STRENGTH IN NUMBERS What’s new at EAW since the company’s RCF investment?
Are you ready for a post 700MHz world?
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PRODUCER PROFILE Dan Carey on working with 2019 Mercury Prize nominees
Dynaudio Core 7 monitors and Waves Abbey Road Studio 3
12 Video game scoring Composer Brian Lee White on creating music and sound assets for AAA video game titles
15 25 years of GCRS We take a look at how the London-based post house has consistently pushed the boundaries of sound design 18 Sound Design AMI hears from The Aeronauts rerecording mixer Lee Walpole (R) about creating an immersive mix for the new Amazon Studios film 20 Producer Profile Daniel Dylan Wray catches up with producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Carey about working with Mercury Prize nominees 23 Company Profile Colby Ramsey speaks to EAW president TJ Smith about the companyâ€™s recent activity following its acquisition by RCF
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AMI December 2019
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‘Tis the season
s you’ve probably gathered from the last few issues, we like celebrating birthdays here at AMI. After all, it’s an excuse to kick back, crack open a bottle and celebrate the culmination of all your greatest achievements to date, and we’re doing it again in this final issue of the year. East coast loudspeaker manufacturer and this month’s cover star EAW celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018, a milestone that coincided with its acquisition by pro audio giant RCF. On page 23, I speak to the company’s TJ Smith about how things have been since the takeover, particularly on the product side. It’s been a busy year for them to say the least, and 2020 is looking to be even more of an exciting time. Meanwhile, London’s Grand Central Recording Studios’ has been marking its 25th year, so we took this as the perfect opportunity to delve into some of its most significant achievements, as well as exploring how the leading post production house has constantly broken new ground and pioneered the latest sound design techniques and technology. We hear from a number of GCRS audio engineers about some of their favourite projects over the years, from Nike’s ‘Write the Future’ 2010 World Cup campaign, to M&S’ now iconic ‘Food Porn’ ad spot. Elsewhere in the issue, our Producer Profile feature makes a return with Daniel Dylan Wray speaking to Londonbased producer Dan Carey about working on not one, but two albums that were nominated for this year’s Mercury Music Prize. We also speak to sound designer and re-recording mixer Lee Walpole about his recent work on Amazon Studios’ The Aeronauts, where he was tasked with coming up with an immersive Dolby Atmos mix to bring this astronomical adventure to life on the big screen. This month’s product review section is somewhat of a bumper one. Stephen Bennett tests out the most compact model in Dynaudio’s range of professional reference monitor systems, and also pays a virtual visit to London’s most famous recording studio with the new immersive Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin from Waves. There’s also two microphone reviews for you to get stuck into – Alistair McGhee gets his hands on the Blue Yeti X, a new professional USB microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting, while Jerry Ibbotson takes a look at the OC818 from Austrian Audio, a multipattern dual output condenser mic with the ‘world’s first’ optional wireless control. And don’t forget to check out the Opinion section over the next few pages, which includes a piece from Shure UK’s Stuart Moots where he asks, ‘Are you ready for a post 700MHz world?’ and discusses how users of wireless gear will be affected by the post-clearance RF landscape. As always, we hope you enjoy the issue and – perhaps more importantly – have a wonderful festive period!
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TECHNOLOGIES EVOLVE, VALUES REMAIN. 01 AMI May19 FC_Final.indd 1
Size matters â€” performance counts.
Huge expectations meet a compact design. Performers find this mini bodypack transmitter neither heavy nor conspicuous. Technicians appreciate an easy set up and proven reliability. The digital SK 6212 is now heralding a new era. This mini bodypack provides 12 hours of operating time and its intermodulation-free transmission concept enables more reliable channels, even in congested frequency ranges. Meet the next generation of an industry standard: sennheiser.com/SK6212
SK6212_220x290_AMI_UK.indd 01 AMI May19 FC_Final.indd 1 1
16.05.19 11:36 22/07/2019 17:21
Audio Collaborative 2019 returns to London’s Ham Yard Hotel Tech analyst firm Futuresource Consulting held it’s 6th Audio Collaborative conference at the Ham Yard hotel in London on November 7th. AMI joined over 190 senior executives from the audio community comprising music companies, broadcasters, service providers, pro and consumer hardware companies, audio tech specialists and retailers for a day of discussions...
t was great to see so many faces from across the professional and consumer audio sectors attend Futuresource’s Audio Collaborative event once again to observe the market drivers in both content evolution and emerging technologies that continue to spur innovation and new business opportunities. The day opened with a panel session on audio tech consumer lifestyles, looking at how consumer lifestyles are changing and how they’re engaging with entertainment, followed by a presentation about the evolution of smart home technology. Later in the morning, a second panel entitled ‘It’s not just about the music’ saw executives including the BBC’s commissioning editor for podcasts, Jason Phipps, discuss how podcasts and audiobooks are attracting significant audiences and have seen increased investment from companies such as Spotify, Amazon, Google and Apple. The panel explored the opportunities and challenges of this market explosion, reviewing why consumers are engaging, why global media and entertainment heavyweights are getting involved, and what the future might hold of the industry. This was followed by a particularly interesting panel session about the continued rise of the home studio and prosumer content creator, featuring Focusrite CEO Tim Carroll and Miloco Studios’ Robbie Dunne, among others. Here the discussion was focused around how the studio market has been turned upside down in recent years, and how huge leaps forward in all aspects of production, be it recording, producing, editing and distribution have changed the landscape for traditional studios and opened the door to a whole new generation of home studios and prosumer content creators. After lunch, Futuresource analyst James Kirby presented an overview of the professional loudspeaker market. Here we learned that from live and touring to installed commercial, the professional audio market is set for significant growth and change over the coming years, particularly for loudspeakers. This session examined the forces driving growth and the vertical markets that remain important for this area of the industry, as well as addressing some of the opportunities for vendors from the consumer and pro industry. The next panel saw Guillaume Le Nost, executive director of creative technologies at L-Acoustics, Andreas Ehret, director of technology marketing at Dolby, Abbey Road Studios’ head of audio products Mirek Stiles, CEO of the Digital TV Group Richard Lindsay-Davies, and director of Headphone Revolution Ltd, Paul Gillies, discuss the emergence of 3D, binaural and surround sound.
Amongst the topics addressed was how audio can be enhanced at live events and how immersive experiences can really be achieved on smaller devices such as wireless speakers and smartphones. This was followed by another presentation, this time on the headphones and home audio markets. Here, analyst Guy Hammett reviewed the hot products driving the respective markets and shaping the competitive landscape, as well as addressing the enabling technologies spurring innovation. Attendees were then invited to learn more about hearables and disruptive technologies redefining the premium headphones and hearing health market, including how the high-end of the market is being driven by true wireless technology and smart features, taking the segment into new application areas such as hearing health and fitness. The final panel session of the day then switched the focus of the discussion over to the future role of audio in automotive. This was then followed by a presentation about the rise of ‘super content aggregators’ in music, TV, and video games. With the number of streaming services across these mediums continuing to proliferate, this session explored the emergence of these ‘super aggregators’, as consumers attempt to navigate this bewildering landscape. Here we learnt how consumers may be leaning towards a single destination to manage their subscriptions and services, and discovered who is best placed to provide this, as well as finding out about the crucial role that hardware will play in facilitating this battle for the streaming consumer. n
ABOVE: Audio Collaborative 2019
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Are you ready for a post 700MHz world? Shure’s Stuart Moots discusses how users of wireless gear will be affected by the post-clearance RF landscape...
s we head into 2020, there is one date all users of wireless microphone equipment should have firmly pencilled in their calendars — the 1st of May. From this date, PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) users of wireless mics will need to clear the 700MHz band of radio frequency spectrum. The impending clearance is the most significant change to affect our industry’s ability to operate wireless kit since the initial spectrum reallocation following the 2012 digital TV switchover. Production companies and rental houses who operate equipment in the 700MHz band will no-doubt already be well-aware of the change. UK regulator Ofcom ran a significant compensation scheme to help owners switch their kit over and the deadline to claim has already passed. Almost anyone operating wireless microphones and in-ear monitors will be affected by the post-clearance RF landscape. So how might it impact your business and what can you do to mitigate risk? A common misconception we hear is the idea that the clearance only affects owners of wireless kit operating in the 700MHz band. While that might be true from a kit-replacement perspective, it does not take into account the knock-on impact of losing another significant portion of UHF spectrum. UK wireless microphone users have already lost nearly 19 per cent of previously available UHF spectrum since the initial clearance of 800MHz in 2012. The additional forthcoming changes will see the available UHF spectrum decrease by around a further 30 per cent. All-in-all, that’s a total loss of over 43 per cent since 2012. Secondly, it’s important to remember that the amount of wireless devices on-air (including wireless microphones) is increasing, while the amount of space we have to operate is decreasing rapidly. Any devices previously operating in 700MHz will now have to move down to the remaining available space. This includes many digital TV transmitters that will also need to shift into the same remaining space. The severity of the impact will vary greatly from region to region, with some regions already feeling the impact as devices
begin to re-allocate. In the worst affected areas, we are set to experience up to a 90 per cent loss of available UHF spectrum, which presents new challenges for PMSE. So, what can you do to ensure 700MHz clearance doesn’t adversely impact your day-today operations? For businesses and engineers on the front line, it is those who take the time to understand spectrum policy and regulation who will be best placed to work within the RF environment post clearance. Understanding what spectrum is available to you in a given area and how Ofcom is managing the spectrum is critical to achieving successful productions. Anyone who owns gear in the 700MHz band as well as below 694MHz will be affected by this clearance. To see how the clearance might affect spectrum in your area, refer to Ofcom’s 700 MHz planner. (Details are subject to change, but it’s a pretty good indicator). Essential knowledge with a genuine understanding of how to efficiently deploy and coordinate world-class wireless setups will make you more employable to production companies. Wireless techniques and best practices are always evolving and to keep on top of these changes is one of the best investments you can make for your own career. To aid engineers and production companies in staying up-to-date, Shure regularly runs seminars and workshops designed to teach all levels, from beginners to advanced. The silver lining of a continuously decreasing RF landscape is that it does encourage manufacturers to innovate. Nextgeneration digital wireless systems (such as Shure ULX-D & Axient Digital) are great examples of how wireless tech is stepping up to the challenge. A well-engineered, linear and robust digital wireless system is more spectrally efficient than an equivalent analogue system. With any new technology, there is a small learning curve. However, we as engineers must stay on top of the tools available at our disposal. A solid understanding of new wireless tech, fundamental RF principles, and upcoming changes to spectrum are the best ways for any engineer to prep for a future post 700MHz. n
Stuart Moots is Associate Director, Pro Audio at Shure UK.
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Transcending the boundaries of time and space Composer Carl Thiel talks us through his latest project “Seis Manos”, which is produced by Powerhouse Animation and Viz Media, and is currently streaming on Netflix...
Carl Thiel is an award-winning composer and producer who splits time between Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.
BELOW: The large orchestral Studio 22 in Budapest
rowing up in Mexico City, I always dreamt of being involved in American film and TV production, but it all seemed very distant and unattainable. Little did I know then that I’d end up in Austin, Texas, working on films like Miss Congeniality, Machete, and Sin City. I met Robert Rodriguez at an event in Austin. Soon after, he invited me to produce the end credits song for Spy Kids 2, and since then, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to collaborate with him on practically every project he’s directed. I was also lucky that my early recording upbringing took place when the digital revolution was starting to develop. One of my last tape projects was the original Texas Lottery jingle, where I had to perform editing acrobatics to bounce background vocals from the multitrack to ¼” tape, then manually sync it to the next chorus section and lay it back into the 2”. It was fun but very timeconsuming. Additionally, resources were low, tape and studios were crazy expensive, and I wanted the freedom to experiment without having to sacrifice an arm and a leg. That’s when the Alesis ADATs came out, followed soon after by Sound Tools, and I was hooked. The possibilities of editing audio on a computer blew my mind.
Sound Tools became Pro Tools, and one of the first projects I worked on that platform was Bob Schneider’s “Lonelyland”. What a joy it was to have the freedom to move waveforms around, perform non-destructive editing, create loops in seconds, and have a visual representation of it all on-screen. Pro Tools is still my platform of choice today.
"I took special care to make sure that the various acoustic environments and sources could blend into a cohesive, unified sound that would create an exciting listening experience” When Brad Graeber of Powerhouse Animation approached me to score a proof of concept video for a new show about three Mexican orphans who were adopted and trained by a Chinese Kung Fu master, it sounded like a dream project to me. Seis Manos would take place in Mexico in the ’70s, have a grindhouse vibe and include elements of blaxploitation, drug cartels, and brujeria. I wanted the score to be authentic, faithfully reflecting the different cultures represented in the show. At the same time, I wanted it to sound as good as it could, since production has always been so important to me, and I knew we were going to release a soundtrack. So I took special care to make sure that the various acoustic environments and sources could blend into a cohesive, unified sound that would create an exciting listening experience. The first thing I wrote was the main title sequence. I built on a simple flute motif that I’d written on the original proof of concept demo. I wanted the theme to encompass the various elements of the series, so I tried the Chinese flute over a huapango beat with nylon guitars playing a western chord progression. Then I added mariachi trumpets, but with Chinese harmonies. Then French horns
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and strings for the epic feel, and the wah-wah guitar for that ‘70s vibe. It all blended beautifully in a very unexpected way. I wanted a legitimate Asian flute player for the main titles part, and a friend recommended a great player who lived in New York. We worked remotely, and I was able to dial in the exact sound once I got the files back from him. I eventually found an amazing local Chinese bamboo flutist for the rest of the cues, and we recorded at my studio in Austin using the Manley Reference mic, plus two Audio-Technica 4033’s for the room. Recording live strings was also very important to me for this project, even though we had a limited budget. I reached out to my friend Nicholas Dodd, a fantastic orchestrator who has recorded all over the world. He recommended Budapest, and we were able to secure a 26-piece string orchestra for four 3-hour sessions at studio 22, which is a large recording stage. The trick with the strings was the schedule. Looking at the timeline, there was only a short window between when I received the last episode and when the first episode was due. I took a chance and booked the orchestra in advance to secure the studio and players, knowing I would only have a few days to write and prepare the orchestral cues for the last episode. Thankfully, even with some delays (and sleepless nights), it all worked out and we were able to record some amazing performances. The next challenge was the brass. I wanted real players but didn’t have the budget to book another large studio with a proper brass section, so I decided to hire one French horn player and one
trumpet player locally and record them at my place in Austin. My home/studio is wired so musicians can be recorded in the main living room, which has tall ceilings that float over into a loft. We recorded and multi-tracked each player separately, following classic brass orchestration (four horn parts, three trumpets). We used the Manley Reference mic a few feet away to capture the direct sound, and two A-T 4050’s separated widely on the loft in omni pattern to capture the room. I ended up using mostly the room mics, with just a little of the close for definition. Adding a little Lexicon reverb, the brass blended wonderfully with the strings. Another special ingredient was to hire virtuosic cellist Tina Guo, who recorded several erhu and cello parts at her studio in LA. She’s a total pro, and her tracks were well recorded and blended beautifully with the rest of the ensemble. It was such a pleasure working with her and I’m really happy to have her on this project. The rest of the score was a mixture of Mexican guitars, exotic Chinese and Mexican instruments, solo violin, viola, cello, woodwinds, hand percussion, vocals and some sampled instruments and synths for support and fill. Soloists were recorded in the smaller cutting room, and I’d record myself in the control room by the workstation. So in the end, the Seis Manos score was not only a blend of musical modes and styles from different world cultures and genres, but also a fusion of recordings from a variety of acoustic spaces that, with the help of technology and a little ingenuity, transcended the boundaries of time and space. n
ABOVE: Carl Thiel
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Taking interactive music and sound to the next level Brian Lee White, who makes up one half of Finishing Move, Inc. along with fellow composer Brian Trifon, explains how he went from working in small recording studios to creating music and sound assets for AAA video game titles...
Brian Lee White makes up one half of Finishing Move, an award-winning audio production team specialising in interactive music, sound design, implementation, project management and score supervision for the game and film industry.
he year is 2014, we are sitting on a couch in the control room of Skywalker Sound listening to Steve Vai meticulously shred over a 90 piece orchestra we had just recorded the previous day. The task was to re-imagine and re-record the iconic score of Microsoft’s Halo 2 for a tenthanniversary special edition of the game. In addition to lending our skills as composers, we had also signed on to produce and score supervise the soundtrack. This was our first real rodeo as Finishing Move Inc., and we were more than a little nervous. But let’s take a few steps back. Brian and I never set out to score video games. We both came from recording artist backgrounds and got into production because we wanted to be rock stars, or at least be around rockstars, making records with them. I grew up writing songs, playing in bands, and tinkering in the small studio my dad built in the back of our family-owned music shop. It was there that I curated a passion for recording technology and production, spending hours trying to get “that sound” from my favorite records, a decade before you could find YouTube tutorials on any tip or trick you could imagine. After a stint in college getting what my parents referred to as a “real degree,” I pursued that passion further by declining a job offer at a major accounting firm and going to work in a small recording studio in San Jose for no pay. I won’t dig into the multi-year grind that was trying to make a living working freelance out of various recording studios, but at some point on this journey, I got tired of living hand-to-mouth and started working as a composer for advertisements. This is where my partner in crime, Brian Trifon, enters the story. We were already good friends from doing some teaching gigs in the area, and Brian (who was also broke and exhausted from pursuing his own artist career) had been working for a local music house, composing music for ads and corporate media. The shop was getting busier and needed extra composers, so of course, knowing nothing about writing music for commercials, I said, “absolutely, I’m in!” As we started working together on projects, we noticed that whenever we’d team up on something, we could get a lot more done and have more fun doing it. This planted the seed that would eventually become Finishing Move, Inc. This was about the same
time we started growing frustrated with the creative constraints and quick turnarounds of ad work. Sure it paid the bills well enough, but the level of compromise and lack of creative freedom started to weigh heavy on our artistic souls. Trifon had created a bit of a buzz with his project Trifonic and started getting some offers to do a few video game gigs. Nothing huge, some additional synth programming or session guitar work, but a thread started to form, and we started brainstorming something more ambitious. What if we combined our musical superpowers and really made a run at scoring games? We both loved video games since we were kids, and the field was still outside the rigid Hollywood scene enough that, unlike TV or film, it seemed to be more welcoming of younger talent and new voices. Flashback again to the Halo session at Skywalker. Through some weird combo of fate, hard work, and a lot of luck, we had landed ourselves in this room, working on one of the biggest game franchises of all time. We were making records with rock stars, just not in the way we had initially imagined. Since then, we’ve gone on to work on several other Halo projects, including Halo Wars 2 and the Halo Channel. We’ve written bombastic hip hop themes for Terry Crews in Crackdown 3, scored artificially intelligent toys and robots for Anki, and most recently composed music for one of our all-time favourite franchises, Borderlands. For a couple of guys that just wanted to shred on guitar, it’s been a truly wild ride. Following this strange thread of opportunities has inadvertently put us exactly where we wanted to be, writing creatively satisfying music for millions of passionate fans all over the world. One thing we never wanted to leave behind as we transitioned from record makers to composers was our sensibility towards musical sound design and how the production quality of a piece can really drive its intent. A sound’s texture, timbre, and quality can have an enormous impact on the emotion it conveys, sometimes more so than a melody or groove. Many composers treat the orchestra as their primary or even sole palette – we see the orchestra as one of several palettes that can be used to express a desired emotion or feeling. We love to explore sounds that seem exotic or otherworldly yet at the same time, have a familiar, human quality to the ear. To that end, our scores often feature entirely
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new instruments we design from scratch, using various synthesis, sampling, or recording techniques, and we pride ourselves on carving out unique sonic identities for each project. In early 2016, while working on Halo Wars 2, we wanted to push the envelope with how electronic sounds could combine effortlessly with the orchestra. With the Halo franchise quite welcoming of eclectic, “hybrid” style orchestration, we found ourselves wanting more than just the stock commercial offerings available. Hand designing sounds from scratch was always an option, but we needed a way to write faster and meet the content demands of the schedule. During production, we started prototyping a custom scripted sampling instrument that allowed us to combine very evocative and emotional sounding pads that blended perfectly with the orchestra. We could feed the engine handcrafted content but then use the platform to write quickly and efficiently without sacrificing our quality standards. This experiment turned out so well we eventually decided to polish and release the instrument commercially. Released in 2017, Posthuman is a cutting-edge Kontakt instrument for creating evocative, cinematic, and surreal pads and textures. Composing for interactive media is a unique challenge because you never know exactly how the player is going to interact with the
environment. Will they stick around for an hour? Exploit a specific game mechanic? Everyone is going to approach the experience in a slightly different way. This challenge is also what makes interactive audio so rewarding because we are always looking for new ways to frame the experience and make it more emotionally impactful for the player. Because of the industries’ constantly evolving nature and new technologies, games provide a freedom that is hard to match with TV or film. You really get to write your own rules as you go, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse! As I reflect back on our early experiences, growing up with gaming in the 80s and 90s, it’s incredible to see how diverse the industry has become. There really is a place and a voice for everyone in today’s game offerings, and it’s a truly inspiring place to work. As I said, we never set out to score games, but maybe that’s because we never imagined the endless wealth of creative inspiration and challenge they could provide. I meet so many young people with such rigid definitions of their passion or dream, I get it, I was once that same young person! Pursue your passions, but don’t be afraid to entertain the many different threads that manifest throughout your career. As weird or as far off-base as they may seem, you might end up somewhere that checks all the boxes you set out for yourself and then some. n
ABOVE: Brian Lee White (L) and Brian Trifon (R) Photo Credit: Zach Bell
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AMI-FEB19-SOUND MARKETING:Layout 1 06/02/2019 15:05 Page 1
Grand Central Recording Studios (GCRS) – a leading London-based sound design and audio post production facility creating award-winning sound for TV, cinema, online, interactive audio and radio productions – celebrated 25 years of business in 2019. Here, AMI looks at some of the studio’s big milestones to find how it has pioneered true creativity in sound design, as well as hearing from some of its audio engineers about their favourite projects from over the years...
GCRS officially opens for business on Marshall St, starting a new wave of boutique audio post production houses in Soho, London
GCRS becomes the first audio post production studio in London to switch from analogue to 100% digital
GCRS carries out the world-first installation of a web-based, network-accessible sound effects server with 150K sound effects
Netflix launches in the US
The Matrix is released in cinemas
GCRS relocates to Marlborough St, opening with six studios - one stereo, three Dolby 5.1, two Dolby 7.1 studios, and one with D-Cinema projection
Nike, ‘Write The Future’ commercial – with sound design by GCRS – wins the Film Grand Prix at Cannes, among many other international awards
The first Playstation is released in Japan
Google Maps launches
David Bowie receives the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The first Apple iPhone is unveiled
The first Tesla car is delivered
GCRS delivers the world’s first Dolby Atmos cinema commercial for BMW
GCRS unveils ‘The Lofts’ - adding two state-of-the-art studios and sweeping London views from its two terraces
GCVRS opens its immersive audio sound design and mixing studio, and in a world first, GCRS upgrades its first studio to Dolby Atmos Theatrical standard and to High Order Ambisonics capability for immersive work
GCRS delivers its first Dolby Atmos film trailer, ‘Early Man’ by Aardman and upgrades to laser projection in Dolby Atmos suite
Lionsgate Entertainment World in China opens featuring expert 3D audio design by GCVRS on four rides
The first Oculus Rift developer kit is released via Kickstarter
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series kickstarts awareness of plastic in our oceans
England win the Cricket World Cup
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ABOVE: GCRS’ The Lofts studios
Steve Lane - #Sky4DVR (2017) “Alongside our partner Framestore, we delivered one of the first projects of its kind for Sky TV - an immersive experience architecting 3D sound and 4D elements to transport consumers into sporting and entertainment worlds. The wide creative scope and technical execution of the project allowed us to demonstrate the full range of our expert 3D sound design and technical integration skills. To inject the user into three worlds – a Games of Thrones set, on the field of the Premier League or on the track of the F1 – we had to create fully reactive audio that would respond to the many different moves that the user might make. Certainly not without its challenges, this project saw us fully activate the many months (if not years) of preparation, testing and upskilling that we’ve put into honing our craft so we could create an audio experience that was slick and that we could be proud of. This project was a key marker for GCVRS as a team - it has and is continuing to open up possibilities for us in the immersive world both in the UK and internationally.’’ Raja Sehgal - ‘Nike Write the Future’ (2010) ‘‘When I think of a show stopping spot I think of Nike’s ‘Write the Future’. Created by Nike Football for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, this project has always held a place as the most ground-breaking piece of work I’ve been a part of. It was a dynamic and smart spot that combined football legends like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo with a supporting cast of other sporting greats like Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer. Brought to life by Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, for an audio designer like myself the different worlds and cultures the piece explored made it all the more challenging
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part of a project of such scale which leverages some of the newest technologies in our field makes this a career knockout.’’
and exciting. It didn’t hurt either that this piece was one of the first adverts to truly go ‘viral’ and went on to win over 100 international awards including the Cannes Film Grand Prix.’’ Culum Simpson - Lionsgate Entertainment World, ‘Mockingjay Flight Rebel Escape’ (2019) ‘’The work we carried out with our partners Framestore and Thinkwell for Lionsgate Entertainment World (LEW) in China stands as the most challenging yet rewarding project I’ve been a part of in my career. We created an expert immersive 3D sound design for the Hunger Games themed ride, ‘Mockingjay Flight Rebel Escape’, a 3D motion simulator which was one of four rides we created for LEW. We undertook the task of bringing to life a whole new world through the creation of a new soundscape that was created entirely from scratch. After all, this wasn’t the world as we know it, so we had to get creative, testing and trying out hundreds of different sounds and manipulating them to curate authentic sounds that would perfectly match the experience of a ‘kind of’ hovercraft. To be a
Gary Turnbull - M&S ‘Food Porn’ (2005) “It was 18 months into my role as a sound engineer, eight years after starting at GCRS, when I took on my first Marks & Spencer brief to deliver the sound for the iconic 2005 spots - the original ‘food porn’ ads. I couldn’t have known then the longevity that these commercials would experience for years to come. Working with well-known food director, Charlie Stubbings and creatives Ted Heath and Paul Angus of RKCR/Y&R, they brought me into the process early on, which is when we began conducting a lot of the VO testing. This was a crucial component to the audio, seeing as the people behind the voice were to become pivotal to the spots. In 2005 it was actress Dervla Kirwan and in 2011 it became Matthew McFayden who would deliver the classic lines. I also recall the pivotal feeling of using the track, ‘Albatross’ by Fleetwood Mac for the first spot which in itself felt important. Being a part of the team to execute these award-winning spots wasn’t just a milestone in my career but it also marked the beginnings of relationships with key industry figures whom I have a great respect for.’’
ABOVE: GCVRS’ immersive audio sound design and mixing facility, Studio 8 LEFT: Culum Simpson (top), Gary Turnbull (middle) and Munzie Thind (bottom)
Munzie Thind - ‘Elvis & BBC Radio 2’ (2007) “A simple, brave and standout piece of work using one of the biggest musical icons of the 20th century - Elvis. Working with director Steve Cope I was lucky to be brought into the creative process right from the beginning. With no voice-over, simply Elvis’ voice, it was a brave concept from BBC which relies on a strong execution. Finding Elvis’ voice was a challenge. We had some of his original dialogue but it wasn’t clean so instead of compromising the integrity of the spot we cast an actor to rerecord the whole script convincingly. The end result was powerful and we even managed a Stevie Wonder ad-lib at the end of the spot. This piece went on to become one of the most awarded BBC promos in history.” n
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Up, up and away AMI hears from sound editor and re-recording mixer Lee Walpole, who was recently tasked with creating an immersive Dolby Atmos mix for Amazon Studiosâ€™ The Aeronauts...
What was your main objective in terms of the filmâ€™s sound design? The film is a combination of real balloon footage and blue screen. Our objective was to make this all feel cohesive and to ensure the film feels real for the audience at all points. I suppose the first factor we considered was what format we were going to mix in. The Atmos concept came up when the director Tom Harper was exploring picture ratios. He had settled on shooting in traditional scope on the ground and then open up into flat when you get up high. I suggested we could do the same thing with sound, mixing in 7.1 on the ground then opening up into Atmos for the aerial footage, which he was completely on board with straight away. As we started to delve into it, it became obvious that Dolby Atmos really was the perfect format for the film.
To what extent does Dolby Atmos lend itself well to the film in immersing the viewer? With the format, you can fully immerse the audience in the soundstage, so what we tried to achieve was create an audio first person experience for the viewer, to try and put them inside the basket with our performers. We used the spatial separation of the Atmos soundfield to put the balloon and the ropes in the ceiling above their heads and the basket creaks and tinkling of the instruments along the front and around the walls. We initially tracklayed and temp mixed the film in 7.1, only moving into Atmos for the final mix. I think that workflow was actually very instructive. We made the decision to position elements, that in the Atmos mix would eventually exist in the ceiling speakers, into the side
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Sound Design and rear surrounds for the 7.1 mix to still provide sonic separation in this format. I think this early consideration of how we would address the downmixes was particularly key on this film. While we tried to push boundaries and take full advantage of the extended soundfield of Dolby Atmos – maximising the experience on the big screen – as an Amazon Prime commission, I was overtly aware at every point that a lot of people were going to end up experiencing the film on a television with a soundbar or domestic surround setups. What was your favourite part of the film to work on? I particularly enjoyed the summit sequence where the valve gets stuck on the top of the balloon and Felicity has to climb up. That’s probably our most designed, and complex set piece within the film. Up until this point throughout the film, the sound of the air through which they fly is deceptively complex. Tom was keen to convey the peace and quiet to be found in a gas balloon in reality, however I was aware of the importance of also giving a sense of movement to the flight. To achieve this we constructed our air from a number of layered winds – all of different nature and character – on top of each other which are all quietly constantly weaving their way around the Atmos sound stage, providing a sense of continuous ascent. As the balloon reaches the summit, all this closes down and is replaced by subharmonic bass rumbles. We then have a macro focus on the spot effects, the sounds of the ropes, basket and balloon as Felicity climbs. We used a combination of real and unreal sounds, underwater recordings, subharmonic drums, various layers of frozen textiles, and lots of ice cracking. In this sequence we tried to convey the huge scale of the balloon while also focussing on every tiny detail of each movement Felicity makes. Could you tell us how you went about designing sound for the storm sequence? The storm existed in many guises over the course of post production. We explored the notion of playing it entirely without music, and also scoring the whole sequence. Too much music and we found the sense of jeopardy disappeared and you stopped being drawn into the sequence. With no music, the action felt difficult to sustain and the emotional and hero beats felt a little flat. Starting and stopping the music made the cue just feel chopped and fragmented. Steven Price delivered a more sparse cue for the final mix which would leave space for the FX, and our music editor worked with us to strip it down further. From an FX point of view the challenge was to find a way to sustain and evolve the atmospherics and elements of the storm itself. Using sound we broke it down into acts, each one with different components. So initially we tell the story of the approaching thunder, then the bombardment of torrential rain and being sucked up into a wind tunnel. The final third of the storm also plays on sound design alone. I’m really happy with where we ended up. Was there anything you did differently in terms of recording/mixing? As well as recording live Foley in the location basket, we also commissioned a five foot by five foot wicker basket of our own, for use by our Foley team further down the line. This Foley basket provided a sonic bed of sounds shot to picture which we could then sit our live recordings from the set on top of.
The balloon is constructed of four key elements: basket, ropes, scientific instruments and the balloon itself, and so these four elements are always present throughout the film to varying degrees. What they allow is a sense of cause and effect which we kind of figured out as we were going through the mix. We created our own rope riggings by purchasing a number of different thick ropes chosen for their sonic properties, and then attaching the various ropes to a wooden ‘handle’ bar. We tied the other ends of the lines to a tree branch and recorded the apparatus at night in the quiet countryside – spinning, rubbing and creaking the lines. This created great live and authentic rope bed tracks which we could then sit sound effect rope detail on top of. The ropes were passed on to the Foley team to create their own layers as part of the Foley shoot. We purchased various large sheets of silk to create recordings that we could then process to create the sound of the balloon itself. We also repeated this using recordings of sails on board yachts as the original ingredient to help find a real sense of scale for the mammoth ball of gas above their heads. Finally, we had the scientific instruments to bring to life. We did indepth recordings of the actual props used on the balloon on location, and then shot additional instruments chosen purely for their sound as part of our Foley recording. We spent a lot of time after picture lock fitting these various sounds and ensuring their sync was really glued to the screen. It’s an old fashioned adventure film which sweeps you along on a really spirited journey, which you’ve got to applaud. It’s what cinema is for – to provide an experience and take people on a ride, and I think that’s certainly what The Aeronauts succeeds in doing. I love the film and it was a really enjoyable and fun project to work on. n
ABOVE: The film is a combination of real balloon footage and blue screen
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Speed demon Daniel Dylan Wray sits down for a chat with London-based producer Dan Carey, who has produced records for not one, but two of this year’s Mercury Prize nominees...
f you look at the 2019 Mercury Music Prize nominations and the people behind them, the only person to have produced two albums on this year’s list was Dan Carey. The London-based producer and multi-instrumentalist was the man behind the desk on both Fontaines D.C. and Black Midi. Go back a few more years and you’ll also see his name pop up for producing two other Mercury-nominated albums from Kate Tempest and Nick Mulvey. Delve further still and you’ll find a wealth of production, co-writing, engineering and mixing credits for artists as diverse as Franz Ferdinand, Sia, Hot Chip, Fatboy Slim, Kylie Minogue, Tame Impala, Bloc Party and Bat for Lashes. Today he runs a recording studio and record label, both under the name of Speedy Wunderground, but production wasn’t something he initially thought he would get into. “Emiliana Torrini was one of the first albums I ever made professionally,” he recalls of the 2005 album. “But I didn’t really consider myself a producer before that. I’d written the album with her and she just said, ‘Why don’t you produce
"By having a label that focuses on instinct, spontaneity and “enthusiastic mixes”, it provides an outlet that captures the exciting of-the-moment essence” it?’. I had a studio, made music under my own name and was always in bands, but I’d never been paid as a producer and had something credited under my own name. I loved doing it and thought from that point onwards this could be quite an interesting career. It also helped that in the middle of working on that album we wrote the Kylie Minogue song Slow, which was a worldwide number one. So I was like ‘yeah, I’m definitely going to be a producer.’” Carey has subsequently managed to create something of a dual career in the industry. On one hand he is a producer for hire to artists and labels, while on the other he hand-picks new bands to work with and often puts them out on his 7” singles label which is about to celebrate its 4th anniversary with a compilation release of all its 2019 tracks this December. However, Speedy Wunderground isn’t a typical label. “There’s a strict set of rules for the Speedy Wunderground sessions,” Carey says. In fact, there’s almost like a rule book or manifesto. “The idea is that you commit to everything on the spot and there’s no going
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Producer Profile back,” says Carey of his one-day recording approach. “Once the vocals are done there’s no opportunity to come back a couple of days later and think, ‘oh I wasn’t sure about that chorus.’ It means that any weird edges or anything might get left in but I think it can be quite endearing. If something has buzzed through your brain on the day and you thought, ‘yeah that’s cool’ then I think there must be something to that.” Artists released on the label include Squid, Black Midi, Black Country, New Road, Melt Yourself Down, Teleman and Flamingods. By having a label that focuses on instinct, spontaneity and “enthusiastic mixes”, it provides an outlet that captures the exciting of-the-moment essence of new bands stepping into the studio for a single day. Plus, it’s also to counter some of the lengthier sessions he might do professionally, along with some of his own perfectionist tendencies. “There’s definitely benefits to having time to reflect on things,” he says. “The Speedy Wunderground approach works for making a certain type of music but that’s by no means the only thing I want to do. It may sound like this is a way to protect myself from other people interfering but it’s just as much a way to protect me from myself. I’m terrible at doing things like sending a mix off to a label and then listening to it and saying, ‘forget about it, I’m doing another’ - and so on. I drive myself mad. So it’s partly to stop my own tendencies in that department as much as anyone else’s.” So given the multifaceted nature and role of Carey’s production work – ranging from brand new bands to established ones – what does he feel the key role and skills of a modern day producer are? “It’s divided into the musical, practical and personal,” he offers. “You need a clear understanding of music, how music works and the ability to decipher what people mean when they send you a demo or play you a song. It can be quite a subtle thing knowing what the overall direction, intention or meaning of a song is. Working out what the purpose of the song is and how it’s best going to achieve that is a big thing. Plus, interpersonal skills are key too. You have to be good at communicating with people, as well as encouraging them to be the best that they can be. It’s about knowing how to react to the mood of the room and knowing what to say or what not to say.” As for anything resembling a criteria for who Carey wishes to work with or release on his label, it’s a lot less strict than the rules in the studio itself. “There’s a certain feeling that comes from some music whereby you just get a tingle from it,” he says. “It’s not always because it’s super powerful or weird – the very latest release is this band called Pynch and it’s very different to anything we’ve done before, but it just gave me that feeling. It’s a feeling I usually get from a certain type of music but this sounded more like Fleetwood Mac or something. I wouldn’t have predicted that I would like it but I was really into it so was just like, ‘let’s do it.’”. However, above all else what he’s shooting for is the feeling of exploring new terrain: “The most essential thing is that I feel bands have to be trying to do something that hasn’t already been done,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of making a record where the background has already been covered, whether it’s lyrically or musically. I simply like it if they are trying to do something new – like with Black Country, New Road I’ve never heard anything like it before - same with Black Midi and Squid. I think that criteria should be obvious from the records.”
Five rules of the Speedy Wunderground Singles recording session
ABOVE: Dan Carey
• Recording will be done in one day and finish before midnight. Mixing will be done the day after, also in one day only.
• Overdubs will be kept to a minimum, allowing the recordings to be free of clutter.
• The recordings will appear in limited runs of 250 7”s, which will be in shops as soon as humanly possible following their completion.
• The core of each song will be a live take recorded in the dark with smoke and lasers.
• Speedy Wunderground records will not be slow.
Carey’s proclivity for working with new bands and new sounds is an area which he feels most alive, he says. “It’s nice working with established artists but I guess when you’re working with them two or three albums in there can be more tension and more riding on it – sometimes more pressure coming from the label and they might be less willing to experiment. If a big artist has sold loads of records already then you don’t want to fuck up their career by doing something really weird. There’s a sense of freedom attached to doing something for the first time because it could turn out to be anything, and I do love working in that space.” n www.speedywunderground.com
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THE NEXT STAGE IN SOUND.
Through sweat, noise, and heavy wear, the TwinPlex™ subminiature lavalier stands up to the toughest conditions to make every word a clear statement of quality. shure.co.uk/twinplex ©2019 Shure Incorporated. See shure.com/trademarks.
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28/05/2019 17:24 22/07/2019 12:18
Packing a punch Colby Ramsey speaks to EAW president and general manager TJ Smith about how the east coast loudspeaker manufacturer has been getting on since its acquisition by RCF in 2018...
ast year was a big one for Eastern Acoustic Works. The 40-year anniversary of the company coincided with its purchase by global audio giant RCF, and this significant investment quickly positioned it to launch several new products in 2019. Yet, as I recently found out from the company’s president and general manager TJ Smith, EAW has no plans to stop there. Earlier this year the company launched the KF810 passive line array – focused on the install market – as well as a new series called MKD which sits alongside the MK product line: a dual woofer version designed to provide users with increased pattern control in the low frequencies. There’s two new subwoofers: SB828 and SB825, as well as the new active point source RS line, and much more.
“EAW has been strong in install for quite a while, since before I got here about four years ago,” Smith tells me. “The touring market changed several years ago and we lost quite a bit of that business, but I would say that our pedigree over the past 10 to 15 years has been in install anyway. Of course, we want to bolster our strength in all areas and continue serving those customers.” I was particularly curious to find out how the company has been affected by the RCF acquisition. “Investment is the key word,” Smith says. “What you see now is just the tip of the iceberg.” And with more products coming out at the end of the year, along with some “very robust” products in the pipeline for 2020, EAW looks more poised for the future than ever. One area where the company has received significant investment – and an area that may not be obvious to many – is inventory, as Smith explains: “When I started
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ABOVE: EAW’s setup at InfoComm 2019
this job, more than one customer teased me that EAW stood for ‘empty ass warehouse’, which apparently extended from spares to finished goods, causing some complaints about availability. The investment that RCF brought has allowed us to hold ample inventory of the entire product line, which is massive now. “In the MK series alone there’s horn patterns and woofer sizes, and very quickly you get this very large matrix of products with colour and weather protected variants. Customers come in and they want the 90 x 60 in white with a 15 inch woofer ready to go, and they want six of them by tomorrow. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re able to fill that order almost all of the time, and I would say that greater than 90 per cent of the orders we get now, we are filling out of inventory, which is big for us.” So not only is EAW coming up with a plethora of new products, but it’s managing to serve its customers in bigger and better ways: “The install market is weird in that customers will tell you they might have something coming, but you don’t see the order from them until the moment they want it,” Smith adds. “They’re not going to hold the inventory for you like other customers will, so that puts us in the seat of needing to have the inventory to meet customer demand and be successful.”
EAW’s ethos is, ‘helping our partners be successful,’ and it’s clear that everything it does goes into serving that. Two years ago when it developed, marketed and sold products itself, with a parent company that was in charge of operations, this may have been easier to define. Now it is a much broader organisation, as Smith explains: “At the point of sale last year, all of that operational responsibility fell onto this organisation overnight, which caused us to have a little bit of a rethink, but essentially the mantra hasn’t really changed. The top line is still, help our partners be successful, but underneath that now is an operations group that’s tuning itself to make it easy to sell for the entire channel, to make it available, make it quality, communicate well etc. “We’re seeing a massive interest in multi-channel, or immersive audio, and the way we’re seeing it manifest is with people doing more left-centre-right systems, and opening up the stereo image to support this immersive concept,” Smith continues. “The challenge for us is interesting because with the Adaptive product line, the way it hangs straight and high lends itself extremely well to this, so there’s been several churches where we’ve installed left-centre-right systems in their auditoriums. One or two of them actually had old style left-centre-right systems and with
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Company Profile the Adaptive approach, they’re just absolutely beside themselves – they love it. What we need to do – and something we did at Infocomm last year – is show people that Adaptive can do it and can do it better, and then make sure we’re partnering with people that are providing the right front end for the system.” To help deliver on its targets and tackle these challenges, EAW will be holding a demonstration in Phoenix, Arizona during the first week of December, using a large immersive setup with its Adaptive line to show customers what the system is capable of. What Smith often finds – and specific to EAW’s Adaptive product line and immersive audio – is that people tend to evaluate systems normalised, as he explains: “The world has not totally got its head around the idea that you don’t have to physically aim a box at something in order to hit it. Adaptive doesn’t require that extra box – you only add one if you need more power and more low frequency control. “So that’s another challenge, getting that into the consciousness, because when you do that, you very quickly find out that the primary objections to an Adaptive system – cost and weight – evaporate because you don’t need as many boxes and of course when you don’t need as many boxes, it’s not as heavy,” he adds. “People have caught onto that and we now see them buying larger systems. We’ve also recently sold more systems to some big touring names out on the west coast who are coming up to speed, and we’re just trying to get the rest of the world in on it.” The other challenge the company faces is the sheer number of products that it could, and arguably should develop in this very target rich environment: “We need to be very careful about those targets because – even though we’re 40 years old – we’re still a relatively young organisation and now we’ve got this great investor behind us, we need to make sure that when we’re deploying that investment, we’re doing it in a way that we can get the most benefit for our customers and for the business,” Smith says.
"We’re seeing massive interest in multi-channel audio with people doing more left-centre-right systems, opening up the stereo image to support the immersive concept” Meanwhile, it’s no secret that one of EAW’s co-founders, Kenton Forsythe, returned to the company earlier this year, so I was keen to find out what kind of impact this move has had on the business. The pro audio veteran acts as a fundamental tie to the things that have made EAW what it is today, Smith tells me: “Kenton provides a level of experience and knowledge in two facets. The first is, he is a walking transducer catalogue for everybody. We can talk about a design, about general cabinet geometry and generally what we want to do, and he will immediately start spouting off transducer model numbers. He knows the right parameters to tweak to make our systems sound perfect, and you see that coming into play with the KF810, the MKD, the new SB products that we’re launching, even down to the RS entry level point source system.
“The other thing is that he’s well known in the consultant community and so is a great guy for people to talk to for input. It’s a two-way street where he can tell them what we’re working on and get feedback on the best way that we can serve their needs, which has been huge.” So where does TJ plan to take EAW into the future? Having been in the industry his entire life, and literally having grown up with EAW, things for him have seemingly come full circle. As a sound guy in high school who loved the brand, it’s an interesting culmination of his career to now be the person leading the company forward. Summarising his EAW journey so far, Smith concludes: “When I arrived here four years ago, I thought there were a lot of things that needed to change, and saw a company that needed to get itself refocused on its customer’s needs and how we play a role in helping them be successful. I feel like we’re steering ourselves towards that, but I want to see the company become even stronger, to refresh the catalogue, and strengthen our distribution internationally.” n
ABOVE: EAW’s Adaptive highprecision line array
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Dynaudio Core 7 Stephen Bennett tests out the most compact model in Dynaudio’s range of professional reference monitor systems...
BELOW: Dynaudio Core 7 and Core 59
ynaudio are a Danish company whose audio monitors have been a common feature in high-end studios for over 40 years. The new Core range of monitors includes the largeish Core 59 and the mid-size Core 47 three-way monitors and the two-way Core 7s that are under review here – and there’s also a matching Core sub unit. The monitors are designed and built in Denmark and are – as one might expect – beautifully finished in a neutral grey and very stylish in appearance. They exude rigid quality and I’m sure that they will easily
n A 500W class-D amp for the mid/woofer, and 150W for the tweeter n All-new drivers designed and made in Denmark n Advanced DSP lets users tailor Core 7 for different listening environments
RRP: £1,500 survive the rigours of the recording studio. The monitors’ dimensions are 220 x 370 x 390mm and weigh in at a hefty 14.7 kg – so they’re designed for nearfield use. The monitors can be mounted horizontally – there are recessed areas for special pads to be fitted – and there are K&M brackets available for immersive/surround use. The 32mm thick baffle is loaded with Dynaudio’s latest Esotar Pro soft-dome 1-inch tweeter, a 7-inch low
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mid driver (‘woofer’) and a front-loaded port at the base of the unit. This woofer features aluminium voice coils and Dynaudio’s Magnesium Silicate Polymer (MSP) cone material which, Dynaudio says, provides the best combination of lightness, stiffness and damping for accurate bass, natural midrange detail and improved imaging and point-source delivery. The integrated amplifiers are Pascal Class-D units, with 150w available for the high frequency unit and 500w driving the woofer. What this means in practice is that there’s plenty of power available for the applications to which the monitor will be put, the maximum SPL being 112dB at 1m and a frequency range of 38 Hz – 31 kHz +/- 6 dB. The front panel also sports a single LED that indicates clipping, thermal overload, power status and word clock errors. The rear panel features the IEC mains socket, with an auto-standby feature, analog and digital in and out on XLR connectors, a 75Ω wordclock on BNC and a USB ‘service’ connector for firmware upgrades, as well as the various Digital Signal Processing (DSP) switches that control the monitor’s output response. There are switches to set the sensitivity of the analog input and the SPL of the output and you can also set whether the monitor is to act as the left or right unit in a stereo system. Bass extension can either be set to full for standalone use or set to ‘HP’ when being used alongside a sub. Dynaudio has been at the forefront of using DSP technologies in their monitors and the Core 7 takes advantage of this expertise. There is a Sound Balance switch that offers three settings: Bright (20 Hz -1.5 dB, 20 kHz +1.5 dB), Dark (20 Hz +1.5 dB, 20 kHz -1.5 dB) and Neutral, where no processing is applied. These settings can be selected to attempt to straighten out any frequency discrepancies caused by room acoustics. This ‘minimal phase’ filter tilts the entire spectrum by 1.5 dB at the frequency extremes to either brighten or darken the overall response. Dynaudio says that the filter alters the tonality without inducing audible phase anomalies and I didn’t notice any problems in this area in practice. The digital side runs at 24-bit with a maximum sample rate of 192 kHz, while supported input signal sample rates are from 32 to 192 kHz. The analogue signal is converted to run internally at 192 kHz. There are several switches available to select the DSP’s response to differing room acoustics. The first has the following three settings: Anechoic is designed to be used when the monitors are placed on
stands in treated studios, while the Desk setting is for when the monitor is placed on the meter bridge of a mixing console or desk. The Soffit setting is for when the monitors are mounted directly into a wall – an application you might have come across in a studio or theatre. The second switch’s settings are Free, Wall and Corner which, as they are designed to modify the monitor’s response when placed next to boundaries, should be fairly self-explanatory in their use. I’ve used many kinds of Dynaudio speakers in the past, but most of my current experience is with the multi-driver M2 passives and the various iterations of the BM5, 6 and the Air series. In many ways, the Core 7 is similar to the smaller Air but the DSP assistance available is much easier to use and the monitors have improved sonic specifications, so I was interested in seeing how they performed alongside their siblings as well as in comparison with similar-sized monitors such as my ATC 16s. Dynaudio says that most users will use third-party room or physical correction to help with any response anomalies, so that the more complex DSP system that featured in the Air range isn’t needed here. Dynaudio provides a free smartphone application that combines a real-time audio analyser, SPL meter and noise generator to help make sure the monitors are performing to their best advantage, while the manual also has suggestions for positioning, all of which proved to be useful information in the review. I set the Core 7s up in a well-treated studio on stands well away from the walls and adjusted the rear panel settings to Free and Neutral. The monitors did not disappoint. Bass was well extended for such a small monitor and the ‘one note’ effect that ported speakers often exhibit was not overbearing. The upshot of this is that the Core 7s enabled me to make low end decisions that translated well to both my much larger domestic hi-fi system and earbuds. Detail and stereo imaging were exceptional – I always find that two-way nearfields are better in these respects than larger monitors. There’s ample power, which is important even at low listening levels and transients are reproduced with sufficient rapidity. The Core 7s easily allowed me to hear those low-level sounds that are important when creating mixes that translate well. Unlike some studio monitors, I think I could even live with these Dynaudios to listen to music for pleasure – they exhibit no fatiguing harshness, midrange honk or boominess and I love the sound of the Core 7’s high frequency units. I didn’t have access to the Core sub, but the 7s played nicely with a Genelec unit in both stereo and as left and right speakers in a 5.1 system. Moving the monitors into the corner and resetting the DSP controls appropriately really helped with reflection issues and these, alongside the sound balance controls, may be all you need if you have to use the monitors in this kind of location. They also worked well in a small boxy room when used alongside Sonarworks’ and IK Multimedia’s speaker correction software. For all their developments over the years, Dynaudio speakers and monitors do still appear to have a ‘family sound’ and the Core 7s are no exception. These ‘baby’ Dynaudios follow in the fine tradition of the company’s other products and, if you end up producing poor mixes or recordings using these monitors, it’s not going to be the equipment that’s the issue. If you’re in the market for a powerful and useable compact nearfield monitor, the Core 7s should definitely be on your audition list. n www.dynaudio.com
LEFT: Dynaudio’s dedicated smartphone app
The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the UEA.
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Iisalmen Sanomat archive
The Sonic Reference since 1978. Four decades ago we set out on a mission to help our customers fulfil their dreams by offering them the most truthful sound reproduction possible. Along the way we‘ve constantly been inspired, helped and encouraged by our employees, our users and our partners. So in our anniversary year we’d like to thank every single member of the global Genelec Family – past, present ... and future. Here’s to the next 40 years.
Blue Yeti X Jerry Ibbotson gets his hands on this new professional USB microphone for gaming, streaming and podcasting…
have some pretty erudite conversations in the pub. As well as discussing what type of cheese is best and whether Jaffa Cakes are actually biscuits I occasionally turn the subject round to technical matters. Only recently I offered up the opinion that a lot of podcasts are, technically speaking, not very good. As a radio person – on and off for 30 years – I suggested that many of the current crop of ‘casters lack the right equipment and know-how. One of my friends replied with possibly the greatest back-handed compliment ever. “Yes,” he said, “even you could raise the bar.” Insults aside, there is more and more gear being targeted at those aiming to produce their own podcasts, along with video streamers and the like. I’ve reviewed some of it here for AMI and the standard of what’s on offer is getting higher and higher. The latest item to head my way is the Yeti X USB microphone from Blue Designs – part of the Logitech group. Yes, that’s right, the game hardware people. I didn’t realise that until I did a little rummaging about on the Blue website but it does make sense – a large part of the firm’s target audience is drawn from the gamer/streamer demographic. So what does that say about their mics, and in particular the one that is currently sitting on my desk looking like something from a US radio talk show? It’s easy to be sceptical about hardware aimed at a market like this. The Yeti X does a good job of impressing at first glance though, and that’s down to its construction. It’s a hefty beast with a lot of metal in its build and it sits on a solid base, with a tilting support bracket. The USB socket and headphone output are in the base of the mic and on either side there is a dial. One is multi-function: controlling on/off, mic gain and headphone level. You can mix the balance of input and output signal that is fed to the headphones with this dial too. There is also an LED meter, running round the edge of the knob. The other dial – actually it’s a button – selects the Yeti X’s polar pattern. The mic has a four capsule condenser array, which offers four patterns – cardioid, omni, stereo and figure of eight (bi-directional). The instructions that come with the Yeti explain the different applications for each, from streaming to conference calls and even ASMR recordings. It also points out to the user that you speak into the ‘face’ of the capsule, rather than end-on, which is handy. Installation is straightforward. I used the Yeti on a Windows laptop and it plugged in and installed its driver without issue. The mic appeared in the system as an input device, just as a USB sound card. I did a few recordings in Adobe Audition using the different patterns and it was
Custom four-capsule condenser array Four pickup patterns: cardioid, omni, bi-directional and stereo Smart knob controls headphone volume, mic gain, blend and mute Blue VO!CE broadcast vocal effects including streamer and podcaster presets
RRP: $170 / £130
simple to configure, the gain was easy to set on the dial and I found the right mix of input and mic out. It’s the first time I’ve used a USB microphone and it was an unusual experience, bypassing other hardware. The Yeti X sits on a heavy base, which means you can use it anywhere with a flat surface. I recorded my own voice (I’m a radio luvvie darling...) and the mic put a nice strong signal. The recording (at the mic’s sample rate of 48kHz/24bit) was impressive, clear and crisp and suitably warm. It was as good as plenty of standalone mics I’ve used, in partnership with my Focusrite Scarlett. Cheap mics often have a harshness to them, or a warmth to the point where a voice can sound muffled. The Yeti X is detailed and picked up all the different tones in my voice. I’ve had years of suffering the misfortune of hearing my own voice and the Blue mic carried a very good rendition. I also downloaded a free software package called Logitech GHub, which contains a control panel called Blue Vo!ce. This includes some controls for the mic, along with effects such as a compressor and a high pass filter. There are some presets, such as FM radio and Warm & Vintage, that allow less experienced users to tailor their sound with a single click. Overall, the Yeti X surpasses a lot of expectations. I’ll be honest and say I had various assumptions about a USB mic aimed at podcasters and streamers. The thing is, the mic is pretty darn impressive. Its build quality is outstanding and matches the audio it produces. It is clearly styled to attract on its looks as well but that doesn’t mean that under its pretty skin it doesn’t cut the mustard. I’d say particularly if you’re recording with a laptop, it’s a good bit of kit. It’s certainly impressed me. www.bluedesigns.com
ABOVE: The Yeti X sits on a heavy base, for use anywhere with a flat surface
The Reviewer Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro-audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.
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Waves Abbey Road Studio 3 Stephen Bennett pays a virtual visit to London’s most famous recording studio with this new immersive plugin…
ABOVE: The Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin interface
everal companies have been taking advantage of the increase in computing power to design software that enables engineers to usefully use headphones for mixing – a methodology that was previously frowned on by professionals. These systems attempt to overcome the sonic limitations of headphones, such as the lack of crosstalk between ears and limited bass extension, by using Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and other techniques to simulate the room environment that one would experience when using monitors. The advantages of such a system are obvious – you could mix in any location and there is no need for expensive sound treatment and isolation. Waves has taken a novel approach with their Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin (herein acronymised to
Key Features n n n n
The acoustic environment of the Abbey Road Studio 3 control room inside your headphones Choose from Studio 3’s three sets of stereo speaker setups: near-ﬁelds, mid-ﬁelds, far-ﬁelds Use the plugin with the Nx Head Tracker for enhanced realism Personalised head anatomy calibration
the ARS3) by simulating an entire existing control room along with its audio monitors. The control room and studio they have chosen is, as the name suggests, Studio 3 at London’s famous Abbey Road. Designed by acoustician Sam Toyoshima,
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Product Review the studio sports a midfield 7.1 surround system alongside high-quality stereo playback. While other companies have concentrated on the audio side alone, Waves has integrated their Nx binaural acoustic modelling technology alongside a motion tracker and/or camera system to address what we could call ‘the headphone problem’. The system consists of the ARS3 plugin which can be used alongside Waves’ Bluetooth Nx Tracker device and/ or a web camera, both of which can track the movements of your bonce. What this means in practice is that if you move your head, the listener’s perspective of the position of the sound in the acoustic space changes in the same fashion as it would if you were sitting in the actual physical location. The Nx Tracker itself, which attaches to the headband of your ‘phones, requires Bluetooth 4 which my studio Mac Pro did not have, but a quick internet search sourced me a suitable USB device for a fiver. You can also use your web camera alone, or a combination of camera and tracker to improve the response of the system – the so-called ‘Fusion Mode’. This provides a resolution of up to 80fps compared to the camera’s 30fps and 50fps for the Nx Tracker alone. More than one instance of the software can be used – as can multiple head trackers – but only one person can use the Fusion mode. Once instanced in your DAW, the plugin presents an image of the Abbey Road studio, your position in the virtual space (as a ‘dummy’ wireframe head) and various tools to help set up the software. ARS3 requires you to input your head circumference and ear-to-ear dimensions and, while not as sophisticated a system as Genelec’s Aural ID head and ear shape photogrammetry software, it definitely makes a difference to the sound and experience if you change head dimensions! You use the Calibrate button to set the virtual head to the same position to actual head in the listening position and, once that’s done, the virtual head tracks your own head movements. Clicking on the Setup button opens the Nx Tracker window where you can see the Yaw, Pitch and Roll movement values (which briefly took me back to NASA’s Apollo program) and which also allows you to update the tracker firmware. You can use the ARS3 without head or camera tracking, but the plugin offers so much more when using this hardware. The top half of the plugin window is a visual representation of the studio’s speaker setups and the mixing desk (a 96-channel SSL 9000J, no less). Below that is a box to select EQ correction curves for specific headphones and you can choose the stereo monitor simulations to be near, mid or far. The ARS3 plugin can also work in stereo or 7.1 or 5.1 surround mode and it’s quite spooky to turn your head around to focus on a specific sound location in a three-dimensional space while wearing headphones, but it works really well in practice. This surround feature may be the most compelling use of the system for those of us who want to produce 5.1 versions of our work but lack the infrastructure to monitor such a mix. If you think treating a space for stereo monitoring is difficult, you should try it with eight speakers!
As you might expect, the plugin does change the sound considerably when it is inserted into the audio signal flow. In stereo, it adds a sense of space and air and, even though the bass may be limited by the physical design of headphones, it did appear to be easier to judge what was going on than the unprocessed headphone sound. I suspect that ARS3 would also allow an engineer to better judge a mix than using a pair of small monitors in an untreated space. The plugin itself has a lot of audio history to live up to as Abbey Road Studio 3 is a lovely sounding room with some of the best treatment and monitoring in the business. Comparing mixes created in a less salubrious studio than Abbey Road to those using ARS3 was illuminating. I found it much easier to place sounds in the stereo field, and auditioning reverb tails in particular seemed more accurate that just using my Beyerdynamic DT990 headphones or studio monitors. The stereo image did appear to be placed directly in front of me, unlike the rather diffuse centre image you get from headphones, and the simulation of a monitor speaker environment on said headphones was at least as convincing, if different, to competitor systems I’ve reviewed. The feeling of being ‘in the space’ isn’t quite the same as being in a decent studio, but the realism was definitely enhanced using the Fusion mode. When you turn your head towards a speaker, the ‘movement’ towards the sound from that speaker appeared more exaggerated than it would in a real-life studio situation. However, when using the software as you normally would, i.e. just facing forward between the monitors, the experience was more like being in a nicesounding studio with excellent sounding monitoring. With the advent of computer-based recording, many of us tend to mix in a more ‘visual’ fashion than was common in the old analog world. Even when using hardware controllers, we often end up looking at region edits, track settings, on-screen meters and the like, all of which can distract from the task in hand. When using the ARS3 plugin I found myself doing much less of this, instead concentrating more on the sound rather than the visual representation of the studio. I really wish that the plugin’s interface could have been expanded to take up the full screen to completely hide the DAW – which I would find especially useful when doing fine level balancing. I also wished that the plugin could warn you to bypass it when bouncing as I accidentally left it instanced on several occasions. It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to see where this technology is heading. A virtual reality version of the plugin and associated headset would enhance the experience of ‘being there’ while a virtual Geoff Emerick sits beside you offering mixing advice. Waves has taken a different route to other companies offering headphone mixing solutions, and their collaboration with the famous London studio has paid dividends here. The software won’t turn you into George Martin, but it will allow you to create relocatable mixes in stereo and surround with nothing more than a laptop, the head tracker and a pair of decent headphones. n www.waves.com
The Reviewer Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich, he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the UEA.
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Austrian Audio OC818 Alistair McGhee gets to grips with this multipattern dual output condenser mic with the ‘world’s first’ optional wireless control...
ade in Austria is proudly inscribed on my veteran AKG 414s, and for more than 70 years that geographic label has been a badge of honour in the microphone business. And if Austrian Audio has anything to do with it, there’s at least another 70 years ahead. The company has assembled a chunk of the great Vienna microphone engineering tradition that was in danger of being orphaned after AKG production had fled the city, and has hit the road running. Looking back, Konrad Wolf was responsible for much of the glory – his CK12 brass large diaphragm capsule patented in 1954 was to set audio standards and bring huge success to AKG’s microphone business over the next 30 years. Now, Austrian Audio have revisited the CK12 concept by applying the very latest engineering techniques to deliver the CKR-12, a capsule built on the CK12 heritage but featuring high tech, like a unique ceramic enclosure. The CKR-12 is the basis for Austrian Audio’s OC18 and OC818 microphones. The OC818 is a microphone for a new generation. A multipattern large diaphragm condenser with switchable pads (neg 10 and neg 20) and high pass filters at 40, 80 and 160 Hz. That is the traditional specification, but on top of that the OC818 offers access to the output of both the diaphragms in the dual diaphragm capsule. Import that audio into your DAW and the Polar Designer plugin from Austrian Audio will allow you to fine tune the polar diagram of the mic in post production – how cool is that? And if real time control is more your thing then plug in the Austrian Audio Bluetooth dongle, fire up the iOS app and once you have connected the app to the specific mic you want to control then you can adjust the polar diagram of the mic from the comfort of the mix position. In the hand, the OC818 is obviously a very, very well made
Multiple polar patterns Microprocessor control of polarisation voltages Two different analog high-pass filters with three settings Two different types of analog pads
product. Mine was delivered in a small flight case and came complete with not one but two clips, a simple solid affair and an elastic suspension mount. Also included are a windshield and the break out cable enabling the independent recording of the second capsule. I rushed the OC818 on to a stand and began to listen, and it very quickly becomes obvious that this is a microphone of the highest quality. It has an openness
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Product Review that speaks of a freedom from resonance and no trace of thickening in the mid range. The top end has clarity, extension and detail, but no sibilance or over emphasis, while deep down there is authority and weight. The 818 is a mic of huge flexibility but I guess it will do a lot of duty on vocals. Side by side with my veteran 414 ULS, the mics are obviously from the same stable – hand made in Vienna. I think the 818 is like the 414, but more so. Vocals have if anything an even smoother timbre and finer detail. The 818 has a huge dynamic range which matched with the right recording chain will capture virtually anything you can throw at it.
"This is a reference grade studio mic that stands on its sound quality but also offers features that will soon become indispensable parts of our studio workflow” Austrian Audio make much of the consistency of their new ceramic capsule. Not only are any two 818s ‘matched’, but they claim you can even match an 818 in cardioid with an OC18, the 818’s more affordable cardioid-only sibling. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that every CKR-12 capsule to date has been hand made by Monika or that the phantom power is microprocessor regulated – go Monika I say. In short, the OC818 is an outstanding audio performer before we come to the icing of the new technology cake. And there’s plenty of icing and candles on that cake. Adding the optional OCR8 Bluetooth remote adds another dimension of flexibility to the OC818. The OCR8 enables remote control of polar diagram and the pads and high pass filters. You get a wider choice of polar diagrams and no more fiddling with the mic itself. Then there is a 60-second audio level logger which will show you if you have overloaded the mic. However as the 818 has a max SPL of 148dB and 158dB, if you engage the 10dB pad then you really do have to work hard to get an over. Vinnie Jones headbutting a dustbin lid an inch away might do it. When you have the settings just the way want them then they are saved in the ‘Preset’ position even after the removal of the dongle. If I may venture a criticism here, the selector switches are black on black – just saying. And of course we would prefer if the remote functionality were built in. Replacing the OCR8 with the provided break out cable to XLR enables the recording of the two capsules independently, and then you can tweak the exact diagram you want in the mix using the VST Polar Designer plugin. This provides a simultaneous feeling of ‘I can’t believe I can do this!’ and ‘of course I should be able to do this!’ Get the talent on tape with the mic in the best position and then make the finest of
ABOVE: Austrian Audio’s CKR-12 capsule
tweaks when they’ve gone home and you have time to hone your mix. I don’t know why you would want a mic that is omni in the low bass, cardioid in the upper bass, figure of eight in the low mid, hypercardioid in the upper mid and reverse cardioid at the high end, but if that’s what you need then the 818 and Polar Designer will make it happen. Of course, all your favourite settings can be stored for later recall. I can imagine millennials who have never seen a C414 EB and not even heard of Konrad and his legendary brass CK12 buying an 818 because it sounds great and is super, super versatile. And there in a nutshell is the DNA of the OC818 – come for the tradition and hand-built skills and stay for the 21st century technology, or vice versa. This is a reference grade studio mic that stands on its sound quality but also offers features that will soon become indispensable parts of our studio workflow. Konrad would be pleased. www.austrian.audio
The Reviewer Alistair McGhee began audio life in Hi-Fi before joining the BBC as an audio engineer. After 10 years in radio and TV, he moved to production. When BBC Choice started, he pioneered personal digital production in television.
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Pro Spotlight In each issue of AMI we feature an audio professional from a range of disciplines to find out how they got started in the industry and what they’ve worked on. This month we speak to Carla Foss, the newly appointed head of post at back2back productions...
ABOVE: Carla Foss and (left) back2back Audio in Brighton, UK
What do you do? As the head of post at back2back productions I look after all elements of post production and facilitate back2back Audio – our dedicated audio facility in the heart of Brighton in the UK. How did you get into the industry? I was incredibly lucky to have been recommended for a role as a post production runner by one of my tutors at university. I got that job, and have been working my way up through the ranks and learning all about the TV industry ever since. What are some of your credits? The Repair Shop, Food Unwrapped, Celebrity 5 Go to…, The Bachelor, The Choir, Who Do You Think You Are? Don’t Tell the Bride, Cowboy Builders, Blood Sweat & T-shirts What is your favourite item of audio gear and why? As with most people working in post – and as a drummer in a band – I could never be without a good pair of headphones. What are some of the challenges that you face in your job? For me, one of the biggest challenges in post production is also one of the most interesting: change.The way we make and deliver TV has evolved dramatically in the 10 years that I have been working in the industry. Technological advancements are always pushing us forward, enabling the industry to reach for bigger and
better production values, but with every new advancement there is always a delicate interplay in post. What was your favourite project and why? Born to Be Different is probably the series I have enjoyed working on the most. Following the lives of disabled children from birth through to early adulthood has been an amazing achievement in observational documentary, and I have been very proud to have been a part of it. What industry professional inspired you the most to do what you do? Thelma Schoonmaker (Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Sally Menke (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds) were both incredible inspirations when I was young and obsessed with film. I have always had a tendency to lean towards more traditionally male roles so to learn that the editors behind some of the biggest films in the modern era were women, was huge. What’s the best bit of advice that you can give anyone trying to break into the industry? Always be honest if you don’t understand something. I think we all have a tendency to feel that we should know everything when we are first starting out, which can add an awful lot of stress and pressure to a new job. When I am working with a new team member I am always happy when I am asked questions. It’s almost like this mental tic for me; I automatically relax if I feel that the person is fully engaged.
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ShowMatch™ DeltaQ™ loudspeakers provide better coverage for outstanding vocal clarity. ©2017 Bose Corporation.
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direct sound to the audience in both installed and portable applications. Each array module offers field-changeable waveguides that can vary coverage and even create asymmetrical patterns. The result is unmatched sound quality and vocal clarity for every seat in the house. Learn more at SHOWMATCH.BOSE.COM
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