Life after SAE Student Series: Piero Capra
27 Mar 2017
Life after SAE Student Series: Piero Capra
Instead of studying in Europe where he grew up, Piero Capra chose Cape Town and SAE to pursue his studies in sound production.
Graduating top of his class in 2014, Piero is now back in Europe and in a short space of just over two years amassed an incredible amount of work experience in various fields relating to sound.
We caught up with Piero to find out how life has been after SAE and if he is ‘living the dream’ yet…
“I had to accurately reproduce the track “Diamonds” by Rihanna to be accepted onto the team of engineers.”
You graduated top of your class in 2014. Were you surprised to be first or was it part of your goals when studying?
Well, I didn’t actually know I graduated the first of my class at that time, but found out recently which is such a pleasure.
Studying at SAE has been very stimulating and a bit of healthy competition helped me reach my goals with better results. I’d been very committed throughout the whole year to giving the best of myself and had worked very hard in order to achieve the highest possible outcome so I’m not too surprised that with this attitude I reached very good results.
But at the same time it has also always been an absolute joy, helping and collaborating with my schoolmates when in need with theirs projects.
How much of your success in your studies do you think came from natural aptitude and how much was down to plain hard work?
I don’t think I am a natural talent.
Since I started studying music years ago I had to work very hard to achieve my goals, in every field. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. My strong point is that I’m very determined, almost stubborn in everything I do, because I always do what I am passionate at.
My experience at SAE has been the same, with of course more conscientousness for what I was doing and a bit of experience on my side.
What made you choose SAE Institute Cape Town?
When I decided to apply for a sound engineering college I considered a few Institutes in Europe and abroad.
SAE Cape Town caught my attention for its more creative approach to audio engineering as opposed so some of the others.
Reinforcing my choice was the amazing location of Cape Town, a city that I have loved from the very first day. I will never regret my choosing Cape Town and SAE.
You moved to London in 2015. Was this an easy decision to make and what prompted the move?
Cape Town for me was the perfect city to live in. It was a really hard decision to leave but I chose to move back to Europe in order to live closer to my family. I’m still not sure I’ve done the right thing, who knows, maybe I will go back to South Africa at some point.
Tell us a little bit about the first jobs you got in London using your qualifications. Did you find the learning curve quite steep or did you feel well equipped for these first undertakings?
At first I started freelancing for an AV company.
I helped set up some pretty big events in the UK’s capital, then I was offered an internship at Sohosonic Studios, a very busy music production studio in the centre of London. As a primary task I had to accurately reproduce the track “Diamonds” by Rihanna to be accepted onto the team of engineers.
During the time spent in the studio I’ve had the chance to assist the senior producers in the various sessions and soon started working on various projects I’d been assigned to, which ranged from band recordings, voice over, sound to picture and others.
SAE prepared me very well in many aspects and I easily gained confidence with the new gear, new softwares and the large selection of plugins; I’ve improved my ability to work in a very fast environment and deal with the delicate practice of working with the artists.
At the end of the day no matter what profession one is in it is all about satisfying the client. You serviced some pretty heavyweight customers while in London. Who was the toughest/most challenging and why?
Working in such a busy studio in London has its good and bad points.
A good point is that the head producers have your back all the time, the bad one is that they expect and demand a lot from you, that’s because the clients are extremely demanding.
One of my first projects was the production of music and sound design for a commercial for a famous digital channel owned by the Universal group. A quick anecdote: the senior engineer warned me that these clients working in advertising, even they though are not “sound people”, they have very good ears, in fact, during the production they pointed out a little sound problem on a short dialogue at the beginning of the spot, which none of us engineers noticed.
After a few tests we realised there was an error on the sample rate conversion of that particular file and we were all amazed how these clients were prepared, precise and demanding. They asked to tweak the track many times while they were editing the video at the same time to obtain the best possible result, which in the end was actually great.
To date your sound engineering career has also given you the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Tell us a bit about where you’ve travelled and some of the highlights so far…
Yes, for a year now I’ve been working for a UK company which provides sound-lighting engineers for overseas hotels and resorts, which gave me the chance to spend the last summer season in Crete, Greece and I’ll soon be starting a new contract in Turkey. It has been a great experience so far, I’m taking care of the daily shows in several venues at the location I’ve been assigned to, running sound, lights and video as well with first class equipment. The job involves a lot of programming, especially for lighting and video design, a field new to me, which I had the chance to learn and I enjoy very much.
Aside from Live Sound Engineering you’ve also been active with sound design and music composition, two areas a lot of young aspirant sound students wish to pursue. Which do you prefer; the solitude of studio work or the more social lifestyle of live sound reinforcement and engineering?
At this stage of my life I really enjoy the job I’m doing. I got the chance to live abroad, in a touristic place which is always sunny, collaborating with a large team, working an acceptable amount of hours which still leaves me time for myself.
Also with this next contract I will be leading the technical team. I do sometimes miss the creativity of music composition as well as sound design, I used to love to listen and relisten to the outcome of my productions, which always made me very proud. Anyway I’ll try to keep producing on my own as much as I can.
One piece of advice you’d like to offer future/present SAE sound students?
Always do what you love, and work very hard. Don’t be scared to start from the beginning again and again if it’s needed. Don’t give up! (and please, turn on the power amps after the sound desk!!)