SFP: Microsoft Studios

Jun 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson



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Microsoft Studios has been in its current home for 12 years, expanding, upgrading and refining the operation all along the way. The extensive complex contains three video-ready stages, two green rooms, engineering and electrical shops, editing suites, space for a high-end graphic design team, a screening room, kitchen and, of course, dedicated audio areas: Initially, its two large, virtually identical audio control rooms (out of four audio rooms total) were equipped with SSL Axiom consoles, but for the last four years or so they've housed 36-fader Digidesign D-Control ICONs and Pro Tools HD6 systems that support 80 AES and 80 analog I/Os with 5.1 surround capability. “I know we're among just a few places that go live-to-air with ICONs,” Senechal says. “They've worked out really well for us — for broadcast, post-production and music.”

The Pro Tools rigs are Fibre channel-connected to DataDirect Networks' 100TB S2A Extreme storage platform and the Shared SAN file system solution, which are integrated with the Quantum StorNext file system and hierarchical storage management. Project content is archived from the SAN to a North Plains Systems TeleScope DAM solution with more than 7,000 physical assets (tapes, CDs, media) kept on-site and 30,000 kept in another building. Digital assets are kept on a 34TB Quantum SAN.

The rooms also have Avid Mojo, Genelec monitors (as well as custom “laptop” monitors using OEM Dell speakers) and plenty of outboard gear, including Lexicon 480L and two 300s, four Focusrite Red Series and one ISA 215 processors, and much more.

The facility differs from many other corporate audio/video studios in a couple of ways. First of all, Senechal notes, “We run like a small business inside of Microsoft. We compete for business. Realistically, we act like we're a regular production house. We just happen to be at Microsoft, but it's the same level of client interaction — we have a front concierge desk, it gets people lunch; we still do all that kind of schmoozy stuff.”

“We have our own P & L,” adds Singsaas. “We're required to recover the costs of our operation and also compete with small, nimble commercial entities, as well. The way we've structured our business, we do a pretty good job of that. In-house production facilities typically have to make the case to in-house users to use them. But we've done a lot of work over the past couple of years to make sure that our services are what they need to be, our service level is what it needs to be and also what pricing needs to be. In all those areas we're very, very competitive.”

“Some people have it in their minds that we're just this big corporate facility,” Senechal says, “but because we're so attached to marketing, we're also very much a creative group. I like to think we can do pretty much anything here, and I think that day-in and day-out we prove that to be true.”

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