I recently visited the long time classic Hollywood sound mixing studios at 900 Seward St. now owned and managed by Deluxe. While these rooms are classic in design and sound, they are absolutely state-of-the art in the latest in post mixing technology including Pro Tools HDX and Pro Tools | S6 outfitted in every room as well as several stages equipped with Dolby Atmos. The first part of the interview focuses on the design and engineering philosophy with key Deluxe personnel Chris Reynolds and Doug Higgins (both Directors of Audio Services). The second part is a quick chat with two independent Re-Recording Mixers who’ve just completed projects on the new stages.
TG: What were the key reasons you designed Deluxe Hollywood around Pro Tools | S6 and Pro Tools | HDX?
Chris Reynolds: “At the heart of it—it’s definitely the ‘transportability of a mix’. Being able to scale from taking work from small bays to a medium stage to a large final stage, keeping all of our work intact from the temp mix work to the final printmaster. Everything has to be very dynamic to move quickly and an Avid infrastructure is key to what we’re seeing now and where we think workflows are going. Also the learning curve of getting people up to speed on a mixing surface like S6 is faster and easier because they know Pro Tools. From an internal facility maintenance and support standpoint, it makes it much easier to have the same console and infrastructure throughout making it much better than if we had disparate equipment.”
Doug Higgins: “We knew that customers needed to be able to come in and out of Deluxe with their audio content and not have any lost time in lengthy recalls or setups. With the shrinking budgets and timeline compression, it’s more critical than ever. From Deluxe’s Worldwide Facilities—we need to be able to quickly move projects and mixes around the world on this uniform platform.”
TG: Can you talk a bit about the philosophy in the central machine room and controlling systems from anywhere in the facility?
Chris Reynolds: “It means flexibility. All systems are on an IHSC KVM. We can completely dynamically allocate any system(s) to any room rather than the older model of ‘these 6 systems are tied to this specific stage’. When stages are operating at capacity, you could create deliverables on another stage by just patching that system to another room. You could take the same system, with the same plug-ins, same HDX cards, same settings from room to room.”
Doug Higgins: “It also means that we can quickly reallocate another system without any downtime should a failure occur.”
“Everything has to be very dynamic to move quickly and an Avid infrastructure is key to what we’re seeing now and where we think workflows are going.”
TG: And this principle translates also to a new hybrid design room you have on Stage 5, as well?
Chris Reynolds: “Yes, Stage 5 was originally just an ADR stage and is now a hybrid ADR/Mix room where we can be recording principle ADR in the day using 1 system and in the evening shift swing out the S6 dual operator console on wheels and patch in the 6 systems needed with dynamic pooling of systems for a quick conversion without renting more systems.”
TG: What were the key features that drew you to the S6 console?
Doug Higgins: “We knew that going forward we needed the newest, longest lasting infrastructure and that meant we needed the S6 over legacy equipment (ICON).”
Chris Reynolds: “For specific features the S6 is more appealing than the ICON. For example the ergonomics; the encoder depth and fader width and being able to reach everything. The fader quality too—mixers are always commenting on how great they feel (compared to ICON). The modularity has allowed us to change the order of the knobs to the second position versus the process module – and we’re not locked into it. It’s easy to troubleshoot, pop out and swap a module if there is an issue. “
Doug Higgins: “Having an easy module swap means that our internal engineering department can quickly solve 99% of any issues. And the new Vegas mode takes it to a new level!”
“It’s crazy that we’ve found ourselves using fewer systems because the horsepower of HDX is so strong.”
TG: How has Pro Tools | HDX performed for you to handle big mixes?
Doug Higgins: “One of the initial requirements going in was we knew we wanted to focus high track count and high I/O count to deal with immersive audio mixes. We wanted to focus on a mostly exclusive MADI I/O environment. The power of HDX is pretty incredible and has been able to handle the big track and I/O count that we rely on. To have 192 audio ins and outs on one system within 3 rack spaces, patched with 6 coax cables, is what I would consider an efficient use of space.
Chris Reynolds: “It’s crazy that we’ve found ourselves using fewer systems because the horsepower of HDX is so strong.”
TG: How has Avid’s technology and integration brought this all together?
Chris Reynolds: “Satellite link has been very reliable as a way of syncing systems together.”
Doug Higgins: “The response of satellite is so quick… It’s funny to hear some people’s criticism or frustration when there is less than a split second of sync-up time for multiple systems starting playback. Compared to just a short time ago of locking up to LTC – it’s just funny to hear that is someone’s pain point!”
Chris Reynolds: “And with EUCON, a common thing that we do is reallocate fader modules on the console to different Master Modules and take them over from another system in a matter of 30 seconds. Things like that are so much faster with the Avid integration.”
“The S6 is the natural progression from ‘mixing in the box’, it’s supremely powerful…”
Gary Bourgeois – Independent Re-Recording Mixer: Criminal, Captain America: The First Avenger, Ghost Rider, Step Brothers
“This past February I mixed one of the first feature films on the S6 in Bulgaria and I was fairly tentative going into that experience and it took a couple of days to get going and build the mixer, every day I liked it more and more and by the time I was finished I felt that there is no other way that I want to mix, ever…
For me, the workflow has evolved into no need for pre-dubs anymore and the way we used to deal with individual layers of mixes are not needed anymore because of the S6. My mixes are more efficient and go more quickly. I’m able to work by myself a great deal now. The board is very efficient and intuitive. Layouts make it very quick. Version 2.0 software update answers a lot of questions and comments that were out there.
Mixers like myself who’ve embraced the S6 workflow and love to mix on S6, we’ve brought work to the Deluxe facility because it’s in every room. We can go from room to room or location to location from temp to final easily. If they had installed older digital consoles – I wouldn’t have bothered. That’s older technology and not flexible.”
Joe Barnett – Independent Re-Recording Mixer: Hands of Stone, Dumb and Dumber To, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“The S6 is the natural progression from ‘mixing in the box’, it’s supremely powerful – specifically carrying your mixes forward from temp to final. With budgets getting smaller and schedules shrinking – anything you can do to save and transport information forward is a must.
I’ve just recently done a mix on ICON across town and then came here to do ‘Hands of Stone’ on the S6 (for the first time) at Deluxe. I love the S6; I think it’s a very professional product. It’s definitely the next step in the evolution. The ICON is functional and cool but the S6 takes it to the next level. My favorite feature is the Displays with scrolling waveforms and gain reduction meters on every channel. It’s pretty great.
We mixed the show natively in Atmos, as well. We were able to carry the temp mix automation all the way through the pre-dubs into the final. It was a great starting point and it really helped with the timeframe we had and the large size of the show. We might not have been able to complete the show without this workflow. ”