NASHVILLE SKYLINE

Feb 1, 2001 12:00 PM, by Dan Daley

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Owners of Sound Kitchen Studios told Mix that they plan to add on a 5,800-square-foot addition later this year. Dubbed “Digital Village,” the adjunct facility will house new services, including DVD authoring and Pro Tools-based editing and assembly, as well as audio mastering. The new facility, located on a lawn the staff has taken to calling “the grassy knoll,” will be adjacent to the existing six-studio facility, which brought its most recent room—a large tracking studio equipped with a custom API Legacy console—online last year.

The owners also plan to install a new digital console in one of the studios in the near future. But co-owner Dino Elefante says it will not be one of the large-format digital desks. “We don't believe in the big ones; they don't work,” Elefante said.

Elefante also doesn't believe in investing in certain other technologies that he thinks will expand most quickly in the personal recording sector—he mentions online recording systems, such as Rocket Network. “I don't want to get involved in anything that anyone can do from home,” he says. “We've been doing well with tracking and mixing; now, we want to get more of the ancillary business and the things in between.”

Elefante also denied that there had been staff cutbacks at the studio, saying that layoffs had taken place at Pamplin Records, a record label in Portland, Ore., and one of the Elefante's other businesses, and that the layoffs were in preparation for relocating the label's operations to Nashville. Only one studio staffer, a technician, has been laid off from Sound Kitchen, he says. The facility has also shelved plans, announced over a year ago, to build a film and video shooting stage and post-production facility, citing a failure to reach an agreement with a prospective partner. However, Elefante says he still believes that the Nashville area could support a high-end, film-oriented facility.

A number of recent changes at MasterMix: MasterVision, which launched Nashville's first DVD authoring operation in 1998, has terminated the partnership it was based on. The company operated as a sister company to 15-year-old audio mastering facility MasterMix, in the same new Russ Berger-designed facility both companies moved into two years ago. MasterVision was a venture between MasterMix owner and chief engineer Hank Williams and rental company Equipment Pool owner Mike Poston. Both Poston and Williams describe the decision to terminate the venture as mutual.

In its place, Williams established MasterMix Media, which will be based out of the same space once occupied by MasterVision. The company will also provide most of the same new-media services, including DVD authoring, while MasterMix continues to do audio mastering. One new service available for DVD clients is Weblinking from discs, enabled by the addition, in November, of a Sonic Solutions E-DVD add-on to the Sonic Creator system that the company uses for DVD authoring.

Other changes at the company include the departure of Tracy Martinson, former director of new media for MasterVision and one of the brightest of Nashville's few new-media tech stars. Williams gave no reason for Martinson's departure. In her place, Devin Pense takes over in that position, and Jim Kaiser, a longtime fixture in Nashville's engineering community and formerly of Studio Techs, comes on as director of technical operations.

When MasterVision was launched two years ago, it seemed to herald a new era in Nashville's media history. While studios began a long downward spiral that took at least one major mastering facility—Masterfonics—with them, Williams was looking to new-media formats as the key to future success. MasterVision had one significant coup right out of the box when it landed a nonexclusive contract to provide authoring services for Bertelsmann/RCA's Sonopress disc manufacturing facility in North Carolina, which had just started DVD replication at the time. That relationship remains in place.

Asked if the new-media bonanza had turned out as well as he hoped, Williams laughed briefly and replied, “The range of media we cover had to be broader. It's no secret that the music and record business climate in Nashville for certain genres is a little more challenging than in others. Studio and mastering facility owners know that the effects of that travel across town into every sector.”

Asked whether Nashville still has a chance of developing a new-media footprint, Williams says, “If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be doing this. There's always a chance it can.” At the very least, he adds, Nashville has developed a deep pool of technical talent to wrangle new media, including audio, video and graphics hotshots.

Rooster comes home to roost—for a while, anyway: Legendary producer Norbert Putnam, who produced records for Dan Fogelberg, Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett out of the pop music oasis he created in Nashville at Quad Studios in 1970, returned to that studio to work for the first time since selling it in 1980. It was since sold again, in 1999, to New York City-based Quad Recording owner Lou Gonzales. Putnam, who opened a new studio in Memphis in 2000 specifically to develop and commercialize that city's R&B legacy, did a string session on Quad's SSL 9000 J console for R&B veteran Jerry Butler.


Send your Nashville News to danwriter@aol.com.






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