Frank Serafine has been at the cutting edge of sound design and the creation of signature audio effects for more than 30 years. His artistry transforms a visual story into a full immersive experience for the audience. He's well known for his early Hollywood work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and TRON, and he shared an Academy Award® for The Hunt for Red October. As the sound designer on these and other films, he created signature effects like the TRON light cycles and the eerie screaming torpedoes from The Hunt for Red October, but thinking of Serafine simply as a sound-effects guy barely scratches the surface of what he has accomplished as an audio artist.
In his career, Serafine not only has created some of the most iconic sound effects, sound designs and music, but he also has built a number of studios. His latest project is taking shape, and it promises to be his most ambitious yet. As audio acquisition and creation has migrated from analog to digital, Serafine has forged ahead, taking advantage of technology. His new studio will be nothing short of state of the art, and it will incorporate more than just sound.
"I was inspired by Skywalker Ranch," explains Serafine. "I was up there working on a project, and I was in this cottage on the property, and my roommate was John Williams. We would be working all day, and at night we'd come back to this little cottage and we'd just talk. It was inspirational. That's what I'm doing with this new studio and this property. It's 10 acres up near Valencia, which is a fast-growing area for production. I'm a mile and a half off the road, and the goal is to be completely off the grid. I'll be using solar and wind to charge batteries for the power. I'm putting everything I've learned from my friends in the industry who are also limiting their use of the grid. The battery systems will keep growing to keep up with the demand. It's really a mixed-use property that will be completely self-sufficient. I'll have fruit trees, and there's an artisanal spring feeding a bass pond."
The new endeavor is being entirely self-financed, and for the actual studio space, Serafine is working with his longtime designer and friend, Carl Yancher. Says Serafine, "Carl has designed many of my studios, and now he's working with me as the architect." The studio itself is framed now. As for the completion date of the entire development? Serafine says simply, "It will be a lifetime endeavor." It also will continue to evolve as Serafine himself moves into new endeavors.
Some years ago, Serafine moved out of a 10,000-square-foot Venice, Calif., studio. He had eight rooms full of equipment, including some 53 synthesizers. "I didn't want to be in that real-estate business, and I wanted to lighten up," he says, "so I sold all of my synthesizers on eBay."
The plan was to get leaner on hardware, but not on capability. Serafine unloaded the analog synthesizers in favor of software synthesizers. The advantages of software synthesizers over analog are debated between purists and digital mavens, but some benefits are clear. Serafine is an advocate of the Arturia Minimoog V and Arturia Moog Modular V, among other software tools. He had been an avid user of the original Minimoog analog synthesizer since he got one in his teens. That Minimoog was one of the most innovative instruments when it was created, but it had some drawbacks, among them, like most analog synthesizers, the tuning could become unstable as the oscillators heated up. That made the Minimoog notoriously difficult to keep in tune. Says Serafine, "Moog went to Arturia to develop the Minimoog, and they were able to correct its problems by making it a software synthesizer, and they did a great job."