If you ever spot a gleaming, silver tractor trailer with the words “Remote Recording Services” discreetly emblazoned on its side, you can safely guess that it's heading toward a major production. It might be the Academy Awards telecast, a David Bowie concert or an all-star event on the scale of Live Aid or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Founded in 1979 by president and chief engineer David Hewitt, Remote Re-cording has been a fixture on the road for more than two decades, its flagship “Silver Studio” helping to make musical history by recording and broadcasting performances across a wide spectrum of styles, from heavy metal (Ozzy Osbourne) to Broadway (The Lion King) to classical (the Berlin Philharmonic).
If there is a constant in the company's dizzyingly diverse credit list, then it is the star quality of the performers who consistently call upon Hewitt and his team. At a time when every industry is being pinched by shrinking budgets and downsizing of equipment and facilities, Hewitt proudly hauls his gargantuan rig all over the country. His clients, he says, appreciate the large truck's size and comfort. Neither they nor Hewitt would have it any other way.
“In the upper-end of the field, I sometimes feel like we're in the real estate business,” Hewitt says. “A big chunk of what we're hired for is having the large studio, the acoustic environment and the isolated environment, not to mention the crew and the equipment. For these serious bands, where there's just no contest, they don't want the package arriving in a roadcase. They want a place where they can sit down and be comfortable in an environment like what they're used to.”
While the need for space and a full-fledged mixing facility is desirable for recording projects, it is essential to pull off a live broadcast job like the Oscars™. “For that project,” says Hewitt, “we're providing a number of different services. There are live announcers and all kinds of submixes of musical elements. That kind of project is way too complicated for a small unit.”
Among Remote Recording's recent projects were two dates with The Eagles at the Office Depot Arena in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; a James Taylor live broadcast from the Tanglewood Arts Center for Premier Radio Networks that was carried by approximately 150 of the company's affiliates; the Placido Domingo and Friends “thank you” concert, featuring the Washington Opera at DAR Constitution Hall; and Viva Puente, an all-star celebration of the late Puerto Rican legend's music, recorded at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.
“The Eagles dates,” reports Remote Recording sales and marketing manager Karen Brinton, “were done to capture a live version of the band's new single, ‘Hole In the World.’ Elliot Scheiner recorded it, and it's always a joy to work with him.”
The Taylor project, adds Brinton, kicked off the artist's summer tour. The 90-minute set included such hits as “Something In the Way She Moves,” “Copperline,” “Mexico,” “October Road,” “Fire & Rain,” “Shower the People” and “Sweet Baby James.” The band featured, among other players, Steve Gadd on drums and Luis Conti on percussion.
For Placido Domingo and Friends, the Silver Studio pulled up to Constitution Hall and recorded the all-star show featuring Veronica Villarroel, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Denyce Graves, Salvatore Licitra, Danil Shtoda, Lado Ataneli, Rene Papé and the Three Mo' Tenors. Domingo had to cancel due to illness, but his absence did not hamper the evening's spirited mood. The show was hosted by Mrs. Eugene B. Casey, life chairman of the Washington Opera, as a gesture of gratitude to the opera's many supporters. Mixed by Jay Saks and Bill King, the recording is scheduled to air on PBS later this year.
Besides Hewitt and Brinton, the Remote Recording team includes chief technical engineer Phil Gitomer, engineer Sean McClintock and a small army of second engineers who are called upon for their specific expertise in different musical styles.
“Phil does the work of three men and a small boy,” says Hewitt. “He's responsible for the truck, and he's a real master at documentation. One of the more important things about remote recording is keeping track of everything from timecode, machine numbers, video sync, takes, etc. Phil does all of that and a lot more.”
McClintock, who has engineered projects by Maxwell, John Mellencamp and Southern Culture on the Skids, among others, has recently gone freelance, but continues to work with Remote Recording.
Inside the Silver Studio, Remote Recording offers a wealth of equipment that ranks with any world-class studio, mobile or otherwise. The truck's centerpiece is its Neve VRM analog console, a 48×48 model featuring Flying Faders 3.0 and Total Recall. Additionally, the Silver Studio is equipped with four Studer 900 Series consoles that can complement the Neve as sidecars or be used separately in portable packages. For jobs that demand that mic preamps be placed in close proximity to the stage, Remote Recording has 40 Millenia HV-3 units and 12 API 212Ls.
Remote Recording offers all leading recording formats, including Pro Tools. However, the vast majority of Hewitt's clients opt for the company's Studer D-827 48-track digital recorders. There are also some analog diehards, including Neil Young and Natalie Merchant, who prefer the Studer A820s.
Hewitt built custom KRK main monitors into the truck, but he also offers a wide selection of near-fields, including KRKs, Auratones, Yamahas, B&Ws and JBLs. Like any analog-oriented operation, Remote Recording is stocked with loads of outboard gear and 200 microphones from all major manufacturers. While many location-recording specialists have gravitated toward digital consoles in recent years, don't look for Hewitt to make the switch anytime soon.
“It's very much a client-driven decision, and as far as basic analog technology goes, the bulk of our clients want to keep it that way. In terms of sound quality, I don't think it gets any better. I'm not dissing anybody's digital console, but I'll still take the sound and reliability of analog gear.”
Brothers Jim and Dan Price count their blessings when they talk about how good business has been at 38 Greene, the advertising-oriented studio they co-own with partner Gary Moskowitz (best known for his Baker Sound facility in Philadelphia).
“From what I'm hearing, there's not a ton of work out there, but we seem to be busy, which is great,” says Jim Price. Dan adds, “We've been booked almost eight hours a day in each studio for several weeks.”
It helps matters that 38 Greene is an in-house studio for radio-production company Oink Ink. However, Dan Price says that at least 60% of the studio's bookings are coming from “outside” work, a pretty good ratio considering that the Price brothers and Moskowitz built their business plan assuming that 100% of their revenue would come from Oink.
The 10,000-square-foot, three-room facility features 5.1-channel Pro Tools|HD systems with AV Option for video. Besides Moskowitz, staff includes chief engineer Joe Gauci and engineers Leslie Mona-Mathus and Emily Frankfurt. Among 38 Greene's recent sessions were radio and TV spots for such products as Viagra, Ben-Gay, Mercedes Benz, BMW and People's Bank.
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