For 35 years, the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) has been providing students with the training and experience needed to thrive in the ever-changing—and challenging—recording industry. Now, the school has added two new control rooms, F and G, both equipped with SSL AWS948 consoles and Pro Tools 10/11 HDX.
The most unique design feature is the central recording studio bookended by the identical rooms. For daytime classes and clinics, the control rooms run separately, splitting the microphone inputs for sessions. Kirt Hamm, administrator at CRAS, says the school chose the AWS consoles because of their hybrid nature. “We currently train the students on multiple large-format analog consoles, including two SSLs, two APIs and two Neoteks,” he says. “We felt the SSL AWS was the next logical step. The analog signal path, as well as the DAW control, fits our students’ and the industry’s educational needs.”
Training in the new AWS rooms takes place during the last six weeks of the 36-week on-campus portion of the curriculum. At that point, students already have an in-depth knowledge of signal flow, console operation, studio interconnect and Pro Tools operation.
“During the first two weeks of AWS training, we focus on intense console operation in the control room environment,” Hamm says. “Over the remaining four weeks, the classes focus on actual live recording, mixing and editing sessions. Having partnered with soundBlade, we expanded the curriculum, exposing our students to the world of mastering as well.”
Hamm says the school put together a knowledgeable, savvy design team, representing many combined years of studio design and construction. The team included Alex Otto (studio design contractor), Jeff Harris (CRAS technical director and studio acoustician), Michael Jones (director of education and studio owner), Tony Nunes (CRAS instructor and manufacturer liaison) and Hamm.
Construction of F and G included a radical teardown of classroom environments and a complete build out of the two AWS control rooms, as well as the centralized recording space. Having a space of approximately 70x24 feet to work with, the team built three spaces that measure roughly 20x22 feet each. The team also managed to build a 6x10 isolation booth in each of the control rooms. “We sought out design space in our control rooms to allow our students even more recording space,” Hamm says. “Industry input from our Advisory Board of Studio Managers, and the instructors who will actually be teaching in these rooms, provided a team effort.”
In addition to the SSL AWS console and Pro Tools, both rooms also include Sonnet Thunderbolt expansion chassis, Apogee Big Ben master clock and Rosetta 800 interfaces, soundBlade HD mastering software, Mytek 8x192 ADDA mastering converters, iZotope RX3 and RX4 audio restoration software and Ozone 5 and 6 mastering software, McDSP Everything Pack plug-in bundle, ATC SCM25A reference monitors, and Sound Anchor monitor stands.
“The equipment and software choices are dictated by the industry we serve, and, with that, we hone the skills necessary for our students to excel,” Hamm says. “We chose the ATC reference monitors because of their excellence, and we found them in many of the studios we visit. Through the educational collaboration between CRAS and iZotope, CRAS now provides, and teaches, an iZotope bundle in our students’ LapTop Recording Package, which includes Ozone, RX-4 and Insight. In addition, we equipped the racks with analog gear from Empirical Labs, Manley and BAE Audio, to name a few.”
Students are allowed to use these new rooms on their own after-hours. The audio and video tielines between rooms allow the students to use the entire space for isolation and recording. Because both control rooms have large isolation booths, the second control room can act as additional studio space. Students can choose to use one AWS control room, have the main studio, two large isolation booths, and the other control room as a recording space. CRAS used this design technique to marry spaces between its Neotek and API control rooms, and its SSL 4000 G+ and digital control room environments, as well.
“We’ve found that this practice allows our students to make the best—and the most—use of the space and technology that CRAS can afford them during their 24/7 access,” Hamm says. “Nothing prepares a student for the industry like running their own sessions. The students may book the rooms for their continuing projects in music, post and broadcast production. Since we opened the new rooms, they are booked every night!”