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April 2013

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In the Beginning Where it all began I got interested in audio when I was a kid. My parents gave me one of those Fisher Price record players and I used to just sit there and listen to kids songs all day. I also had this little tape recorder with a microphone, but eventually both broke, so I tore them apart to figure out how they worked. The tape recorder had a broken mic, so I deduced, through trial and error, that I could connect the wires of the microphone By CORY MELIOUS to the speaker from the Fisher Price turnRe-recording Mixer/ table, and voilà — instant microphone. The Sound Designer cone and voice coil of the speaker acted as Heard City a capsule of a microphone, and it didn't sound great, but it did the trick. As I got older, my parents gave me one New York of those cool DJ toys that had two tape players and a microphone and a simple mixer, so I could fade back and forth between tapes. My sister and I would pretend we were DJs at a radio station. This was the first time I encountered audio mixing. In high school, I joined the school theater department and ran the sound system. Feedback was a killer in that theater, so I constantly had to chase resonances to filter out feedback tones. I was also playing drums in a rock band and the band put me in charge of the PA system. We had a 4-track TASCAM tape recorder as a makeshift mixer running through a Denon con- Melious mixed Kayak Shag via agency Barton F. Graf 9000 New York. sumer amp pushing a small 4x8 speaker cabinet. Needless to say it sounded baaaaad, and I upgraded to better equipment every chance I got. Growing up in upstate New York, our local college had this amazing amphitheater and a lot of big name bands would stop during their summer tours. The college wound up building a pretty badass studio to capture some of the concerts and started a recording program. I attended that program without really understanding what it all entailed. I only lasted one year! What I mean is, that program was a two-year degree, and I knew I needed way more experience and education than those two years could provide, so I transferred to SUNY College at Fredonia, where I got my Bachelor of Science in Sound Recording Technology. I worked on a farm milking cows and driving tractors when I was in high school. There's nothing more academically motivating than the prospect of a future full of backbreaking farm labor! I never thought I would find myself in NYC, doing what I'm doing now; I'm still amazed. 20 Post • April 2013 Post0413_016-18,20-How prosRAv6FINALREAD.indd 20 Bob Festa back in the old days playing bass, and a recent spot he worked on for Adobe out of Goodby called Psychic. the visual medium to me came second, but all the fundamentals you use for tearing down and learning a craft, whether sound mixing, sound design, or visuals, if you break them all down, you still build up from the same fundamental areas. It was just being exposed to so many fields of experience that led me to being a colorist." After high school, Festa studied at Pepperdine University in Malibu and worked his way to an undergraduate and graduate degree in film and television. A great education, but one he says could never replace working in a real-world environment. "Back in the early '80s when I graduated, the stuff I was learning in the classroom was being taught by retired industry pros who were already five years off the technological mark. So honestly, everything you are learning is really just a foundation…the history of film and the business. Your biggest break happens once you are out." Festa's first break was at Glen Glenn Sound, which he says exposed him to working with sound, picture and film labs, "which then exposed me to this new film scanner called the Rank Cintel." But he says his biggest break was going to work at Deluxe, mastering feature films in the 20th Century Fox library. "I found a mentor who said, 'I need someone who can start on Monday and you seem to know 10 words associated with this process. I can give you a raise and get you in the union.' Boom, now I am working at Deluxe doing feature mastering at a major studio." Festa refers to those times as a sort of the heyday of color, where there were huge windows of opportunity opened to anyone with talent. "There was so much work and so few facilities that clients were forced to work with people in the second and third shift," he explains. "If you look at that in today's terms, it's unbelievable. Those windows are closed now. It's really hard to apprentice with a colorist and learn the craft; it is even harder to start your own craft and develop new business. Which explains why us senior guys are still in the chair." Another reason is that color grading is an art that needs to develop over time. "Talk to any colorist, and they'll say the first six months of their career is a living hell, because you are so bad," he says. "Even though you are exposed to good people and mentors, getting a good eye for color takes a minimum of six months, and I would add a couple of years on top of that to get a master's eye." Festa started out in the business when there were just a couple of tools to work with. Now there are many to choose from, and often each studio picks a favorite to invest in. So how does someone like Festa feel about having to learn new gear? "To paraphrase jazz musician Charlie Parker, 'Learn the changes and then forget them.' It's the same thing with coloring. Learn the tools and toss 'em. Transcend the mechanics and use your experience and your eye. After a period, you know what signposts and cues you look for that bring life to an image.These are artistic concepts that develop in your brain, not in any given work surface you are using at the time. "I have worked at 20 different facilities and on 10 different types of technology," he says. "The first time you sit in a chair with some new gear, you think it's daunting, but I have come to think of the different tools as just the vehicles you need to express yourself. The art is in your head, your eyes and hands." 3/27/13 3:33 PM

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