We are the Engineers: Pedro Manzano, Audio Technician

Tom Aston

As part of our brand new series, We are Spirit Studios, we spoke with Pedro Manzano, an Audio Technician and Engineer here at Spirit who works hard daily to keep our studios and facilities up to date, and ensure our online teaching technologies are ready to go come September.

After moving from Brazil to the UK for a gap year, Pedro decided to stay to pursue his career studying Music Production & Sound Engineering. Since then Pedro has worked his way from student, to Studio Assistant, to Audio Technician with us.

Thanks for chatting to us today. To start, you and your family moved from Brazil to Leeds for a year in 2015, which is when you decided to research studying abroad. Take us through that process.

Initially I was only planning to be here for a gap year. We came over because my mother was working on a research project, so the plan was to just visit the UK and then go back to Brazil to study acoustical engineering.

But back at home there are no sound engineering specific degrees, and even private courses in this area are rare, so I started looking for courses in the UK.

And so, what drew you to study the Music Production & Sound Engineering course with us?

My plan originally was to move back home after a semester of studying abroad, so I was looking for a shorter course. I came across Spirit Studios on a website which listed the ‘Best 200 places to study engineering in Europe’, after which I registered for an Open Day. 

I was really impressed with the facilities and the flexibility of the course, which allowed me to continue to work full time to be able to pay for it, so I signed up and haven’t looked back.

After studying with us, you became a Studio Assistant, and have most recently taken on the role of Audio Technician. What sort of things do you do on a daily basis? 

As an Audio Technician I spend most of my time fixing faults that happen in the studios and with the equipment, and helping students that encounter technical issues when using the studios. 

We have a lot of studios and equipment, and people are constantly using them, so it all needs a lot of repair and maintenance work. This can go from changing video cables in the ceiling to changing chips in synths.

During the summer months the job is a bit different; I am normally installing new equipment, line checking studios, wiring studios or doing some research on new technology solutions.

Tell us, how did studying Music Production & Sound Engineering help you transition from an Audio Engineer to an Audio Technician? 

Most of the skills are very transferable between the two roles as much of it is fault finding in a signal path. Being an Audio Technician just takes me another layer deeper, inside of the desks and circuits, so understanding signal flows and how each piece of equipment affects it is crucial. 

As an Engineer, you follow very logical processes. Tell us, do you take a similar approach when producing your own music?

Not at all, I think music is an escape from day-to-day life, so I can only enjoy it if it’s not logical, otherwise it feels like work.

That’s understandable. Technology is constantly changing and adapting. As an Audio Engineer and Technician, how do you keep up with the ever changing landscape of new technologies and systems?

I think it’s important to always be aware of new technologies, but especially now with everything that’s going on. Keeping up with the latest news comes naturally to me, as it’s part of my job to familiarise myself with any new technology we acquire. 

Since lockdown began, we’ve seen a shift from in-person events to virtual experiences, like the two we’ve hosted since June. How has this changed the way you work as an engineer?

As our open days changed to online virtual experiences, there was a sudden need to learn the new technologies and work to ensure the systems work flawlessly. In the past, my job during an open day was a ‘backup’ in case something went wrong, but now the team I’m on is working actively to make it all come to life, so it’s a lot more pressure and responsibility, but it’s also very exciting. 

You’ve been heavily involved in installing and testing the new technologies we’ve put in place for September 2020. Can you tell us a bit more about this and the new technologies you’ve installed? 

It actually started before we even got to the installation and testing, as we had to come up with a solution to a problem that didn’t exist before March. The online teaching technologies were not ready even in more traditional Universities.

We had to find a way to stream the experience of learning inside high-end studios to students who were sitting at home. We have very complex audio setups and finding a standardised way to teach it online was very hard; it involved weeks of researching brand new technologies and imagining all the needs of every student.

After we arrived at a solution that was the most beneficial, we started testing and installing the equipment, and now we are ready to go for September.

Finally, during your time as an Audio Technician at Spirit Studios, you’ve had the pleasure of fixing and updating our 48-channel AMS Neve Desk. Surely, this is every engineer’s dream?

It’s definitely been a pleasure re-capping the Neve, being up close and personal with such a beautifully designed piece of equipment is fantastic.