Riding airwaves, and lovin' life, for 51 years

As originally published on Monday, June 2, 2003
in The Frederick News-Post

Riding airwaves, and lovin' life, for 51 years


Riding airwaves, and lovin' life, for 51 years

Fred Berney, of Satellite Media Production in Walkersville, has been in the recording business since he started Fred Berney's Recording Studio in Miami in 1956. By 1957, the year he graduated from high school, he had changed the name to Satellite Recording Studio. "Back when I got started, there were only three other recording studios in Miami," Mr. Berney said. "This was way before the days of the audio cassette, and almost nobody owned a tape recorder."

"If you do what you love, love what you do" is a recipe for business success, then producer Fred Berney of Satellite Media Production in Walkersville is a successful man indeed.

What began as a hobby for Mr. Berney in 1952 has grown into a full-fledged corporation, one that has gone through four major revisions to incorporate clients' needs with the latest technologies.

Building on his love of radio and tape recorders, he started Fred Berney's Recording Studio in Miami in 1956. Within the year he had changed the name to Satellite Recording Studio.

"Back when I got started, there were only three other recording studios in Miami," said Mr. Berney. "This was way before the days of the audio cassette, and almost nobody owned a tape recorder. My clients included small bands, radio producers and people who wanted to make a record to send to a loved one."

"I remember once a young mother came in with her infant. She wanted to make a record of the child to send to her husband who was in the service. The child, who could not have been more than a few months old, refused to make any sort of noise at all, despite the fact his mother was bouncing and tickling him. Finally, I think he let out a coo, and that is what I ended up putting on the record."

When his father offered to put up the money to produce a feature film, Mr. Berney produced a full-length film that helped launch the careers of a number of then-unknown stars. Joan Rivers, Deanna Lund and Gloring Loring were just at the beginning of their careers when they appeared in "Once Upon A Coffee House," the feature film that Mr. Berney produced in 1964.

While waiting for a distributor to play the film in theaters, Mr. Berney took a job with a company in Buffalo, N.Y., as a sound man and film editor. While at this company he edited films for Mohawk Airlines, Allegheny Airlines, Corning, Carrier Air Conditioning, The Potato Chip Institute, The United States Air Force and the United States Navy.

In 1968, his brother offered to invest in Satellite, and the two moved the business to San Francisco, where Mr. Berney invented a piece of editing equipment. He set up more than 40 dealers around the country to sell the product, and more than 600 units were sold around the world.

He remembers getting a call one day from America Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's company, asking him to bring a unit by so Mr. Coppola could take a look at it. What he didn't even know at the time was that George Lucas shared some space in the same building.

"These were the years of the independent filmmaker. Very few people had editing equipment, so we offered our services as a post-production company. Instead of competing with other producers, we made them our clients. We did work for Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Lee Mendelson Production (the company that produced the Peanuts Cartoons) and Standard Oil of California," he said.

"This was also the time that the audio cassette was starting to develop. We were one of the very first companies to offer audio cassette duplicating. We got our first job before we even had the equipment, so we purchased a few recorders and my brother and I took turns staying up all night to run several hundred cassette copies for the client. We then purchased a high-speed duplicator and turned out thousands of cassettes a month," Mr. Berney said.

"One day a client asked us to video record the incoming president of Bank of America," said Mr. Berney. "He was just coming into office and wanted to see what he looked like on television. We had just purchased one of the very first video tape recorders, so the timing was excellent."

As the decade progressed and video became the medium of choice for business and private use, Mr. Berney's newly revised company, now called Satellite Video Production, rode the video wave.

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business did a study that shows that use of video boosts comprehension and retention by more than 70 percent from written materials. "It's a tool businesses learned they couldn't afford not to use," said Mr. Berney.

Normally it takes weeks to produce a video, but for the last four years, Mr. Berney has broken those rules when he volunteered to create videos for the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County. Council officials hold an awards banquet every year and recognize 12 companies plus a Master Entrepreneur.

Because the results of the selection are not available until a week before the event, Mr. Berney ended up writing, shooting and editing 13 productions within a one-week period. He did this four years in a row.

Digital media technology is the most recent factor to impact Mr. Berney's company. "It's important not only to stay abreast of the latest tools available, but to stay ahead of the curve," he said.

"I've always tried to key in on what the next thing is going to be before it hits the radar screen. That way, I can be prepared to embrace it, making changes in advance when necessary."

With this philosophy, the Mr. Berney was ready for the onslaught of CD and DVD technology in the early 90s. In addition to reinventing his company as Satellite Media Production, he got the equipment needed to make the most of this new technology.

This led to the purchase of equipment that allowed Satellites to author and produce DVDs.

In the past three years, Satellite has purchased the equipment to allow them to duplicate more than 500 CDs a day and more than 100 DVDs a day.

This is in addition to their audio cassette duplicating equipment that turns out hundreds of copies per hour.

Copyright © 1997-06. Randall Family, LLC. This article is reprinted for the sole use of Fred Berney and may not be reprinted, published, or transferred in any form. All rights reserved.

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