Expat Files : David Raines
I first came across David Raines in the 90's when he was Production Manager at Triple M Adelaide and I was on the streets, literally, handing out icy cold cans of coke and hot pies and pasties (good times 😉
He's been out of radio for a number of years, but has moved into a very interesting production field.
We chat with David in Radio Today's Expat Files….
Tell us a bit about your radio background…
When I was about 14 or 15 I started volunteering at a community radio station in Perth, actually in Fremantle, called 100FM. I was lucky enough to catch their test broadcast and subsequently was able to help with building the station (literally) and its first few years on air which was a tremendous learning experience and very exciting.
I spent a few years in regional radio in places like Esperance and Kalgoorlie where I was essentially an announcer, however those roles back then included making commercials and promo’s, reading news, promotions and marketing, sales.. you get the idea.
By working all those areas I realised I wanted to do creative sound production and I managed to get my first full time gig as a commercial producer in Perth at an AM station that Austereo had bought with the intent to bid for an FM license. Mike Walden was my boss, he taught me so much and we’re still mates today.
The station didn’t convert to FM but I managed to move to SAFM as the carting person. That might seem like a step down from commercial production but the production manager was the great Steve Hunt. I was able to learn from him and the other awesome producers there; the Power Pig and Mark Murphy who were all so generous with their time and knowledge.
Over the next 5 to 7 years I gradually progressed through a number of stations, always moving states and my life for the work and constantly pushing for more creative and challenging gigs at the Austereo and Triple M groups; breakfast producer at the Fox, production manager at Austereo Syndication, Creative Director at a few Triple M’s before I decided to make a move back to Sydney to be with my girlfriend at the time.
In radio it was never just about creative sound though, back then we all helped out and sort of made the stations our family. We pitched in after hours to help with the “Black Thunder” promotional trucks and all the special events that each station was executing each week, it felt like a team effort was involved in everything we did.
As a result my fondest memories in radio are of the people; my closest mate here in southern California is someone I first met at Triple M in Adelaide. A lot of my close friends to this day are people I met through those years in radio. I think this is also a result of the culture of up-rooting your life every few years and moving to another state for work.. you try to maintain those friendships. I’m sure we all have friends, good friends, in far flung parts of the world as a result of our early nomadic days in radio.
You’ve been out of radio for a number of years now. Tell us about your journey post-radio...
In about ’93 my pursuit of more challenging creative opportunities lead me to start a small sound production studio in Sydney. This progressed to working in advertising, both radio and television and eventually some documentary sound supervising and mixing.
We merged the company in 2000 with a broadcasting company that had the capital and the belief in what we were doing to fund some new studios. We designed them primarily for surround mixing for TV and DVD. This was back when surround mixing was new to TV broadcasting and DVD distribution was an unknown business model.
Having had my taste of mixing dramatic productions in Australia, and in no small part because I wanted to live and work overseas, I headed to Vancouver, Canada where I started working on dramatic TV series and feature films.
I quickly realised however that, although there are a lot of productions that shoot in Vancouver, not many of them finish sound up there. In addition and through no real design on my part, I’d developed some creative relationships in Los Angeles that were really important to me so I made the decision to move to California.
Describe what your job is now…
I have a couple of different roles here depending on how a production finds its way to me, or visa versa.
As a Re-recording mixer I am called by major studios to come into their facility to complete all of the sound mixing required from the completion of sound editorial to the print master.
However, as a Sound Supervisor I’m involved much earlier in productions (often at the script stage) designing the creative execution of the soundtrack with the director, budgeting the sound, hiring the crew, executing the editorial and often in this role I will also be part of the re-recording team as well.
How long does it take to record, produce and finalise the audio for, say, a 1 hour episode of a TV show? Do you have more time when working on a film?
In series television depending on the budget it can be anywhere from a week to a month, unfortunately some producers now think the norm is a week which is usually divided into 5 days editing and a day and half of mixing per episode. Needless to say those productions that spend more time are amazing. “Game Of Thrones” comes to mind as a production that spends nearly 3 weeks in sound editing and about 5 days mixing per episode.
In feature films it can vary a tremendous amount depending on budget. Anywhere from 4 weeks to a year from the start of sound post to the print master.
It’s also worth mentioning the difference in the size of the sound crews for these different productions; in series television it can be as few as 7 people and on a feature film it can be as many as 80 people, of course this all comes down to budget as well.
Punching out radio promo’s in Australia, did you ever think that one day you’d be nominated for an Emmy ?
No, absolutely not, in fact I didn’t really know much about the Emmy Awards and certainly I didn’t know sound people could be nominated for them until it happened.
Funnily enough the first nomination I received was for the first season of the first series I worked on when I arrived in Los Angeles.
You are also a ‘sound collector’. How do you go about collecting sounds and what are some of the interesting sounds you have collected ?
I started building my library back in the early 90’s mainly because I couldn’t afford to buy sound libraries. Back then it was much more difficult and expensive to record sounds, these days my rig is (comparatively) inexpensive and much more portable.
If I’m supervising a film then it’s part of the process of creating the track during editorial. However, whenever I leave Los Angeles, even for a weekend away, I try to take my recording rig because I never know what I might hear, the sounds that can be found in our world constantly surprise me. For instance, I was on the west coast of Australia a few years ago shooting at a beach. It had these small sandstone cliffs separating the beach heads and I located this incredibly powerful, deep resonant low end, organic thump and whoosh from the waves crashing into some sandstone holes that had been carved out by the tide over the years.
Here in California tiny rain drops hitting the protected floor canopy of a thousand large leaves deep in the Montana De Oro state park is an amazing sound.
Describe a typical day for you…
If I’m on a stage mixing a TV series or film; I mix as part of a team, usually me and at least one other re-recording mixer. Our roles are divided; one mixes dialogue and music, the other mixes all of the FX including things like cars, guns and sound design as well as foley and ambiences. During a final mix we’re on the same stage mixing in collaboration with each other’s sound elements at the same time.
We start at 9am and mix until at least 7pm. We’re rarely alone however; the investment from the studio in these productions is substantial as well as the investment in the editing process to get to the mixing stage. The release deadline is usually just a few days away and like a brick wall, it never moves. The degree to which these factors are affecting the production will often influence who is involved in the mixing process.
At any part of the day the director and producers will be involved in the collaboration in addition to; picture editors, writers, composers, music editors, sound editors, sound supervisors, production assistants, studio development and marketing executives and sometimes even the cast. The sound mix is the last opportunity for any and all of these collaborators to affect the creative outcome of the release so the confluence of all these factors can make things interesting during a mix. At some stage during the day (often multiple times) the reel will have to be played back for everyone to have their creative input.
It’s a highly pressurised, creative process that absolutely must be completed at the end of the day and everyone feels the pressure of the release in their own way. Most everyone in Hollywood in the creative crafts are freelance so at any moment if someone is not delivering then they are immediately replaced so the production can meet the release.
What’s your ultimate goal working in this field ?
Ever since my early days in radio my goal has been to work in positive, creative environments; to develop my understanding of the craft of sound and to collaborate with people who appreciate and value that collaboration. This goal hasn’t changed to this day.
Do you listen to much radio these days ? What are your impressions of what you hear (Aus and US) ?
I do! My impressions of what I hear in the US are fairly similar to my impressions of Australian radio now; I think this is largely due to the way ownership has changed in both countries over the years. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult the industry may have become to work in since I moved on, given this consolidation of ownership and management.
As you can tell I remember my days in radio with much fondness, the culture that made everyone in those stations want to work really hard together during a specific promotion or ratings period was I’m sure imbued by management and owners that were incredibly in touch with the vibe of the all of the staff and how that unique collaboration could generate it’s own amazing energy that the audience often felt on the air.
Here are a couple of scenes from a feature film David completed a few years ago called 'Calvin Marshall'. It shows what they do during sound post in features.
This first video is essentially production sound only, in other words what comes from the set. This track has actually been through the dialogue edit process so it already sounds a lot cleaner than the edit from the Avid bay.
This is the final sound mix, amongst other things you will notice;
1. All of the added dialogue for the other ball players to create additional energy in the scenes.
2. Added ADR for the lead character to flesh out his baseball ability and enthusiasm.
3. Very focused added Foley and FX which contribute both to the humor in these scenes and also our understanding of the lead character's baseball skills.