Audio post company success Asbjoern Andersen


How do you build a successful audio post business? That’s a challenge a lot of audio professionals face – but one company that’s got it right is Boom Box Post.

Since launching in 2015, they’re now at 15 team members and growing. And just this weekend, they landed an MPSE Golden Reel award for their sound work on Nickelodeon’s animated TV movie, Albert.

I was curious to hear the story behind their success and approach – and here are founders Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman with the Boom Box Post story:



 

Hi Kate & Jeff, please introduce yourself and the team at Boom Box Post

We are Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman, the co-owners and supervising sound editors of Boom Box Post.
 

Can you give a brief timeline of how Boom Box Post (BBP) has evolved – how it all started, and where things stand today?

We have worked together since 2005, starting off in a boutique sound studio and moving on to supervising sound at a major studio. With experience in both arenas, we both felt strongly that there was a lot to bring to the table creatively by moving back to a smaller environment. We have always been inspired by ground up sound design work, which in our case means a lot of quick decisions and on the fly recording – much more feasible in a smaller more nimble environment.

We’ve always had the goal in mind of building a ‘teaching studio’ where a collection of artists could grow together and contribute to the greater creative output of the company

It was also exciting to consider building a studio where group learning and shared creativity were the focus. We’ve always had the goal in mind of building a ‘teaching studio’ where a collection of artists could grow together and contribute to the greater creative output of the company. In 2015 we started Boom Box Post and built this into the DNA of the company from day one. We started small, just the two of us. Eventually adding team members as needed. We are proud to be fifteen strong and still growing.
 

What’s the workflow typically like when a new project comes in?

The first step is always taking a look at new projects together to brainstorm a creative direction for the sound and discuss any particular challenges we may face. Every job is unique and making a plan tailored to each project is extremely important.
 

With such a growing team, how do you keep your quality consistent?

There must be hands-on involvement with the supervising sound editor at every phase of post audio. Building trust with our editors is something we take very seriously but ultimately everything flows through us to be sure Boom Box Post has a consistent creative voice.

In the end, it’s all about keeping an open dialogue with everyone on the team

We’ve also created a style-guide for the company, detailing our editorial standards, which has proven extremely helpful when working with new talent. In the end, it’s all about keeping an open dialogue with everyone on the team and making ourselves available to help problem solve. Finding the time isn’t always easy, but it’s a priority. Every day our amazing team is helping to mold the ‘Boom Box Post’ sound, making all the extra effort on our part well worth it.
 

How did you put the style guide together? What were some of the essential things to get in there – and do you have any advice for others who are looking to create a style guide for their audio post company?

Over the course of the first few years building Boom Box Post, we came across a lot of rules that we both adhered to in our editorial but had never been written down. Simple things from stair stepping work and color coding to how best to save copies of project sessions. As we worked with new editors and interns, we found ourselves running into situations where we would be repeating ourselves to get the work where we needed it and eventually decided creating a style guide where all these ideas could live in one place was the smart solution.

We came across a lot of rules that we both adhered to in our editorial but had never been written down

What started out small became quite the endeavor, with explainations from ‘What is a Radio Play?’ to ‘Creating a Digital Foley Library.’ It is deep! The guide helps us to get new editors up to speed quickly and also conforms all editorial to work best within the various practices of Boom Box Post. That’s the key, find your companies’ best practices and get them down for all editors to reference.
 

 

And again, with a larger team like yours, how do you ensure a steady stream of projects coming in? Do you have any strategies in place to insulate you from any industry downturns or quiet periods?

This is a crazy industry. We can get a call tomorrow with a new series that wants us for post just as easily as we can hear about a show ending its run. We’ve tried to insulate ourselves as best we can by always thinking roughly two years ahead. With a road map that deep, we can at least make some rough plans for how best to tackle peaks and valleys in our workload.

This is a crazy industry. We can get a call tomorrow with a new series that wants us for post just as easily as we can hear about a show ending its run

Ultimately however, we rely on the long standing relationships we have built with our clients. They know us as easy to work with and highly creative. Good work tends to breed more work and we made an effort early on to build these bonds with a diverse portfolio of clients.

Outside of our current work load, we are taking a 3D view of growth opportunities, branching out into new business lines. It’s our hope that expanding the Boom Box Post brand into new venues should be an additional protection from slower times.
 

How do you go about looking for talent when you need to bring in more people? Where do you look, how do you evaluate the candidates, and what are some of the essential skills you look for?

Referrals have been our best driver for talent. We are looking for self managed, professional editors ideally with experience in a studio environment. At the very least, they need to have worked withing a sound team with real world deadlines. Our editors know these standards so internal referrals automatically jump to another level for consideration. We also respond to every cold email we recieve (and we get a lot). We take great pride in all our efforts to help train talent through our intense intern program as well as our blog posts, but ultimately we are just trying to teach people the way we like to do things. It certainly has helped when we are searching for new team members.
 

Facility-wise, are all your talents at the same location? And if not, what are some of the tools you’re using to collaborate?

We have a mix of talent both in the studio and working from home. Ideally we would have everyone in house all the time but of course space becomes an issue. We’ve prioritized in house room for newer talent whenever possible so we can start to build that trust in person. It’s also extremely helpful for newer editors to see our veteran talent at work.

We’ve prioritized in house room for newer talent whenever possible so we can start to build that trust in person

In terms of collaboration tools, we rely heavily on Slack, Google Drive and our server for fast communication and sharing or data. These tools have become so essential to our daily work, we couldn’t live without them.
 


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What have been some of the highlights so far for you running BBP, both in terms of projects, and on the creative and business fronts?

Early on, we set out with the goal to work with all of the major animation studios in town. We’ve come very close to accomplishing that in a much shorter time frame than we had expected. With the addition of Netflix and Amazon Studios, our clients come from all over. It’s also been great to have been nominated for a combined 11 Daytime Emmy and MPSE Golden Reel awards, two of which were wins. For our short three year history, that has been so exciting.

In the end however, our biggest point of pride has been watching our team grow, sharing their talent and skills with one another. You put a plan like this in place hoping for the best but truly seeing that collaborative creative spirit come alive every day here at the office just amazes us.
 

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned running BBP – and what’s your key advice to others considering setting up an audio post company?

Creating a business plan was the smartest move we made. This road map took our ambitious ideas, organized them and helped us implement them even as things moved significantly faster than we had planned.

Creating a business plan was the smartest move we made

To that same end, planning and organization for each and every project – days of work before that first sound is put to picture – has really helped us to grow organically. Without these practices, the studio would be chaos and we would never be able to consider expanding into new business lines.
 

 

What’s ahead for BBP? And looking at the audio post industry in general; anything in particular that excites you, and do you see any challenges ahead?

We are very excited to be entering the original sound effects business with the Boom Box Post Sound Libraries. All our hard work building an amazing team of talented editors and designers has given us the ability to draw from that pool to create highly unique original sound effects.

In addition, we have mined the shared knowledge and collective experience of our team to plan these libraries to be not only creatively interesting but extremely useful for the working sound editor. We believe that our point of view in the world of sound design – the focus on both creativity and real world results – sets Boom Box Post up to be a very strong new entry into the field.

A big thanks to Jeff Shiffman and Kate Finan for sharing the story behind Boom Box Post. Find out more about the company here, and meet them on Twitter here.

 

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    As a bonus I included the sources (24 sfx) used to create some of the sounds in the library.

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