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Audio Agent Becomes Fairlight's North American Sales Rep - Mixonline

Audio Agent Becomes Fairlight's North American Sales Rep

An interview with Fairlight CEO John Lancken and Audio Agent’s Dave Christenson
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Fairlight's John Lancken (left) with Audio Agent's Dave Christenson and Jeremy Stappard.

Audio Agent LLC—a Seattle-based firm with offices in Los Angeles, New York City and Nashville—recently announced an agreement with Fairlight US for North American sales representation. Audio Agent is currently touring the U.S. demonstrating the latest Fairlight systems—including the new Xynergi Media Production Centre desktop controller for audio and video—while establishing Fairlight's first network of value-added resellers.

For more information about scheduling a Fairlight Xynergi HD3D system demo in your area, contact Dave Christenson at 425/454-9977 or dave@audio-agent.com.

“The timing is right for Audio Agent and Fairlight to work together,” says Audio Agent president Dave Christenson. “Fairlight has continued to develop their ground-breaking technology to the point where they can truly offer no-compromise audio-for-video post-production systems at surprisingly competitive price points. We’ll be bringing Fairlight demonstrations to key markets and customers over the next several months. Their new HD3D audio capability, which is ideally suited to leading-edge motion picture and gaming formats, has to be seen to be believed.”

“We are delivering our breakthrough HD3D technology and the very best customer support in the industry,” adds Fairlight CEO John Lancken. “With Audio Agent on board, we’ve now added a commercial capacity to create and maintain a service-oriented, highly motivated dealer network. Our new Fairlight Xynergi systems offer unparalleled value; they are literally high-end post-production studios in a box. Compatible with all popular open file formats, Xynergi allows the user to work with any combination of audio and video material, while mixing, matching and crossfading on the fly. Come see us soon.”

Fairlight US president Steve Rance comments, “Fairlight US will continue in its role as the U.S.A. importer and technical support center to compliment Audio Agent’s sales activities. We’ve been working together in a limited capacity for several months now and I’m extremely pleased to be expanding our relationship at this point. When you look at the capacity of the whole group, we’re providing a level of commercial and technical support that is currently unrivaled in the audio industry. Remember what it was like to buy truly high-end product? We give our customers that experience for a fraction of the expected cost.”

To find out more about this cooperative effort, and Fairlight’s new HD3D technology, I spoke by phone with Lancken and Christenson while they are in New York City offering demonstrations of the Xynergi system during the week of March 16-20, 2009.

So, this is a newly expanded strategic partnership that is designed to increase Fairlight’s presence in the U.S. market.
Christenson: It’s pretty much a classic manufacturer’s rep relationship. Fairlight US is the U.S. distributor, so they’re going to be importing product, and they’ll be providing customer support and service. And really, Audio Agent is an outsourced sales force for them. The difference here is that we’re covering all of North America, but we’re doing it in a very niche-focused way. We’re really just going after the high-end, engineering-driven professional audio lines—specifically those that are sold through the value-added reseller channel. So it’s a fairly narrow focus and because of that, we can cover all of North America pretty effectively with a relatively small group of highly trained professionals.

How did Fairlight and Audio Agent come to this agreement?
Lancken: Audio Agent [has developed] a [specialized] sales force, which is dealing with a country like the United States, where geographically it’s spread out. There are a lot of major centers. The point of this is to have qualified representatives that have technical savvy so that our customers can actually join a family rather than join a forum and deal with a real person rather than a Website.

And you’re establishing a network of value-added resellers.
Lancken: So people would actually have access to a range of products that complement ours that can go on and provide a solution instead of a whole bunch of problems. It’s really [about] dealing with complex native formats in pro audio and video and everything else. You require somebody that has at least some skill and knowledge, rather than someone that’s just going in with a catalog and a pretty picture. So we’re putting together a team, and there will be announcements about various resellers that we’ve appointed in the coming months. In fact, by NAB we’ll probably have the game sewn up. But in the next week or so, we’re going to announce the first few companies that have come on board with us.

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Fairlight Xynergi Media Production Centre

Who have you seen at your product demos?
Christenson: Primarily engineers and owners of production and post-production companies. Music people are interested in this just because of the incredibly low latency of the system and the high resolution. It really is a next-generation DAW in every sense. In practical terms, it has no latency. It feels like you’re recording with analog. I think at 48k it’s .3 milliseconds through an entire 96-channel console out of the system and back into the system. You don’t find large-format digital consoles doing that.

Could you tell me about this current tour, in which you demonstrate the Xynergi HD3D system?

Lancken: The 3-D sound system [has been developed] over the past six or seven years in conjunction with the Ultra High-Def standard, which was a SMPTE standard published in July 2008. Part of that standard includes 3-D sound. Fairlight has been a pioneer working along with NHK [Japan Broadcasting Corporation] in the development of the sound standard, which is using Ultra High-Def. What we’re demonstrating is a set of production tools, which are [designed to make] panning and mixing to any kind of customized bus format really easy. [There has been much discussion] in the cinema world about 3-D cinema, and sound is ingrained in the chain. But there hasn’t been any cultivation of thinking in terms of what can happen in the sound field when we start to enjoy a 3-D image. The tools we’re showing are real, they’re in our products today, and we’re actually demonstrating up-down panning in surround sound. So instead of just front-back/left-right, we can go up and down. We can also tilt the sound. We can add two-dimensional divergence and we can apply that to anything from a mono or stereo channel right through to a link group, which could be a 7.1 sound array. It’s fascinating, and it’s almost like we’re driving a concept car everywhere we go and showing people what you can actually do with three-dimensional sound.

Christenson: From a commercial point of view, the 3-D sound aspect is really the tip of the spear. I think that’s one of the things that people will look at as a differentiating feature. But then as they look at the rest of the system, they find that it’s remarkably powerful and useful, and just removes barriers in so many ways. The idea [of the tour] is to show this to just about everybody that we can find [around] the country. We’re starting in the West and moving East, and we’re just going to ping-pong back and forth. Today we’re in New York, and we’ll be here for the rest of the week [until Friday, March 20].

Lancken: We’re going to be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco at the end of next week. Then we’re back in L.A. training some of the dealers that we’ve appointed, and then up at NAB [in Las Vegas], where a big part of the show’s going to be the integration of 3-D audio and high-definition video.

Media has become very complex and diverse. We’re dealing with high-definition video formats from a number of different vendors, and one of the centerpieces of our product is it has a nice [multitrack disk] recorder built in, but it also plays lots of [different types of video] files. It drags and drops all those into a media file and then plays them on a time line. So it’s a fun world, but it’s also become a little bit more complex in terms of being able to deal with all this stuff.

And the Xynergi system handles high-definition video in real time.
Lancken: We just had some guys here [in New York City] that run a video edit house and they were blown away, because they’re typically looking at a video service that costs about $75K to do the things [that the Xynergi does]. It frame-rate converts high-definition video on the fly. It does rescaling on the fly. It drags and drops all these different file formats, so you can put an Avid codec and an Apple codec in the same project time line, and you can cut and dissolve between those two codecs. You can reverse them on the fly. The demo we just did with dragging and importing files was pretty amazing for those guys—and they’re video guys. I’m solving a whole lot of problems that they had in interfacing with audio post.

Christenson: The video aspect is there primarily to aid workflow, because [video] editors will notoriously bring the wrong file format to the audio post house, or there will be incompatibility in frame rates or something like that. So [the Xynergi system] allows you to mix and match on the same time line, and then get to work on the audio post.

Something to keep in mind: There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Fairlight over the last couple of years. But the company has always known the enterprise-level high-throughput high-end post industry—NFL Films, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, NBA—all those guys that just need to get on with it. These guys have always had that solution, but as I said, in the past it’s been more expensive than it is now because they didn’t have the breakthrough technology.

Matt Gallagher is an assistant editor at Mix.

Watch part 1 of Mix's exclusive video demo of Fairlight's new Media Production Centre, featuring Fairlight CEO John Lancken.

For more information about scheduling a Fairlight Xynergi HD3D system demo in your area, contact Dave Christenson at 425/454-9977 or dave@audio-agent.com.

For information about the companies in this story, visit www.audio-agent.com, www.fairlightus.com and www.fairlightau.com.