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Galaxy Studios futureproofs with film and Auro-3D

With immersive sound gaining importance, Galaxy Studios – the cradle of Auro-3D – is increasing its business in post-production and related fields

Despite the rapid evolution in audio formats, Galaxy Studios remains an impressive facility when it comes to music recording. The 1995-built Galaxy Hall, a 330sqm live recording room with renowned optimal acoustic qualities, continues to be a major asset, for assignments in film scoring, soundscape recording and other music projects.

With an average of two big orchestral recording projects per month, the Galaxy Hall and the adjacent digital Neve 88D and analogue API Vision control rooms have also fully turned to Auro-3D – every recording is effected in the new standard. At press time, the Galaxy Symphonic Orchestra finalised the recording of Symbolica, the soundscape for the fantasy amusement park Efteling’s new [euro]35million darkride attraction, opening up this summer.

Bearing in mind the philosophy that Galaxy Studios offers the full package, from recording to post-production, sound design, editing and mastering, image department for compositing, colour grading and authoring for DCP/Blu-ray or UHBD, the company has oriented its activities towards a one-stop facility for a wide range of projects.

The latest addition at Galaxy Studios is the 350sqm AuroTorium (pictured top) dubbing and screening stage. A fully-fledged 144-seater cinema theatre with a 15m-wide reference screen and Barco 4K 32B projector, 62 active Meyer Sound cinema system cabinets (nine Acheron 80 screen speakers, 44 HMS-10 surround speakers and nine X-800C subwoofers) in the AuroMax speaker layout deliver a truly immersive cinema sound experience. The theatre’s acoustic design was carried out in close collaboration with Concept-A, Galaxy Studios and Meyer Sound.

The AuroTorium’s core element is a tandem of two systems, a AMS Neve DFC (pictured) and an Avid console, says Alexander Vyverman, chief technical manager at Galaxy. He explains that the facility opted for the DFC because the desk was specifically designed for ‘sound for picture’, offering a specific workflow from 5.1 to any available immersive sound format.

“Actually, our DFC desk, with its 32 faders,can control more than 1,000 channels,” he claims. “It was under the guidelines of our CEO (Wilfried Van Baelen, inventor of Auro-3D) that AMS Neve designed its first ever DFC console for Sound in 3D (Immersive Sound), installed at Galaxy studios in 2010.

“We use a video satellite PC as ‘print master’ channelling the audio content of two Pro Tools HDX machines, via the DFC, back to the Pro Tools video satellite unit.”

Engineers have the option of mixing either completely in Pro Tools using the DFC as router, speaker controller and subgroup manager, or to accomplish a full mix on the DFC console. “Using the DFC for summing all sounds is not only results in a better overall sound quality but also gives much more flexibility in switching quickly and easilyy between all kind of cinema sound formats (5.1 up to AuroMax 50.1).”

The 3D theatre’s extensive speaker configuration is managed by two MediaMatrix Nion DSP engines to control all of the speakers in the theatre: addressing audio content to arrays or specific speakers, calibration of the speaker system and calculation of delay options.

The digital signal is then sent to a rack of Forssell converters, and then on to each of the 62 powered Meyer Sound speakers.

“Which brings up another new section, Galaxy Acoustics,” begins Van Baelen (pictured). “Acoustics are crucial to achieve optimal audio results. Over the years, Galaxy Studios have gathered a gigantic know-how in terms of acoustics and we want to pass on this expertise to our clients. Thierry Migeotte, who’s heading the department, won the golden CEDIA award 2014 for Best Home Cinema Theatre, installed in Dallas (USA).”

Galaxy Acoustics aims to optimising of the acoustics, eyeing theatres, entertainment rooms and high-end users. “We offer a wide range of acoustic treatment, from worldwide design and know-how to finding local support partners,” Van Baelen adds.

He says non-stop innovation, diversification and specialisation have played a key role in Galaxy success and development in the digital and immersive world. “The music industry has drastically changed – in the early days we were a pure music recording facility, with bands coming to stay many weeks to record their albums. That scenario has gone. Today, we have more clients who come to do a specific part of their production at Galaxy Studios like recording of drums, strings, or mixing…” he explains.

By adding an extensive audio/image post-production and music for picture division, Galaxy has posted substantial growth. “We got a boost of about 30 per cent in our music department last year and this will be even more in 2017,” predicts Van Baelen. “We see this growth thanks to Auro-3D. It’s an established and future proof format, we have been doing all of our recordings in the Auro 3D standard since 2010.”

In addition to their legendary API Vision and Neve 88D control rooms, Galaxy Studios opened a pre-dubbing stage with an identical configuration like the AuroTorium (Avid Icon and AMS-Neve DFC). “The control room serves as pre-mix facility and mixing for broadcast – we have put in place the same consoles as in the AuroTorium for maximal compatibility. The idea is to take the final mix only to the main dubbing stage at the AuroTorium to reduce costs without compromising on quality. Actually, we made history here, because this is where the George Lucas film Red Tails was mixed, the first ever movie in immersive sound, using the Auro-3D system,” enthuses Van Baelen.

Another element of the operation’s growth and strategy when is the Galaxy Symphonic Orchestra, made up of the “the best available musicians in the country”, claims the CEO. “The idea dates back from when we started – we did some recordings with leading orchestras like the Brussels Philharmonic, but some clients like to have the choice between a well-known orchestra or our own selection of top musicians. The idea had ripened some 15 years ago but I’m happy to say that today, the Galaxy Symphonic Orchestra has become a valuable option alongside the best orchestras in the world.”

In addition to the musicians’ expertise, Van Baelen (pictured) underlines the timesaving aspect: “Ten minutes after the in-house orchestra enters the main hall, Patrick Lemmens – our renowned engineer – can push the record button,” he says. “But it doesn’t stop there, because the Galaxy Hall can be connected to any room in the world thanks to our own developed streaming technology, allowing multichannel audio to be streamed with latencies under 30ms, all without any loss in quality and even up to Auro 9.1. Like we did for example with Capital Studios in Los Angeles who recently installed the Auro-3D system.”

Looking to the future, Van Baelen says that by the end of this year, the initial 1995 studio multiplex will only account for 40 per 3cent of the total footprint, adding up to some 7,500sqm of working space and services. “We plan to build a new grading suite for broadcast, a new dubbing stage with a third AMS-Neve DFC, four Auro-3D sound design rooms, and two Foley rooms with heightened 3D reflections to get the most natural sound,” he comments. “And we will open our first Auro-3D mastering suite which will become a worldwide new reference for mastering in all formats including immersive sound.”

Galaxy Studios began in 1995 with a crew of 12. Today, the Galaxy Studios Group (sheltering the main studios, the Mollywood finance division and the Zilvermeer film production company) and Auro Holding (parent of Auro Technologies) employs a staff of 120 people, 30 of which work in Auro-3D affiliates abroad.

“Technology is evolving rapidly, and in terms of quality we have a big advantage,” states Van Baelen. “The healthy competition urged us to speed up things but I believe it’s time to plan the expansion of our market share (without the legacy of some of our competitors). Stepping into film was crucial, without affecting our music recording segment. With the release of new Auro-3D A/V receivers, over one million smartphones with Auro-3D technology and the commitment of major players like Microsoft and Sony towards the new format, I’m convinced that Galaxy Studios is a futureproof enterprise.”