New York, NY (June 22, 2020)—With COVID-19 forcing many professional sports teams to play with no spectators, much has been suggested about providing viewers at home with faux crowd noises to supplement the game. Little, however, has been said about providing a similar consideration for the actual players, aiming to rack up points within a cold, empty stadium…until now. Playing without the motivational force that is an alternately jubilant crowd or seething mob, athletes may not be as engaged in their performance on the field, and thus TiMax Crowdscape has been invented, says the company, to provide athletes with “a live and interactive sonic cocoon of sound that immerses the players in realistic and responsive spectator reactions to the game.”
The Crowdscape system includes on-board playback, spatialization, mixing and system zone management as it utilizes a multichannel “bowl” sound system mounted in the bleachers, pointing in towards the playing area. One or more operators use iPads to trigger and variably spatialize selected crowd atmosphere loops as well as cheering, applause and booing spot effects, plus whatever other tailored content is relevant to the game and teams. Samples are spatially mixed to anywhere in the arena or stadium using individual iPad 3D panners, faders and triggers, and can be merged selectively into the existing house system for added immersion.
Crowdscape operators can also spatially mix external crowd effect stems from broadcasters or Viewer Response systems and place them in the appropriate segments of the arena or stadium. Downmixed stereo, 5.1 and mono crowd content feeds can also be simultaneously generated live in Crowdscape and returned to the truck for broadcast or streaming.
TiMax Crowdscape is currently being tested in Canada in an NHL hockey arena format, using a 10.4 multichannel bowl system with also includes spatially distributed sub-bass. Fully-scaleable Crowdscape is also offered, in conjunction with regional PA rental houses, in larger 12.6 configurations and beyond for football and baseball stadiums.
Denver, CO (June 2, 2020)—As with so many AV and pro audio industry events this year, CEDIA Expo 2020 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers made the announcement Monday, citing the need to ensure that business could be conducted in “a safe and healthy environment”—something that’s anything but certain in the current climate.
CEDIA Expo 2020 was originally scheduled for September 8-12, 2020 in Denver, CO, where it would have been held at the Colorado Convention Center. The facility is currently being used as a medical care facility for non-emergency cases related to COVID-19. Citing this along with a litany of other outstanding factors, including changing guidelines on phased re-openings, restrictions on large gatherings and company-imposed travel restrictions placed on employees, convention organizers opted to pull the plug and wait until 2021 for the next in-person convocation.
In light of the not entirely unexpected changes, the association will continue to offer the originally planned virtual portion of CEDIA Expo 2020, expanding it in order to both meet a larger demand and also create more of an offering for attendees and virtual exhibitors. To wit, the association noted, “The CEDIA Expo virtual experience will launch in September and offer everything you need to take your residential tech business to the next level, from session panels surrounding hot topics to keynotes, product discovery, networking and an interactive expo hall.”
While this year’s convention will not be held in Denver, CEDIA complimented the convention center, noting, “The Colorado Convention Center and Visit Denver have been gracious hosts to CEDIA Expo and have always embraced our community.” With trade shows in flux, much like the economy and pandemic, the organization has opted to give itself and the industry a considerable lead time until the next in-person event, which is now scheduled to take place September 1-3, 2021 in Indianapolis, IN – home to the CEDIA Association.
Los Angeles, CA—The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, includes provisions that are bringing welcome relief to recording studios forced to shutter in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. And while there has been criticism of the application process for the hastily rolled-out program and its initial stumbles, funding finally appears to be on the way.
The principal vehicle for relief is the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, which offers loans to small businesses that will be forgiven providing that at least 75 percent is used, as the name suggests, for payroll. Funding is intended to cover eight weeks of expenses.
While precise figures are hard to come by, it does appear that the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is overseeing the various relief programs with the U.S. Treasury Department, had approved just over four million loans by May 8. (There are 30 million small businesses nationwide.) According to SBA data, nearly three-quarters of the loans have been for less than $150,000. A National Federation of Independent Businesses survey found that 61 percent of small businesses had received their loans by May 8.
Stephen Marsh of Marsh Mastering, a home-based facility in the Hollywood Hills, reports that he had enjoyed a good start to the year. “So I held off and didn’t apply right away,” he says, instead paying his two employees out of his pocket.
Plus, Marsh says, the application was estimated to take over two hours to complete. What with work, learning to become a kindergarten teacher for his son and taking care of household chores, he didn’t have the time: “We’re all juggling a million balls.”
But as the lockdown stretched on, he bit the bullet. After being rebuffed initially by his bank of more than 15 years, he received an email from PayPal about its LoanBuilder service. “It was a two-page online form, and the documentation requirement wasn’t so great,” he says.
By then, the first round of funding had run out. But after Congress appropriated money for a second round, PayPal notified Marsh that the SBA had accepted his application. “It wasn’t a ton of money in terms of the scale of my business overall, but in terms of my ability to keep my employees covered, it’s huge,” he says.
“We started getting our ducks in a row even before they said there would be a PPP. We wanted to be ready,” says Dave Trumfio, who, along with his wife Ronna, owns and operates multiple studio locations in the Los Angeles area. He applied on the very first day and was soon bogged down in bank bureaucracy and the application process.
After attempts with two different major banks got him nowhere, Trumfio says, he applied through a small private bank at the suggestion of a friend in the financial sector. “The bank helped us apply and we got approval the first day, basically, in the second round,” he says.
Most of his engineers are independent contractors, says Trumfio, not employees. “The PPP covered the limited payroll. It doesn’t cover our mortgage or our regular overhead. But we plan on using it fully for payroll so we can get the full loan forgiveness.”
Since PPP includes Trumfio and his wife, he says, “It helps with our house and health insurance. But we haven’t had much relief for our business.”
That said, they’re getting by, thanks in large part to their month-to-month clients with private studio lockouts. “Fortunately, the way we structure our business, the month-to-month rooms cover the basics. So we’re just barely breaking even.”
One of the Trumfios’ facilities was already funded through an SBA 7(a) loan, the agency’s principal small business program. “They’ve given us some relief on that loan,” he reports, separately from the PPP.
Trumfio’s experience with the two large banks left a sour taste. “For a true small business like a recording studio—a micro-business compared to a lot of businesses—I’m ready to put all my apples into a small private bank,” he says. “We’ve already started looking at moving our accounts to a small bank here in L.A.”
With no employees, Paul Horabin and Sarah Taylor, the husband-and-wife team behind ReadyMix Music Recording Studio in North Hollywood, have had to look to programs offering relief for the self-employed. Horabin initially applied for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which offered a $10,000 loan, then fell afoul of the PPP’s constantly evolving regulations. “They moved the goalposts,” he says.
He got up at 6 a.m. to apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program when it went into effect on April 28. “It took forever with the crashing website,” says Horabin. “I got a letter on May 6 saying I qualified for PUA, and that I qualified for them to add on the federal $600.” The CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week for all eligible unemployment compensation beneficiaries.
Horabin has yet to see any funds, he says. Meanwhile, Taylor, who applied a day after her husband, is currently in limbo following some back-and-forth with the agency over her work history, they report.
The pair had already stocked up on sprays and wipes before the virus arrived. Immediately before the lockdown, recording artist Ledisi, her videographer husband and a stylist spent a day at ReadyMix filming a music video. “They all had masks and gloves,” says Taylor. As businesses are permitted to open back up, she says, “I’ve got to see how we do that, and how many clients are okay with it.”
“We were paying attention in the weeks leading up to the shutdown. Ronna made a bunch of DIY sanitizer,” says Trumfio. Now, he says, “We’re talking about protocols for when we do open back up.
“We’ll put microphones into rotation and clean them. We’ll have a sign-in sheet. And we’ve ordered a bunch of UV technology,” standard equipment in medical facilities that can help break down bacteria and germs.
Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/business/studios-vie-for-cares-relief-with-mixed-results
Rastatt, Germany (May 22, 2020)—Lawo put its remote FAT (Factory Acceptance Testing), training and equipment demonstration procedures into play when Colombia’s Caracol private media company purchased three mixing consoles during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, Bogotá-based Caracol purchased a 48-fader Lawo mc²56 mixing console with Dallis frame for its news studio, another mc²56 for a new OB van and a mc²36 console for the broadcaster’s Studio 10 facility. Caracol safety protocols during Covid-19 require that the company’s engineers be able to monitor and meter critical audio signals from home, so they contacted Lawo for a solution.
On April 30, Lawo engineer Daniel Egea demonstrated remote monitoring solutions for Caracol engineers via two possible monitoring methods—one employing Lawo AoIP Stream Monitor software and a second using RƎLAY VPB software. Both solutions use RAVENNA/AES67 connectivity to monitor the mc² consoles. Since the demonstration of both setups met Caracol’s requirements, both software packages will be configured for long-term tests, and eventually will be a permanent part of their studio installation.
“The question for us was, how can the engineers both listen to and meter the audio signals while not on site?” says Egea. The solution was an infrastructure that allowed the mc² console core to supply its audio signals to a facility computer.
“Audio signals were supplied to the streaming network via the RAVENNA card in the core and collected from the network on a PC using AoIP Stream Monitor or RƎLAY VPB software,” says Egea. “By accessing this computer via Teamviewer or Remote Desktop through a second NIC [network interface card], Caracol engineers can now conveniently monitor the most important signals from home. This setup offers a very flexible monitoring situation and has simple, intuitive GUIs to quickly create a suitable monitoring overview.”
New York, NY (May 22, 2020)—Roddy Ricch was in the middle of a victory lap. The 21-year-old rapper’s bottled-lightning single “The Box” was on its way to its 10th week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after completing his 20-date The Anti-Social Tour in February. His ubiquity was rising when suddenly the world was put on a pandemic pause. Live Nation and AEG suspended all their tours on March 12 and Ricch’s calendar suddenly opened up. He wouldn’t be touring in the near future.
Ricch bounced around a few recording studios in Los Angeles for a bit with his recording engineer, Chris Dennis, but the pair eventually realized the world was moving on COVID Time no matter where they went. “[Recording studios] were having issues getting groceries and other daily necessities,” said Dennis. “Once the city implemented social distancing, they were only allowed to book out one room at a time and keep it down to six people.”
Many studios across the nation are faced with similar restrictions. “With recording studios, you’re in a very close environment,” said Bill Jabr, owner of Blue Room West and South Recording Studios, based in Los Angeles and Atlanta. “You can limit the crowds of people in there, but you’re still in very close quarters. They’re not the most ventilated rooms. It’s easy for those to be bad places.” Now with most states still maintaining stay-at-home orders, many studios are sitting empty as artists do what millions of other Americans have been forced to do—work from home—with recording studios materializing in rapper living rooms and Airbnbs.
By the end of March, Ricch and Dennis had set up a home studio in the living room of Ricch’s L.A. home centered around a Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface, Redco Audio Little Red Cue Box, Yamaha HS8 studio monitors and Sony C800G microphone. In the first two weeks, Dennis estimates, the quarantine-focused MC pumped out more than 45 songs.
While a global pandemic forced Ricch and Dennis out of the studio, the pair first discussed recording hip-hop at home last August, months before the first confirmed coronavirus case in America, because they noticed a shift in how their fellow artists were recording hip-hop. “We were definitely seeing more people working from home, and that sort of forced us to get a home setup like other artists,” Dennis said. “You’re going to start seeing artists not book out big studios as much. For us, we’ll probably be working more from home even after this is over.”
Many in the hip-hop industry are embracing home-recording options now that the studios are closed and the tour money is drying up. YBN Cordae was just two months removed from attending his first-ever Grammy Awards as a two-time nominee when he and his recording engineer BrenOnTheBoards had to set up shop at Cordae’s home this spring. To create his music, Bren outfitted the space with both Yamaha HS8 and ADAM Audio AX8 studio monitors, a Neumann u87 mic, and Avalon VT-737sp and Universal Audio 1176AE in the rack.
Young Thug and his YSL Records moved his favorite recording studio in Los Angeles into three separate Airbnbs and cranked out Slime & B, a collaboration mixtape with Chris Brown, under quarantine.
While artists are finding ways to flourish, some studios are struggling. Over the last three years, Don Q, Oun P, Lil Durk, Neek Bucks and even Golden Globe Award-winning actresses have come to record at Tha Warehouse Studios in Bronx, NY, co-owned by rappers Moe Peezly and K. Sims. That’s kept the studio busy, but as co-owner Erik Pena pointed out, the studio’s bills reach upwards of $6,000 each month and they haven’t paused while the world has had to. He estimated the facility lost income in the five figures for March and April. On top of that, the partners made a sizeable investment in a second studio room that was planned to open in early March, before the pandemic—a room that has added little more than bills so far.
As a result, Pena had to make the cautious decision to reopen Tha Warehouse in late April, but with some fundamental changes to operations. The studio allows recording just three days a week and is selective about who is able to record, extending time only to clients who are longtime friends of the facility. There’s also been reduced occupancy in the studio, with a maximum of three people per session. Clients are required to bring hand sanitizer and engineers are tasked with cleaning their station with Clorox wipes after every session.
“This is going to exist past June, especially in New York City,” said Pena. “I have to keep these rules, and as a result, my studio might be less popular. ‘No, you can’t come this deep into my studio. No, you cannot go in and out of my doors in the studio. Yes, you have to wash your hands.’ I’m going to keep my rules past June or whenever.”
New York, NY (May 21, 2020)—The brainchild of host Sean Braswell, a renaissance man of sorts who holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University and a law degree from Harvard, each episode of the new Flashback: History’s Unintended Consequences podcast shows how actions that seem inconsequential can eventually lead to surprising outcomes.
“We like to joke that he’s OZY’s in-house cool history professor,” says Flashback executive producer Rob Culos, who leads the creative direction behind original audio programs at OZY. “When you listen to an episode, it’s as if you’re sitting in Poli-Sci 506 and you are learning how a decision that was made had a ripple effect 50 years later.”
In the first two episodes of the 10-part first season, Braswell connects Henry Ford to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and shows how the YMCA unwittingly helped launch the tobacco black market. Co-produced by OZY and iHeartRadio, Flashback is currently ranked No. 3 on the Apple Podcasts chart for History podcasts and hovers around the top 50 overall.
That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident—Culos and the Flashback team had the podcast series in development for six months prior to launching. Production began in January 2020, so when the COVID-19 crisis hit and people began to shelter at home, eight episodes were already completed and two were still in production for season one.
The COVID-19 pandemic has doubled the number of Americans who work remotely to nearly 60 percent of the workforce—but the team behind the new Flashback: History’s Unintended Consequences podcast series was already ahead of the game.
“We had already been working and producing this show remotely, so our workflow was largely set up,” says Culos. “Our producers are in San Francisco, Washington D.C., L.A. and Atlanta, and have at-home studios. We had already done the groundwork for it to work.”
Even so, a new production process had to be invented from the ground up. The first order of business was to firm up assets, cataloging what was needed to continue producing the show. In a typical interview situation, they provide guests with best practices on ways to record local audio, which they later sync to the host’s audio.
“Oftentimes, we’re talking to folks that have done this before and might have a handheld Zoom recorder, or they might have some little thing they got at Radio Shack 20 years ago that will do wonders,” he says. “Outside of that, we have them use their phone and tell them to do the basics like hold it up as you’re talking on the phone and go into Airplane Mode. That file is our backup.”
Luckily, the production team is accustomed to being flexible with how it sources audio. The production staff also recognize that the audio characteristics of a phone call or a VoIP app like Zencastr can be aesthetic choices in themselves. Culos says they often lean into those variables to enliven the podcast.
“We’ve actually put small telephone filters onto telephone calls so it enhances that experience, and that’s before any of this [pandemic] hit,” he says.
Where consistency is key—such as with the host mics and certain interview sources—the producers use a Shure SM7B to keep the sound and timbre uniform across a variety of voices.
“We tried out probably six, seven, eight microphones across the board,” he says, “and we just found that the SM7B highlights each one of those. We don’t have to think about it. It just gets what we want to get, and it makes it easy.”
The sound design on Flashback is a more open-ended animal, as it is for many OZY shows. Culos and Braswell begin by passing songs back and forth for ideas—on season five of The Thread, OZY’s successful precursor to Flashback, they even hired a bluegrass band out of North Carolina to record custom music. This time around, the team didn’t want to stray too far from the formula they established for The Thread, but Culos knew he wanted more “punch” and a more modern treatment.
“We relied a lot on our two producers on the team, Iyore Odighizuwa and Chris Hoff, who each have a really good ear for music, and we created a folder of production music and ideas around themes and beds and vibes and motifs,” he explains. “I wanted it to be a cool documentary style but also fun and unexpected.”
For each episode, editing and production work are done through a somewhat gated group effort, with a small group focused on the first round of edits. Once a rough cut with sound design is completed, the team leader opens the project to a larger group to get line notes. They even have a process to smoothly navigate editing over the different platforms used by the producers.
“There have been times in the past where we’ve had to export stems and sessions from Pro Tools to Logic, which can get a little bit hairy,” he says. “But as long as you know the exact way to export your sessions, you should be fine.”
The United States is edging toward plugging the economy back in, and while a handful of states have begun reopening with mixed results, clearly there is no one-size-fits-all answer for when or how to open up.
Where I live, on the outskirts of coronavirus hotspot New York City, more than 2,000 people in my county have died from COVID-19, hundreds of them at the hospital four blocks from my house, so things are—and should be—closed here. But maybe it’s not like that where you live (I hope not) and maybe the lockdowns are overkill for your area. What then?
Ultimately, there’s no truly safe way to open things back up until there’s a vaccine, but your state is going to open up soon if it hasn’t already, which means the only option left is to do so as safely as possible. Naturally, nobody can agree on how to do that, especially when it comes to live concerts. Case in point: the national headlines over a Travis McCready show in Little Rock, AR, where authorities pulled the venue’s liquor license until the promoters changed their already extensive safety plans. Many in the concert industry were left wondering if that was just a taste of things to come.
So when I heard through the grapevine that a place outside Dallas has been holding two concerts nearly every night for live audiences since May 8, my jaw hit the floor. How were they keeping customers safe but also happy? And—keep in mind what it’s like where I live—how crazy were they? I called up Ian Vaughn, owner of Lava Cantina in The Colony, TX, and let me tell you: not crazy at all.
For one thing, far fewer people have died from COVID-19 in Denton County than where I live (25), but even so, his place is reopening right, not only in terms of safety, but also for the right reasons, discovering creative ways to keep the staff working when unemployment figures are spiking, finding partners with which to pool resources and buoy all their businesses in the process, and more.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry in a circumstance like this,” he began, “so we keep everybody far, far apart. Everybody’s wearing gloves, everybody’s got masks on. We are going above and beyond what we’ve been asked to do.” Lava Cantina has more than 100 employees—it’s a big place—and when the venue got Payroll Protection from the government, that meant Vaughn had to find ways to keep them all working.
He quickly teamed up with locally based Eagle AVL/Miller Pro AVL, which, among other services, provides video production for national tours and events. Now Eagle’s techs keep working, too, shooting nightly six-camera concert livestreams for Lava Cantina’s Facebook page, which is getting nearly a million impressions a week, allowing the venue to sell sponsorships of its streams. Bands, meanwhile, get promo footage that would normally cost thousands to shoot, along with virtual tip jar money. To make sure the jar is stuffed, Vaughn got local restaurants to donate $10 gift cards; fans who tip $20 get $60 in cards, which drives new customers into those restaurants desperate for business.
The venue’s main stage is in the backyard—a “backyard” that normally holds 1,800 people. Local authorities are allowing 25 percent capacity audiences, but Vaughn’s keeping it to 15 percent, 120 customers, ensuring there’s an excess of room. For those who aren’t comfortable yet with a full-fledged evening out, there’s the parking lot which hosts the venue’s own take on the increasingly popular drive-in concert concept. Here, up to 40 cars can drive in and watch the livestreams on LED screens, hearing the show via Omega Corps line arrays. Each car gets 20 feet to itself, along with a table for four that’s been cleaned and sanitized. “The drive-in sells out every night,” said Vaughn.
The arrangement is a hit, but it’s not a long-term solution. “If we were paying retail on this right now, it would not be feasible,” Vaughn admitted, but it’s keeping people working and giving customers a much-needed break. “This is not a money-making play by any stretch of the imagination. It is a goodwill opportunity. We see it as a great partnership with the community that’s just turned into something much bigger.”
Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/pro-sound-news-blog/lava-cantina-serves-up-live-concerts