Behind the X-Men Emmy: Pro Tools and Animation

Dec 2, 2003 12:00 PM


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Animation is hot right now, and it's no longer simply a Saturday morning babysitter. Animated shows, with adult themes but a child's sensibility, have moved into primetime, on both networks and cable. Robert Hargreaves, a sound designer, mixer and principal at DigiPost, Burbank, has been working in animated TV shows for the past 13 years, and he has seen the concern for sound grow up.

"Shows like Justice League or X-Men have been created with a live-action feel, so they're looking for film-style sound," he says. "We're doing full editorial, design, Foley and mixing here in our facility. We have a two-man setup on the Control 24 and we're running HD Accel [Mac G5, dual 2 GHz] with a separate Pro Tools [Version] 6 for effects. Something like Justice League can go to 48 tracks just for effects."

Roughly 85 percent of DigiPost's work is for Warner Bros., both for cartoons and direct-to-video releases, which are all in 5.1. The five-room facility, which also includes a mix stage and a Foley stage, all tielined and Airported, turned out more than 70 episodes [of a single cartoon?] last year. It can be a very busy place, with most mixes scheduled for a single day. Hargreaves and crew now have five Emmy Awards, two for X-Men, including this year's Sound Editing in Live Action/Animation.

"I think what producers like about us is that we believe mixes should always be changing and evolving," he says. "We do a lot of monsters ad alien voices, and producers are always looking to stay fresh and new. Because of technology, we're able to do a lot of it live on the stage. We can now run more plug-ins and more tracks.

"Last month, we added the Accel cards and we definitely noticed the difference in power," he continues, "especially on the 5.1 mixes. The Waves Platinum Bundle certainly seems to like it, and for dialog, which is usually edited at Warner Bros. and comes over as a raw Pro Tools session file, we've been finding some interesting futzes with Digi's Sci-Fi and Lo-Fi. I'm also a fan of Pitch Blender Time Blender, and everybody in animation likes Pitch 'n Time."

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