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From Elektra to Electric Entertainment

By Steve Harvey. Taking over the former home of Elektra Records, Electric Entertainment is ready to roll.

West Hollywood, CA (November 21, 2018)—The address—962 N. La Cienega Boulevard—is iconic, instantly familiar to anyone who has ever pored over the album credits for releases on the Elektra or Asylum Records labels during their early years. The labels have long since moved out, but the legendary facility where The Doors, The Eagles, The Stooges and so many others recorded lives on, and is now occupied by production, distribution and post-production company Electric Entertainment.

Electric relocated from its previous Hollywood facility to the 20,000-square-foot, two-story building—which is two adjacent buildings on one lot—a couple of years ago after purchasing it from Discovery. After some rejigging of the interior, which had been configured by Discovery for its post-production needs, Electric most recently brought its 7.1 Dolby-certified mix stage and 16-seat screening theater online, which is equipped with an Avid S6 console suitable for single- or dual-operator use. The room is outfitted with JBL M2 Master Reference speakers at the screen with 7 Series speakers for surrounds.

Audio Post Faces Raised Expectations, Fallen Budgets

“Setting the S6 up or changing it over is so easy,” says supervising sound editor and mixer Hugh Waddell, whose extensive credits include Titanic, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Shrek and who joined the company in 2010. “I mix by myself regularly, but then I’ll bring someone in to handle effects or Foley and—boom—it’s set up and ready to go.”

Head engineer Bill Ritter chimes in, “You just decide early on what resources you want for the people coming in to use it: one source, or two sources and a recorder. Ultimately, you need a piece of it for the recorder, if you’re going to use record control.”

Workflow is critical at Electric Entertainment, which operates as a mini studio lot, principally shepherding projects by CEO Dean Devlin, the producer and co-writer behind such hits as Stargate, Godzilla and Independence Day, from inception to screen. Handling production, post production and distribution for its own creations, which include television series such as Leverage, The Librarians and The Outpost, and features including Geostorm and Bad Samaritan, Electric’s post facilities are now being made available to third parties.

“We own the building and the machines, so it’s just about bringing in the talent,” says Ben Raymondjack, VP, post production. “We can ebb and flow and make it scalable.”

“We have all the components” of a studio lot, adds Waddell, “just on a smaller scale. And the nice thing about this mix room is that it translates perfectly. That’s all you can ask of any room.”

The fact that Electric handles all post processes on a single site is key to its success, says Waddell, and encourages collegial harmony between departments. “The integration allows us to cut many corners as opposed to the regular way it happens in a studio. I can just walk over to a VFX artist and ask him what is going to happen” in a certain scene, for example.

That integration has been driven by Devlin’s preferred workflow. During the post process on Bad Samaritan, for instance, updated audio tracks were handed off to the picture department weekly, sometimes daily. “When Dean came in to offline, he wanted to hear mixed tracks. He was working with a fully mixed track before the director’s cut, so we were absolutely toe-to-toe with the editorial team,” recalls Waddell. “They worked with our stems and we updated the stems as we went along.”

That workflow is something of a break from tradition and different than many other post houses around town. “A lot of people say they’re in-the-box but they’re still using the old workflow where they have to go through a pre-dub stage. We’re just constantly updating, from day one,” Waddell points out. “And most of the time, we’re working with mock-ups of the final music, so we don’t even need temp music.”

The well-equipped core room, which houses 280 TB of Quantum media storage, supports the finish-as-you-go workflow. “We have fiber-connected storage as well as NAS,” Raymondjack elaborates. “The sound department and picture share the same storage,” enabling easy handoff of updated media.

Electric was formerly an Apple house, based around XSAN and Final Cut Pro. “The industry changed, and we adopted Avid,” says Raymondjack. But rather than also adopting Avid’s copper-based Nexus storage platform, the house has implemented SAN Fusion from Chesapeake Systems, which allows Avid project bin-locking between Pro Tools and Media Composer. “So we have fiber-channel speed with the entirety of the SAN space,” he adds. That also allows producers and directors on the mix stage to see the final color version instead of a less finished copy.

The picture department, encompassing seven offline edit bays, a color grading suite and a VFX bullpen, is largely housed in the original Elektra building, in which Jac Holzman built the famed recording studio (the live room is now a conference and picture review room) in late 1950. The second building, which was added later, features four Pro Tools-equipped sound editing suites, two sound design rooms—one inhabited by Waddell, with attached VO booth—outfitted with Avid S3 Pro Tools rigs, an ADR studio, a Foley closet and the re-recording stage, which occupies the former Asylum recording studio space.

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The mix stage is also used for ADR and loop group work, for which it is equipped with Focusrite Red and Avalon mic preamps. “I use those to record podcasts,” says Ritter, who produces several such shows each week, including Inglorious Treksperts, for Star Trek aficionados.

But pride of place goes to the Avid console. “The S6 is beautiful, and so intuitive,” says Waddell. “I come from an editorial background, so I’m used to reacting to the tracks in a certain way. I tend to be more Pro Tools-based on every single last thing, using it from an editorial standpoint, but mixing at the same time. Whereas an old-school mixer doesn’t have to look at the screen and can just put his hands on the faders and take it from there. It depends on what you’re used to—which is why I love this machinery.”

Electric Entertainment •

Avid •