Kooster McAllister at the linked Yamaha DM2000 consoles in the rear of the RV.
Photos: Ron Neilson
It's been more than three decades since Record Plant Remote owner Kooster McAllister came to New York City's Record Plant Studios, working his way up to chief engineer of the mobile units and ultimately purchasing the remote recording division in 1991. Record Plant Remote has since been a leader in remote recording, with a client list ranging from classical superstars to rock giants such as the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Guns ‘N Roses, The Who and Billy Joel, and festivals including Woodstock '94 and '99, Live Aid and Eric Clapton's Crossroads. McAllister has won a Grammy, 10 TEC Awards and three Emmy nominations. After 20 years capturing legendary shows in his API-equipped Volvo big rig (originally designed by Wally Heider), McAllister has expanded the fleet with a full-service, all-digital studio built into the back of a luxury RV — aptly named “The Lounge.”
New Times, New Truck
Seeing big changes coming to the remote recording business five years ago, McAllister started taking on more broadcast work and saw the necessity of building a smaller, all-digital truck. “I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age,” says McAllister. “It wasn't something I wanted to do, but I realized that with the complexities of today's shows, I needed more than I could do on my classic API console. I still have clients that insist on the API for the sound, but I needed 100-percent recall of snapshots, including mic pre settings for quick transitions of multiple bands in live television shows.”
A couple of years later, building of the new truck began, taking a year-and-a-half to complete. The initial design was by Paul Special of Special Audio Services, with all of the actual woodwork and wiring done by McAllister, his brother Willy (a master carpenter), Brian Flanzbaum and his main tech, Paul Prestopino — a plan that proved both economical and fulfilling. “I had to do it myself,” says McAllister. “Economically, it was the only way I could do it, and I'm really proud of it because I was so intimately involved with every aspect of the build.”
The multipurpose "Lounge" and exterior view.
One of McAllister's primary goals for the new truck was to be able to handle 96 inputs. At 96 kHz, the truck is 100-percent AES; the front end centers around two linked Yamaha DM2000 consoles, with Yamaha AD8 HR mic preamp/converters; LightViper fiber brings it all into the truck, where it is reconverted into AES. “The Yamahas were the perfect choice,” explains McAllister, “enabling me to control everything from the console, including mic pre levels onstage.”
Ease of interface is another important consideration, particularly in relationship to video, where some trucks need AES coming on XLR; others want AES on co-ax. “You have to be able to facilitate your interface for whatever truck pulls up, including working with older trucks that aren't all-digital and require you to send analog.” In today's productions, the high number of sources swapped between video and audio can be daunting. This was all taken into consideration in the design of The Lounge.
The control room has JBL 6300 Series 5.1 monitors, a full complement of outboard and 192 tracks of recording gear. Beyond the studio front end, the truck is set apart from the pack by its RV trappings: posh living room, kitchen and TV-viewing lounge. “It made perfect sense to do this in an RV. If needed, I can take out the couch and tables and put a full video flight-pack up there; it's basically a utility room for whatever you want it to be. I've been on shows where they've asked to use it as a production office. For my last show with Van Morrison, the video director sat in there, making notes of all the camera shots. And it's a great hang for the client, offering a place where they can watch on large-screen monitors and good speakers, and still be out of the engineer's hair,” McAllister says, laughing.
“At this point, 95 percent of my business is broadcast — television shows or award shows,” he notes. “The last album DVD project I did [Tesla Live] was in my API truck, over a year ago.” McAllister adds that his API truck is still used on major events, such as a 10-year gig with ABC's Good Morning America summer concert series.
McAllister finds that having two trucks offers the best of both audio worlds. “My analog truck is my first love; it sounds godlike. But the more I work in this new truck, the happier I am with the decisions I made. I put a lot of time and thought into this truck, what I wanted it to be and wanted it to do, and I think I've hit the benchmarks I was going for.”
Sarah Jones is the editor of Mix.