Vancouver Film School students come from all over the world, and, after graduating, take their talents back out across the globe. It’s an international network of professionals that stretches from India to England, Australia to California. Foundation Visual Art & Design and Sound Design for Visual Media grad John Kochanczyk has taken that a step further, both in distance and in ambition, by opening his own studio in Dubai, MILE Studios.
What brought you to Vancouver Film School, and what started your interest in sound?
John: My decision to go to VFS was mainly centered on the Sound Design program. As I mentioned in a recent article, I have always had a hobby and definite interest in sound and that lead me to Sound Design for Visual Media. My main experience in sound prior to that was strictly in the live context and I found it very appealing to explore the other worlds of sound and see what was possible.
You also took Foundation Visual Art & Design.
John: An unexpected pleasure during my time at VFS was being able to experience many different facets and disciplines through Foundation Visual Art & Design. I must say not everything was to my interest. However, I firmly believe that I would not have nearly the same level of professionalism and ability today in working on media-based projects without the Foundation program. Having the ability to coordinate with completely different disciplines through the basic understanding of how different departments work, and the necessary processes to contribute accordingly, is invaluable. This continued through the Sound Design for Visual Media course as they introduced numerous different areas of specialization and opportunities in the sound world.
Tell us about your company.
John: MILE Studios is primarily a boutique studio concentrating on digital colour grading and essentially everything sound, from pre-production through post and delivery. Our aim is to provide dedicated finishing services for the media industry in the UAE and hopefully the surrounding media areas. We have recently been working on a number of commercials from the region and a few short films from the initiatives taken by governmental agencies to help develop and promote the film industry in the UAE. Our colourist has recently begun grading a feature film from Jordan and hopefully soon we will be starting on a Chinese feature.
That’s a lot of work for a new company. What kind of opportunities exist where you are?
John: Perhaps the greatest benefit of working in the UAE is the unique opportunities that arise. Since I have been back in the UAE I have been able to become a teacher for sound in the local film schools, which has allowed me to help educate a very young industry taking its first baby steps. This then led me to explore video and film editing, and I’ve since become an Apple software trainer. Above all it has given me the chance to help create and establish standards of work in the region.
Any particular challenges?
John: In terms of challenges the sheer lack of standards does hurt. For the last 3 years I have been the Compilation Supervisor for a section of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, taking the films from the EFC (Emirates Film Competition) and creating master screening tapes. The volume of films from the region has been steadily increasing and the storytelling aspect is improving with the actors and actresses, cinematography, editing, etc. However, each and every film arrives in a different frame rate, aspect ratio, resolution, codec – you name it. I get a significant amount of material arriving in NTSC, even though they were all shot PAL from the region. And then there is the sound, which hurts.
Any favourite sounds when it comes to recording?
John: I don’t think it is possible for me to have a favourite sound. I am continually fascinated by the unique variations a simple choice of microphone can have on the quality of a sound, let alone the different types of performance. At VFS I once went dumpster diving in front of a building being renovated with a classmate and came back to the Sound Design campus with a shopping cart full of large panes of glass. I then sat in one of the Foley rooms and recorded for a full five hours straight with multiple mics. I only stopped because my time slot had been far exceeded and I was running out of drive space. If I absolutely had to say a bandwidth of sound that is my favorite, it is definitely bass. I am obsessed with power of sound in the low frequency spectrum on large scale systems. The ability to find that unique resonance point of the woofers depending on the speakers and room, finding out what surfaces and materials vibrate at what frequencies – I could sit there till either my eardrums explode or the speakers give out.