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Sandblast Productions Opens New Audio Facility in New York City

Studio Space at 1650 Broadway Positions Partners to Serve Existing Clients, Develop New Content

Hanging a new shingle in a tough market for audio post, music production company Sandblast Productions has moved in at 1650 Broadway in New York City, just north of Times Square. 

After working together for more than 20 years at companies including Broadway Sound and Creative Group, co-founders Mike Ungar, Ralph Kelsey, and Loren Toolajian say they're looking to leverage their own personal chemistry along with their creative talent, musicianship and long history with clients to build a stimulating environment for music production and post.

"Everyone [in New York] has access to the same gear," Toolajian tells StudioDaily. "Our new facility is not about any revolutionary piece of equipment that makes us different from anyone else down the street. Technology has evened the playing field. So what it's really about is how you're going to use the technology you have. As an individual, an artist, and a creative entity, what do you bring to it uniquely that allows you to use it in a special way?"

For Toolajian, that unique approach might draw on his history at New York's Signature Theater Company, where he worked with Arthur Miller and Sam Shepard. For Ungar, it may be his background as a jazz trumpeter and ethnomusicologist. And Kelsey has been mixing parody spots for Saturday Night Live's film unit for two decades, more recently tackling sound design for ESPN college football.

"We've partnered as audio post engineers with a large clientele that follows us where we go," Ungar says. "Ralph and I together founded Broadway Sound for Lorne Michaels, and we were there for 17 years. After a shift in the corporate structure, we found ourselves at Creative Group. And then after Creative Group decided to move out of their facility and to a location we felt was disadvantageous to our clients, we decided — after 30 years of avoiding this — to open a post facility on our own and include all aspects of what we do under one umbrella."

The new studio space is designed to take maximum advantage of New York real estate while stimulating creativity. Ungar calls the facilities "acoustically old school," without glass and reflective surfaces to screw up the listening experience. "It's a very accurate listening environment for any work that we're checking with a client. We have limited space, and we want to get the most out of it."

For example, Sandblast has one recording booth that's shared by two mixing rooms. "Rather than having glass on both sides, which has always been the case, we decided the most effective and acoustically correct way to do it is to have no glass," Kelsey explains. "It's all cameras and monitors. We have a relatively big monitor in the booth that can be split in different ways. You might see the program on one side of the screen and see the production and engineer in the control room on the other. And we're in the control room looking at them. You are still looking at the other person, even though it's through a camera, and this way we can switch back and forth and either studio can use the same recording booth."

The current business environment is challenging, to be sure, but the partners at Sandblast have confidence that their history in the market positions them well. The company just inked a deal with BMG to license its music library internationally, and is continuing to work with long-time clients including Nickelodeon, Syfy, A&E, History Channel, and Showtime. In fact, Toolajian and Bill Lacey won a 2014 North America Promax Gold Medal last week for their music for House of Lies promo clip "Les Mais (on de lies)" for Showtime. Watch it, below.

Asked about the potential for taking advantage of the favorable climate for tax incentives in New York production and post, Toolajian acknowledges that such thoughts have occurred to the Sandblast team. "I have a number of high-profile actor friends in New York, and we've been talking about Sandblast getting involved in script development, some financial development, and film distribution opportunities that we can start creating for lower-budget movie projects — $3 to $5 million projects that we can help finance and distribute and do all the music and audio for," he says. "To be part of this business, we can't just service our clients. We need to be creating content constantly."

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