L.A. Grapevine

Upstairs from Hollywood's Cello Studios, I found new-guy-on-the-block Ted Greenberg, fresh off his TEC Awards win (Remote Production/Recording or Broadcast)

Upstairs from Hollywood's Cello Studios, I found new-guy-on-the-block Ted Greenberg, fresh off his TEC Awards win (“Remote Production/Recording or Broadcast”) for mixing and production on the soundtrack to Standing In the Shadows of Motown. Although Greenberg, who also nabbed two Grammys for the project, has had a studio and office suite — dubbed Fluid Productions — in the bustling Cello complex for more than a year, he's finally made the full transition to Angeleno life. When I rang him two days earlier, he was at home unloading a truck filled with household goods that he'd just driven cross-country from Philadelphia.

No newcomer to the music business, Greenberg's been a studio owner and gear collector since 1979. Big Zone Recording, his Philadelphia facility, hosted such notables as Bon Jovi, The Roots, Joan Osborne, 311 and Wyclef Jean. A multitalented musician himself — bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, French horn and more — he has a degree in Music Performance. His real chops, however, were honed while drumming on the Atlantic City show circuit at venues like the Playboy Club, the Tropicana and Harrah's. “That's how I made the money to buy all of this,” he says with a laugh, gesturing to the Neve 8014 and BCM 10 consoles, Studer A800, Pro Tools and racks of vintage outboard gear in his orderly control room. “I'd work a showroom with sets at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. When you're the house drummer, sometimes an act comes in with their own drummer and you just have to play the ‘on.’ After the 8 o'clock show, I'd run down the boardwalk to a lounge gig, then run back to play another 35 seconds at 10:30. There were times I'd leave my car with the flashers on in the loading dock of Harrah's, run in — in my tux — do a bit, get back in the car and drive back to my gig at Playboy.”

That kind of experience gives Greenberg the ability to understand, at least somewhat, the lifestyle that the legendary Funk Brothers, stars of Standing In the Shadows, lived. How he came to produce and mix the soundtrack for the film, however, is a story in itself.

As Greenberg tells it, “I started as the drum roadie on the project. Alan [Slutsky] asked me to bring my drum set and roadie for one of the drummers, and also to be his interface with [Record Plant Remote's] Kooster McAllister, who recorded the shows.” Actually, the story goes back even further; Greenberg played drums on several cuts on the instructional CD that accompanied the Standing In the Shadows book, which preceded the film.

Okay, but how'd he jump from drum roadie to soundtrack mixer?“They had a box of tapes,” Greenberg explains matter-of-factly, “and I had a studio in Philadelphia with an API console.” In reality, of course, the saga was much more complicated. The project's first edit list, compiled to the film footage's best visuals, used various sections of numerous 48-track takes that had been recorded onto Tascam DA-98s. It took Greenberg a month just to get it all loaded into Pro Tools. When he did and began assembling the edits, he was shocked to realize that the selected sections — recorded without a click track by musicians who hadn't played together in 28 years — in many cases just didn't match up. “I went into a panic,” he recalls. “I literally got cardiac arrhythmia trying to put it together. I couldn't make it work. I didn't want to be known as the guy who ruined Motown, so I quit the project.”

But after another person tried the same edits with the same result, the project came back to Greenberg. This time, he insisted that the soundtrack be based on the best music, not the best visuals. That route, after six months of work, led to the final mixes. “It ended up being a compromise,” he says. “Some things were fixed in Pro Tools. But I don't use a grid, or Beat Detective, or quantize, per se. I do it by ear.”

Obviously, that ear is pretty good. Greenberg's Grammy and TEC statues now adorn the Dynaudio BM15A speakers in Fluid's control room, where he's been working on a number of new projects with songwriter/guitarist Padraic Coursey. Several of those projects have been recorded, with the help of Cello chief engineer Gary Myerberg, at high-resolution 176.4k in Pro Tools.

Working at Fluid with Greenberg and Coursey recently have been singer/songwriter Katie Morris, rock 'n' roll “wild child” Trina Renae, sultry songstress Ashley Arrison, hard rockers Harley Krishna and “The Angela Project,” which comprises songwriter/pianist/flute player Angela Falco and friends. “It's a really positive time for us,” says Greenberg. “We're doing artist development with a lot of really terrific talent, which we plan to shop to labels both major and indie.”

A few blocks east of Cello, things were jumping at Tribune Studios, where such shows as Judge Judy, Candid Camera, Family Feud and The Sharon Osbourne Show are produced. The Tribune complex juxtaposes history with cutting edge: The studios' 10-acre lot, also home to KTLA-TV, was the original home of Warner Bros. Pictures, where, in 1927, the very first “talkie” — Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer — was filmed. They're also undergoing a $10 million renovation aimed at creating the first all-digital studio lot in the United States. As part of the revamp, the facility has taken delivery of two 96-channel, 5.1 surround-capable Euphonix Max Air digital consoles.

Jim Toten, Tribune director of engineering and technology, gave me a tour of the lot and its seven sound stages, along with a description of the renovation process, which began in 1996. Because Tribune Studios is a for-hire facility with a constantly changing stream of shows and outside engineers, designed-in flexibility was key to the renovation's success. Hence, the Max Airs, one of which replaces a Euphonix System 5 console that Toten says was originally purchased for Control Room 2 because, “the Max Air didn't exist yet. The System 5 [automation] was a bit overkill, but none of the other digital consoles did what I wanted. I had a lot of requirements, but the main reason for going with the modular Euphonix platform was that we need the ability to change things: We need to easily add faders or mic preamps and to be able to separate modules for different uses without having to get someone from the factory down here to reconfigure. None of the other systems allowed me to do that.

“In a TV facility, we don't do multitrack recording,” he explains. “Instead, we record across tape machines. If there are eight videotape machines with four channels of audio, that's 32 channels to record. There are numerous submixes: maybe a stereo mix of 12 pre-fader and pre-compressor audience mics, and another audience post-fade, post-compressor mix. They'll have host mics and a guest mic submix where there are 15 guest mics, but only three are used in a certain segment. They'll need a pre-fade mix of those three, plus a post-fade mix. It gets very complicated.

“Other manufacturers court the big leagues of film,” Toten notes. “Euphonix really seems to care about servicing broadcasters. The other day, The Sharon Osbourne Show had Wynonna Judd in with her band, requesting 40 inputs over and above the show feed, which is already 48 mic pre's. Euphonix was able to supply a set of 24 additional preamps and a set of 16 additional channels of faders. They got that to us, with a smile, in about 30 minutes. I don't think there's any other manufacturer that could have done that.”

Being able to use a MADI (AES-10) standard was also a plus when it came to interfacing the consoles to the overall routing. “The machine room for Studio 6 is separated from the control room by about 40 feet of cable. I didn't want to put a million tielines in between, so we established the MADI line from the audio console to the tape room. I've got 56 channels of AES available in the tape room, plenty more than I need, and I can easily expand without trenching and running additional cable. And MADI is a standard that is quickly becoming commonplace in the audio industry.

“We used to have a patchbay with a couple hundred cords in it. Now, for even a complex game show like Family Feud, we hardly need any. We're built to go from one show to the next to the next. Changing shows can take only three or four minutes, the time it takes to open a title.”

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