And The Emmy® Goes To...: An Interview with Synchro Arts

John Ellwood (left) and Jeff Bloom win the Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award for Automated Sound Conformation.
Photo courtesy of Marc Bryan-Brown Photography.
Jeff Bloom and John Ellwood have spent many years perfecting the technology for Synchro Arts, as well as the art of explaining what they’re all about.

Essentially, Synchro Arts’ one-of-a-kind software has played a key role in post-production audio for film, television and music. It gives audio professionals the chance to synchronize dialogue perfectly to moving images or provide accurate pitch and tighter vocals musically.

It’s a concept that Bloom started toying with in the late 1970s when he learned about the film industry’s issue with dialogue replacement and how automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) wasn’t so automatic after all. He came up with the idea to align dialogue to match another piece of dialogue that would ultimately create a seamless piece of media, VocAlign Pro.

When he started working on that idea in 1981, computers took 20 minutes to process five seconds of sound. If something had to be altered even just a pinch, that process took another 20 minutes. He saw his idea come to life not just once, but many times as technology rapidly changed.

“In my lifespan, I’ve seen every possible recording media,” Bloom joked.

By the mid-80s, he was bringing these $55,000 boxes of equipment through Hollywood and trying to explain how to use them. Eventually it became a software plugin and is an algorithm still used by the film industry today. This technology has been used on films such as The Goonies and X-Men and shows such as Game of Thrones and Dora the Explorer.

The music industry relies on the technology as well. Artists such as Florence and the Machine, Britney Spears and David Bowie were introduced to the technology through their producers, which is what led to Synchro Art’s 2012 release of Revoice Pro. This piece of technology provides the fastest, easiest and best sounding adjustment and alignment of vocals, instruments and ADR as well as double track generation.

Artists also use VocAlign Pro for perfectly-aligned double-tracked vocals and/or instruments, tighter and clearer backing vocals, shorter overdub sessions and easy re-grooving of recorded vocals for remixing. Legendary recording engineer Roger Nichols heavily praised the technology in an article written for EQ Magazine, and was used for the entirety of Steely Dan’s eight studio record, Two Against Nature.

Another game-changer for the technology happened when Bloom walked into DreamWorks Studios one day and presented the product. Through a six-month partnership, they developed Revoice Studio for DreamWorks’ Shrek, which allowed anyone with a computer and Shrek DVD to plug in a microphone, record their voice and turn it into the voice of Shrek, Donkey or Princess Fiona. The same bonus feature was created for Austin Powers in Goldmember and DVDS for bands Barenaked Ladies and Girls Aloud.  

When Ellwood met Bloom through a friend of a friend, he never thought his background would bring him into the world of sound. He also never thought that they would be standing side-by-side as they received an Emmy® for Automated Sound Conformation. Through his lifetime, specifically his career with Synchro Arts, he has kept one piece of advice at the forefront:

Do things you enjoy with a passion,” he said. “These programs take many years to write. Revoice Pro has code in it from 20 30 years ago and adding new features to these programs takes huge amounts of time, so if you don’t have a passion for creating it, life becomes very tedious. Do something that you have a passion about.”

Though Jeff Bloom and John Ellwood didn’t expect their careers to be remotely close to what it is today, Synchro Arts has changed their lives for the better. They may find their story difficult to explain, but their products truly do speak for themselves.