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Belmont’s Ocean Way Studio Continues to Break into the Film Scoring Industry

A conductor directs an orchestra for a recording in Ocean Way

With a convenient location in the heart of Music City’s infamous Music Row, Belmont University’s Ocean Way Studio may have a natural reputation for being a hot spot for recording artist albums. While this reputation holds true to some of the studio’s daily operations, the famous location is beginning to make a name for itself in various other industries–including video games and major motion pictures.

In this past weekend alone, Ocean Way took pride in having recorded the full orchestral scores for two of the top three grossing movies in the U.S., as determined by Hollywood Reporter. “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and “Boo! A Madea Halloween” both blasted the box office with their October 21 release date, with “Ouija: Origin of Evil” earning $14 million and “Boo! A Madea Halloween” earning over $27.5 million.

Since Belmont’s purchase of Ocean Way in 2001, the studio has become a major player in the areas of audio production and post-production, with several video game soundtracks receiving national and global recognition. In 2014, the score for top-selling game “The Last of Us,” composed by Gustavo Santaoello and recorded at Ocean Way, won Best Audio in the global GANG (Game Audio Network Guild) Awards. That same year, the studio recorded the score composed by Trevor Morris for “Dragon Age Inquisition,” which went on to win the 2015 D.I.C.E. Awards Game of the Year.

Ocean Way’s entrance into the video game and film scoring industries allows student and staff engineers the experience of using different recording techniques. As a leader in the recording industry, Ocean Way is constantly updated by its partners on the most relevant information pertaining to industry work. This information is then passed on to audio engineering students in an effort to keep them up-to-date with the way the recording industry is adapting.

According to Ocean Way’s Director of Operations Patrick McMakin, Ocean Way, along with other studios, is finding the need to adapt to other industries due to the declining amount of work available for studio engineers. “With the dramatic changes in the record side of the business, revenues that artists and their labels previously collected from physical sales has been replaced by streaming and digital broadcasting, which are about half of what [the revenues] were 15 years ago,” McMakin explained. “Also, thanks to advances in digital audio, much overdubbing and mixing has disappeared into home studios. The combination of these two market forces has made it tough for studios to survive, let alone flourish. The addition of film and video game orchestral recording has provided a new source of revenue for Ocean Way at a time when more and more work is going ‘into the box’. It has also provided employment for numerous staff as well as hundreds of hours of musician employment annually.”

Although Ocean Way’s entrance into the film and video game industries has been beneficial, the change has brought along challenges for studio employees. Instead of working with bands of five to seven members, the engineers are now working to organize and record 50 to 75 musicians playing at once. Due to this drastic increase in musicians, time spent in the studio is much more valuable, making less room for error.

McMakin discussed how the studio has to adapt to help alleviate this kind of added stress. “Our studios have to be impeccably maintained so that no time gets lost due to technical issues. Setups have to be perfect in every detail, engineers have to be extra attentive, our computers have to be as bullet proof as possible. A crash in the middle of one of these sessions creates tons of stress on everyone since all know the pressure we are under during these sessions.”

With the recording industry taking a turn in this direction, McMakin believes that Belmont students are at an advantage to be gaining this experience early in their careers. The knowledge they gain from working in these high-pressure environments will ultimately prepare them to better handle similar projects in the future. “As Belmont becomes increasingly aware of and connected to these other industries, students will have the benefit of what the University learns,” said McMakin.

For more information about scoring sessions at Ocean Way or for a list of past scoring credits, visit the studio’s website.