Savalas is Scotland’s largest post-production facility, creating and mixing audio for film, television, games and more. We caught up with Managing Director and Dubbing Mixer Kahl Henderson to talk about how the new Pro Tools | S6 control surface helps him connect with sound.
“It’s been an amazing year, not just in terms of the quantity of work we’ve had, but also the quality of work we’re producing. We’re just about to start the third season of Shetland, and we’ve also shot a lot of ADR for Outlander. Recently we also worked on a feature film, Iona, which is the closing film of the 2015 Edinburgh Film Festival. All of these projects have just been fantastic.
For us, the last 18 months has seen a real growth in television drama in particular and so we needed a console specifically for those projects, but also something that could handle all the work that we do.”
“[S6] was very attractive to us given the fact that it’s modular and you can scale it up as you need it. That combination of scalability, a small footprint and easy integration with our existing setup made it a no-brainer.”
Modular and scalable
“We’ve been working with Pro Tools since the inception of our company in 1998, and we’ve been using the control surfaces right back to the Control|24. It seemed like a natural progression to use something that was still control surface-based rather than going towards a more conventional console.
When the S6 was launched, it was very attractive to us given the fact that it’s modular and you can scale it up as you need it. That combination of scalability, a small footprint and easy integration with our existing setup made it a no-brainer. Also, the fact that there are new iterations of software happening quite regularly signals real progress from my point of view—not only as a mixer but as a facility owner as well. I think it’s very, very exciting times.”
“The most compelling feature about the S6 that let us complete not just this project, but any project successfully, is the fact that you’re getting your hands on controls, rather than looking at a keyboard and monitor.
I remember when the Pro Control first came out, it was a huge revelation at the time. That was a fantastic console! I’ve mixed a few features just using the Pro Control and it was great fun. It opened up Pro Tools; instead of being a “point and click” piece of software, suddenly you could get your hands on the faders again, which is very important. When you’re working, you want to feel like you’re mixing at a desk and that you’re connecting to the audio. The fact that you can see everything that you need to see at a glance makes the S6 very usable and very intuitive.
There’s also lots of flexibility in terms of spilling out EQ and dynamics onto the control surface, so you can very quickly get your hands to what you want, rather than having to resort to using a mouse. That’s the thing that really speeds up operation.”
Technique combined with technology
“Within the industry there are people who are huge fans of analog, and people who are huge fans of digital. One’s not necessarily better than the other; they’re just different. Very, very different! To record to analog tape is amazing, it’s a dying art and hats off to the people who still have the budget to do it. In post production that’s just not possible. The timescales and the need to recall things; those are the demands of post production work we need to meet. We’ll use analog outboard gear when we’re recording; preamps and beautiful microphones but when it actually comes to mixing it’s all digital.
In fact, the technology is vital to what we do; without it we would struggle. Having said that, I also think the correct application of both technique and technology is what makes for a very good sound mixer or sound editor. You need to understand both. You can’t just be very good with Pro Tools; you have to understand why you’re using it, what you’re achieving with it, and why an audience responds to a certain sound or a certain mix.
We recently used the S6 on a project called Grey Goo, a real-time strategy game on the Steam platform, developed by Petroglyph Games. It launched in January, and we did all the cut scenes for it towards the end of last year, these were pretty complex with lots of space ships, aliens and environments. They also came back to us mid-Spring wanting to do more content.”
“At the end of the day, we are a business and we try to give the client the best we possibly can, given the budget restrictions that many of them have. We see it as a challenge rather than a negative. What can we achieve with that budget? Where do we focus our attention? With the S6, we can have just one person mix a very complex drama and add real value to a production. It’s not ideal, but sometimes it has to be done, and having a tool like the S6 definitely makes it less of a challenge and more fun!”