Sound Design Program Boasts Unrivaled Tools

By VFS Web Team, on January 19, 2010

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The tools don't make the sound designer, but the sound designer needs the tools. And in the VFS Sound Design for Visual Media program, in concert with a top-notch faculty of industry veterans and an acclaimed curriculum, world-class tools mean a world-class education.
Tools like a Digidesign ICON D-Control dual-operator system with an additional Pro Tools dubber. The dual-operator setup is theindustry standard for post mixing in film and television, and that means one more important thing that VFS Sound Design students won't have to learn on the job - they'll already have direct experience under their belts.
The entertainment industry is always changing, and sound is no exception. For example, there used to be a very clear distinction between the sound editor and the sound mixer. Long-standing process and even union rules made it so.
But an industry-wide shift is afoot, and the line between the sound editor and mixer is blurring.
Tools at the Cutting Edge
Senior Instructor Shane Rees is also a veteran of the film and television industry. For him, keeping students at the forefront is a priority. "First, the dual-operator system is what they will see in the real world," he says. "Second, more and more studios are updating their old mixing boards for the new technology, which is the ICON. So our students will see the latest and greatest. And honestly, if they can learn the ICONs, going backwards from a technology standpoint is not hard."
There's a reason this kind of setup is hard to come by elsewhere. Unlike many other schools with audio-related programs, Sound Design at VFS concentrates on visual media without splitting focus with music or other areas. That means the equipment can be more focused, too - tools like this one are integral to both film and TV.
A Closer Look at the Gear
The ICON is Digidesign's state-of-the-art control surface. Rees describes the system now available to VFS Sound Design students: "We have a dual-operator ICON D-Control ES system," in other words, two systems, "running on two Quad Core Intel Mac computers.  The software we're running the ICONs with is Pro Tools 8.0.3 HD on OSX (Leopard).  Both systems are connected using Digidesign's Satellite system."
"We also have a third Pro Tools system in the Theatre that is operating as a re-recording dubber.  This third system is newest-of-the-new technology - or, more specifically, how we use it is a new concept.  We have an older version of technology for a dubber, which we show students as well, but our students will see how the new technologies are changing how the industry works."
"Some other new features for the Mix Theatre include a Mojo SDI for our picture playback, which can be played back through our new HD projector and a CEDAR noise reduction unit to show students a true piece of industry technology used to make a film sound better."
"Up until recently," Rees says, "sound editors edited in a Pro Tools system and then played it back into a digital board - or two. What the ICONs are capable of doing is mixing right inside of Pro Tools. Because of its tactile functions and customizable features, the ICONs allow mixers a more efficient way of working."
Here's a slideshow of photos showing some of the new gear:

Bringing the Real World to Students
The new gear will significantly augment the Sound Design for Visual Media experience for students. For example, students already mix films from the Film Production program in their final terms, working on a film's soundtrack from beginning to end. But now they'll be able to do it in a way that's even truer to the day-to-day industry reality: a significant advantage.
"At VFS, our mandate is to always be the frontrunner in training talent for the real world," says VFSManaging Director Marty Hasselbach. "To do that, we must not only understand what the industry requires today but also be able to anticipate the needs of tomorrow. Our commitment to teaching the newest Digidesign technology is truly representative of that."
Thinking of pursuing an education in sound design at VFS or elsewhere?  Do as much research as possible. Find out everything you can about the things that matter: the equipment, the curriculum, the faculty, and the collaborative opportunities. It's about making informed decisions on your education and career. It's worth doing right.
To learn more about Sound Design for Visual Media at VFS, visit