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Meet Brian Riordan of Levels Audio in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Riordan. He is a Re-Recording mixer, Music Mixer, Music Producer, Musician, Entrepreneur and founder and president of Levels Audio. Brian has received a staggering 21 Primetime Emmy nominations and is a 4 time Emmy Award winner. Levels Audio Post is the embodiment of his life’s dream to facilitate the absolute best in audio post in an unmatched atmosphere of luxury.

At age five, Brian began playing piano, then guitar at age ten. After playing in several rock/pop bands in grade school and high school, he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied Jazz Composition, Songwriting and Arranging. While at school, he produced and engineered various local music artists.

In 1995, after graduating from Berklee, Riordan moved from Boston to Los Angeles and began working as an engineer at several audio facilities. He began working on a wide variety of projects including records, commercials, television shows and films including many Disney and Pixar animated features such as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bugs Life, Dinosaur, Hercules and Tarzan.

In 1998, Riordan opened his audio post-production facility, Levels Audio, in Hollywood, CA. This was primarily in response to a shortage of independently owned and operated post audio facilities, which at that time were fleeing to Santa Monica and the westside of Los Angeles in a rash of corporate mergers.

In the early 2000’s, Riordan was working on many concerts and music related television programs including the insanely huge hit series American Idol. To prevent turning away work he decided to expand and build a second, larger studio as well as a central machine room.

In the fall of 2005, it was time for a much larger expansion. Riordan acquired the famous site of the Birns & Sawyer Camera Sales and Rental Company on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, CA. He interviewed close to a dozen architects and eventually hired well known studio designer/architect Peter Grueniesen of Studio Bauton. Most of the year was spent designing and building a completely new 13,000-square-foot post production facility specializing in 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby digital sound mixing.

Within a year, Riordan and his newly expanded team began working on projects such as American Idol, Flight of The Conchords, So You Think You Can Dance, The Academy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, MTV Movie Awards, and the Grammy Award Winning documentary film Tom Petty: ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Levels Audio currently features a total of Nine audio dub stages along with an ADR/Foley stage, five audio editorial suites, and a central machine room. The studio provides audio post production, music production, ADR, Foley and sound design services.

A few of his credits include: The Voice – NBC; American Idol – FOX; Teen Wolf – MTV; Flight Of The Conchords – HBO; Drunk History – Comedy Central; Americas Got Talent – NBC; Last Chance U – Netflix; Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin – Netflix; The Academy Awards – ABC; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concerts – HBO; Lip Sync Battle – SPIKE TV; Master Chef – FOX; MTV Movie Awards – MTV; Lady Gaga Presents: The Monster Ball Tour at Madison Square Garden – HBO; Hunted – CBS; So You Think You Can Dance – FOX; The Bachelor – ABC; The Amazing Race – CBS

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have never really followed the “simple” route in life. The older I get the more interest I have in learning to master the “smooth road”. I have had many obstacles along my career path. Most or all of them I have used as a springboard to propel me forward. That’s what challenges are for, right? My first full-time job as a sound engineer was at Hollywood Recording on Sunset Blvd. The owner, Barry, was shot and killed in the parking lot downstairs on an early morning during the work week. In pursuit of fulfilling his dream to expand his business, he had borrowed a large sum of money from the wrong dudes. On the immediate heels of this tragedy, many clients and many employees stopped working at Hollywood Recording. This created a stressful environment but also a very clear path for me to advance at an incredible pace. Within months I was running the company’s biggest commercial sessions with its biggest commercial clients. A year later, I was the top billing engineer with a large client base. After a few years, while continuing to grow this commercial clientele, I decided to start my own place, Levels Audio.

I opened the doors to Levels Audio in 1999 and the large majority of my clients followed. Less than 1 year later was the SAG Commercial Strike of 2000 which halted the industry for 6 whole months! This was a major obstacle that appeared at a very challenging time as I was merely a startup. I was forced to turn my focus to a different direction. I decided to go after music related television. After all, music was my passion and what I was really best at. Between 2000 and 2001 I became a leading audio facility for award shows and live concerts and left the commercial work behind altogether. This certainly prepared me well for when American Idol showed up on my door.

Since then I have had countless business and personal challenges ranging from business partnership dissolution, divorce, a major life transformation, economic recession, etc. Today, my main focus is to stay diversified in as many areas as possible. We currently work on a variety of music specials and series, reality series, award shows, documentary films, scripted comedies, scripted dramas, animated series, etc. This diverse client base helps insulate us a bit when one area of the industry contracts or slows down. I also am always looking ahead 5 years and trying to predict the future of the industry and strategizing accordingly.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We provide Sound Services for Television and Film Post Production. Which basically means we have a bunch of recording studios and rooms that handle various different creative and technical sound services such as Recording Voice-Overs and ADR, Recording Foley, Sound Design, building Sound Effects sequences, Music Mixing, Vocal Tuning, Final Mixing for TV and Film.

We specialize in Music related television (concerts, specials, music competition series), Scripted Television and Film, Reality Television, and Dolby Atmos Home Theater Mixing. Levels is one of the few Dolby Atmos Home Theater Mixing Stages in Los Angeles at this time.

If I am most proud of one thing it is definitely my Team. The energy and attitude at Levels is so creative and positive. We all truly work together in such a collaborative way. I don’t subscribe to corporate hierarchy so at Levels our interns and receptionists are equally important to our success as our top billing sound experts.

What were you like growing up?
I moved constantly while growing up. I was there new kid in school every year or two. This made me very extroverted and people oriented. I was always fascinated with music and spent most of my time listening and playing music when I wasn’t skateboarding. My father was the most career driven human (until his retirement) I have ever met. He taught me everything I know about focus, hard work, determination and the importance of being a solid, honest businessman. The difficult tradeoff is that he was stuck working during much of my childhood. The lessons he taught me are absolutely invaluable and I would not have any of the business success I have had without having him as a role model.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1026 N. Highland Ave
    Hollywood, CA 90038
  • Website: WWW.LEVELSAUDIO.COM
  • Phone: 323.461.3333
  • Email: BRIAN@LEVELSAUDIO.COM

Image Credit:
DERRICK HINMAN

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