Mi Casa Multimedia

Feb 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Maureen Droney


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Tucked away in the Hollywood Hills in a cozy 1920s-era house, the busy studios of Mi Casa Multimedia Inc. are dedicated to the art of remixing feature films for the home theater surround experience. The brainchild of producer/engineer/synthesist Robert Margouleff and musician/engineer Brant Biles, Mi Casa opened in 1997. Since then, it has evolved into a three-studio complex with an enviable, genre-crossing track record that includes such notable pictures as Austin Powers: Goldmember, Dirty Dancing, Se7en, About Schmidt, Down From the Mountain, Elf and both The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Currently in the process of restoring six original '60s and '70s James Bond films for MGM, along with numerous other projects, Mi Casa is equipped with four Sony DMX-R100 consoles and a sophisticated recording, editing and restoration system: a hybrid of SADiE, Pro Tools and Sony technology.

The Grammy-winning Margouleff, known for the four records that he made with Stevie Wonder (including the classic Innervisions), and for his work with artists as disparate as Devo, the Doobie Brothers and Norman Brown, is your basic Renaissance type. His aesthetics are reflected in the painstaking restoration and retrofitting of Mi Casa's Mediterranean-style house and in the way its ambience blends with acoustics to create three discrete and distinctly contemporary “living room” listening experiences.

“Home theater is a very different animal than the movie theater,” he notes. “What we wanted to achieve here was three fairly typical, but different, listening environments. Each room has its own set of speaker systems, and we make sure that the end result works in all three rooms.”

With the enormous success of DVD-Video, Mi Casa's remixing for home theater premise was a case of the right idea at the right time. Margouleff, however, has been a surround enthusiast since the mid-'70s. With the advent of 5.1, he and Biles were quick to see the potential for music mixing and early on created a fruitful collaboration with DTS. But, with 5.1 music still only nascent, they began looking for other venues. “I started listening to DVDs, and they all sounded horrendous,” Margouleff recalls. “They were direct transfers trying to imitate the theater experience. I knew what the capabilities were, so we started knocking on the doors of movie companies. We were fortunate to develop a relationship with New Line Cinema, an unusual company that wants every disc that comes out to represent the finest solution possible. It wasn't long before directors, realizing the difference we could make, started getting involved, and the other companies quickly followed.”

“For current films, like Elf, we remix basically from stems,” explains Biles. “But even with stems, you'd be surprised at the amount of noise and dropouts that can occur in the original material. When your monitors are six to 10 feet away from you at ear level, the whole environment is different, especially in the surrounds. We take all of this into account. The result is not an imitation of a movie house; it's a different, much more detailed experience.”

For Mi Casa's restoration projects, the requisite tracking down of original source material comes first, with supplemental sound design added where needed. According to both Biles and Margouleff, SADiE's Cedar Tools and Retouch programs are invaluable to the restoration process. Recently, Mi Casa has expanded operations to encompass the full spectrum of audio on its DVD projects, including remixing and finishing in surround for deleted scenes, commentaries and menus.

Noted architect John Storyk designed Mi Casa's studios, with input by Vincent Van Haaff and room tuning by Bob Hodas; main construction was by carpenter/musician Tony Clearwater. Biles is responsible for overall technical design, with the major portion of the wiring work done by Paul Cox.

Studio A, the largest suite, features two “cascading” DMX-R100 desks with a Sony SIU 100 AES/MADI interface for a total of 106 digital inputs and 48 analog inputs, along with a Genelec 1032A monitoring system. Studios B and C have single R100s; B is equipped with JBL LSR 28S monitors, and C with Meyer HM-1s.

“In Studio A, we're running the SADiEs with 24 I/Os, Pro Tools with 48 I/Os, the two DMX-R100 consoles and the SIU 100 all at the same time,” Biles marvels. “Not to mention the TC Electronic 6000s and Orion Junger mastering compression. The Z-Systems 64-by-64 digital routers in all studios are really helpful, as well. It really is an incredible amount of power.”

“What we are doing here is truly the convergence of motion pictures, television and audiophile audio,” comments Margouleff. “The home theater platform is where all of them reside. What makes Mi Casa different is that all of us are musicians. That gives us a different sensibility than people from most of the post houses. And we never take what we do for granted. We don't ever want to sacrifice quality for expediency. When people come to us, it's because of the audiophile level with which we treat the projects.”

Visit Mi Casa online at www.MiCasaMM.com.

Maureen Droney is Mix's Los Angeles editor.

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