The Big Picture: Dallas Audio Post Opens Dolby Stage

Apr 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Tom Kenny


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Dallas Audio Post owner/president/creative director Roy Machado, left, with studio designer Fran Manzella at the Avid Icon  in the Dolby Stage.

Dallas Audio Post owner/president/creative director Roy Machado, left, with studio designer Fran Manzella at the Avid Icon in the Dolby Stage.

The Dolby Stage

Dolby in the U.S. doesn’t really have a “certification,” though they do have recommendations on room dimensions, speaker throw, speaker and screen configuration, number of speaker channels and the like, which lead to a Dolby approval. Dallas Audio Post, at 40x25 with 18-foot ceiling, is not as large as an A-list Hollywood stage, but it exceeds the minimum requirements in all respects.

The Avid Icon console sits two-thirds of the way back in the room, and it’s pretty much all-digital throughout with recording to Pro Tools HDX, but the centerpiece is really the 11.2 Meyer EXP System, known in the vernacular as Acheron.

“One of the real joys for me on this project was working with Dolby and Meyer on the tuning of the room,” Manzella says. “First, Meyer set up the traditional X-curve, because Roy needs to interface with Hollywood and do his own films. But then they also did a flat curve for the 5.1 TV work. Then Coach from Dolby [Tom Ehle] comes in and sets up multiple mics in multiple locations and averages the room. Then I measure. And we all worked together. I am very familiar with room tuning as a staple of our work, and it was still very educational for me.”

Every new room today needs to serve multiple purposes, and both Machado and Manzella knew that the Dolby Stage could not just do feature film and episodic TV work. To ensure the changeover from film/TV to spot work and even radio, they brought in a near-mid-field JBL 6238 5.1 system, on motorized lifts, to monitor when switching to the flat curve.

“We needed the spaces to fit the work that we do,” Machado says. “I never once believed that if we built a Dolby Stage that people would come running. We simply wanted a dedicated mix room where we could do the work that we do, whether we are working on an indie film or a political spot or an original composition.”

Some of that versatility is accomplished in the switch from Meyer EXP Cinema to JBL in the mid-field, but some of it is also accomplished in the back-wall construction, something of a signature for Manzella.

“The back walls in all the normal-size rooms are fairly normal RFZ designs,” Manzella explains. “We have trapping straddling a diffuser system. I like to do these Helmholtz slats over my traps in the back because we get a little more return from the back of the room in the mid and high frequencies, and that’s okay. Then the Helmholz slat-style treatment with deeper trapping behind it covers that area between 100 and 300 Hz very well. A lot of rooms have mud in that 100 to 300 range, and if you don’t dampen that area, I find that it can make an unclear transition from low to midrange. We continued the Helmholz trapping around the side walls because these speakers are now in the far field. You want it to sound even, with no perceptible decay. It’s supposed to sound like a room, whether you are mixing for film or TV.”

So Much More

There are dozens of other stories surrounding the construction and integration, many of them focused on making the space dead quiet throughout. Just a couple of them:

HVAC was considered mission critical; it gets hot in Texas. Machado wanted redundancy, and the team came up with a scheme where the fans were inside in a central mechanical space, the six compressors on the side of the building. A spare unit provided complete backup, with a manifold above the ductwork that allowed instant switching if any one of the six units went down.

Also, Machado is a hands-on guy. His team at Dallas Audio Post handled all of the integration and termination of the wiring and infrastructure, almost entirely Fiber and Cat 6. The old facility closed on a Friday, the new facility opened on Monday morning. A real homegrown effort. The way business has to be done today.

“The heart of our success has been putting out great-sounding work,” Machado concludes. “We live by word of mouth, and everyone here on staff is passionate about what we do. We have a 19-year track record now, and I think our work is getting even better because of the spaces we now have.”

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