goo and Bang Music, in addition to freelancing. When he decided to make his move and launch Rumble Audio in his home borough of Brooklyn, the plan was not just to create a place where content creators could get their audio post done, but also have some fun.
“One of the core concepts is attracting people that want to experiment a little bit in the studio,” he notes. “I feel a lot of young indie filmmakers are getting favors in the studio. They feel like they have to get in and get out, so they’re not getting the time to discover and learn.
“One director who work here recently admitted they never had been able to be in an ‘A’ studio before. Even though we were on a tight schedule, if they had an idea, we weren’t afraid to go down the rabbit hole of it and see if an idea worked or not. So it’s not just me playing it back and saying, ‘Here’s your film.’ Instead, it’s about really being able to explore the possibilities.”
The key factor giving Billia and his clients the confidence to experiment is the technical precision of his Studio A.
Making up the screen channels are three Meyer Sound Acheron Designer loudspeakers, combined with two Meyer Sound X-800C cinema subwoofers and six Meyer Sound HMS-5 compact surround loudspeakers. Speaker management control is supplied by dual Meyer Sound Galileo 408 systems, with all of the above tuned via a meticulous visit by Meyer Sound tech Brian Bolly.
Meanwhile, the flight controls reside in an Avid Icon D-Control ES 32 fader, supplied along with the Meyer system by Sonic Circus. Audio wiring and additional equipment was supplied by Jeff DelBello of dB Sound, LLC.
“Meyer sound speakers are active, so installing them was extremely easy,” says Billia. “The most important criteria for the speakers that went in here was that they had to translate extremely well to the larger stages. It’s all about translation, especially in cinema: The client has to know that if it’s good here, it will be good everywhere, and we definitely achieved that. The quality of the sound here is ridiculous – this room just sounds amazing.”
After a soft launch in the fall, Rumble Audio is officially off to a good start. Notable projects that have already been posted there include the Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz-directed Land Ho!, which will enjoy a Sundance 2014 premiere. Pills, a short film for Fat Possum Records directed by Craig Zobel and produced by label owner Matthew Johnson was also recently completed at Rumble.
By all indications, Rumble Audio seems to be arriving at just the right time. The mighty Sound One is long gone, which opened up the doors for an ambitious wave to reshape the NYC audio post scene. Expanding Manhattan options include major upstarts like Harbor Sound and innovators like Digital Arts with their newly upgraded 4K theater. In the meantime, Brooklyn-based movers and shakers include Williamsburg’s Fall On Your Sword with their enlarged 7.1 mix room, and the anticipated 3,600 sq. ft. Brooklyn Sound Society audio post HQ in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Just as important, Ryan Billia’s facility may have landed in exactly the right place. It’s safe to say that there is no facility like his anywhere in the neighborhood, and many of his potential clients are literally spilling out onto the streets.