GLENDALE, CA—After years of working out of post production houses and major film facilities around Hollywood, in addition to his own studio known as The Barn, Mark Binder has a new, custom-built complex to support his wholesale leap into immersive audio. IMN Creative’s new home boasts four Dolby Atmos-equipped rooms and a menu of services that stretches far beyond audio post to also encompass picture, production and VFX capabilities.
Mark Binder, CEO of IMN (I Make Noise), designed the complex with Jerry Steckling, CTO of JSX, an audio consultancy specializing in the world of cinema, along with Dolby Labs’ Doug Greenfield and Bryan Pennington, the latter of whom is credited on a slew of Hollywood productions as a Dolby Atmos consultant. Steckling and Pennington borrowed from their designs at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for IMN’s Dub A, a DCI-compliant, 4K room that is about 1,300 square feet (the smallest Dolby Atmos room at the facility is 18×13 feet).
“Where small rooms suffer the most, in my opinion, is bottom end, and truly defining what low end is,” says Binder, who excavated 20 feet below grade to achieve the desired height on both floors of the building. “In front, we have an array of 10 18-inch speakers. We’re focusing the low end using delays, with phase. It’s designed to fold in, crest, then hit you. This back seat is dressing. Under the cavity is acoustically treated fabric. It sucks in the low frequencies, drops it 14 feet and exhausts it in a bed of concrete.”
After demonstrating the installed JBL speaker system with a Dolby Atmos trailer, he says, “The beautiful thing about Atmos is, that was a true 85 dB. It doesn’t hurt, but you definitely feel it. It’s not just a sonic experience—it’s visceral.”
The A stage, which features a dual Avid S6 console with a Colin Broad Electronics PD-1 Pec/Direct switcher, enables mixers to really understand the energy in the low, mid and high frequencies, he says. Does it translate? “I’ve heard [this trailer] on the Dolby stage. It translates.”
Next door, in Dub B, an Avid Icon, also with integrated PD-1 switching, drives a JBL LSR708i immersive monitoring system. “These are music speakers,” says Binder. “A lot of my music editor friends were saying ‘you’ve got to check these out.’ We extended the low end of the 3-ways with Bag Ends, and we also have a dual-18 sub. The room goes down to about 8 Hz.”
He adds, “This works as a nearfield/midfield room. I love doing dialog in here because it’s so surgical; you hear everything. We do a lot of TV in this room, and films with ‘special needs’ budgets.”
The entire facility may be Pro Tools end-to-end, but, says Binder, “I can’t make in-the-box sound like this Neve,” pointing to a Neve 8051 surround compressor. The rack also houses a Junger Audio b42 dynamics processor and Dolby Cat430 noise suppressors.
The Atmos rooms are built fully to Dolby’s spec. “Of all the immersive formats that we have, I think this has the best foundation, because Dolby is so stern about its spec. If you don’t follow the spec, you’re not a Dolby Atmos room. These things are expensive to do correctly, but when you hear the results, it’s a whole new order of what we can do sonically,” he says, adding, “7.1 to me now feels like stereo.”
Upstairs, Binder, who started out as a musician and a composer, has his own scoring set-up with a 40-fader Avid Icon and Pro Tools HDX, plus keyboards and controllers running Digital Performer, Cubase, Logic X, Abelton Live and KYMA. The outboard equipment includes four 1176s and devices from Eventide, Focusrite, Manley and TC Electronic.
More recently, the room has also become a lab for VR projects, including an immersive exhibit for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “We’re doing a piece with Brandon Fayette called Campfire. It’s amazing technology; we’ve upped the ante.”
The IMN complex also houses an ADR studio equipped with an Avid S3 and another Colin Broad system, the A-Mon controller. By the entrance is the smallest Atmos stage, two editorial suites—for sound, picture or VFX—and a DI suite, plus a fully-equipped kitchen.
Binder offers, “This place really shines when you intertwine everything, from picture to audio, production to post production, even pre-production.”