Studio Focus: SAE Institute, Sydney
Tertiary audio education is enjoying some hefty financial investment lately. SAE Institute recently opened the doors to its new $12m, seven-story Sydney facility located at 39 Regent St in the inner-city creative hub of Chippendale, next to Central Station.
General Manager of SAE Australia, Lee Aitken, said the new campus was built to accommodate a growing demand for a range of creative media programs in disciplines like film, animation, games, design and web/mobile. “The new campus has been fitted out with the best facilities and industry-standard equipment to support hands-on learning in small class environments,” said Aitken. “Our focus is on giving students access to the types of technology and equipment they’ll be using in the workplace, and equipping them with both the technical and soft skills needed to kickstart successful careers from day one of their studies.”
Though SAE’s roots are in sound production, there’s no ignoring the rapid growth of the film, games, and animation sectors, and the opportunity it poses for an educational institute. At the new Sydney campus, film students benefit from five dedicated edit suites including a specialised room for colour grading. There’s a foley room, plus a film studio with cyclorama soundstage dubbed ‘The Wonder Room.’ The Gaming department is well catered for too, with an inventory of the latest VR headsets like Oculus Rift kits and Samsung VR, all the major console platforms, as well as Android and iOS touch devices.
While audio is a smaller slice of SAE’s pie, it hasn’t been forgotten. Seven studio control rooms are dotted about the premises, along with seven live recording rooms and two 5.1-enabled audio post spaces with Avid S6 control surfaces in each. Instead of learning signal flow on a Behringer eight-bus, you can expect to sit behind a Neve Custom Series 75 or SSL AWS 948. Two dedicated mixing rooms rely on UAD Apollo interfaces equipped with eight cores of hardware processing via Quad Satellites with bundles from iZotope, McDSP, and Softube to go along with the UAD plug-ins. DAWs include Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, and Ableton Live. There’s even a standalone ‘critical listening room’ where you can bask in the glory of ATC’s SCML20ASL reference monitors.
The outboard gear list is drool-worthy. JLM Audio products are well represented with five LA500 and FC500 compressors, a Mac Opto compressor, Head 2-Pac headphone amp, and BA2 stereo mic pre. Besides the home grown goodies there’s GML EQs, TLA channel strips, Neve pres including 1073s, a Chameleon Labs 7720 compressor, Drawmer tube channel strips, a Bricasti M7 reverb, ELI Distressors, an SPL Transient Designer, a UAD 1176LN, and more.
For students needing some downtime, one entire level of the campus is a dedicated chill-out area with a kitchen and lounge. They can also head to one of four quiet study rooms to knuckle down and smash out that essay, or brainstorm a big group assignment in the two open plan student collaboration and study areas. For some fresh air, the stairs lead to a rooftop recreational space with 360-degree skyline views across the CBD.
Building this many studio spaces into a seven-story campus required judicious acoustic planning. The solution was to place the studios on the top two floors of the building to minimise mechanical transmission issues. It gave a good acoustic base line before attending to each studio’s needs.
Principal architect Andrew Holmes says, “Innovative technologies were employed to resolve acoustically sensitive areas from the building’s concrete structure to create studios with a high level of acoustic comfort. The overall acoustic design of the theatre, control room and live spaces in the new facility has been directed towards achieving high acoustic performance. Low ambient noise in live rooms, control room and other listening spaces has been given high priority. A chilled beam cooling system was developed for the project to provide a silent form of cooling rather than previous fan driven systems.”
Sydney Campus Manager, Radovan Klusacek, says, “Aspiring audio students look for a variety of things in a tertiary education provider. SAE Institute provides an immersive, hands-on experience that covers every possible level of studio, post, and live production. Students are in the studio learning from day one. Our industry‐focused courses develop technical skills and knowledge, whilst encouraging creative independence and inspiring artistic expression.”