FACILITY SPOTLIGHT: NOW HEAR THIS

Many people would say Carlos Chafin is one of the more affable people in the audio business. But don't take his easygoing nature to mean that the president
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Many people would say Carlos Chafin is one of the more affable people in the audio business. But don't take his easygoing nature to mean that the president of In Your Ear Music in Richmond, Va., doesn't know when to slap the blinders on and move full steam ahead.

For instance, he decided long ago that there was one way to approach his career-long dream of building a new facility for the eight-year-old company: the right way. Period.

That meant, first of all, that the technical capabilities would need to rival those of any facility in the country. It also meant that the building's layout would be tailored to the facility's needs, and not simply plunked down in an office or industrial space due to favorable lease rates or location. Chafin wanted the ambience of the building and surrounding neighborhood to evoke images of the simpler colonial times that attract tourists to Virginia's capital city in droves. It needed be a place where people would like to be...and be inspired.

"It also meant realizing that it would take longer to find everything we wanted," Chafin stated, with a weary smile. But, finally, after years of searching for the right spot, he and his staff finally found it in 1997, in a nearly 140-year-old residential structure in the city's historic Shockoe Bottom district. So, at 1813 E. Broad St. sits Chafin's dream, as well as his reality.

With the $4.1 million, almost 20,000-square-foot facility now open and run by a 16-member staff, IYE (www.lobe.com) is moving forward. Chafin hopes not only to reinforce his facility's presence in the spot market, but to make greater inroads toward scoring and rock 'n' roll.

GETTING TECHNICALCalling the facility "one of our prouder achievements," Peter Grueneisen, principal with Los Angeles-based architectural firm studio bau:ton, marvels at the tenacity Chafin and IYE's staff-most notably director of operations Terry Stroud and chief engineer Joe Sheets-showed during the design stage.

"We went though a long process of optimizing the layout and making sure everything is in the right place," Grueneisen says. "The interesting thing here is that they made no compromises. They went to great lengths to ensure the proper heights for the studio ceilings, for example. That type of thing is very important."

The Broad Street location has twice the square footage of its former home but the same number of studios (three). It's the layout and what the rooms offer that have changed.

For starters, the sound isolation system consists of double-cinderblock walls, backed by up to 12 layers of sheetrock to reduce the rumble of passing trucks or sirens from emergency vehicles on Broad Street, which is a main thoroughfare. And the studios have been designed to be multifunctional.

Studios A and B are almost identical, aside from the space in B being a bit smaller. Each features a Euphonix CS-2000 console with ES-108 dynamics on all channels, New England Digital PostPro workstations and 32 tracks of Tascam DA-88/38 recording capability. In addition, Studio A is one of the first Dolby Digital control rooms in the country to feature a 5.1 Genelec monitoring system.

The old Studio C was relegated to radio spots because it was small, but it now features a 400-square-foot control room, 350-square-foot studio and is centered around a Pro Tools|24 MIX Plus system with Pro Control. Chafin said the room "can now handle many projects like the other rooms, plus CD mastering and Internet file preparation, as well as music recording and multiformat mixing."

The entire facility is wired so that, for example, an engineer in Control Room A can tie into all three studios and their three lounges, the sound lock and a small studio attached to composition rooms D and E. The grand piano is in Composition E and can be recorded from any control room, or rolled into Studio A.

David Brooks, self-described "chief wirehead," has been in cahoots with Chafin for almost twice the company's eight-year existence. "We built total flexibility into this place," Brooks observes, "because studios could be sitting unused, since the control room uses a lot of ISDN digital patch for when the talent is in L.A. and the spot is being produced here with the ad people."

They can also patch video, he adds. "Any of the rooms can run a 31/44-inch video deck. We have two Doremi Labs V1 hard drive-based video recorder/players that can be accessed from any of the rooms."

Wire runs cover the shortest possible distance under the floors through one of 72 troughs. "The wiring we use costs about $60 a foot," Brooks explains. "Four-, six- and eight-inch PVC pipes connect the troughs, which means making changes is very easy. That way, wires don't go up a wall and through a ceiling, so we save money and it sounds better, too." The facility is using some fiber now in its dub room and will likely incorporate more in the future.

ON THE SPOTSThat versatility is what Chafin hopes will help result in new doors opening to IYE. Presently, about 60% of the company's business is spots. Of that spot work, 60% comes from outside Richmond; Dallas, Minneapolis and Atlanta have proven to be particularly fruitful markets due to working relationships that have developed over the years.

Some of the more recent high-profile, long-term campaigns include projects for Red Roof Inns, featuring comedian Martin Mull, and scoring for a Timberland shoe promotional campaign for Richmond's huge Martin Agency.

A campaign for Colonial Williamsburg for another Richmond agency, Just Partners, just wrapped. It includes four spots airing nationally that juxtapose modern day and colonial times. While video post-production on those spots was taking place at Encore Video and FilmCore, both in Santa Monica, Calif., Chafin wrote the music and created the sound design, then transferred the files to the West Coast via ISDN lines (IYE uses 3-D2 Network, as well as DG Systems). "The client at FilmCore was able to collaborate by approving the design, making changes and giving me direction," Chafin says. The client returned to Richmond for the final mix in Dolby Surround, then laid back to their Digital Beta master.

On this occasion, the music featured a combination of live players and electronic beds. "There was a delicate connection to the past in the case of the Williamsburg spots, so I mainly used real players, which we do about half the time," Chafin explains. "I tend to go for the sound. I very rarely use samples to circumvent the budget-maybe occasionally, with a string section, but that's about it."

IYE's rates range from $100 an hour at night for demo sessions to $300 an hour for multiformat mix to picture.

ONWARD AND UPWARDWhile IYE works with out-of-town post houses daily, Chafin stressed that he also wants to strengthen the company's national presence in the production community. That's part of the reason for the acute attention to detail while building the new digs.

So it was a boon when veteran actor and producer Tim Reid opened New Millennium Studios on the outskirts of nearby Petersburg in mid-1997. That presence has already led to a plum scoring project for an episodic TV program for Showtime called Linc's. It was successful and has been picked up by Viacom.

Of late, New Millennium has opened a second studio in Petersburg and is eyeing an insert stage near IYE and Henninger Richmond, as the three firms are considering a partnership to promote production in the city. Chafin would also like to push headlong into music production and see acts take advantage of what IYE now has to offer.