Arnold made the promise: �I’ll be back.� With the recent opening of the Terminator 2 3D ride � long one of the most popular attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood � at the Universal complex in Osaka, Japan, he is keeping his word.
Or, more accurately, the technical staff at Soundelux and Advanced Audio Rental in Burbank, CA are doing so, because this complex multichannel audio setup � comprised of 24 discrete channels and hundreds of speaker components � has proven to be as daunting a technical task as were the physical challenges of the movie of the same name.
Paul Levy is president of Advanced Audio Rental, who provided the systems used for the dubbing stages at both the Los Angeles and Osaka installations. He explains, �In the case of the T2 L.A. show, the playback machines were 24 MixPlus Pro Tools systems in four racks with four Mackie HUI controllers controlling them, but that has changed over now to ProControl for the Osaka show. In total, there were 96 Pro Tools ins and outs, but there were in the vicinity of 300 tracks being mixed by four operators.�
In Los Angeles, the tracks were dubbed down through three Yamaha 02R consoles, with each 8-channel stem recorded digitally to a TASCAM MMR-8 recorder. There were three of those recorders used, creating the 24-track print master, which was then laid back to a RADAR II for performance playback. The setup for Osaka changed slightly, with all mixdown being done internally inside Pro Tools (instead of in 02R’s) and a separate Pro Tools rig used as the multitrack recorder instead of MMR-8’s. In addition, final layback was done to Akai DR-8’s.
The decision to use ProControl systems instead of HUI controllers was largely based on the physical distance between the mix position of the Osaka dubbing stage and the placement of the Pro Tools systems. Levy states, �Because ProControl is ethernet � as opposed to HUI, which communicates via MIDI � we were able to use long cable runs. In Osaka, the mix position � where the ProControl and video monitor, keyboard and mouse live � is more than 200 feet away from where the racks are. That’s because they had to use centrally located step-up transformers to make the 110-volt American gear work � the Japanese electrical system delivers 100 volts, which was what was available at the mix position. But you can run some 300 some-odd feet of ethernet cabling without a problem, plus we used the Gefen Extend-It box � the new USB version � so we were able extend the USB keyboard and trackball, along with the video monitor, about 200 feet. It works fine; the only problem is that there’s a little wall-wart power supply with the Gefen box that gets a little hot running on 100 volts.�
When interconnecting such a large amount of digital gear, of course, clocking becomes a crucial issue. �Having to get three 02R’s locked to a single master clock source and then have your AES ins and outs from Pro Tools also locked to the three consoles was a mess,� Levy recalls candidly of the Los Angeles experience, �though we made it work.
�But this time around, I purchased a Nexus router, made by a German company called Stagetec. It’s a nine rack-space box that you can configure to do whatever you want; you can sum with it or you can use it to route signal. For the Osaka dubbing stage, I configured it for 144 AES digital inputs � 72 pairs � with 24 channels (12 bus pairs) coming out of it. That way, you have one single BNC cable for your master clock, plus a 9-pin cable to control it from a Windows PC, and you’re done. You eliminate the whole clocking mess, and the whole thing is in a single chassis with three triple-redundant power supplies. What’s more, all the Nexus cards are hot-pluggable; you can pull a DSP or AES/EBU I/O card while it’s up and running and it still keeps passing signal, because it’s built for broadcast.�
Another advantage of using the Nexus in this configuration was that it shouldered a lot of the DSP burden, freeing up the Pro Tools hardware to do signal processing and run plug-ins without having to deal with summing as well. �The way the summing is done in DSP in Pro Tools works fine,� Levy observes, �but it does something weird to the audio quality of the input signal. You don’t want to do multiple generations of summing, cascading systems together to come out of a master mix bus output, because that’s going to really mess with things.�
The logistics of the T2 show itself are nothing if not impressive: the audience is treated to a variety of sensory stimuli, including drastic panning moves between the 24 sets of speaker clusters, as well as seat shakers, water droplets, and the smell of gunpowder (at last, Smellavision!). Live actors and robots are also seamlessly meshed with the on-screen action. Levy explains: �During the show, the RADAR II is spitting out timecode to the show controller, and that’s sending automation commands to the robots. That same automation controller is also sending audible cues to the actors, who are wiring wireless headpieces. At the dubbing session, there was a guy who sat with the mixers up on the stage, only he was manning a robotics controller that was also being fed master timecode.�
If you haven’t yet availed yourself of this technological wonder, you owe it to yourself to visit the T2 ride next time you’re in L.A. or Osaka � tell �em Surround Pro sent you.