Tag Archives: internship

My Year in Industry at Dolby Laboratories

I recently caught up with Dan, who is about to finish his year placement at Dolby; here are his thoughts and reflections.

“Over Easter 2016, I was looking at my CV and although I was happy with what I had achieved at University thus far – I had partaken in enough work experience and society events for my satisfaction – I decided I needed to throw myself out of my comfort zone. I looked at placement years, but thought why would I want to take a year out? An opportunity came up at Dolby, so I applied, thinking the best scenario would be some invaluable interview experience and some handy pointers on how to improve. I went to the interview and was in for a real shock, I had to sit an exam on my knowledge and undertake a lengthy one-to-one interview with my prospective future managers. I was not ready for this. The exam was difficult and tested my computing, audio and electronics knowledge. I walked out after the interview feeling disheartened, almost certain of not getting the job, but ultimately fulfilled in that I threw myself out of my comfort zone and got the interview experience I was after.”

“Two weeks later, I was unexpectedly sent a job offer. Elation! My role was split into two parts, within two different locations. So I will try and summarise it as best as I can! There was a lot to take in.”

Part 1: Transfer Bay Engineer – Soho Square

“The first part of the Job was at the flagship office in London’s Soho Square. The office has many Atmos enabled rooms, as you may expect, from small mixing rooms to a large flagship screening room. These rooms fulfil many purposes, from demonstrations and business events to colour grading and atmos mixing. The screening room – currently the only screening room in the UK with Dolby Vision laser projectors – is always being used to test and show the latest upcoming movies to famous faces, cast & crew, societies such as AMPAS among many others. The amount of Dolby trailers I’ve had to watch this year is into the hundreds. You start recreating the sound effects and miming the words before you know it. I would often run screenings in the screening room and help calibrate and test the Atmos sound system installed within it, (26.10.1 for any of you wondering).  Since I’ve been there, we’ve had screenings for the likes of Tom Cruise, Colin Firth, Denzel Washington among others. I’ve had less pressured jobs!”

“The main role for me though, was Transfer Bay Engineer. I know what you’re thinking… What is a Transfer Bay Engineer? Well, a transfer bay engineer is somebody who quality checks mixes and sends them off to the next person in the chain from studio to distribution. So, I would receive audio for trailers, commercials and short films. This could be in 5.1, 7.1 or Atmos formats. I would test it, make sure it meets requirements for UK/European Cinema Distribution and if it did, I would send it off, if not, I would make some changes to make it meet requirement and go back to the studio suggesting those changes. It sounds woefully boring when you put it in writing. In practice however, it was very fun a great way of getting to know different studios, their practices and also working within professional standards.”

“Other than this, the role had many other jobs, which usually entailed visiting different studios and fixing equipment. I’ve sat in on a few master recordings for different films, which was pretty fun. Watching the Lego Batman movie in Bulgarian was… interesting.”

“Another initiative which Dolby is launching is the Ministry of Sound project. This is ultimately, Dolby Atmos in a nightclub. Its game-changing. Our roles as students were to support the artists who would come into the room and mix their tracks in Atmos, ready for playback at their Ministry of Sound sets. We’ve supported artists such as Max Cooper, Solarstone, S.P.Y among others. We would occasionally have to sell the idea of Atmos, to prospective artists. Which was fun, you’d get a sense of how artists mix and how they use the technology differently to how post production mixers use it. For me, the general consensus was that mixers enjoy the clarity you get with atmos. It’s not just a gimmick where you can place objects above you, it’s much more than that. Having full range surround completely changes the process, especially as you don’t have to go mad on the EQ to get something to cut through within a mix.”

Part 2: Content Services – Royal Wootton Bassett

“Okay, so part two of the placement is in the countryside. Royal Wootton Bassett. Less flashy, a little bit more humble but still stacked with knowledge and the latest in audio technology. 3 screening rooms, 2 other Atmos enabled mix rooms. This office served as the old European headquarters for a couple of decades and there are little reminders of the history of Dolby everywhere.”

“The role was a little more technical. It mainly involved fixing, testing and setting up Rendering Mastering Units among Cinema Processors, Multimedia Encoders, broadcast encoders and decoders and many other pieces of equipment. I’ve upped my soldering game, always handy, I’ve had to make a lot of breakout cables, d-sub cables and even a 6 way cinema processor switcher. I’ve also tested my programming knowledge by helping to set up new products which will be available to studios soon.”

“But there’s still the opportunity to get out and about. I have been on a few site visits, one of which to jolly old Southampton! Along with a few members of the team, I helped ‘Atmos-commission’ the new Showcase Cinema in West Quay. We went out and set measurement microphones within the critical listening area and attuned each speaker by blasting out pink noise and measuring the response averaged between the 8 microphones along the critical listening area. An EQ was added to make it hit the X-Curve. It was interesting to see! I hope by now you’ve all been and had a go on the reclining chairs.”

“I was also invited to work at Cannes Film Festival. Helping out with screenings and decommissioning of the screening rooms. It was interesting to see how such an event was put on in a conference centre which is by no means meant to be a cinema. We also helped out with a few premieres which was pretty cool.”

“So, I’m now at the end point of my student placement and I’m ready to return to University with an added boost of motivation. So, to return to my original question: why would you do a placement year? Well, what is there to lose? I’ve been able to preview what professional life is like on the outside of University. I have been able to develop confidence and knowledge within the field, which has helped me chose the path of audio post-production post university. I have had incredible experiences and invaluable tips. A placement year may not be compulsory for the course, but has been instrumental for my growth as a sound engineer.”

Thanks to Dan for sharing his thoughts and experiences – we look forward to seeing him again in September. Keep an eye on the Facebook and SOL pages for placement opportunities and get involved with extracurricular events to help make your own.

My Year in Industry at Focusrite

I recently caught up with Adam, who is about to finish his year placement at Focusrite; here are his thoughts and reflections.

“I’m currently studying Bsc (Hons) Audio Engineering and I’ll be starting my final year in September. I applied to the course because, unlike many people, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My degree title is actually in the name of the company I’ve been working for – Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd. I picked this course and University specifically because it stood out head and shoulders above the rest. I visited a few other Universities with much stricter entry requirements before visiting Solent but the team, facilities and course in general stood out by a mile.”

“I decided to take a placement year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I figured that applying for a job after University would be so much easier. I can’t put into words how much I’ve learned since being here and developed already existing skills; there’s no better way to learn than actually doing something. It’s not only that though, a good reference from a well-regarded company carries so much weight and the opportunity to socialise and network with people that you aspire to work alongside is priceless.”

“Secondly, I hope that it will make my final year much easier. I’ve had an extra year to develop skills that are necessary for my final major project and I’ve also had to manage my time, workload, deadlines and personal life around a much tighter schedule. “

“I’ve worked on a couple of big product-based projects since I’ve been here; unfortunately I can’t talk about them yet! Major projects that I’ve worked on (that I actually can talk about) include a new factory test system, the migration of all engineering data between PLM systems and more factory test stuff!”

“Our new factory test system replaces a standalone C++ application that’s been neglected over the years and is just u-g-l-y. It ain’t got no alibi. It’s ugly. The new system (pyFactory) is a web-based application hosted solely on Raspberry Pis. Using Focusrite’s existing audio interfaces we can run extremely high performance audio measurements very quickly. We can also test MIDI devices and perform firmware upgrades with the system. The system runs in a master/slave configuration, with one master device (serving database access and also as a system update manager) connected to multiple slaves – test stations running a web app that connects directly to the master’s database. The system also supports RS-232 comms, allowing us to control pneumatic test fixtures and automate entire tests (connector insertion, gain pot adjustment, etc…). The latest products to be tested on this system are Novation Peak and MonoStation; we’ve been working on porting over other product ranges, but new products always take priority. On the old test system, a Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) would take ~60 seconds per test. The new test system can test ~2.5 units in this time. We’ve not yet figured out exactly how much money this has saved, but it’s a lot!”

“I’ve learned an incredible amount. I’m aiming to have a more software-focussed career; comparing my current code to code that I’ve written previous to this year is like comparing a Mr Men book to Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’. I’ve developed my knowledge of networked audio, electronics, software development, project management, and manufacturing.”

“I’d like to return to Focusrite upon graduating, hopefully as a Production Systems Developer (or, more likely, a junior one of those). This would involve developing production systems software including test systems, analysis tools and workflow automation. I’m tempted to do a Masters but I’m not sure whether I could turn down a job offer! Focusrite are great in that you quite often have the opportunity to study for an advanced, or second, degree. We’ll see where it takes me!”

Thanks to Adam for sharing his thoughts and experiences – we look forward to seeing him again in September. Keep an eye on the Facebook and SOL pages for placement opportunities and get involved with extracurricular events to help make your own.

Mind the Gap!

There is no doubt that full time study is tiring and at degree level it is can seem like a marathon. Whilst the Media Technology programme has been designed to be applied, it can sometimes still feel like a lot of theory to take on board. But did you know that you can suspend your studies for a year to complete an industry placement?

Several of our industry contacts have year-long internships available and this can be a great way to apply your knowledge and turbocharge your CV. Several students take up internships each year – usually between their second and third years. Over the last academic year we’ve had students at Evertz, Ericsson, Dolby and FocusRite.

Hannah is about to complete her internship at Evertz before returning for her final year of Broadcast Systems Engineering. Early in her placement, she built and installed a prototype cloud playout system in Washington and has continued to work on IP infrastructures since. Evertz have been at the forefront of IP broadcast networks and have developed several standardised architectures and protocols such Software Defined Video Networks. The project Hannah has been working on recently won the IABM Game Changer award at NAB and is expected to go live before she leaves.

It sounds like Hannah has really enjoyed her time at Evertz and we look forward to learning more from her on her return in September. The course team often post opportunities via the Media Technology Programme forums on SOL and Facebook or you can organise your own placements. Talk to your course leader or the student hub if you’d like to suspend your studies for a year out in industry.

Media Technology Students FocusRite on Work Experience

On 15th November undergraduates were visited by Damien Hawley from FocusRite. Damien visited to introduce Media Technology students to the graduate positions and internships available at FocusRite. There are a number of graduates currently working at FocusRite and Damien was joined by a current undergraduate Adam, who is midway through a paid 12 month placement between his second and third year at Solent.  He has been working on developing automation for test and measurement routines using Raspberry Pis and was enthusiastic about the projects he has been involved with and the skills he has gained. Damien explained that FocusRite believe in raising the skill set of graduate engineers using on the job training and development programmes. There are positions available each year in a variety of roles from technical support through to software development. It was great to hear what our undergraduates and graduates have been up to and the positive reputation that the Media Technology programme has within the industry.