One might imagine a university alumni meeting as a jovial get-together around a few tables in a small neighbourhood pub, but the SAE Alumni Convention presents an altogether different picture: now in its tenth iteration, the event has so far outgrown its humble beginnings that it is hard to describe just what exactly it is: trade show, conference, career expo, awards ceremony, party, rock concert – and much more.
By Klaus Mertens / Videos & Photos by SAE Frankfurt
2014 marked the tenth anniversary of the SAE Alumni Convention, an achievement crowned by record numbers. SAE Institute’s Berlin campus welcomed a crowd of nearly 3,000 visitors, many from fellow SAE colleges all over Europe. Over 60 exhibitors from the audio, film, cross media, web and game industries presented a total of more than 90 brands. The 70 guest speakers included many industry key players. Audio engineering students and alumni listened spellbound to producer Dave Aron sharing inside stories from his collaborations with Prince, U2, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Bobby Brown and many more. But clearly there were stories to tell beyond the production side of things, as Claude Zdanow’s presentation garnered a host of positive feedback. Only 26 years old, Zdanow is the founder and CEO of the Stadiumred group, one of the music industry’s up-and-comers (Crisis? What crisis?) whose associated studios have been involved in 12 Grammy productions. One of the definite highlights for the film crowd was Mike L. Murphy’s presentation. Where else do you get a chance to learn from someone who has been involved in the animation of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings franchise? Klaus Scherwinski, visual development artist at Crytec and co-creator of Crysis 2, and Christian Heilmann of Yahoo and Mozilla gave game and web enthusiasts exactly what they had come for.
Two exhibitors in particular grabbed the visitors’ attention by combining two of their respective products. The Blackdrone Hammer X8 is a 80x80cm full-size camera drone sporting eight 18″ propellers and a maximum flight time of one hour. The camera attached to its underside was courtesy of RED, who had their booth right next to Blackdrone’s. At another booth in the convention’s largest showroom, SAE Berlin’s entrance hall, Ambient presented their new products, just like other exhibitor’s in the usual touch-and-play fashion. The LockIt system has grown into a full-fledged production tool that greatly simplifies and accelerates the workflow from planning to post production. Thanks to a free cloud system and extensive metadata-based communications between different devices (mainly cameras and recorders) takes and audio tracks can be tagged with all relevant information for timecode-related searching and matching. Script and continuity teams now have real-time access to data all from one single app. Also on display were new rack-based audio and video recorders equipped with everything one could ever dream of: all current video formats in all resolutions, up to 64 channels of audio, MADI, DANTE, parallel recording to SSD, redundant power supply and much more make the PIX-270i a production tool with ultimate reliability. Tectum’s “Wacken” rig drew a massive crowd with several of the shoulder-supported 3D cameras used during the shoot of “Wacken: The Movie”.
Those who have always wanted to know how it feels to immerse yourself in a dream world and yell at monsters and scare them off had their wish granted, courtesy of a student project from SAE Cologne. Visitors equipped with Oculus Rift VR headsets made for a somewhat peculiar spectacle but seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously. 3Dconnexion, one of the manufacturers present at the convention, presented its product line of innovative 3D mice.
Developed specifically for the occasion, the Convention app made it easy for visitors to find their way around the Berlin Campus with the added benefit of creating a small virtual community, allowing for impressions and photos to be shared in real time. Meanwhile in the real world, visitors could enjoy hands-on product presentations from manufacturers and distributors from the pro audio industry and talk shop with the qualified staff manning the booths and studio suites. There were many new products to discover: at a rather inconspicuous booth featuring a single iMac and several headphones, Graz-based Sonible demo’d the beta version of their frei:raum plugin, a combined smart EQ and frequency-selective deverberator with controls for harmonic and non-harmonic components – a truly impressive product! DAW manufacturer Avid, operating three booths, presented their S6 console and the new S3LX system for live-sound and studio production – fully operational and ready to go! Sennheiser were showing their new MK 8 microphone, and a special surprise was waiting at the Schoeps booth: one lucky individual out of all those who had their picture taken with the V4 U would get to take the microphone home after the draw at that evening’s party. Roland presented their range of products try-and-play style. A new addition was the HS-5: Session Mixer, a supremely versatile product with tons of features, including effects, built-in audio interface, USB recorder, smart routing and total recall.
In a separate tent, next to the scrumptious concession stands set up in the courtyard, visitors could admire a collaboration of SAE Institute Cologne and Fraunhofer Institute IDMT. Three music tracks produced at SAE Studios highlighted the many spectacular features of the object-based 3D sound system SpatialSound Wave: sound objects can be virtually positioned anywhere within a given space, and the system is freely scalable and supports real-time rendering for any existing configuration. SAE’s Florian Richter, the collaboration’s coordinator, praised SAE Institute’s practice-based feedback as “beneficial to both parties”, suggesting that the project “provided ample material for future research papers and bachelor’s theses”.
But the Convention went beyond the mere technical aspects: both Apple and software developer Goodgames operated recruiting booths on campus and were very much in their element, Goodgames announcing their present need for well-trained staff. Even a law firm was among the exhibitors, and many potential issues regarding trademark law, copyright and other legal matters could be discussed right at the booth.
This year’s party location was the “Adagio” at Marlene-Dietrich-Platz. With its elegant but laid-back atmosphere, combining vaulted arches with giant mirror balls, the club saw its fair share of revelling, dining, drinking and dancing, but also hosted the awards ceremony for SAE’s Alumni Awards. Winners included Thijs Willemsen of SAE Amsterdam for his video game “Float” and Angelo Felchle from the Stuttgart Institute for his web production “One Day Star”. Idea, concept, filming, recording, mixing, editing and graphics are all part of a cross-media producer’s job, and one of them, Mim Phillipson from Berlin, took home the trophy for her project “3 by Three Berlin”. SAE Cologne’s Chris Kerstan received the film award for “Steampunk Coke”, and Nicolas Robin bagged the audio award for the Brussels-produced song “Run” by “Toxic Mixture”.
For more info about the SAE Alumni Awards go to: http://magazine.sae.edu/2014/10/26/sae-alumni-awards-2014-die-gewinner/