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Interview with John McClain from Dog & Pony Studios

With all the theaters, hotel shows, game and film productions, Las Vegas really is an exciting place for producers and sound designers. John McClain’s Dog & Pony Studios are located right in the middle of this vibrant city, and since 2003 he was involved in many award-winning productions, from movies to interactive games. Most recently, John worked on the upcoming blockbuster Haywire by Steven Soderbergh, starring Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Gina Carano. In the interview he tells us more about his latest projects and future plans.

Hello John! Could you tell as something about your personal background and the history of Dog & Pony Studios?
I’ve been working in the studio since 1988. I started in Detroit, Michigan, USA. I moved to Las Vegas in 1996 and launched Dog & Pony in 2003 when I left my previous employer.

What is your studio specialized in (FX, foley, ADR, etc)? We’ve heard you use Nuendo for all of them.
Two years ago I would have said we specialize in post audio, but we’ve really shifted over to interactive and gaming, especially to casino gaming. That’s where we’ve found our niche. Of course, being in a market like Las Vegas, we get a lot of different jobs coming our way, so we have to be ready for ADR, foley, mixing, you name it — we’ve probably done it all. And yes, we use Nuendo for everything. We currently have three edit/mix/sound design rooms and two composers.

John McClain and Michael Johnson at Dog & Pony Studios

What where the most interesting projects you’ve been involved in?
My favorite project is still George Carlin’s “Napalm and Silly Putty”, which won a Grammy in 2001. Since I started Dog & Pony though, my favorite is whatever I’m working on now.  Currently, we have three games and the fully interactive Las Vegas Mob Experience in house.

Could you tell us something about your Comedy Central project?
We did a three minute cartoon series that aired on Comedy Central in May and July. It is called “Shmitty Mcfunkle and Stump”. That was a lot of fun as we did everything, including music and sound design, mixing, recording as well as the editing of all voices. In addition, our engineer Dave Braxton played the character Mcfunkle and I played the character Stump. It all started as a series of commercials for Skechers. We just had an idea and did the commercials like an improv troupe without having any scripts. It just grew from there into the series.

You’ve already been using Nuendo 5 in your daily business. What do you think about the new features? What features do you like best?
Overall, I’m quite impressed with Nuendo 5 and we use it every day. I love the REVerence reverb and the ability to export a marker track as a CSV file, which is a great help when spotting a piece. And the new video engine is amazing.

You’ve recently worked on the upcoming blockbuster Haywire by Steven Soderbergh, starring Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Gina Carano. What role did Nuendo 5 play in this project?
We recorded ADR with Gina Carano into Nuendo 5. We imported the cue sheets from the sound supervisor into Nuendo 5, which we used to create a marker track for all our in points — what a timesaver! We recorded all lines into Nuendo 5, while simultaneously sending timecode down the ISDN line so that the studio in Los Angeles could lock up to our workstation and follow along. Once finished we exported WAV files and sent them to the client. They seemed a bit surprised that we use Nuendo, but the session was very smooth, and the client was very complimentary.

What projects have you got lined up for the future?
Right now we’re ramping up on the aforementioned Las Vegas Mob Experience. This will be a combination of a museum and an interactive game with all sound design and score being done here at Dog and Pony. And we should soon be seeing the first cut of a film by the University of Nevada Las Vegas Film School, that is being produced by Roger Corman. I’m pretty excited about that one!

Thank you, John!