POP Sound

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Maureen Droney


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Throughout its 10-year history, POP Sound has stayed in the forefront of creative audio post-production by emphasizing both talent and cutting-edge technology. An all-digital mixing and re-recording facility in Santa Monica, Calif., POP Sound now encompasses 12 studios providing one-stop audio services for commercials, film, television, radio, cinema restoration and multimedia.

In 2003, POP has been busier than ever, running 24 hours a day in the past quarter. High-profile projects including commercials for such companies as BMW, Nike, UPS and Mini Cooper, Academy and Emmy Award — nominated documentaries, and prestigious film-restoration projects like the Indiana Jones series have occupied the daylight hours, while remixing and DVD mastering for an eclectic roster of home-theater projects keep the night shift humming. In addition to maintaining a constant stream of work, in September, POP completed a yearlong upgrade, which, along with significant improvements to its infrastructure, has also resulted in two new, built-from-the-ground-up studios.

“We have two departments,” explains POP managing director William Feil. “The commercial area covers television and radio commercials, as well as longer-format projects. Those include film documentaries such as the Academy Award — winning Twin Towers and Oliver Stone's Commandante, and work for television like the soundtrack for NBC's reality program Crime and Punishment. We also do sound design on short-form music videos. Meanwhile, home theater is something we've had as a department from the very beginning. We were actually one of the first companies doing it, and with the success of the DVD format, we've had a lot of growth in that area.”

“A lot of our work is driven by DVD,” agrees creative/technology director Steve Thompson. “We do feature work for major studios, creating new archival film soundtracks for theatrical release and/or high-definition television. Depending on the budget, the creative goals of the client and the available elements, this can range from simple cleanup to complete restoration with a new 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack. Our work isn't always mixing, however. Often, we're conforming the audio to picture. We also do some film scoring. It's all a natural outgrowth; our home-theater department extends into many areas of multichannel audio.”

The home-theater department is headed by Grammy Award — winning mixer Ted Hall, well-known for his high-quality work on projects from Saturday Night Fever, Chinatown and Breakfast at Tiffany's to Eric Clapton's Unplugged and The Band's Robbie Robertson — produced, Martin Scorsese — directed The Last Waltz. POP Sound is also home to award-winning mixers Stephen Dickson, Mitch Dorf, Zac Fisher, Chris Johnston, Michael Miller, Peter Rincon and Tim West.

“We've been digital and multichannel from the beginning,” notes Thompson. “That's true of the people here, as well. With Ted, we've bred a staff of really talented mixers who are technically astute with the format. We also have a support staff with expertise in all of the ancillary mechanics: from encoding and data compression for various formats to multiple-format dubs, conforming transfers, digital satellite mastering and much more.”

The two new studios, dubbed K and M and designed by the facility's original architectural firm, Boto Design of Santa Monica, will be staffed by POP's multiple award-winning commercial mixers Rincon and Dorf. Both studios are fitted with 96k-capable AMS Logic MMC consoles, which also offer seamless compatibility with POP's other studios. The new studios feature dedicated voice-over booths, Quested Q210 monitors (in 6.1 theatrical configuration), TC Electronic M6000 multi-effects processors, Pro Tools|HD workstations, and 12-foot, 16×9 video projection systems with high-definition DLP projectors.

“The MMC consoles' 96k capabilities, along with their enhanced DSP processing power, were among the reasons we chose them,” comments Thompson. “They're supported [in the rooms] with a number of [different format] digital workstations, as well as translation software, so that we can accommodate any format a client requires.”

The POP expansion has added a new operations and scheduling area to the complex, along with a new client area, a new transfer/dubbing and data-management system, and upgrades to its other 10 mixing studios. Also part of the improvements is a Fairlight V-Motion Professional networked nonlinear video system.

In 2002, POP became a member of the Ascent Media family, but the distinctive POP culture and creative identity remains unchanged. “The people who work here are what set us apart,” states Feil, “from the talent of the mixers to our production department, client services, reception and the valet parkers. Since its inception, POP Sound has been dedicated to providing our commercial and home-theater clients with the best in terms of talent and digital technology. We've remained, and will continue to be, a solid and growing creative company. We wanted to capitalize on this success and expand in terms of space and technology.”

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