By Lily Hamilton
Bryan Baker’s career is in video production, but his passion is in audio. The sound of his words, and their distinct phrasing, has meaning. He speaks slowly, with conviction. His words are not rehearsed; rather, they are a product of quiet, calm thoughtfulness.
A former high school rock music artist and amateur music video producer, Baker now sits in the main audio editing suite in the basement of McEwen Communications building at Elon University. The room is sparsely decorated. A series of vinyl albums lean on a shelf. This is where Baker spends much of his time, editing professional projects for the university and the greater community.
The inspiration for Baker’s career came from playing around with cameras in high school. Baker and a group of friends had a rock band around the same time he started taking video production classes. He took videos of himself and his friends playing music, camping and hiking, and incorporated the footage into his music videos. “We shot things we thought were pretty,” he said.
A degree in recording industry management at Middle Tennessee State University inspired Baker to focus much of his work on sound — a niche many video producers don’t have. After college, Baker worked as a recording engineer in Nashville. His main interest is in recording live performances. “You’re capturing real audio in high quality camera angles,” he said.
Baker has been working at Elon University for around 20 years. He has been the advisor for WSOE, Elon’s radio station, for almost as long. In addition to working with WSOE and creating promotional content for Elon University and local businesses, Baker teaches a video production class — Fresh TV — to Elon freshmen during their fall semester.
Baker first started teaching Fresh TV four years ago, which means his first class will be graduating this spring. “It’s amazing,” he says. “I’ve totally witnessed the transformation of these students.”
Baker’s passion for teaching is almost tangible. He leans in, elbows on his knees, to further discuss the achievements of his students. “They’re just doing incredible work,” he says. “It’s just awesome to see which direction they took from Fresh TV.”
Many of Baker’s projects are produced with the help of Elon students. His favorite part of working with students is the creative conversations he often has with them. “It’s just cool to be the first person who can have that interaction with them,” he says. “It’s rewarding.”
His own mentor is Don Grady, the assistant dean of Communications at Elon University. “Whenever I go to Dr. Grady, I bring a lot of ideas to him,” Baker says. “He is not hesitant to tell me when I have a bad idea,” he laughs.
That’s the big difference between himself and Grady, according to Baker: Grady sees things in the big picture, while Baker is more project-oriented. “He’s always a calm and reassuring voice, and he has been working in the field of broadcast in the form of TV and radio for 40 years,” Baker says. It’s clear that Baker has adopted his mentor’s relaxed and reassuring demeanor.
Baker also values the way Grady interacts with his students. “Meeting with him has really affected the way I help encourage students,” he says. “He’s very good at breaking down complex situations.”
Baker often goes to Grady for advice and input on projects. “He has seen a lot of change in the industry, and at Elon as well,” Baker says.
More change at Elon is coming soon, in the form of a new building.
Baker has spent a lot of time with the new building already, collaborating with professor Vic Costello to figure out the needs of Elon’s School of Communications. He has visited other institutions in North Carolina to see what equipment works well at other schools and what doesn’t.
He excitedly spoke about the upcoming TV studio and control room renovations in the McEwen Communications building. “They’re gonna be fabulous. They’re gonna be great,” he says. “I’m incredibly excited.”
A true audiophile, Baker is most anxious for the arrival of the new microphone and speaker systems that will be installed throughout the building. “The way we move audio in this building is totally going to change,” he says.
Though Baker says the way we tell stories hasn’t changed much since his own college years, he comments on how much of an impact changing technology has on the projects students can produce.
“Technology has made it possible to do very professional work at a fraction of the cost,” he says. What used to be a linear, time-consuming process is now accessible and easy for students to do alone.
“I’ve learned so much,” Baker says of his experience at Elon.