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HUGESound—and Expectations

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—After Utah-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Gaylen Rust acquired the former Metcom Studios complex in Salt Lake City, he called on local veteran sound designer and mixer Mike Mc-Donough, MPSE to help develop a new collaborative media business in the space.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—After Utah-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Gaylen Rust acquired the former Metcom Studios complex in Salt Lake City, he called on local veteran sound designer and mixer Mike Mc-Donough, MPSE to help develop a new collaborative media business in the space. In February, following six months of renovation and a new technical build-out, HUGEsound Post Production launched with a comprehensive menu of services encompassing sound, music and picture.

Rust initially moved his Musician’s Toolkit online music education business into the building, McDonough reports, but it required relatively little space in the 16,000-plus-square-foot media complex, which was purpose-built in 2010. “The first two people I called were Mike Greene and Chance Thomas,” says McDonough, who is VP of operations as well as senior sound designer at HUGEsound.

Michael James Greene, a 29-year veteran who had previously worked in Los Angeles, had operated his own studio in the Salt Lake area and previously worked at Metcom, came onboard as senior audio engineer. Chance Thomas, a multiple award-winning composer best known for scoring blockbuster video games and animated films, signed on as vice president of music and creative development.

“We started throwing ideas around for developing other related businesses,” says McDonough, who has won numerous awards, including a Peabody and an MPSE Golden Reel. “I thought, we need a video editor,” so he called in locally-based veteran, Mark Nelson, and Mike Fox, who was based in L.A. but looking for an opportunity to return to Salt Lake City.

“Each of these people has brought their vision and experience into HUGEsound,” says McDonough. The venture’s services include music composition, music recording and mixing, film audio post production, ADR, Foley and sound design. There are five Avid video edit suites plus a shooting stage with cyclorama and a lighting package.

“We wanted to create an environment that felt like a creative playground, like a workshop for clients’ imaginations to run wild,” says Thomas. “When people come here, there’s an enthusiasm, a terrific energy that translates into the products that they are recording and producing.”

Two studios support audio post. Studio B, equipped for sound design, voice services, Foley and mixing, is centered around an Avid D Command and Pro Tools 12.7 HDX system with 5.1/7.1 Meyer Sound Acheron theatrical monitoring. Studio C, overlooking Iso 2, is set up for editing and mixing with an Avid S3 and a 5.1 JBL midfield monitoring system.

Studio E, the music scoring suite, is equipped with Digital Performer and Pro Tools plus a variety of software tools such as Finale, Native Instruments and EastWest, including “thousands of virtual instruments,” mixed and monitored via dual Yamaha digital consoles with Genelec speakers.

HUGEsound places an emphasis on music production, driven in no small part by the opportunities afforded by the existing 44-by-36-foot shooting stage, which can accommodate up to 50 people. Greene, with decades of experience recording orchestras and big bands, drew up a list of equipment for Studio A that brings efficiencies to his workflow.

“Initially, we talked about putting in an Avid S6, since we’re a Pro Tools facility,” says Greene, but it lacked the mic preamps, EQ and routing he needed. “The beauty of the old-school method of working was having monitor returns, where I could deal with headphone mixes and everything on the fly.”

After checking out the console at Salt Lake’s Warner/Chappell facility (formerly L.A. East, where he once worked), Greene ordered a 32-channel AMS Neve Genesys Black analog desk with 32 Neve 1073 mic pres, 16 channels of 1083 EQ and 16 channels of the 88R EQ. “In a tracking situation, I can have 32 outputs from Pro Tools and deal with my headphone mixes, clicks and talkback. And I’ve got 16 dedicated DAW faders in front of me. Operationally, it has been phenomenal. Sonically, it’s a stunning console. It’s quiet and it has the vintage 1073 mojo.”

Studio A also houses 16 channels of outboard API mic preamps as well as Daking, Langevin, Vintech and other units. Outboard EQ includes pairs of API 550A, 550B and 560 modules.

The board proved its worth on a recent scoring session for Tales of a Time Traveler, a new dome planetarium 8K projection show for which McDonough is doing sound design and final 5.1 audio mix, Thomas is composing and producing the live orchestral score and Greene is tracking the orchestra and mixing the music, also in 5.1.

There were two passes of the 41 string players, Greene reports. “There were 16 tracks per pass, so 32 tracks. Brass was 12 or 14, winds were 10 tracks. I printed a Decca tree and a stereo room wide mic, then the close mics. Being able to hit the DAW button on the Genesys and have it split to 32 faders made it a lot more manageable.”

Studios A and B both overlook Iso 1, a multipurpose isolation booth for music and voice recording that is equipped with Foley pits. “On a jazz or big band date, I’ll put the drums in the iso booth and put everybody else on the floor and baffle things off,” says Greene.

HUGEsound is marketing itself to Hollywood as well as regional clientele. Thomas has a joke, says Mc-Donough: “You can spend 90 minutes on the 405 [L.A.’s notoriously slow freeway] or 90 minutes on an airplane to Salt Lake.”

Ideally, says McDonough, “Someone will bring a show here and the picture will be edited, the post sound done, the music scored and recorded. The deliverables would come out of here for everything.”

HUGEsound Post Production