Paragon Studios

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz


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It was a long time coming. Engineer Fred Paragano's Paragon Studios, a new, ground-up facility in Franklin, Tenn., just outside of Nashville, was the product of seven years of discussions, design and the search for the perfect location.

“I tried to do this a bunch of times, and everything kept falling through,” recalls Paragano, whose engineering and mixing rèsumè includes Amy Grant, Michael Crawford and Third Day. “Whether it was putting [a studio] in at home or going into an existing space, nothing suited my needs. So when I found this property, I thought, ‘Let's do the ground-up thing.’

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to work with Russ Berger,” he continues. “I've admired his designs, and I had been in contact with him for seven years, on and off. When we finally found this piece of property, he checked it out and said, ‘Fred, I couldn't think of a more perfect property.’”

The building was constructed in a wooded area about a mile from a main highway, offering privacy, but easy access and plenty of natural light. Paragano, who has also been in the real estate business with his father, Larry, for some time, asked Berger for a design that would give him leasable space, as well as studio space, so the completed structure gives 10,000 square feet to the studios and 12,000 square feet to future tenants. “I would like to attract media-related tenants,” Paragano explains. “It becomes a synergistic thing, where everybody feeds each other under the same roof and creates business. For example, one tenant is Rob Graves, who leases a production suite in the studio portion. He is a producer, songwriter and session guitarist. We're always working side by side.”

The studio area consists of a large live room; a spacious central machine room that allows the studios to be patchable via audio cable and a multi-seat fiber-channel system provided by Studio Network Solutions; and two control rooms, both of which handle music recording/mixing or sound for picture. The commercial “A” room is equipped with an SSL 9080K XL console and Dynaudio M4+ 5.1 monitoring; the “B” room, Paragano's personal production space, has the same monitoring system but centers around an expanded Pro Tools|HD system. Acoustically and aesthetically, the control rooms are identical. “Front-wall surround monitoring is accurate across the console and the producer's desk,” Berger says. “The finishes are warm and comfortable, the acoustics are inspiring, and the atmosphere is creative.” There is also a “C” room, a small overdub, editorial and picture-editing suite currently in use by Dreamhouse Media, a full-service film/video production company owned by Devin Pense.

The recording room shares many of the aesthetic and acoustic finishes chosen for the control rooms: Natural wood, stone, stained concrete, fabrics, glass and leather are used to effect variable acoustics and to create an appearance that is as warm as it is modern. Natural light floods the main space (26×32, with 21-foot ceilings) through 16-foot-high windows, some of which are floor-to-ceiling but can be closed off by retractable acoustic panels. Two iso booths, one of which houses a Yamaha grand piano, also have 16-foot ceilings.

“Fred has always wanted a big-sounding room to record drums, string sections, woodwinds and brass, and large vocal groups,” Berger says. “He now has one of the best-sounding live rooms I've ever heard: well-balanced, with a sweet, ambient decay.”

Obviously, a project of this magnitude and quality takes many hands to achieve, and Paragano and Berger are quick to recognize the contributions of their colleagues. “My studio manager, Amy Hendon, is amazing,” Paragano says. “And we had a lot of help from Dave Malekpour of Professional Audio Design; they put together the main monitoring and some of the outboard gear. Rob Dennis' Rack 'n' Roll Audio provided equipment and cabling, and they were great. The wiring is all Monster Cable, and that was installed by White Noise Technologies, which is owned by Jason White. Construction was done by J.E. Crain & Son, with supervision by David Curtze and Jim Ballard. These people were all so important.”

“I'm so proud of the people in our office that worked as principals on this project,” Berger says. “Blane Kelley, Robert Traub, Nichole Bradley Culak, Richard Schrag and Johnson Knowles. I'm especially pleased with the way we are able to work together as a team.”

Since it opened last fall, Paragon has hosted sessions with Martina McBride, Brooks and Dunn, Dionne Warwick and others. Paragano's own engineering projects have included multichannel DVD mix work for Stephen Curtis Chapman, music for The Matrix video game and a surround demo for Microsoft's Mediaplayer 9.

“Fred is a nice guy and has a work ethic that is an example to all of us,” Berger observes. “It's been rewarding working with him on a project where we were called upon to use all of our capabilities and resources.”

Barbara Schultz is the senior associate editor of Mix.

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