The Changing Landscape of Remote Recording

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Janice Brown



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Le Mobile's main business is concert DVDs, and Charbonneau is building facilities to handle post-production for these projects. “I'm building a nice control room where my Pro Tools engineer, Anthony Catalano, can work post-show,” he says. “It will have a 60-inch TV screen, surround monitoring array, and we will welcome video editors to bring their Final Cut systems in there, so Le Mobile will be a complex. I can offer clients a package deal between the services of my truck and an editing and post-production suite.”

Post-production is also a growth area for Sirius XM/Effanel, according to Ezratty. “We were working on post-production for the U2 3D film for IMAX for over a year, in our studios at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The band recorded it with their system on the road, but there was still a lot of post-production revenue to be had.”

Music television, concert specials and American Idol–spawned reality programming have created regular business for location-recording trucks such as Ringwood, N.J.–based Record Plant Remote and Le Studio Mobile in Montréal. Last year, McAllister built a new Record Plant Remote truck, which is parked in Nashville, where he records and mixes the weekly series Nashville Star live-to-air for NBC.

“Ninety-eight percent of my work now is for television or DVD,” McAllister says. “For the larger shows I've worked on — Nashville Star for NBC, Can You Duet for CMT and Decades for VH1 — grabbing something from the FOH mix is not an option because you have to make sure your interface is with timecode and word clock, and that you're able to provide everything the video truck needs. When you're mixing something live to air, you need someone that's paying attention specifically to that mix for TV.”

McAllister built the new Record Plant Remote truck to suit the direction he sees his business heading. “I designed the new truck specifically for what's needed on these TV programs: ease of interface, quick setup and everything being recallable at the quick push of a button,” he says. “There are other trucks in the U.S. using the same basic format — Yamaha DM2000s with a fiber-optic system — but one thing that sets me apart is that I can do 96 inputs to 96 tracks at 96 kHz [recording to four Tascam X48s, providing 96 redundant tracks]. A lot of the trucks have a bottleneck with the fiber system, where it will only allow them to record at 48k, and I've successfully alleviated that bottleneck.”

McAllister's original API truck does the Good Morning America summer concert series in New York City's Bryant Park, which recently drew 10,000 for an 8 a.m. Miley Cyrus performance. “Having the two trucks has been great because it's given me the two places to strike from,” says McAllister, “though it seems, these days, I have more work in Nashville than anywhere.”

Guillaume Bengle recently introduced Le Studio Mobile “Version 2.0” in the form of a brand-new recording truck, equipped with two Yamaha DM2000V2 digital production consoles, 24-bit/96kHz, cascaded and fully automated, for a total of 192 channels. Bengle also records to Tascam X48s and Steinberg Nuendo, and a Sony PCM 800 48-track recorder rounds out the system so that Studio Mobile can provide 72 redundant tracks. “I really feel I've built a truck for our times,” says Bengle, who records the Montréal Jazz Festival and recently recorded Paul McCartney performing a free concert for 200,000 in Quebec City for Pay-Per-View.

“The timing of the new truck and all aspects of the design and equipment choices have been really good,” Bengle notes. “Most of my market is in Canada — the big networks like CTV, CBC and TVA. But I'm also going to the U.S. more than I used to. Often, if it's a short enough distance, I can drive the truck myself and hire local engineers. Inside the truck, I have everything I need to do these shows. I did the finale of The Apprentice in New York City and the Billboard Latin Music Awards down in Miami.”

Bengle feels the producers who choose a laptop-based recording system over a truck or a professionally assembled and manned portable system may end up hitting a wall. “Oftentimes, a customer will do some kind of temporary system and it ends up costing him more money than if he'd just hired me,” he comments. “They don't realize how much trouble it is and how much time it takes away from what they need to concentrate on — the music. A customer came back to me recently, saying they'd tried to do it themselves and the audio guy had nothing on the hard drive after the show. So they come back.”

In 2006, Remote Recording introduced a second truck, which is also equipped with two DM2000V2 consoles, with a pair of 128-track AMD 64-bit dual-processor Nuendo systems and a 96-track Pro Tools system. Brinton reports that the new “White Truck,” which is half as long as the original Neve-equipped “Silver Truck,” handles about half of the gigs that Remote Recording books. “The White Truck has helped us expand our clientele and have more versatility. Having two trucks really helps in this volatile business climate, where all the bookings seem to come at the same time, and then very little will be going on at other times.”

Both Remote Recording trucks, for example, have worked at the Metropolitan Opera this year, on shows that go out live in HD to Regal Cinemas and are captured, edited and posted for broadcast on PBS. “Either truck can handle it, but the Met went digital this year and there's one show we're doing in the upcoming season that has around 140 inputs, so they've specifically requested the digital truck for that for a more seamless production.”

Remote has also beefed up the Silver Truck to 96 inputs, and Brinton notes that she still has a core group of clients who will only work in the Silver Truck with its analog Neve VRM console. “At the end of last year, we recorded Neil Young to 2-inch tape, so analog recording still comes up sometimes,” she adds, “though typically we're going to Pro Tools HD with a Nuendo backup.”


Just like the stationary studio market, mobile recording businesses succeed on reputation and relationships. Even in tough economic conditions, the right combination of people and technology can be successful. On June 1, engineers Joel Singer, John Harris and Jay Vicari, and producer Mitch Maketansky launched a brand-new mobile recording company, Music Mix Mobile, and right out of the gate handled the Billy Joel concerts at Shea Stadium and Hershey Park, Bon Jovi in Central Park, and shows for Coldplay and Rush. The new truck, called M3, has an all Grace Design front end (112 Grace mic pre's), Pro Tools HD6 and HD5 systems, and 32-fader Digidesign D-Control, with a Genelec 8200 DSP monitoring system. According to Singer, it also boasts one of the largest selections of plug-ins available in the U.S.

“We are recording on two of the largest Pro Tools recorders in any remote truck in the world right now,” reports Singer. “They're capable of recording 144 inputs, and we've done it already — over 112 inputs for the Billy Joel concerts.” On bringing a new truck into the market, Singer replies, “There are new clients out there, people who want to take projects from beginning to end in more cost-effective ways and we are set up to do that.”

Music Mix Mobile also offers flight-pack systems and a post-production facility, located in New Jersey, where Harris and Vicari remix projects. “We can set up our flight-pack systems in the back of our Sprinter truck if necessary, which we did for The Cure at Madison Square Garden for the Fuse Network,” Singer describes. “We then went out to Denver and recorded three nights of the theater show 3 Mo' Divas, which we're also remixing in 5.1 for a PBS HDNet broadcast with the same flight pack — very space- and cost-effective for the client.”

Indeed, HDTV paves another way for the ongoing need for true mobile recording specialists, as the imminent transition in February '09 to all-digital TV is sure to bring an increase in hi-def programming and the networks will need hi-def content. “HDTV will expose everything, and as there's more and more HD channels, I definitely think there's going to be more of a need for high-quality audio production,” May asserts. “The qualified people are out there, and we're set to do it — we all have to be fiscally responsible without compromising the quality of the content.”

Janice Brown is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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