By Christopher Robinson/CineSound Pro
Hollywood, CA(Hollywood Today)7/11/12/—Frank Serafine has been at the cutting edge of sound design and the cre- ation of signature audio effects for more than 30 years. His artistry transforms a visual story into a full immersive experi- ence for the audience. He’s well known for his early Hollywood work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and TRON, and he shared an Academy Award® for The Hunt for Red October. As the sound designer on these and other films, he created signature effects like the TRON light cycles and the eerie screaming tor- pedoes from The Hunt for Red October, but thinking of Serafine simply as a sound-effects guy barely scratches the surface of what he has accomplished as an audio artist.
In his career, Serafine not only has created some of the most iconic sound effects, sound designs and music, but he also has built a number of studios. His latest project is taking shape, and it promises to be his most ambitious yet. As audio acquisition and creation has migrated from analog to digital, Serafine has forged ahead, taking advantage of technology.
His new studio will be noth- ing short of state of the art, and it will incorporate more than just sound. “I was inspired by Skywalker Ranch,” explains Serafine. “I was up there work- ing on a project, and I was in this cottage on the property, and my roommate was John Williams. We would be working all day, and at night we’d come back to this little cottage and we’d just talk. It was inspirational.
That’s what I’m doing with this new studio and this property. It’s 10 Frank Serafine pushes the boundaries of content creation, whether it’s building his new 10-acre complex near Valencia, Calif., creating new clips on a synthesizer or capturing found sounds with a portable recorder, acres up near Valencia, which is a fast- growing area for production. I’m a mile and a half off the road, and the goal is to be completely off the grid. I’ll be using solar and wind to charge batteries for the power.
I’m putting everything I’ve learned from my friends in the industry who are also limiting their use of the grid. The battery systems will keep grow- ing to keep up with the demand. It’s real- ly a mixed-use property that will be com- pletely self-sufficient. I’ll have fruit trees, and there’s an artisanal spring feeding a bass pond.” The new endeavor is being entirely self-financed, and for the actual studio space, Serafine is working with his long- time designer and friend, Carl Yancher. Says Serafine, “Carl has designed many of my studios, and now he’s working with me as the architect.” The studio itself is framed now. As for the completion date of the entire development? Serafine says simply,“It will be a lifetime endeavor.”
It also will continue to evolve as Serafine himself moves into new endeavors.
Some years ago, Serafine moved out of a 10,000-square-foot Venice, Calif., studio. He had eight rooms full of equipment, including some 53 synthe- sizers. “I didn’t want to be in that real- estate business, and I wanted to lighten up,” he says, “so I sold all of my synthe- sizers on eBay.” The plan was to get leaner on hard- ware, but not on capability. Serafine unloaded the analog synthesizers in favor of software synthesizers. The advan- tages of software synthesizers over analog are debated between purists and digital mavens, but some benefits are clear. Serafine is an advocate of the Arturia Minimoog V and Arturia Moog Modular V, among other software tools. He had been an avid user of the original Minimoog analog synthesizer since he got one in his teens.
That Minimoog was one of the most innovative instruments when it was created, but it had some drawbacks, among them, like most ana- log synthesizers, the tuning could become unstable as the oscillators heated up. That made the Minimoog notorious- ly difficult to keep in tune. Says Serafine, “Moog went to Arturia to develop the Minimoog, and they were able to correct its problems by making it a software syn- thesizer, and they did a great job.” The Arturia Minimoog V, which is being reintroduced as the Arturia Mini V, doesn’t have these drawbacks, of course. Serafine also makes extensive use of the Arturia Minimoog’s hundreds of programmed presets. (Arturia recent- ly announced the end of an agreement with Moog Music, so in addition to the change to the Mini V, the Arturia Moog Modular V is being reintroduced as the Arturia Modular V.) One drawback of software synths comes from the interface. Pushing a mouse is okay for getting an idea down in the laptop, but Serafine uses the Arturia Origin in the studio. It’s a hard- ware synth using DSP algorithms that models the various modules from differ- ent synths (Moog, Roland, Yamaha and more), which can be combined inside the Origin to create new synths in a modular system. “The Origin reincarnates yesterday’s systems into a single synth system,” he says. “Back when I was playing analog synthesizers, I was playing the control knobs.
When software came around, it was pushing a mouse. The Origin takes me back to the analog playability.” Serafine is much more than just a software driver. He’s an artist who’s con- stantly seeking new sounds. He tells stu- dents to carry a Samson Zoom H4n with them so they can be recording anything that comes along. It’s advice he follows himself. Of course, he has a full quiver of other gear at his disposal should he want to capture something specific, but the H4n serves as a sort of compact camera that’s always available no matter where Serafine is or what he’s doing. With his constant supply of record- ings, ambient backgrounds, and an incredible array of effects and music, Serafine’s extensive library is huge and growing. So it was only logical that he would also move into licensing his effects. He started licensing in the 1990s. Today, the Serafine Collective consists of Royalty-Free Music, Sound Libraries, Sound Effects, Star Sound Packs, Photos, Video and Visual Effects (www.serafinecollective.com).
He’s now distributing through Hollywood Edge (www.hollywoodedge.com) and Sound Ideas (www.sound-ideas.com). He’s also working on cloud-based distribution. “Big production houses can afford to buy every library out there,” Serafine explains. “They need to. They need to have everything at their fingertips all the time. For smaller projects, cloud delivery will allow à la carte purchases. You’ll be able to search a huge library and audi- tion instantly. The search engine is what makes this possible and powerful. Everyone will be able to know what’s available. Libraries add up in cost, so this à la carte cloud model will make elaborate effects available to a huge number of filmmakers.” Adds Serafine, “I’m in the con- tent business.”
While some artists stick to one medi- um for their lives, Frank Serafine is the sort of visionary who continues to push into new endeavors, new media and new ways to bring his content to others. His energy and enthusiasm seem as boundless as his imagination.