Hyperbolic Audio: New Thinking for NYC Audio Post’s Next Wave

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MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN: Manhattan is a place built on changeover. When a mainstay moves on from this island, you can bet that someone young, hungry, and agile is laying in wait to take their place.

Entre! Studio A at Hyperbolic Audio. (click image to enlarge)

To see this New York City-style transitional phase moving at accelerated speed, look to the audio post sector. Too-big-to-fail houses from another era have failed (HSRNY, Sound Hound), leaving space for emerging players to step in and pick up the slack using updated business models.

An illuminating case study is Hyperbolic Audio, the two-room audio post specialist that’s establishing itself via a distinctive facility in Midtown. With roots that go back to August 2001, Hyperbolic has been using its time to get smarter, more sophisticated, and hit its stride.

Rebrand & Expand

The audio post company founded by Julian Rebolledo and Sean Elias-Reyes was originally called Shut Up & Talk, but in 2008 it found itself in a box: Although they had been recognized for years as a solid voiceover (VO) recording facility, clients weren’t warming up to the mixing capabilities that Shut Up & Talk had added to its previous studios on 8th Avenue and 36th street.

“We had trouble convincing our clients that we could do great mixing, even though we had the ears and the services,” recalls Rebolledo. “People saw Shut Up & Talk as VO tracking, and that was it. So we reinvented ourselves as Hyperbolic Audio, relaunched as a full-service post facility, and that changed everything.”

Along with the name change came a new address that would not only reinforce the more upscale perception, but also give the evolving company room to grow as it serviced a client base that includes Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks Animation, Lions Gate Films, and HBO. After a patient search, Rebolledo got the opportunity to move Hyberbolic onto the 10th floor of 62 West 45th Street, taking over the space from TV/film composers Jeco Music in the process.

Originally envisioned by Jeco’s principals as a “digital kibbutz” where multiple, small-scale media companies would co-exist and flourish together, Rebolledo and his team saw a 4000 sq. ft. space that would also be ideally suited for a single audio-centric company – especially since the floor sported rooms created by top studio designer John Storyk.

Rebolledo knew the Jeco Music HQ was right at first sight. “The search took a year – I saw a lot of places that call themselves a recording studio that really aren’t,” he says. “I knew I had to find something that wasn’t gutted, which would require a renovation starting from scratch. That takes so much time and management — I had done that once, and I knew I didn’t want to do it again. Plus when you have a working client list, you can’t be under construction for a year. But this place was almost turn-key.”

Studio A’s VO room — above and beyond the average size.

Optimized for Audio Post

Expertly-tuned acoustics and essential audio infrastructure were already in place on the site. So Rebolledo and Hyperbolic senior mixer Steve Bucino required relatively few adjustments to convert the spaces into rooms optimized for audio post tracking, as opposed to their originally intended use for recording bands, ensembles and solo instrumentalists.

The team added a machine room to the facility, then turned their attention to the spacious Studio A control room, where Hyperbolic collaborated with Brian Dorfman of Orchard Design Group to update the control room’s tuning for TV and film mixing. Adjacent to that, what had once represented a rather small live room — at 300 sq. ft. — for music tracking was modified, as reflections were eliminated with carpets, moveable gobos, and other acoustic touches.

The result: one of the most spacious and inviting VO recording spaces in Manhattan, which is quickly building up a fan base among top-tier industry voice talent. “There’s a claustrophobic component that comes with small VO booths – if you’re in there for a long time, it gets tiring,” says Rebolledo, who has himself maintained a steady career as a VO talent since the 1990’s. “On the other hand, big rooms with stimulating colors make you feel energized and more creative. When you’re comfortable that can lead to a better performance.”

But it’s VO Room B that is poised to truly put Hyperbolic on the map. Outfitted with expansive tinted glass, red wall treatments, and beautiful birch wood acoustic appointments custom-made by Dorfman, “B” stimulates VO talent with a wide-open, North-facing view of midtown providing big inspiration morning, noon and night. It’s hard to photograph, but occupying the room is a transporting experience – there’s simply no VO tracking space like this anywhere in NYC.

“It was designed to be a dream booth, from the talent’s perspective,” Rebolledo says. “I had a checklist of everything I wanted, and I was sure Brian would tell me, ‘You can’t have all those things,’ but that’s not what happened at all. The view and all the natural light that comes with it makes a huge difference – there’s probably more glass than wall and diffusors, but the way he designed it there are no reflections. It’s amazing.”

The “Dream VO Booth” — Hyperbolic’s Studio B.

Consistency is Key

The sharp blend of aesthetics and technical excellence is guided by a philosophy where elevated expectations, an intense service philosophy, and a sense of humor all merge as harmoniously as possible. For the Hyperbolic Audio crew — which also includes Julian’s business partner Sean Elias-Reyes, mixer Rodrigo Galvan and assistant Ben Workman, along with executive producer Angela Bennett – the result is a workflow emphasizing ambitious, yet achievable, goals.

“I’m not a business guy – I don’t know to make a business plan to measure everything,” Rebolledo states. “What I see is the growth: clients are happy, and new clients are coming. My business partner, Sean, and I have been together for ten years now. It’s taken all this time, and we finally have this team.

“Clients don’t need you to have 10,000 square feet – they just need great client services,” Rebolledo continues. “’Consistency’ is the key word, and we often compare what we do here to the restaurant business. If I have something amazing at a restaurant, I’ll go back, and I want that same repeat experience. Every good business has the same expectations: When something goes wrong, clients think, ‘Maybe I should try another place.’

“Messing up even one time is a huge vulnerability, because that’s when people decide to go somewhere else and test their consistency. We rely on everybody here to make sure the process is consistently seamless from start to finish – but it doesn’t have to feel corporate for that to happen. I think that leads to good word of mouth, which leads to more clients.”

Since the Internet has been known to be good for spreading the word, as well, Hyperbolic Audio stepped out recently with a humorous video – complete with a cameo by the Naked Cowboy — that’s gotten their vibe across in a way that’s successfully gone social. “The thinking there was, ‘How do you introduce yourself in a new and interesting way?’” notes Rebolledo. “This is something we can share with prospective clients that’s a lot more engaging than a rate card. People have seen it, laughed, and called us back.”

A Different Perspective on the Bottom Line

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