As most successful studio owners will know, the need to adapt as the industry evolves has become paramount, and Fredo Gevaert, founder of Temple of Tune in Kuurne, Belgium, is no stranger to that fact, as Adam Savage discovers…
What’s possibly not stated enough in this business is the importance of loving what you do, and one man who willingly demonstrates true passion for his craft is Fredo Gevaert, owner of the four-studio Temple of Tune complex – specialist in sound design and post for TV, film and commercials – in the Belgian municipality of Kuurne.
Having started out as a popular DJ for a radio station in the 1980s, Gevaert later joined the team at one of the 20 Eastlake studios designed by Tom Hidley. Following the sale of the facility he was given the chance to inherit the clients and serve them through his home studio, which led to the formation of Temple of Tune in 1990.
The Temple’s early days were solely dedicated to commercials, and while that still represents a major portion of its output, the workload is now a lot more varied, as Gevaert explains: “We do pretty much everything that involves audio or sound design. It has evolved over the years mostly due to our client base, but also because we always wanted to diversify since it is a risky business and very difficult to maintain a position in one particular area.”
Gevaert believes that the studio’s ability to build good relationships with clients is one of the main reasons why it has managed to navigate its way through the stormy waters of the past few years without too much trouble. They’re not battling with the big boys for the major one-off jobs; instead he can be confident of regular work with people he has long-standing partnerships with, which takes the pressure off and allows for greater control over the project.
“We are not in what we call ‘the shopping street’ – the Sohos of this world. We are about one hour away from Brussels,” explains Gevaert. “To start with we don’t have to fight for the latest ‘hip’ project, and because we’re not part of that inner group we have a client base that we have built up over the years, which is very loyal, and we have our own way of working.
“Every project that we handle here is done on the basis of ‘we are doing this job.’ It’s not like we’re just renting out our facilities.”
And it’s this approach that has seen the Temple team – comprising two full-timers and a group of freelancers skilled in certain areas – go from strength to strength in recent times, although the same cannot be said for many of Gevaert’s industry peers, it seems.
“Things are going very well. I’ve heard that with my colleagues it’s still up and down but we’ve been constantly working,” he reveals. “We had our best year in 2012, and again in 2013, 2014, etc. Since we have a lot of independent, small clients we have a steady income.”
The Temple boss has also evidently been using his decades of pro-audio experience to his advantage, as it’s given him the ability to sense when a project could prove more hassle than it’s worth, particularly when the understanding of what his profession entails and the artistry that goes into has, he opines, declined somewhat.
“Years ago if we had a client coming to us who needed a commercial it would be ‘we’d like to work with you, this is what we’d like to do, what do you think?’ and from then we’d handle the project,” Gevaert says.
“These days it’s ‘can you send us some samples of voices, duty-free music that we don’t have to pay for and we will tell you what to do.’ Then they’d ask for quotes for the same job from three or four different studios and squeeze as much as they can out of that quote.
“There’s less respect for the work we do now, mainly due to the ignorance of what the job consists of. There is a parallel with the music business – in a few years, people switched from buying records/CDs to downloading music for free. And since it’s free, it has lost its value.”
As part of Temple’s efforts to broaden its offering, the facility has gone on to do its fair share of film dubbing, for the likes of Netflix – including acclaimed three-parter The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy and Bill Murray comedy St. Vincent – but the current pricing structure and punishing turnaround times required for these projects has meant maintaining a steady stream of this kind of work difficult.
“We are part of an international system for foreign language dubbing and there is a tremendous strain on the prices worldwide. We did seven or eight movies last year all because Netflix came on the market, but this year we haven’t done any,” comments Gevaert. “We cannot make any money out of it, and if you ask us to dub a movie for next Wednesday we could maybe pull it off if we pushed everything else to one side, but we’re not going to do that.
“At the moment we’re working on an animated series called My Knight and Me. It’s a French project and we’re doing all the sound design from scratch.
“We’ll be spitting out one episode a week for the next year, and that forces us into certain workflows we don’t like to get into but that’s the way it needs to be done. I like to mix something until I’ve had enough, listen back to it the next day and do some tweaks as I think that’s a more accurate way of doing things. That’s not possible in this case, but you cannot help it.
The quality of the equipment on offer, as well as the overall design of the MADI-networked facility, has also undoubtedly added to its appeal.
“It’s an old fashioned studio in terms of acoustics – built the way it should be. We have a nice nine-pit Foley floor and top-notch equipment, but we never went along with the latest fashion trends.”
Highlights include NTP/DAD converters, Lafont LP-21s/LP-22s, TC Electronic 6000 and Lexicon 960 for the outboard preamps and effects; Meyer Sound HD-1 monitoring in Studio One and a full LSR JBL setup in Studio Four.
The Temple crew have also relied on Steinberg’s Nuendo software for many years, with Gevaert describing it in 2014 as being “more flexible, faster, more user friendly and easier to work with multiple users.” And it looks like he hasn’t altered his opinion since the arrival of Nuendo 7 earlier in 2015.
“We have been a Nuendo user since the day we threw out our Akai DD1000s and DD1500s and then there is Yamaha Nuage, which is the best board I have ever seen. I was never a fan of controllers before, but this really speeds up your workflow. We’re in a market where we need to do things quick, in a very convenient way, and we don’t want to be stuck in situations like ‘it was always done like that so we should carry on doing it like this’, so Yamaha did an extremely good job on this one.”
In fact, the manufacturer has done such a ‘good job’ that the firm is now planning to install a second Nuage system in its Surround Room, which is currently being rebuilt and made Auro 11.1-ready.
Gevaert may have seen a lot changes over the past 25 years – and not always for the best, or so it appears – but it’s clear that he remains as committed as ever to the cause, and it’s this continued motivation that keeps him going regardless of the many new challenges that the industry likes to throw his way on a fairly frequent basis, as he concludes: “Someone once said to me ‘Fredo, never forget why you got into this business: because it was fun. As soon as it becomes not fun any more, get out of there as soon as you can.’”