The Sound of Dinosaurs Running Amok and Other Stories

A few short months after graduating from the VFS Sound Design for Visual Media program, Ryan Schaad already has a laundry list of credits to his name. As a Sound Editor and Recordist at Sharpe Sound Studios in North Vancouver, he’s had a hand in everything from movies-of-the-week (A Mother’s Nightmare, Lifetime) to tween sitcoms (Mr. Young, YTV/DisneyXD) to nature documentary series (Biggest and Baddest, Discovery Channel International).

He’s also one of the many VFS grads behind the scenes on Primeval: New World, airing now on Space and coming to Syfy in 2013.

Let’s find out a little more, shall we?

Hi, Ryan! You came to VFS with a background in audio engineering. Why were you compelled to come to VFS after that?

Ryan: After going to school for audio engineering and music production, I started to work for numerous live production companies, and at multiple venues. While doing this, I gained a lot of experience in signal flow, speaker placement, as well as arena/event lighting. As much as it was challenging, it was also very interesting working on productions for artists like Cirque Du Soleil, Elton John, Skrillex, and Deadmau5.

While doing this, I realized it wasn’t what I truly wanted to pursue as a career. Sound for film and video games is where my true interest lies. I started to research schools that teach sound design, focused mainly on post-production, and the choice to come to VFS became very obvious. Deciding to go to VFS has been one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my young career.

You graduated in April and you already have a pretty nice list of credits. How did you land this gig?

Ryan: After I graduated, I hit the ground running, compiling my resume and demo reel, and sending them out to every company that would possibly have a sound position that needed to be filled. In June, myself and a fellow graduate, Eric Mouawad, decided we would travel to some post-production hot spots to see what was available and learn about different facilities. While on this trip, I found out about the job opening at Sharpe Sound Studios as a few of the Sound Design for Visual Media teachers are previous employees of Sharpe, and passed on the information to me. In July, after having an interview at the studio, I got the call for a second interview, where I was offered the full-time position.

What’s a typical day at Sharpe like for you?

Ryan: What is great about Sharpe is that everyone gets to wear multiple “hats”. The tasks and duties always change depending on what productions are in-house. The day, however, usually starts by checking the schedule to see what tasks I’ve been assigned to, whether it be sound editing for a show that will be mixed soon, or foley recording for the in-house foley walkers, which then is sent to the foley editors to prepare to be mixed.

If not assigned to a show, I usually will be assigned to assist in the transfer room doing “laybacks” and “deliverables” which involves recording out the already mixed stems needed by broadcasters. We then deliver them online, on disc, or a hard drive to be sent out.

The great thing about my typical day is that multiple senior editors and mixers are around to learn and gain knowledge from.

What’s it like working on a show like Primeval compared to, say, a Lifetime movie or a series like Biggest and Baddest?

Ryan: Working on a show like Primeval: New World is quite appealing, as I have always been a fan of sci-fi. I’m one of the foley recordists. We start the foley before many of the visual effcts are in the picture, and re-record added sounds for the dinosaurs once the finished picture has arrived. From a foley standpoint, it is very similar to a feature such as a Lifetime movie. A series like Biggest and Baddest, however, is a little different as it is a narrated documentary-style nature show. A show like this doesn’t get a foley pass, as we try to use as much on-set location sound as possible to keep the documentary feel. For this show, I cut background sound effects to try and match the ambient sounds heard on set, and enhance them, whether it be the rainforest, the coast of Australia, or alligator-infested swamps!

Is there a sound or sequence you’re most proud of having worked on so far?

Ryan: My final, Round 6, for which I was nominated for a VFS Impact Award, is probably still my proudest work. I completed it while attending VFS. It is my proudest sequence of sound because of the amount of time we got to put into a video under five minutes. Having multiple teachers give us insight on how to make it a stronger sound piece was extremely beneficial. I am currently cutting sound effects for a feature miniseries called Delete, and I’m quite proud of how some of my sound sequences are starting to shape together, including that of a nuclear test facility.

We’ll be waiting for that one. Thanks for taking the time to get us up to speed!

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