Making music is hard. Playing an instrument takes years of training and dedication. Being able to read music is similar to learning a new language. Writing music requires a type of creativity that is hard to come by. However, being a sound engineer adds an element that few can master. Not only do you have to be able to truly understand music, you have to have an appreciation and understanding of the truly technical aspects to it.
Daniel Hernandez is truly gifted in this matter. Starting as a musician, he has seamlessly penetrated the audio engineering world, receiving international recognition in film, television, and music.
In a short time, Hernandez has had many achievements in sound. He did the sound and music for the short film Angeles Rotos, which just received a Bronze Remi Award at the World Fest Houston International Film & Video Festival, and was also an official selection at the 2015 Dominican Film Festival, the El Ojo Cojo International Film Festival, the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival, the Guayaquil International Film Festival, the Cine Fine Arts International Film Festival, and the Best Shorts Competition. The teaser he worked on for the television program Citizen of the World was an official selection at the 2015 Audience Awards and an honorable mention for On Location: LA Video Project at the New Filmmakers Film Festival.
Hernandez loves the versatility of being a sound engineer. There are a variety of tasks that can be done at any given time that can drastically alter the outcome of a film, song, or video.
“I like the abstraction of the process, either capturing the sound, or manipulating it. I like studying the acoustics of a room and its interaction with a specific sound, something that I do a lot when I’m recording music, when you use a specific room and a specific gear to enhance an instrument or give it a color,” he said. “When I’m recording sounds in a film production as a sound mixer, you are in a constant battle with the ambience to capture the sounds as cleanly as possible.”
Part of these tasks include mixing, which is something Hernandez enjoys.
“I like to use the stereo field and hear the sounds moving around according to the beat if it’s a song or to the picture if it’s a film score, or a sound design. I like to create a space with frequencies, reverbs, and volumes,” he said. “Mixing is like creating a three-dimensional collage of sounds and space.”
For Hernandez, his love for music led him to being a sound engineer.
“I always liked to experiment with effect pedals, and as a musician I use them all the time. That search of unique sounds sparked my interest in the field. I started as a music engineer producing some of my own songs and friends’ songs, but then, I started helping a friend with some film projects as sound mixer, which opened a whole new path in my career. That’s how I ended up doing movies.”
Director Jamie Esteban worked with Hernandez on several projects over the last few years, and describes him as a true pleasure to work with.
“His experience in the sound department is, in my opinion, above average and it always gives me a better understanding of the projects from this specific point of view. From sound recording and sound design, to sound mixing and music composing, Daniel’s work is always carefully done, astonishingly creative and professional in every detail,” described Esteban. “Daniel is also a very good listener. This, in my opinion, is the key for a good sound engineer. Daniel won’t usually take any risk creative wise until he makes sure he understands the goal of that decision throughout conversation and smart questioning, so when he does, his suggestions are always on point and helpful towards a good final result.”
Hernandez also had the opportunity to work on a feature film directed by the Goya nominated Cristina Trenas, titled From 7 to Eleven.
“Daniel always has valuable input to help the execution of the story and make the shoot move forward efficiently,” said Trenas. “The importance of sound is always underestimated when making movies. If sound is not properly done the story is ruined and the audience will immediately disconnect from the story. This is why it is vital to make sure that sound is taken care of by professional like Dani, who has mastered the craft after years of experience. He is always at the top of his game, providing a reliable and outstanding service.”
On his path as a musician, Hernandez is an integral part of the successful band the LA Brownies, which gives him the opportunity not only to play guitar, but to work on the technicalities of the sound.
“Daniel has a natural gift as a producer and a sound engineer. His professionalism in the studio is next to none. His musical ear was able to interpret my drum and rhythmic patterns into works of art,” said Michael Delgado, the drummer for the LA Brownies. “With the success of our first two albums we were able to produce seven professionally produced music videos to accompany singles and hits. Daniel’s experience as a sound engineer aided in the making of many of the band’s music videos. With his experience working on professional film and TV sets, Daniel was able to assist the producer and camera crew in the production of some of the most fan favorite music videos.”
Despite all of his success, Hernandez still says there are challenges to his chosen profession, and it is difficult to not get lost in the technical talk that comes with knowing the ins and outs of the craft so well.
“We engineers talk about timbre, frequencies, microphones, and reverbs and compression. Those are very abstracts concepts, and a very technical language, that makes the communication flow a little bumpy sometimes,” he described.
But he also says that is not the hardest part.
“I think the biggest challenge as a sound engineer is the creativity that exists behind the technique, on how to be original and not falling into repeating just a pattern,” said Hernandez. “Also, how to break those rules and experiment. This is a constant challenge because in my opinion every project has its own character, therefore you need to break some rules in order to enhance the project.”
Success keeps coming for Hernandez. The LA Brownies are releasing their third album titled Maybe, and he is set to compose the score and take care of the sound design for Lia Chapman’s new short film In My Mother’s Arms.