Remote Recording | Shifting Gears

Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Sarah Jones

FACING FEWER GIGS AND SHRINKING BUDGETS, REMOTE RECORDING STUDIOS STREAMLINE AND DIVERSIFY

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Bengle capitalized on compact technology in his new truck. “I record 192 tracks now, and that technology takes up maybe a fourth of the space of my old Studer 24-track,” he says. “It's more flexible, and the truck is a better environment to work in because of the smaller equipment.” He says that he can now arrive at a gig and be ready in an hour or two. “That's a big difference for producers.”

Other than size and power, Bengle cites redundancy as a crucial technology consideration today. “Things have changed a lot since six or seven years ago when we had those snakes; with 32- or 50-pair snakes, it was difficult to lose that in one single instance,” he says. “With fiber optics, that is possible, so everything must be so much more reliable. That's why we double most systems. And the safety of the whole thing is something those [smaller] rigs cannot do. If you lose your reference from the video truck — your black reference — and don't have the proper equipment, you will lose everything — your preamps, your consoles and your recorders, so that's something I've addressed. All the details — word clock, handling of the word clock, distribution — have to be perfect, because if you lose one signal now, you can lose it all.”

Reinventing Yourself

To survive in today's market, remote companies are diversifying, offering more services and targeting new niches. “The show I just did for David Archuleta — Billboard Live's series of Internet-based shows — I did it on the Denali silver truck in their audio booth on the video truck because they didn't have the budget to use my truck for this,” says McAllister. “So I'm sort of reinventing myself, doing things like working on TV trucks, and I'm the music mixer for the Wendy Williams show when she has live acts, and things like that.”

Design FX has the unique benefit of tapping into its extensive rental collection to tailor recording rigs to project needs. “If a client wants to do a record, we have an API console in the truck, as well as Pro Tools and classic gear, but we also have a whole rental inventory — Neve preamps, Avalon preamps, tube microphones — so it's easy for us to customize the truck to the session,” says Peets. “And if something breaks — let's say you have a 192 interface go down on your Pro Tools — we can just call the shop and they can just drop one by.”

Going beyond technology, Remote Recording formed a strategic partnership with Joe D'Ambrosio Management, a firm that represents engineers and producers. “It gives me the ability to give my clients more choices as far as engineers; they're comfortable there's somebody appropriate for their projects,” says Brinton, who adds that she is constantly looking to expand services. “We are offering more services — post-production, project coordination — whatever we can do to fill in any gaps or any needs. It's not just about showing up, recording the show and driving away anymore.”

The new year brings new opportunity, and despite the downward trend in the remote business, even the hardest hit are cautiously optimistic. “Through all this, I'm sort of optimistic that things are going to be all right,” says McAllister. “But because of the lull of '09, prices will never be back up to where they were.”

Many see the industry as just expanding and cycling. “Music's always going to be around; you just have to adapt to the change,” says Peets. “With the advent of broadband Internet, there's hope for more demand of high-quality audio for videos from bands.”

Pictured (L-R) are Music Mix Mobile partners Bob Wartinbee, John Harris, Jay Vicari, Mark Linett and Joel Singer. Not pictured: partner Mitch Maketansky

Pictured (L-R) are Music Mix Mobile partners Bob Wartinbee, John Harris, Jay Vicari, Mark Linett and Joel Singer. Not pictured: partner Mitch Maketansky

“I love what I do,” says McAllister. “It's still creative, and I still have people at the end of the day telling me, ‘Great work.’ What I'm more concerned about is my son, who I was thinking I was going to be leaving this great business to. I might have a business, but there might be no business to work in.”

Sarah Jones is the associate director of Women's Audio Mission, a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of women in the recording arts.






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