TODD-AO ACQUIRES SOUND ONE, 4MC MERGES WITH DIGITAL SOUND & PICTUREMajor consolidations took place in the audio post-production industry during the month of June. Long-established and seemingly ever-expanding Todd-AO purchased New York's leading sound-for-picture facility Sound One, and relative newcomer 4MC bought the assets of Digital Sound & Picture in Los Angeles. Both buyers are public companies.
Todd-AO Corporation bought $12.8 million worth of common shares outstanding. The company will retain the name Sound One, and Jeremy Koch will continue to serve as president, running both East Coast locations and adding the title of senior vice president at Todd-AO Corporation. One of the founders of Sound One, Elisha Birnbaum, has retired.
"This was a merger that was meant to happen," says Koch. "I think this is the best of all worlds, for New York and for both companies. Certainly, it opens the markets, and it creates greater opportunities. We believe that more work will come to New York because of what we have together and what we plan to do in the future."
Todd-AO Studios East recently purchased a Neve DFC film board, and further developments are in the works. "That facility has a wonderful room, the biggest room in New York," Koch says. "The integration of the two facilities will create one of the most state-of-the-art, full-service post-production sound facilities in the country."
With a strong foothold in New York and an eye on Europe (including facilities in London and Germany), Todd-AO seems well-positioned for the global enterprise it has long envisioned.
Meanwhile, Four Media Corporation of Los Angeles has purchased the assets of Digital Sound & Picture for $7.2 million. The company has retained the name Digital Sound & Picture for its facilities and will operate out of 4MC's existing (but extensively remodeled) studios in Burbank and DS&P's original location on South La Cienega in Los Angeles. Owners John and Nancy Ross have negotiated long-term employment contracts and will be in charge of operating the sound departments at the two locations. Personnel have all been retained as part of the deal.
"We've always had a technological edge, we've just never had the scale to operate at this level," John Ross says. "We will essentially be the second largest sound facility in Los Angeles, but with a technological edge and a capital base that will allow us to be very effective. We are now in the process of expanding both our talent base and our client base."
DS&P works in longform film and television. The two locations now include 11 dubbing stages, 36 5.1 editing bays, three Foley stages and three ADR stages, and are connected via an OC3 link on a private fiber-optic line leased through Pacific Bell. As Ross says, "Electronically, we are one facility."
AGENDA SET FOR FALLAESAt a press conference held in Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel, the agenda for the fall AES show was revealed. Acknowledging that references to the new millennium have become tiresome, AES Director Roger Furness nonetheless stressed this year's focus on the future.
One feature of this year's convention is increased attention on the AES's student members. Young engineers throughout the country have been asked to submit recordings in several genres, including jazz, pop and classical, to a panel of judges.
Attendees will be able to take advantage of various tours showcasing the audio treasures that the metropolitan area has to offer. Trips to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center will include discussions of the acoustical properties of those two venues. On a first come, first served basis, convention-goers can visit the audio transmission facilities at both the Empire State Building and World Trade Center. Tours of several major New York recording studios-The Hit Factory, Sony and Sear Sound Studios-are also scheduled.
Although many people attend AES to check out the newest gear, convention co-chairman Doug Cook pointed out that workshops are the "hidden treasure" of the shows. Workshop chairman Michael Solomon told the press that his toughest job was "limiting the workshops to 54 hours."
Highlights of this year's workshops will include papers on the history of the microphone, music delivery on the Internet and a follow-up workshop to the highly popular "Guerrilla Acoustics" lecture given at an earlier convention. "We're committed to reaching out to the project studio owner," said Cook. "This workshop has been scheduled on a weekend; we understand that many project studio owners have 9-5 jobs. We know that not all great music is recorded under optimal circumstances, and we want to make sure that the AES offers some things to everyone who is dedicated to recording music well."
SECOND ANNUAL MP3 SUMMITJune 15 and 16 marked MP3's second annual conference, the MP3 Summit. Held at the University of California, San Diego, it was a major event for the online music community. With more than 15,000 artists, over 27 million MP3 singles downloads, and roughly 300,000 hits per month, the MP3 site and its associated compression format, MPEG, have generated a lot of attention. A lot of new MP3 players, software and hardware made their debut, and discussions about making money and the future of MPEG abounded. (If you are unfamiliar with MP3, check out their site, www.mp3.com.)
This year's conference drew more than 1,000 attendees and 30 exhibitors, quite a change from last year's 200 attendees and four exhibitors. An ongoing schedule of memorable discussion panels included such topics as "Keeping the 17 Year Old Happy: How to Monetize the Online Community," "Music as a Virus: Biological Warfare 101" and "The Triumph of Technology: The Defeat of the Copyright Law." Panelists included: Ice T, Mark Kates (Grand Royal Records), Ron Sobel (ASCAP), Tom Dolan (Virgin Records), Canibus (Universal Records) and representatives from companies including Macromedia, RealNetworks, Adaptec, Creative Labs, RCA and Microsoft.
The new MP3 hardware players were colorful and varied: There were pint-sized players from I-Jam and San Disk; larger palm units from RCA, HanGo and Trimax Technology; and full-sized stereo audio component machines from Frontier Labs and netDrives. At the Microsoft booth, everyone had a chance to listen to the company's new audio codec, MSAudio. Microsoft also showed off its new software player, Windows Media Player, a multiformat player. MP3, .WAV, AVI, MPEG, MIDI, and, of course, MSAudio-expect to see more multiformat players in the near future, hardware and software. Other fresh-out-of-the-box soft players included VisioSonic's Digital 1200 SL with a virtual Denon dual CD interface; MusicMatch's Jukebox 4.0, which adds a music library and MP3 recorder to the player; and Xing's XingMP3 Player.
Other highlights: ASCAP proclaimed the formation of a strategic alliance with MP3 for "the protection of creators' rights and the development of music talent." On June 15, the first day of the conference, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lost its much-publicized lawsuit against Diamond Multimedia, maker of the most popular handheld MP3 player, Rio. (Diamond followed the victory with an announcement that the Rio 500, with twice as much memory as its predecessor, would ship soon.) Michael Robertson, MP3's CEO, announced that the company received a $45 million investment from Cox Interactive Media.
-Erik Hawkins and Lygia Ferra