On the Cover: Pianella Studios

Sep 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Matt Hurwitz


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Composer Buck Sanders capturing unique sounds

Composer Buck Sanders capturing unique sounds

On a recent visit, Sanders was using the back side of an old saw as a bow on an open-tuned guitar, creating a sound for an upcoming project’s character theme. The instrument was recorded using a M/S mic setup, which, later, using Digital Performer, allows him to vary both the stereo spread of the recording and its close pickup. “It can open up at times when the character becomes agitated, evolving over a scene.”

Unique to Pianella is the ability to record with the studio’s sliding “barn doors” either open or closed, allowing in fresh air from the beautiful—and quiet—environment outside, as well as acting as a natural baffle to adjust some of the room’s reverberance. “The inherent problem with baffles is that they’re not broadband absorbers,” explains Jay Kaufman of Kaufman & Associates, who was brought in to refine the original building design to provide better isolation. “Most of the energy absorbed is mid- and high-band. So when lots of baffles are used, it changes the character of the room, becomes boomier. When you open those doors, it, in essence, becomes this wonderful broadband absorber. It doesn’t change the character of the room; it just becomes drier.”

In addition to adjusting the geometry of Williamson’s original design to provide a smoother response in various parts of the building, and creating improved isolation between studio spaces, Kaufman also helped Beltrami and Kurlander realize their vision for the control room. “We had done the score for I, Robot, and they had given us the unusual opportunity to mix the music on one of their smaller dub stages rather than in a recording studio,” Kurlander recalls. “The three of us had the best time doing that.” After a similar experience on another project, Kurlander suggested, “’Let’s build the control room like a little dub stage.’ On one level, it’s a control room for the main stage. On another level, when we pull the blinds down and make it dark, it’s a dubbing theater. And we put theatrical monitoring behind the screen.”

The monitor speakers are Meyer Acheron Studio L/C/R behind the screen, with a pair of Meyer HMS-10s for the rear surrounds and UP-4XPs for side surrounds, making it a true 7.1 room. There is also a pair of X-800C subwoofers. Says Sanders, “The low end in the room speaks really well.”

Kurlander has a 40-fader Avid D-Command control surface, with a Pro Tools monitor screen on the left and the D-Command controls to the right of the faders. “When you’re sitting in the middle, you can get to the transport either by leaning to the left or to the right,” he explains. Behind him are racks of his favorite mic pre’s: 24 British-made Raindirk Series 3 preamps, as well as eight Millennia HP-3Ds. “The Raindirks I use for bread-and-butter mics, such as spot mics, and I use the Millennia on the mains.”

Behind Kurlander’s console is Sanders’ workspace, with a Digital Performer station and his own collection of “esoteric pre’s,” as Kurlander describes them. In the rear is a sofa and desk for visiting producers and directors.

The original design for the room was inadequate in isolation, which Kaufman remedied by designing a true “floating room” system. He also added a THX baffle wall, a large broadband absorber in the rear and additional ceiling treatments. And, keeping Beltrami’s vision of a pleasant workplace environment intact, the control room not only has a large glass window for a full view of the studio, but another window surface opposite it to allow a view of the outside. “For a dubbing theater, it has a very high percentage of glass for the volume of the room,” Kaufman explains, adding that he eliminated any anomalies the windows might cause through careful glass angle placement.

The resulting design, both for the studio and control room, has produced exceptional results. “John’s been impressed with how well the scores translate to the dub theater,” says Kaufman. Adds Kurlander, “The musicians all love playing in here, particularly the ones who have experienced recording in Europe. They tell us, ‘We can all hear each other so clearly.’”

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