Departments make room for audio

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A NYC post house shows that good things come in small packages.

Berwyn Editorial, an offline editorial facility located in New York City, continues to expand its client services. After adding a Quantel Henry V8 to their ten Avid Media Composer suites last year, the post house has now opened a 5.1 surround sound-capable commercial audio recording, sweetening, and mixing suite to complement its broadcast finishing division.Berwyn, which occupies 11,000 square feet, brought the new audio room online in January 2001. But with only 550 square feet available for a control room and voiceover booth, the space presented a real challenge for the Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG), the project’s acoustical designers.”The control room is probably 350 square feet,” acknowledges WSDG founder and principal architect, John Storyk. “I would have preferred it to be bigger, but we were unable to change the basic environment.”

Storyk reports that Berwyn’s president, Scott Gaillard, initially drew up plans for the new suite then called in WSDG. For Storyk, the single hardest part was getting the M&K THX monitor system’s surround speakers correctly positioned, since a door to the hallway is located exactly where the right surround speaker ideally needed to be positioned.

“We had a huge wrestling match between putting it to the front of the door or at the back,” Storyk reports. “We laid it out both ways, analyzed it, actually had the speaker up on stands, and did some ear testing, and, in the end, we elected to push it further to the back.”

The final positioning conforms to a trend that Storyk has been observing. “We just felt it would more closely represent what I’m seeing in the industry, which is that 110 degrees is changing to 125 degrees.” The ITU recommendation places the rear surrounds 110 degrees, �10 degrees, from the center speaker. “I’m just seeing more and more people putting surrounds further around. It’s more enveloping, particularly in this small room where I’m trying to get this room to act and behave a little bigger than it really is.”

Storyk is more than satisfied with the room’s performance. “We’ve tested the room, and the responses from all five speakers are quite equal. The splayed front walls help quite a bit, and we have some low frequency control – active membrane absorbers – above the ceiling cloud.”After trying several competing workstations, Cheryl Ottenritter, Berwyn’s audio engineer and mixer, found that Fairlight’s new Prodigy2, incorporating the company’s QDC technology, fit the budget and specification for the room, so Berwyn Editorial became the first facility in the U.S. to install the integrated mixer/editor. “I chose the Fairlight because of its superior sound and its 5.1 capabilities,” she affirms. “It sounds amazing, and the editor is very, very quick.”

Ottenritter, who has done a lot of work for Volvo, MCI Worldcomm’s 1-800-Collect campaign, Generation D, and Subway, has been honing her 5.1 mixing skills and anticipating the growth potential for Berwyn’s DVD business, centered on the facility’s Sonic Solutions workstation. “They’re looking to develop into authoring and content creation for DVDs,” she says, “and that includes 5.1 mixes.”

The low four-bay rack, which WSDG designed to double as a producer’s desk at the rear of the room, is outfitted with TC Electronic’s DBMax compressor and M6000 digital multiprocessor, plus a dbx Quantum mastering processor, dbx 786 mic pre, Manley Stereo Pultec, and Alesis Masterlink. Digital tape recorders include a TASCAM DA-98 and a Sony PCM-7040 DAT machine, and Dolby’s DP563 and DP562 surround encoder/decoders are also included, with 5.1-capable units planned for purchase in the near future. WSDG’s integration department, headed by Judy Brown, completed the equipment installation.

Space limitations further dictated the installation, immediately above the voiceover booth window, of a Sony 42-inch flat screen monitor, which also made it easier to switch between PAL and NTSC projects. A plinth directly below the screen supports the center speaker when in use.

Ottenritter notes that tielines to the booth can also be digitally routed to any of the Avid suites for scratch recording. A new Philips digital router forms the core of the facility’s machine room, which is accessible from the audio control room.

Although the room was designed with 5.1 in mind, Ottenritter notes that, with HDTV and DTV standards still largely unsettled, the majority of their broadcast surround work is still LCRS. And, as many post houses across the country are also reporting, advertising clients are even wary of that format, she says.

“They’re so concerned about how it’s going to sound to somebody listening to it on a mono TV,” she explains. “They’re not yet thinking about the home theaters that are out there right now and what it can mean to them. We’re trying to get our clients more excited to the possibilities of LCRS. That’s our goal: To educate and have our clients experience LCRS and understand what it can do for them.”

Surround Professional Magazine