Connectivity in the Modern Studio

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Connectivity in the Modern Studio – written and edited by Alex Oana

For me, the goal of studio connectivity is to decrease the distance between intention and outcome.Traditionally this meant using the shortest possible cable between guitar pedals or from mic to mic pre.Lately it’s about enabling collaboration over long distances or facilitating the flow from my brain to the monitor(s). My ideal workspace is a keyboard, trackball, some faders, and a display on a simple desk in front of amazing speakers in an acoustically correct room.The SSL Duality room at Odds On Studios in Las Vegas (upcoming feature in PAR) is a 96-fader example, a reminder of how a physical interface can connect me more immediately to a mix.

Wherever I am, email, Facebook and iChat are integral to my business.Quick data transfer is a common priority for independent professionals, thus large, fast hard drives, wireless internet and data dongles.An effective information backbone and an inspiring environment help produce creativity-enhancing workflows.

Here’s how three pros connect in their modern domains.

Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz aka “Vordo”

Connection is about the relationship between things. As a film music editor, I have relationships with a picture department, composer, and dub stage. Inherently all these entities share data with me and vice versa. The tools that we use in some respects have not changed that much since we started to use computers for our work. More often then not, it is the old fashioned 'sneaker net', that is, putting the data on a drive and sending it over is used, simply because it is faster than any other alternative. We do use FTP and Digidelivery and other kinds of Internet based platforms (You Send It, Relay) but not for final materials which are often in large GB scale chunks.

The picture department sends materials as AAF's (Advanced Authoring Format - the evolution of the classic OMF) which can be opened in ProTools, and Quicktimes Motion JPEG A or DV picture. If we are using an FTP site then the size will be half HD (950x540) since full HD file sizes are pretty big, otherwise full HD (1920x1080) is great. If using the net, a fast connection 10mips or better is necessary. Sending material back and forth to my composer is usually a Digidelivery affair, simply because during the writing and editing process it's not that much data, as the composer is usually sending stereo demos. But once a score is recorded, it's almost always all about the hard drive as each cue could have many 5.1 stems of 48k/24 bit audio, say five or six on average, and if you think about each stem being 50 megs per minute, a five stem, 5 minutes cue is about 1.15 gigs of data; you can see this adds up pretty quickly. Someday we'll all have multi-gigabit wireless connections and then perhaps, we'll never leave or editing stations. I'm not sure this is a good thing.

Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz is a film music editor based in Topanga, CA who's work can be heard in Walk The Line, The Mothman Prophecies, and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.When given the opportunity he has fun with other people's music.

Greg Reierson – mastering engineer

Hyperlink Manager

Quick, easy and sonically transparent switching and routing is vital to the workflow of my mastering studio. On the surface, my studio looks like a few racks of gear and a pair of big speakers. Under the hood it’s a maze of analog, digital and IT signals flowing in, out and through all of those pieces of gear.

Without moving from my primary listening position I can insert up to 8 analog processors into my signal path with the passive analog router section of my Masterƒorte’ custom mastering console, route any combination of 16 digital sources and processors through my z-Systems 16.16 Digital Detangler, and switch between four computers via a Belkin KVM switcher.

Client supplied digital files come in on CD, DVD, HD, flash drive and over the internet via FTP and a drop-box on my web site. My computers live in a machine room so I have USB and Firewire hubs right inside my studio to access client drives without having to leave the room. Swapping files between computers is easily handled through a common Ethernet hub.

For analog gear used less often (Dolby/dbx decoders, cassette decks, etc.) I have an old-school ADC ¼” TRS patch bay. Though not as transparent and flexible as my custom insert router, it can handle and additional 12 analog signal pairs.

Greg Reierson, owner and operator of Rare Form Mastering, has been a full

time mastering engineer form more than 20 years, mastering over 4,000 albums

for a diverse group of local, national and international clients ranging

from Prince and The Cure to the hard working musicians that make local music

scenes thrive.

Bob DeMaa – mixing and mastering engineer, audio technician

Most of the work I’m doing is ITB, but I’ll switch things around depending on the project. For example, I usually route the mix out of Logic / Apogee Rosetta 800 and re-record it back in after passing through a pair of Cranesong Trakkers. Depending on my goals I may use the Peak Limiter built into the Rosetta on the way back in.

If stereo mixing with Pro Tools HD, then I may use the analog summing setup. From the Digidesign 192 I have 16 analog channels go into the Roll Music Folcrom. I’ll physically connect cables from the Folcrom to the Great River MP2NV for makeup gain and color, and then into the Trakkers before re-recording it into Logic through the Apogee Rosetta with the Peak Limiter on. One of the advantages of using another I/O for re-recording is that I can record all the masters at 96k.

Bob DeMaa has been Mixing, Mastering and providing Audio Technical Services for over 15 years.

Alex Oana is an award-winning producer/engineer in Los Angeles. :DigitaltOanaBlog