Bastian Gerner: From hip-hop to post-production and the art of Foley

Foley artist and audio expert Bastian Gerner tells Headliner about his path from hip-hop to sound post production and the creative tools he can’t do without.

With a lifelong passion for hip-hop and all things audio, Bastian Gerner’s career has taken an illustrious journey full of intriguing twists and turns. From the age of 15, his love of ‘90s era rap drew inspired him not only to write and perform his own music, but to delve into the art of how exactly the music he loved was recorded.

“I was asking myself the question of how this music is being put on the CD,” he recalls, speaking to Headliner via Zoom from his studio in Dusseldorf. “That was the initial moment of thinking about audio and production. Then I bought a record player and started buying vinyl and I learned how to DJ. Eventually I became a rapper, which I still do today. This was about 25 years ago. I knew early on there was only two things I wanted to do professionally - be a rapper or be a sound engineer.”

His mind firmly set on the career he wanted to pursue, Gerner set about assembling a team and a studio that would help him begin to fulfil those ambitions.

“At the age of 18 I had moved out of my parents’ house and had my own studio and gathered a crew around me with many musicians who put their gear into my space,” he continues. “I had a Mac and Logic so was able to record. I realised at the age of 20, because I never got into production myself, that sitting on my Logic editing vocals was something I could do well, and if there was a job where I could edit sound that would be cool.

“It took a couple of years interning at studios as a mix engineer and then working on the side as an event technician. I found the opportunity to look into film sound and that was the turning point to prioritise this over my music. I interned again in Berlin in post production and ending up in a great place doing an apprenticeship for two and a half years. I learned everything I wanted to know about sound editing.”

The Anubis is a piece of art. Bastian Gerner

Though still making music in his spare time, Gerner was now fully committed to honing his skills in post production and sound design. Before long, he was rising through the ranks.

“I landed my first job as an intermediate sound designer in a post production facility that was linked to the Bavaria Film Studios in Munich,” he says. “That was the field where I could apply all of my talent, so that was a dream job. I could accelerate and progress very quickly. I then moved into becoming a foley artist and was doing film after film or episode after episode for about three years. Then I was given the chance to start working at Ubisoft as a foley artist. It gave me the opportunity to work on international projects, which was great. One of the projects I’m really proud of working on is Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR and the upcoming Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Crucial to Gerner’s success is his audio toolkit. Throughout his career he has accumulated an array of pieces that are pivotal to his studio processes.

“The mics I use are the MKH 416 from Sennheiser and the Shure SM7B for a more low-end approach,” he says, highlighting some of his key pieces of kit. “And I use a Sanken CUX-100K, especially for games, so recording with a high frequency mic is essential.”

He also points towards his Merging Technologies Anubis as a central part of his setup.

“I have Merging as my complete infrastructure for I/O and monitoring,” he elaborates. “Anubis is an amazing tool. It’s a piece of art. It’s so small, it’s on my desk, I can handle it right next to me. I can control my complete monitoring, even in a Dolby Atmos situation with an additional set for stereo speakers. I also have my measurement of all the channels and delay compensation in this little box. There is so much going on in there.

My mission is to show that foley is being used more and more. Bastian Gerner

“The preamps are also really good quality. I decided to go with Merging because I wanted their ADDA converters. And that’s why I chose the Neumann monitors - 310s in the front (LCR), KH 80s for surround and top and a KH 870 Sub. I chose them because I worked with them a lot and they are always very reliable. I chose them as they have no AD converter inside. I opted against other speakers because I knew the signal will be converted again in the speaker and I can’t do anything about it. You might not hear it, but I just wanted the sound of the Merging converters on my speakers without anything in between.”

Having made the move from engineering musical recording to the world of post production and foley, does Gerner note any commonalities between the two disciplines.

“If you want to work in sound post production for film and linear media there is a whole craft behind it which you cannot know if you are a mixer or engineer in music,” he explains. “You have to understand what’s going on technically and how to get a certain sound, but to edit dialogue and create sound effects, that’s something I could never have done just from being in music.

“I remember my first session of dialogue editing just sitting there and not knowing what to do. The next day I asked specific questions and that’s how I got started. Also, for game audio there is a whole other world because you are not linear, and you are dependent on systems that playback the sounds according to the game. That’s a unique process. On the other hand, the similarities are that if you want to be a pro either in music or post production and want to work with clients you have to have the technical aspects in your pocket. You have to be able to operate on that level without thinking about it and focusing on the client and the tastes they have if you want to get to the top level.”

So what does the future hold for Gerner?

“In addition to working on film and documentaries again, I’m very excited about coaching,” he beams. “I do a Foley coaching course now (The Foley Teacher) with students and entry level professionals who want to get into sound design and post production. I want to help enable professionals to record more of their own sounds within their own editing suites and record their own foley. That is something I really enjoy and my mission here is to enable people to do that and show that foley is being used more and more. It’s such a cool thing to be able to help people and bring foley to more people. That’s my mission and what I enjoy the most.”