Inside Turner Studios

Turner Studios in Atlanta upgraded two postproduction sound design rooms for surround sound last year in response to the facility’s increased 5.1 workload. Located on the Techwood campus, the studio facilities provide comprehensive production and postproduction services to the Turner entertainment networks, of TBS, Inc.

In common with many of the 10 other audio post rooms at Turner Studios, says production engineer Erinn Thorp, the two upgraded sound design suites are console-less. “Everything is in the box now,” he explains. “As we designed the surround rooms, we said, can we manage to do this without a console?”
The answer came in the shape of two Martinsound add-on monitoring boxes. “We have MonitorMAX and MultiMAX units,” Thorp reports. “We needed a solution that would still work for stereo, because that’s still the majority of what we’re doing.”

The 5.1 monitor setups in both rooms are all Genelec. “We have 1032’s across the front, because we already had those for stereo, 1031’s in the rears, and a 7070A sub doing the bass management. The rears are in a reasonable place, because we try to let the producer have a reasonable soundfield, too.”

He comments, “I felt some sense of accomplishment that we managed to design and build those two rooms and didn’t need to buy a big console to pull that off. It means they’re more compatible with the other rooms.”

All 12 post rooms are outfitted with Pro Tools|HD systems. Apart from the sound design suites, the rest of the rooms are similarly configured for stereo work, says Thorp. “Two of them have Control 24’s. Two of them have Studer consoles. One room is dedicated to composing and music recording, so it faces into a recording studio space. Most of the rest just have a MonitorMAX; they don’t even have consoles.

“We have a couple of rooms with Pro Tools LE systems that may record VO or do off-line stuff.” On the picture side, he says, “There are 30-something Avid rooms.”

Turner Studios supports TBS, TNT, Turner South, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and TCM, as well as its Latin American variants. Another major client is Turner Sports, a division that produces sports content for other Turner networks, including TNT, TBS, and Turner South.

It’s that sports content that is largely driving the demand for 5.1 services, according to engineering audio manager Jay Yeary. “The NBA is all done in 5.1, particularly special sporting events like the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference Finals will all be 5.1. We’re pretty locked into NASCAR and baseball [in particular, the Atlanta Braves], and we’re talking about PGA events this year in 5.1. We’re moving to the point where we’re producing all our sports in surround, which is 5.1 wherever possible.”

Proportionally, there’s not a huge amount of 5.1 work being done, he admits. “As far as post goes, five percent might even be on the high end. At least our trucks, and the majority of the trucks that we rent for our live sporting events, are producing 5.1 in the field. We have two mobiles of our own, but that’s not enough to handle all the events that we do.”

The live production side of the operation comprises three main studios, says Thorp. “We’re up to three Studer D950 consoles dedicated to live production. Two of those rooms are equipped for surround — Genelec monitoring again. One room is the same as the post rooms — 1032’s and 1031’s — and the other has a slightly smaller system — 1029’s and a 7060A sub — because it’s a smaller room.”

As for workflow, “We’ll make a file in sound design, encode it as Dolby E, make a Dolby E WAV file, shoot it across the network to a server where the live production guys can load it into their digicart and play it out,” states Thorp. “We deliver 1080i video with Dolby E for the HD network, and a Dolby Pro Logic II version of the same mix for the Standard Def network to Network Operations, the people who run the broadcast operations center and master control. So we’re not mixing it twice and tying up two production rooms.”

Yeary says that audio data has been backed up since workstations were installed 10 or 12 years ago, and the company has now set up an asset management department. “We have a large music library, probably the largest in the southeast. It’s around 14,000 CDs from various music libraries. We provide music for the whole company, including CNN. Digitizing those onto a server will be a part of our asset management system.”

Surround Professional Magazine