School of Audio Engineering opens in Dubai

Over the last two years, Dubai has become a hotspot for several professional media training institutes. Courses in filmmaking and animation have become commonplace. But now, with the opening of the School of Audio Engineering, the emirate has also got its first professional audio training institute. Digital Studio, along with Giorgio Ungania, interviews Marco Bettelli of SAE about the institute’s offerings.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  October 31, 2005

I|~|marcobig.jpg|~|Marco Bettelli.|~|What is SAE all about? The School of Audio Engineering (SAE) was founded in 1976 in Sydney by Tom Misner to train the future professionals of the multimedia industry. Our aim initially was to train people in the field of audio engineering but we gradually expanded into multimedia in the 90s and then filmmaking and 3D. Today, we have branches in 47 cities in 30 countries around the world. Dubai is the latest to be added to this list. Why did you choose Dubai? We had been thinking about opening in the Middle East and North Africa for quite a while but we thought that apart from Lebanon and Egypt, the market was not ready yet for our training courses. But with the opening of Dubai Studio City, we felt the time was ripe to move into the region and start training students. Once Studio City opens up, there will be many openings for people with audio and other multimedia skills. In fact, the graduation of our first batch of students in Dubai will coincide with the opening of Studio City’s facilities. Dubai is only the beginning of our plans for the Middle East. We intend to open branches in Oman, Lebanon and Egypt as well. ||**||II|~||~||~|What courses are you offering in Dubai. Is it just audio? No. The history of SAE has primarily been audio engineering but we do offer other courses as well. We were expecting to have the usual influx of audio students here as well and were planning to only gradually introduce filmmaking as we have done in our other institutes. But when we came here, I was shocked by the demand for filmmaking and animation. So we advanced our plans a bit and decided to offer filmmaking and animation right away. In fact, we had more film and animation students registering for the course initially but now, we have more audio students. I believe there is a lot of demand here and we have come to Dubai at the right time. Are the courses or modules, as you label them, identical in all the schools around the world? 80% of the courses are identical in all our institutes and this is extremely important to us. A student can start here in Dubai and finish the course in New York, Miami, London or wherever he wishes to move. It is not a credit transfer, so our students can start a course in Amsterdam and a week later, join the classes in London. When are the classes starting in Dubai and how will the courses be structured? We started the course on October 16. Our programme is divided into three stages: the first three months of classes will give our students a ‘Basic Media Certificate’, which is the foundation course for all of our creative media programmes. During this stage, students will be introduced to the basics of the main four areas, which are audio, video, multimedia and 3D. After this, students will move to the Diploma stage, which lasts nine months. At the end of the Diploma, a student can decide whether he wants to carry on another year all the way up to the BA. ||**||III|~||~||~|How have you gone about selecting your faculty? Most people who come here want to know where our faculty comes from. I don’t want to bring a lot of people from overseas, who bring their imported knowledge and have no idea about the local market or its needs. I am trying to achieve a bit of both. We need international exposure but we also need people who have worked in the local environment and can give my students a feel for this environment. We currently have three resident teachers; two are from the UK and one is from Iraq. They are all ex-SAE students as one of our key missions is to choose among our most brilliant graduates and bring them on board. My course director has been working locally for the last five years. I am very happy to announce the appointment of the Dubai College manager. His name is Jason De Wilde; he has had more than 20 years of international experience both in SAE and in the creative media industry. For animation, I have my eyes set on a person who has been very active in the local industry. I believe that this, together with the fact that we are bringing in lecturers from outside, will give our students a better insight into their specialisations. In the Diploma stage, we will also have professionals coming from all over the world to give workshops and seminars. This year, we’ll have professionals who have worked on Superman and the Lord of the Rings features coming in from Australia. Have you had companies approach you for specialised courses? We have had interest from various quarters including Showtime, Dubai TV and Arabian Radio Network (ARN) to name a few. When people from companies approach us, I tell them to see if they can go back and bring at least five to seven people from their company. In that case, we can custom make a course because industry professionals don’t always want an academic course. In fact, we have been training some of the ARN staff on some of the advanced features of Protools to prepare them for future equipment upgrades at their premises. ||**||IV|~||~||~|What is your own background? I started with SAE in 1996 and was involved in the opening of the Milan College. I joined SAE as assistant manager in Milan. Then I became manager and moved to Melbourne and managed the facility there. From there, I moved to Greece and from there, it’s just been globetrotting for me, opening one SAE college after another. Today, I am the regional director for the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. When did you begin SAE in Dubai? We walked into this studio on July 7. At the moment, we have 55 students but we are aiming for 65. Do you have a lot of part-time students? Actually, 49 of the 55 people we have are full-timers, and they are high school graduates looking at this industry as the way forward. A few part-timers are registered with us, but this is an expensive course and spans over a period of 21 months. I am sure professionals, who are interested in our courses will need some time to think this over before they commit to something like this. What equipment do you have in your facility to support these courses and what will be the highlight of your facility? We have four professional studios that boast the best equipment in the region. Each studio focuses on a particular area of the creative media industry. Equipment includes a fully professional post-production suite with Avid, Final Cut Pro, Pro tools and surround sound monitoring. A Mackie DXB console is central to our electronic music production studio. For our sound to picture work, we have installed a Digidesign Icon control surface with 5.1 surround sound monitoring, plug-ins and an extensive rack of mic pres and outboard equipment. The highlight of the SAE Dubai facility will be the latest digital Neve recording console, the only one of its kind in the UAE. SAE acquired Neve earlier this year. We liked the consoles so much that we bought over the company. We are planning to open a Neve office in Dubai in the coming year. The Neve we will be having here will be displayed at the AES show and hopefully, it should be here this month. Do a lot of companies in the Middle East region use Neve? You’d be surprised. There are not so many in Dubai although there are quite a few across the Middle East. Neve is like a Rolls-Royce. More than 80% of Hollywood productions are done on Neve consoles. We are certain that this will be same for the Middle East. We will educate people on it and make them see why Neve consoles are the best. Even in Studio City, I think people will want this. They would prefer to buy something that has support just down the road than buy something that is supported from the UK. Do you have plans to move to Dubai Studio City? Yes. In two years time, we hope to pack up and move to Dubai Studio City. There, we will add a professional studio facility as well. ||**||

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