Studio Focus: SAE Sydney Opens Downtown
Story: James Dampney
SAE has spent the best part of 40 years building a reputation as the world’s biggest audio engineering school. Starting in Sydney with one humble studio way back in 1976, SAE now boasts 53 campuses across 27 countries. Yet it has just taken its educational facilities to a whole new level, courtesy of its stunning new Sydney campus.
The previous campus was spread over two buildings in Surrey Hills, but the facilities no longer suited the school’s needs, so the decision was made to relocate to the CBD. “We think it’s a great location,” SAE campus manager Radovan Klusacek said. “It’s very easy to access, a nice environment and, importantly, an opportunity to build a school from scratch.
“We were given one-and-a-half floors in a shell building. An open space where we could do whatever we wanted. For someone trying to build recording spaces, recording studios and so on, it’s a godsend, rather than being stuck trying to work into something that was already there.”
Klusacek spent 15 years in music composition, composing and producing music for the film, television and music industries before moving to Australia and linking up with SAE. Starting off as a studio supervisor, he then became a lecturer, an academic director and now general manager of the campus.
Naturally, Klusacek was heavily involved in the design and construction of the new premises. The pick of the gear survived the relocation with an impressive array of new kit to bring the facility up to a truly professional standard.
“We had the opportunity to design the studios the way we really wanted,” Klusacek said. “Because of the space available, we wanted to blur the boundary between a studio and a classroom. The studios are large enough to accommodate the students so that the lecture delivery is happening in there. The students are in the studio at all times.
“While everyone understands we are an educational institution, we also wanted to have the studios up to the quality of a professional recording studio. Striking the balance between an educational environment while giving the students the best possible experience was very important for us. That comes down to hiring a high-end acoustician to deal with the acoustic environment and making sure not just one, but all the rooms sound great. So we could record anything from a single vocalist to a very large ensemble.”
The school boasts just over 600 students and offers degrees in six disciplines – audio production, film production, graphic design, game design, animation and interactive technologies.
It houses the latest Avid recording systems, but Klusacek was also keen to maintain full analogue facilities, including a 24-track analogue recorder.
SAE is designed to arm students entering the workforce with the best preparation possible.
“What we’re looking at, and we’re very particular about this, is the environment the students will be in once they transition out into the real world.” Klusacek said. “One way we do this is by structuring our course delivery into studio units. It’s an environment where students engage with each other just the same way as they would other people in the industry. Collaboration and real life experience is what we’re trying to create.”
Taking a tour through the SAE campus, it is a well designed space that flows from studio to studio and is sound proofed throughout. Featuring seven control rooms, it also boasts a huge green screen studio, edit suites and industry leading software. The aim is to give students both the training and the belief they can make their dreams into reality.
“I would be the first to argue that we need to support the desires and the vision the students have,” Klusacek said. “It doesn’t matter how slim the chances are, if you really, honestly believe you want to be the next big hip hop producer, we should support that. We’ll give you all the other skills as well, so you can make a living and pay the bills by doing something related to what you want. But I’m not going to tell you that’s not realistic. That’s not our place. We’ll support you by how we teach, what we teach and what we use to teach so you can be whatever you want to be.”
And it is having the desired effect.
“For the new students, who had never seen the old facilities, they think it’s impressive,” Klusacek added. “But the students who are transitioning are simply blown away and quite frankly, I was too. “For months and months I saw the studios on a plan and my only real concern was if it was going to be big enough. When I walked in for the first time, I realised it was amazing.
“I’m delighted – and I’m a very hard person to please.”