Engineer/producer Matt Azzarto with Sony PCM-D50New York, NY (June 30, 2008)–Recording engineer/producer Matt Azzarto’s eclectic career has found him working with artists ranging from Nancy Sinatra to Sonic Youth. Though his Hoboken, NJ-based Think Tank Studio is outfitted with gear ranging from Pro Tools|HD to a vintage Neve console, Azzarto is often on call to record on the fly.
“I’m always looking for the best way to make a fast, high-quality recording of an artist in the studio or in a club,” Azzarto explains. “Capturing the essence of an inspired performance can be incredibly helpful as a reference tool for a full-up session or as a permanent record of memorable dates. I’ve worked with a few hand-held digital recorders but have found them difficult to swing into action quickly and somewhat underwhelming in terms of audio quality and flexibility.”
When a colleague introduced him to the Sony PCM-D50 digital field recorder, Azzarto ran a series of shootouts with his then-current hand-held recorder. “We recorded material with both units in Think Tank and played the results back through my small Genelecs. We also downloaded the files to a Mac and played them back through the Neve. I was impressed not only with the superior sound quality of the Sony, but especially with its user-friendly operation. I was able to get the recorder in action very quickly. There were no mis-punched controls, the record-level knob was conveniently positioned and easy to adjust, the dual condenser mics shift easily between X/Y or wide-stereo mode, and it’s sturdy enough to make you confident that it won’t fly into pieces if it takes a tumble.”
A recent urgent call put the PCM-D50 to a real-time test. “I’ve known music supervisor John Houlihan for many years,” Azzarto says. “He’s worked on major films like Charlie’s Angels, Training Day and all the Austin Powers movies. He was finishing the soundtrack for Mike Myers’ The Love Guru at a New York post house when he discovered that Myers’ hand strumming a sitar in a pivotal scene was visibly out of synch with the music heard on the soundtrack.”
Houlihan immediately booked an expert sitar player for an emergency session and he asked Azzarto to quickly handle the recording end. “I set the PCM-D50 up about three feet from the artist and sat on the floor beside him as he played the song [the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”] while watching Myers’ scene on a video monitor,” Azzarto recalls. “Somehow, he was able to perfectly match his performance to Myers’ fingering while making the song clearly recognizable. The Sony captured every nuance and, the Pre Rec Buffer option enabled me to capture the previous five seconds of the set while continuing to record the live performance. That was extremely helpful in making sure we captured every note.
“This was an incredibly complex Foley challenge,” Azzarto adds. “In traditional ADR work the actors are trying to match the movements of the mouths of the onscreen talent as they speak. In this situation, the sitar player had to play a recognizable song on a complex instrument and make it appear as though the music was being performed by the fingers of the on-camera performer. The PCM-D50 was totally up to the job.”
Think Tank Studio