Sheffield, U.K. (November 11, 2020)—Game developer Sumo Digital has expanded the audio facilities at its premises in Sheffield, England, with the addition of three 5.1 surround sound edit suites, a Dolby Atmos mix room and a Foley/ADR space.
The three 5.1 edit rooms feature PMC Twotwo.6 monitors for LCR channels, Twotwo.5 surround monitors and a Sub2 for the LFE channel. The new mix room, which is built to Dolby’s Atmos standard, has PMC IB1S monitors for the LCR channels, Wafer2 monitors for the surrounds, Wafer 1 for the height channels and two Sub2s for LFE.
Sumo Digital’s audio director Pat Phelan says, “We like the fact that the PMC’s remove any mystique from the sound that you are hearing, the sound feels surgically exposed. In a dynamic game environment where you have little control over what a player will do, being able to monitor and mix with confidence is a massive boost.”
Part of Sumo Group plc, Sumo Digital is a game developer with eight U.K. studios in Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, Leamington Spa, Warrington, The Chinese Room in Brighton, Red Kite Games in Leeds, and Lab42 in Leamington Spa. It also has facilities in Pune, India.
Sumo Digital has audio studios at four of its U.K. sites, but with an ever-increasing workload, the directors felt it was time to invest in additional facilities in Sheffield. Acousticians White Mark Ltd were given the task of designing the new studios, while the build and fit-out was handled by Nottingham-based principal contractor Confetti Media Group under the direction of Joe Duckhouse and Greg Marshall.
“By using a mixture of PMC IB1S and wafer monitors in this room, White Mark was able to come up with a very sleek design that maximized all available space,” says Duckhouse.
Sumo Group’s portfolio of games includes titles for major publishers Microsoft, Sega and Sony. Since its formation 17 years ago, it has worked on major franchises such as Sonic the Hedgehog, LittleBigPlanet, Forza, Hitman and Dr Who.
London, UK (October 8, 2020)—Dean St. Studios in London has outfitted Studio 1 with 17 PMC loudspeakers, including PMC’s flagship IB2S XBD-A active monitors, to enable mixing for Dolby Atmos Music.
Previously closed for refurbishments undertaken by Veale Associates during the coronavirus pandemic, Dean St. Studios is reopening its doors to provide artists the chance to create dynamic and immersive tracks in Dolby Atmos, taking their music beyond the restrictions of stereo and mono to a platform that provides a whole new way to create and listen to music.
The Dolby Atmos install features PMC IB2S XBD-A monitors covering left and right main channels, an IB2S-A monitor for the center channel, 10 discrete Wafer2 loudspeakers for surround and height channels and four sub2 subwoofers. The Dean St. Studio’s set up exactly replicates the PMC system initially designed for Universal Music and installed two years ago at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. The install reportedly exceeds the standard Dolby requirements.
Dean St. Studios has welcomed a roll call of music artists through its Soho doors to record some of their biggest hits. Icons such as David Bowie, Adele, John Legend, Lady Gaga and Paul Weller are just some of the names to have stepped foot in the studio.
Jasmin Lee, managing director at Dean St. Studios, said: “I have grown up in the music industry and have seen a lot of advances and change over the years, but nothing excites me more than Dolby Atmos Music. This is a game changer for artists in terms of how they can create their music and engage with fans. I have listened to tracks in our new Dolby Atmos mix studio and my mind is just blown by it. This is music like you’ve never heard it before. We have a proud history of working with some of the world’s most successful artists and we can’t wait to offer them this new more immersive format which I’m sure will unleash a whole new creative journey for them.”
Natick, MA (September 22, 2020)—When Grammy-winning producer Mike Elizondo moved to Tennessee from Los Angeles, he installed a pair of Genelec W371A Smart Active Woofer systems and 8361A Smart Active Monitors in the 5,000-sq.-ft. studio on his new property.
“I had made the decision to move to the Nashville area, but the original plan was to move into a small setup where I could do just some pre-production work but do the real work at Nashville’s great studios,” says Elizondo. His production credits range from 50 Cent, Eminem and Mary J. Blige to Carrie Underwood, Twenty One Pilots and Fiona Apple. “But this five-acre property came up in Gallatin, and I couldn’t really turn it down! Its previous owner built it, and he was a studio designer by trade. It’s a gorgeous space.”
Other gear at the new space includes an SSL 4056 E/G console, a Neve BCM10, an Ampex MM1000 tape machine, an eight-track Scully 280B tape machine and an Endless Analog CLASP tape-to-digital converter.
Elizondo recalls, “Initially, I figured the Genelec 8361As and the W371As would be my mains, and I’d rely on a different set as nearfields, but I’ve ended up using the Genelecs for both applications. I remember when we got the monitors set up, and I brought up some of my go-to test mixes and favorite albums to listen to, and I just instantly felt like I was immersed in this music. The low end is important to me, and the low end felt punchy and defined and not at all muddy — I knew that what I was hearing was totally accurate.
“I kept on pulling up more records, trying to find some fault with my new Genelec five-way system, but there wasn’t any fault to be found. After several hours listening to different records, everything just felt great. And I recognized the feeling in terms of continuity from my previous Genelecs — this is definitely part of that heritage, but the next generation of it.”
Elizondo used Genelec’s GLM software and the AutoCal protocol, which automatically calibrates the monitors for a room, to create multiple adjustable sweet spots as presets. “Currently I have three sweet spots set up in the control room that I can toggle between — one for my main position, one at the client sofa behind me and one at a sidecar workstation, where I do some programming work on another rig at the side of the room,” he says. “I can push a button, and it feels like the Genelecs are right in front of me no matter where I’m positioned.”
France (September 8, 2020)—Global sonic branding agency Sixième Son recently upgraded the studio facilities at its headquarters in France to a 5.1 setup based around Genelec Smart Active Monitors.
Ella Duda, international strategy director at Sixième Son, explained, “We had been using older Genelec models, which have served us incredibly well, so it was only natural that we sought out new monitors from the same brand…there wasn’t any doubt which brand we would go with.”
Founded in 1995, Sixième Son’s team of composers and sound designers has tailor-made audio identities for more than 400 clients, including global brands such as Krug, Samsung, Renault and Coca-Cola.
The studio decided to make the move from a 2.1 solution to a 5.1 setup composed of three 8341A coaxial three-way monitors as LCR, a pair of the more compact 8331A coaxial models for the surrounds and a 7370A subwoofer handling the low frequencies.
The company’s need was influenced mainly by the increase in demand for broadcast mixing for films. With people returning to a safe working environment as France has emerged from its lockdown, the team at Sixième Son are quickly getting to grips with their new monitoring setup. “It has been an instant hit,” says Duda. “The precision that the solution gives us, in terms of frequency and depth, is incredible.”
“Now that we have our Genelec setup, we can improve the way we work on complex projects, like a VR apartment tour which we recently completed, and be more creative at the same time,” adds studio manager Romain Morlat. “As a bonus, the experiences that we give our customers at the studio are more immersive than ever. Now, since we can do absolutely everything in house, there’s no need to outsource for surround mixes. It’s a great feeling and a milestone for us.”
Nashville, TN (August 20, 2020)—Grammy-winning engineer Steve Marcantonio has mixed the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton, to name a few, so it’s fair to say he’s listened to more than a few studio monitors over the course of his career. Outfitting his own facility, MusicHouse, he has opted to go with RK Systems’ V4 studio monitors and 10S powered studio subwoofer.
“I monitor at a low volume and the KRK V4 and V8 monitors both sound amazing at that level, which is really important, and the 10S sub helps out tremendously,” says Marcantonio. “I love my KRK V4 monitors more than anything; they’ve become a staple in my home studio. The V4s really fill the room and carry a lot of bottom-end, and the clarity and separation are really cool. KRKs are my favorite monitors to mix on as I know that they translate well, no matter where I’m working ― whether at the MusicHouse, The Blackbird Academy, or at home. KRK is second to none.”
In addition to his career as an audio engineer, Marcantonio is a mentor at The Blackbird Academy in Nashville. “The affordability of KRK Systems studio monitors is what makes them stand out from the competition,” he says. “I always tell my students to make sure they’re not judging the quality of a product based on its price tag, and KRK is a perfect example of this. Just because a product is affordable doesn’t mean you’re compromising on quality.
Ultimately, he says, “it’s all about the sound. If I’m doing an orchestral piece or a rap song, KRK monitors sound awesome. The V Series speakers get loud and punchy, and the top-end sounds nice and silky. So if I’m mixing instrumentals or an orchestra, I can hear all of the hum and the noises behind it, which I love.”
North Hollywood, CA—Zach Seivers went to school to pursue his dream of telling stories through film but found that sound was his true calling. In 2006, straight out of film school, he started his own audio post company, growing the business from one to four rooms before recently adding to his storytelling tools with an upgrade to Dolby Atmos mixing capabilities.
Seivers set up Snapsound in an office tower in North Hollywood in a deal with a documentary filmmaking client. “I was able to bring equipment into a room that they traded with me. I said, ‘I’ll be an in-house guy for you guys, but I want to be able to pursue my own clients.’ And they were cool with that.”
He still maintains a working relationship with the company but has since leased his own space in the building, initially focusing on non-theatrical content, primarily for broadcast. “We built three 5.1 nearfield rooms and a voiceover/ADR recording space. Eventually I stopped recording dialogue and repurposed that room as a fourth nearfield room. If I was doing any projects with a theatrical destination, I partnered with a facility like Deluxe” in Hollywood, he said.
Working with an acoustical designer, Seivers value-engineered the rooms to get good, basic acoustic treatment and isolation in the studios at minimal expense. “I didn’t know how long I would be in the space,” he explained. “Now it’s been over 10 years, but I knew I would never be able to take those physical investments with me if I had to leave the building.”
Instead, he said, “I decided to put the emphasis on digital tools to account for any acoustical issues. We worked with Trinnov and brought the DMON [monitoring processor] into all of the studios. That was a game-changer.”
The layout and equipment complement, including JBL 4328 speakers, was designed to be identical in every room: “The DMON allowed us to fix the more complex problems and matched the sound of each of the rooms so much more closely than we were able to do without it.”
The monitors have since been upgraded to JBL 708s. All four rooms have also transitioned from Digidesign Control 24 surfaces to C24 desks over the years.
As the momentum behind Dolby Atmos built in recent years and the essential tools became more readily available to independent facilities, Seivers decided it was time to take the plunge. “Netflix embraced and pushed delivery in Atmos. That was the catalyst for me as a business owner,” he said.
He contacted Chris Bolitho, sales director at Vintage King Audio in Los Angeles, about upgrading Snapsound’s Studio A. “I’ve known Chris for a long time,” said Seivers. “He quickly connected me with Miles [Rogers, cinema/studio development manager] at Meyer and introduced me to Jose Castellon [senior studio and cinema design engineer] at Dolby. VK is very hands-on and has a very personalized service. And they have a wonderful guy on their staff, audio consultant and technician Frank Verschuuren. It’s nice to have that level of support.”
With the Acherons, “You can emulate a theatrical sound, and I’ve increasingly been moving into more theatrical work,” he said—a move that led to installing three Acherons for LCR coverage in Studio A. “The way the sound moves in the room is so much more dynamic that I’m able to make choices that I have found translate better from a small to a big room. If I’m going to another facility and four-walling a large stage, I want to minimize the amount of time I spend translating the work to that room.”
Meyer’s UP-4slim speakers support the Dolby Atmos side and overhead zones. “I like that they have more than enough power, the resolution is fantastic, and they have a really interesting look. I also like that they’re extremely modular and easy to install—and remove. And we didn’t have to deal with cutting holes in the ceiling.”
Studio A’s spec was barely compliant with Dolby’s criteria for Atmos Home Entertainment Studio certification, he said. The room just squeaked through. “Because our room has a sloped ceiling, the rear overheads were right on the edge of what Dolby considers their minimum spec. They’re very careful with when and how they make concessions, since the point of the certification is that it is a standard. But we were so on the edge that they were willing to be flexible. They balanced that with the other aspects of the room.”
Signal transport between the Pro Tools system and the Dolby Atmos RMU—both running on Mac minis—and the Avid MTRX controller is via Dante. To continue taking advantage of Trinnov’s optimization technology, Seivers also upgraded Studio A’s DMON to a Dante-enabled version capable of handling the new 7.1.4 speaker configuration and communicating with the MTRX.
He also swapped out Studio A’s C24 for an Avid S6 desk. “I love the reaction of the faders,” he said. “As simple as that sounds, that was the biggest reason I wanted to invest in it.” The S6 is popular for mix-to-picture rooms, but Seivers initially resisted the upgrade because of the expense. “But there’s a little bit of a future-proofing aspect because the S6 is built with Atmos in mind,” he said.
As it turns out, there’s an active used console market through online portals such as UK-based Resurface, including for the component parts of Avid’s M10 version of the S6, which doesn’t include the display screens. That’s fine by him, said Seivers, who finds the displays distracting. “I’m looking at the image on the screen and not Pro Tools or the board displays. You can get an M10 at a fraction of the price of a new M40 system, so I ended up buying the S6 used.”
Now, like everyone else, Snapsound is facing an unpredictable future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s super strange, but we’re creative people and we can be creative in ways beyond our craft,” said Seivers. “I’m confident that people are going to find ways to tell stories no matter what.”
Philadelphia, PA (June 25, 2020) — Adam Blackstone, go-to musical director for some of music’s biggest stars and highest-profile events, recently integrated Solid State Logic’s SiX SuperAnalogue desktop mixing console into his workflow.
Blackstone was exposed to top quality gear early, having played on Jay Z’s “Fade to Black” tour when he was just 21. “The studios we were working in at the time were all SSL consoles, so SSL was a big part of my musical upbringing,” says Blackstone, who employs the SiX in his home studio and on the road. “It just does so much,” he says. “I’ve used it as everything from preamp, to a summing mixer, to an analog mixer, to a master bus.”
Monitoring through his home studio’s Genelec G Five monitors and KRK Rokit 10s subwoofers, Blackstone says he feels the SuperAnalogue circuitry of the SiX conveys the sound of SSL’s large-format consoles. “SSL has really done an amazing job at translating that big-console sound into this little mixer,” he says. “I’m trying to get the best audio capture possible into my DAW. That’s the foundation, and the channel strip on the SiX is great for that. It’s that SSL sound.”
He then turns to the G-Series bus compressor for the analog coloration he needs. “I mix a lot of television shows at my home studio, and I like throwing the G Bus compressor right on the master,” he says, citing a recent example of BET’s special Saving Ourselves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort. “Just printing the two-mix from my DAW back into it, that’s where that classic radio-ready SSL color really comes into play. It’s been really cool to use it that way.”
Blackstone’s frequent collaborator, guitarist Clay Sears, adds, “We do a ton of touring and live TV work but also a lot of pre-records. Pre-recording tracks for live events is kind of where it’s at now, so your recording game has got to be on point… With the high-quality signal path of the SiX, I know that my tracks are going to sit in the mix with stuff that’s recorded at big commercial studios.”