In the mix: Vagabond Audio celebrates its third anniversary with the addition of a second studio

Drew Weir and Ris? Sanders, husband-and-wife partners in audio post house Vagabond, enjoyed a practical third anniversary celebration in May.

They invested in a $20,000 Avid D-Command mixing board, one of the newest types of medium format mixing control console on the market, which enables them to expand to a second studio.

Specializing in TV spot sound design and audio post, Vagabond has an impressive roster of national clients that include McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Champion Paper, United Airlines, DiGiorno Cheese, Disney?Chase credit cards and Disney Vacation Club, Tombstone Pizza and Sears.

Airing now are commercials featuring sound design for a spot Dennis Manarchy directed for Sargento Cheese/Jacobson Rost in which Weir’s creative challenge was to contrast the noisy sounds of a cheese factory with the quietude of a cheese-making cave.

Currently in the works are sound design and the final mix for a 12-part, half-hour PBS show, “Design E-Squared,” about green architectural design and energy concepts. Outsider is handling the editing and color correction. Client is New York-based Kontent Real, a documentary company specializing in environmental issues.

Weir has been recording, mixing and creating world-class audio for over 10 years. A native of Geneva, Ill., he started his career at Chiat/Day, New York and, true to the Vagabond name, shuffled his own gear around at night recording bands.

Returning to Chicago in 1996, Weir was a sound engineer at now-defunct NuWorld Editorial, where he met client Sanders, a documentary producer at Towers Productions. They married in August, 2001.

After New World closed, Weir joined Red Car. “Drew’s dream was always having his own studio,” Sanders relates. The opportunity arrived as his three-year Red Car contract was ending. “We had to decide, renew? Or open our own business.” The dream won out.

Vagabond’s 2,000-sq. ft. acoustic environment was created by famous studio architect John Storyk of New York’s Walters-Storyk Design Group, and joins their client roster that boasts Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady and Margarita Mix and Howard Schwartz Recording.

Voice tracks, ADR and sound effects are recorded in a 10×12-ft. recording booth outfitted with variable acoustic treatments.

Weir mixes in a 400-sq. ft. control room where primary technology is the Digidesign HD2 Accel Pro Tools system that enables him to interface seamlessly with Avid workstations and other offline environments.

Sanders estimates that having spent “a little here and a little there,” their equipment investment is worth around $400,000.

The staff consists of Weir, producer Sanders, assistant Kim Tice and intern Brian Goodheart. “We’re still pretty small and plan to stay this way for the time being. A second engineer would be our goal,” she says, “but that’s long-term thinking.”

Sanders is an Arkansas native who came to Chicago to attend grad school at Columbia College in 1991. She was on the Towers staff for four years and still freelances for the company.

In late fall, she starts production of a doc with two college professors, one a UIC professor of Lithuanian culture, that traces the Lithuanian heritage of the family portrayed in author Upton Sinclair’s 1906 shocker about the Chicago stockyards, “The Jungle.”

She calls it “a detective story of how the professor finds the descendants of the real life characters.”

Vagabond is located at 445 E. Illinois; phone, 312/321-0828. Email, rise@vagabondaudio.com. See

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