Avid Pro Tools | S6 Helps Germany’s Rotor Film Pilot a Course into the New Era of Immersive Audio

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing, Video Editing

The Pro Tools control surface is part of a sophisticated, 18-months-in-the-making film and TV mixing facility located in Babelsberg, Potsdam.

For passionate cinéastes the name of Babelsberg Film Studio will require no introduction. Widely acknowledged as the world’s oldest largest-scale film studio with a history that stretches back to 1912, Babelsberg’s recent credits include The Bourne Ultimatum, Cloud Atlas, The Hunger Games, Bridge of Spies and numerous other box office hits.

The media city area surrounding the studio is home to a number of influential production and post-production companies—not least Rotor Film Babelsberg. A leading provider of sound post services, Rotor Film’s current offer encompasses sound mixing, stereo and surround sound design, editing and re-recording, ADR and dubbing, and project management. The studio also offers 4k colour grading at full DCI specifications using a FilmLight Baselight TWO grading system.

The company’s blend of expert personnel and cutting-edge technology has led to its engagement for a string of high-profile projects, including the recent likes of Juliette Binoche-starring movie Clouds of Sils Maria and cult cold war TV drama Deutschland ‘83. Now Rotor Film is preparing for a new era of surround and immersive audio production with a recently revamped mixing stage that has an Avid S6 control surface at the heart of its design.

“This was a complex project and one that has been in development since the second half of 2014. But over time it became clear that the Avid Pro Tools | S6 control surface was going to give us all of the flexibility and ease-of-use that we required,” explains Rotor Film’s Technical Director, Christoph Engelke.

Future-facing design

There is no aspect of the 400sqm room that isn’t impressive! Equipped with both Dolby and Auro-3D immersive sound technologies, the infrastructure allows mixers to work in 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos. In what is said to be one of the largest Meyer Sound cinema monitoring systems ever installed, no fewer than 69 speakers made by the US manufacturer are included in the Rotor Film installation.

Devised to make it easy for personnel to both mix and screen films, the 200-seat room features an Avid Pro Tools | S6 control surface, along with a total of four Pro Tools stations running HD11 and HD12 version software. But although Pro Tools has been a fundamental part of Rotor Films’ workflows for many years, Engelke confirms that the decision to deploy a 64-fader S6 was the result of a careful process of deliberation about the room’s current and likely future requirements.

“We had been using a Harrison console in this room, and at one time we did think about adopting a ‘hybrid’ approach of using a large-format desk alongside the Pro Tools systems,” he says. “But it became clear to us that many mixers now are demanding to work on the S6 – it is what they feel most comfortable with – and that in a more general sense there is a movement away from the traditional consoles.”

Cost-efficiency and the ability to “go back and do fixes at the latest possible stage of a project – something that is happening more and more these days” also informed the selection of the S6. “We decided to dispense with the legacy desk altogether and move ahead with just the S6, which we connected to the Pro Tools systems via external MADI routing,” he explains.

This set-up also allows engineers to move quickly and easily to smaller editing rooms if there is additional work that needs to be done later on. “It’s tremendously flexible and that is very much a prerequisite for working successfully in film and TV audio now,” comments Engelke.

Standard-bearer for post

The ability to customise the surface with the controls required by Rotor Films’ personnel and receive extensive visual feedback as a mix is progressing are among the benefits of the S6 as referenced by Engelke, who also alludes to the contribution made by Hamburg-based integrator Digital Audio Services GmbH to the successful completion of this ambitious project.

“We now have a tremendous facility that really sets us up well for the future of TV and film audio mixing as immersive productions start to become more popular,” he concludes. “The Avid tools are a big part of that future – Pro Tools is of course the standard for post-production, but we are already receiving great feedback about the S6 and its capabilities. Now we are beginning to turn our attention to a proposed new ADR stage that will again feature Pro Tools systems… but the full details on that will have to wait until another time!”

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