El Segundo, CA (June 29, 2020)—Mert Ozcan is looking forward to working in his new Dolby Atmos mix room at the Record House just as soon as local COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. “We finished the construction just as the closures were happening,” he says. “At that point, Dolby had suspended their field services, so they haven’t come in yet to certify the room.”
Ozcan, originally from Turkey, established the Record House in 2014 with Beto Vargas. The pair had met when Ozcan, fresh from studying music production at Berklee College of Music, was doing a summer internship at Blue Microphones in Southern California. “At the time, they had the Blue Mics podcast; we would interview artists and put the podcasts up on iTunes,” he says.
Blue Mics, with other pro audio industry partners, was also finishing up House of Rock, a $3.5 million studio in an opulent Santa Monica mansion that featured the world’s first wraparound SSL Duality console, custom Barefoot speakers and other audio exotica. “Beto and I ended up running the studio. We worked with 200 artists in a year and a half,” he says.
When the mansion was put up for sale, Ozcan moved on to work as an engineer at Interscope Records’ studios, but kept in touch with Vargas. “I enjoyed working at Interscope, but I wanted to do something on my own in my own name. We said, after House of Rock, we should open our own studio.”
The pair rented a THX-certified 5.1 room in West L.A. and began producing artists while also adding to their film score and sound design credits. After falling out with the landlord, they decamped to Sonic Fuel Studios in El Segundo, which is owned by scoring composers Christopher Lennertz and Timothy Michael Wynn, and that’s where the Record House now resides.
“They have a great recording studio with a 25-ft. by 30-ft. live room downstairs. I set up a 5.1 room on the second floor and ran tielines to one of their booths so we could do vocals, guitars and voiceovers,” he says.
Ozcan and Vargas subsequently parted ways. “He’s an artist, and he wanted to make his own records and tour. But we’re still producing a project together and we’re still good friends.”
In 2018, Ozcan decided to turn the studio into a creative collective, enrolling composers Juan Carlos Enriquez, Juan Cortes, Tangelene Bolton and Erick Del Aguila. “They’re working on some of the biggest Hollywood films. I was already mixing their scores and doing sound design, so I thought the Record House could be a one-stop solution for records and sound for mid-level feature films.”
He decided to add a Dolby Atmos room after attending the 2019 MIX Sound for Film and TV event at Sony Pictures. “I was also at the time looking to be on Netflix’s Trusted Partner Network program. A representative from Netflix at the event said they were going to require Atmos from now on. If I want to work on those projects, I need this now; I can’t be playing catch-up two years down the road with 20 or 30 other studios already set up, so it seemed like the right time to get into it.”
Ozcan called Ziv Gross, strategic business development at Streamline Integration, the company that had outfitted a number of Dolby Atmos rooms on the Sony lot. “The process was way more intense than I thought it would be,” he says. “We were getting Dolby certification as well, and that was a whole other process. Since I was outfitting an existing space rather than building from the ground up, I had structural confines that I had to work in. I couldn’t just rip out a wall and build from scratch; we’re tenants here.”
He opted for JBL 7 Series monitors in a 7.1.4 configuration: 708s for LCR, 705s on the surrounds and overheads, and a 645C sub, all powered by Crown amplification and managed by a JBL Intonato unit. The overheads are soffit-mounted in the ceiling to comply with Dolby’s height requirements for Atmos home entertainment rooms.
Traditional acoustic treatment was out of the question, so Ozcan called on Delta H Design Inc. (DHDI) for a couple of solutions. “Doing traditional acoustics would have been tough—even regular panels—because of the size of the room and trying to fit seven speakers all around, plus the tops,” he says.
In January, DHDI founder Hanson Hsu let Ozcan demo his ZR Cloak product, which covers all but the front face of a speaker to eradicate 80% of first order reflections, according to the company. “It’s crazy how everything becomes more clear and how the low end tightens up with those on,” says Ozcan. His LCR speakers are now wrapped in ZR Cloaks, while the studio walls and ceiling are treated with DHDI’s ZR MicroTwin acoustic products.
A six-core Mac Pro is dedicated to the Dolby Atmos RMU. A 12-core Mac Pro hosts a Pro Tools dual HDX system with an eight-core Universal Audio Satellite as well as Nuendo. An Avid S1 and a Dock, with Avid Control running on tablet displays, control the setup.
Four Focusrite RedNet HD32Rs manage the 128 Dante channels in and out of the RMU. Ozcan additionally has a RedNet 16R to interface with local analog gear. “I also have a RedNet X2P interface. This room is hooked up to the booth downstairs, so if I need to do an ADR session, it’s easy, and on the network.”
The idea was for the room to be multi-purpose, he says: “I want to be doing mixes, but I also compose and I produce records, so I want it to be a music production room as well.” To that end, the room also features a Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 keyboard, an NI Machine and Ozcan’s guitars, plus a bunch of plug-ins from UAD, iZotope, FabFilter and Soundtoys.
There are Atmos rooms in Hollywood, at Capitol, Sony, Formosa and elsewhere, he says. “But there aren’t a lot of mid-level studios investing in it, because it’s still an expensive venture. I’m interested in doing current music in Atmos. Right now, you can only listen [to Atmos music] on Amazon and Tidal. We need Spotify to implement Atmos so that the majority of independent artists can also be interested in doing this.”
The Record House • www.the-record-house.com