Mackie recording gear is installed throughout Snoop Dogg's new rolling studio/video lounge on wheels.Corona, CA (February 8, 2008)--Snoop Dogg is a lackadaisical cat; between his drawling delivery and rather relaxed demeanor, he comes across as someone who isn't in much of a hurry. That's wrong, of course, because anyone who is an artist, musician, actor, producer, entrepreneur and more, always has plenty to do. Whether it was an opportunity to make a statement or simply multitask, Snoop recently decided to take his recording rig on the road--in style.
"Snoop brought in this old Sprinter van and wanted us to do a full conversion on it and turn it into a combination mobile studio and video lounge," recalls West Coast Customs audio/video manager, Chad Utt. The company has a well-deserved reputation for high-end vehicle makeovers, including audiophile-grade sound systems, but as Utt observes, Snoop's mobile recording studio was a first for them. "We've done a lot of projects involving extreme high-end car audio, and a number of mobile stage trucks with performance and DJ rigs, but professional recording gear has a whole different set of requirements."
The Sprinter is a high-roofed cargo/passenger van popular with courier companies like DHL and FedEx, as well as passenger shuttle services. "Snoop already owned this one," says Utt, "and it was pretty beat up. It still had six rows of seats in it, and it looked like it was ready to pick people up at Terminal 4."
Reality TV mainstays West Coast Customs did the retrofitting of Snoop Dogg's aged Sprinter van into a rolling studio. Snoop's brief for West Coast Customs was simple: Make it comfortable, functional and make it sound as good as his home studios. "He'd apparently tried having a mobile studio built once before, and the company tried to take some high-end car audio components and make them sound like actual studio gear," says Utt. "Needless to say, it didn't work; car audio components just don't have the dynamic range of pro-audio gear. We decided to bypass all that and just go with what he uses in his recording studios, so we got in touch with Mackie."
The mobile studio runs Mackie's Tracktion 3 Ultimate Bundle music production software, featuring a suite of mixing and mastering tools, as well as virtual instruments and sample libraries from IK Multimedia, Sonic Reality and others. The software runs on a Sony Vaio SZ491 2.16 GHz dual-core laptop with a 200 GB hard drive. Mackie Control Universal Pro, Extender Pro and C4 Pro control surfaces give him access to Tracktion's recording and editing functions, as well as plug-in effects processors and virtual instruments. An Onyx 1200F FireWire interface provides 30 inputs and 34 outputs of 192 kHz audio on Mackie's Onyx preamps, and a pair of 1521Z two-way, 15-inch active loudspeakers covers monitoring.
"This was a great opportunity for us to use our collective creativity," says Mackie brand VP, John Boudreau. "Snoop likes to do things big, so our brainstorming session resulted in some pretty humorous setups--like using SA1232z loudspeakers as monitors. In the end, of course, we devised a package that was more appropriate for the space, and one that delivered exactly the results Snoop was after."
The view from behind the back seats of the studio, looking forward towards the massive TV/videogame screen. Snoop's instructions called for the van to do double duty as a video lounge. A Sony 46-inch Bravia flat-panel display sits directly behind the front seats, effectively partitioning the space, and is connected to a Blue-ray DVD player, PlayStation 3 console and the studio's Vaio computer. The video's 5.1 system uses five HR624mk2 studio monitors. An HRS120 12-inch studio subwoofer covers bottom end for both video and studio systems.
"It's essentially two separate audio systems," Utt explains. "He wanted to make sure he has a studio-quality 2.1 setup for when he's recording, but also wanted a large, flat-screen TV, 5.1 surround sound and comfortable seating in the back for when he's relaxing, watching movies and playing video games."
A major challenge was the logistics of making everything work in such a limited space. "The area from just behind the front seats to the back is about 13 feet," says Utt. "That's large by car standards but pretty small for a studio space. Making it work as just a studio would have been a challenge in itself, but combining that with the video lounge was even trickier. There were a lot of little details to work out."
The entire vehicle is treated with Dynamat acoustical sound-dampening material. "We pulled down the headliner, all the inside skins, the doors and all the body panels," says Utt. "It really sounds amazing.
"Snoop is totally stoked," Utt concludes. "He was looking around the van and saying, 'Man, I gotta shut down my other studios and go on the road.' Everyone who sees it is just amazed. It's not some all-cosmetics project, just for TV. It's fully functional, and it sounds awesome. This is the real deal."