Some people are going to find that their lives are a whole lot easier now that multitalented engineer Bruce Maddocks has opened Cups 'N Strings, a one-stop studio in Hans Zimmer's Media Ventures complex in Santa Monica. Maddocks, a veteran of such top facilities as The Hit Factory, Record Plant, Capitol Recording Studios, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures, has put what he's learned over the years to use in an elegantly designed, multipurpose room. Need to do a surround mix? A multichannel transfer in a multitude of formats? ISDN, FTP, MP3 or Internet transfers? Digital archiving of a precious analog master? Or maybe rent a 2-inch 8-track head stack for your Studer? Yes, yes, yes — and more yes.
“I can do that,” seems to be one of Maddocks' favorite phrases. “It's something I learned from Record Plant and its founder Chris Stone,” he says with a laugh. “We were doing everything there — studio recording, live remotes, location sound for sitcoms — and we also had Scoring Stage M at Paramount. It was always, ‘Say yes.’ That was a great learning experience.”
Since his very first music-biz job, Maddocks has worked at both the mixing and the technical sides of the board. He started in the tech shop at New York's legendary A&R Studios, and a day or so later, he found himself working on, and providing technical assistance on, a Phil Ramone session. It went on from there; years later, at Sony Pictures in Los Angeles, when he wasn't mixing sitcoms he was modifying equipment in the engineering department.
“I've worked in every area of audio,” he comments. “With all of the different disciplines, I've learned to deal with situations quickly and efficiently. What's happening now is that the different functions and services from those different areas have been blurred. Take ISDN. Traditionally, all of that point-to-point communication was used in broadcast. Now, we're using it to record remote vocals, etc. Something that started out in broadcasting and then became a post-production tool has been embraced by the recording industry. Seeing that, and also the continuing move toward surround sound, I wanted to offer high-quality stereo and surround mixing, with digital-transmission capability, in a comfortable environment. For example, we have full ISDN: Dolby Fax and MPEG for remote mix approvals, vocal overdubs or even real-time 5.1 streaming, and we can burn .WAV files, DATs or CDs from it. It's all coming together, and I've incorporated it all into the studio.”
The heart of Cups ‘N Strings is a Sony DMX-R100 digital console, which was configured to create eight channels of digital and analog outputs simultaneously. There is also a very classy collection of outboard, including specialty items such as an Altec tube mic preamp; ARX mic pre's, gates, EQ and compression; a Behringer Magician; and a rare Magna-tech 29 EQ. Mixes can be made from the studio's vintage Ampex ATR 124 2-inch 24-track, or to almost any configuration of analog or digital multitrack, or digital hard drive systems. Surround mixes can be encoded into Dolby Digital (AC-3), DTS or DVD-A bitstreams. For those with budget constraints or missing multitrack masters, Maddocks has had good luck creating surround mixes from 2-track or mono sources using TC Electronic's Model 6000 Unwrap software.
Monitoring, in addition to Yamaha NS-10s and Genelec 1031As, is by Maddocks' own TEC Award-nominated TLC 3s, powered by Hafler Trans•nova amplification with calibrated bass management.
Obviously, with so many formats available, transfers are a specialty. So is “asset digitization”: Maddocks has expertise in creating digital-storage archives for entire catalogs or single masters. Tapes are evaluated, with repairs or restoration, including convection oven “baking” provided as needed.
Next to the comfy 300-square-foot control room is an overdub suite, which gets used frequently for voice-overs that often use ISDN technology, which, because of the facility's dedicated lines, has particularly fast transfer rates. Clients also have private parking and full use of Media Ventures' rooftop patio and art deco-style indoor lounge and kitchen.
Maddocks especially enjoys working in the creatively charged atmosphere of the Media Ventures complex: “My first session, which I did even before I finished building the studio, was mastering a reel for one of the composers whose office is here. It's great working in an environment with so much going on. There's a wonderful energy here.”
As you'd expect from someone so tech-savvy, Maddocks has an efficient, fast and informative Website at www.cupsnstrings.com.
Stopped in for a visit with another busy one-man operation: Bruce Hanifan Productions in the Beverlywood section of West L.A., where composer/producer/mixer/sound designer Hanifan provides services for feature film, television, commercial and corporate clients.
Recently, Hanifan's skills have been tapped for a large number of sports and travel/adventure shows such as Outdoor Life specials on mountain biking and rock climbing, main title music for The Cousteau Chronicles, scoring for radical sports on The Extremists, and music and sound design for the NBC expedition special, Into the Tsangpo Gorge, a documentary about kayaking in Tibet.
A classical pianist who started his music career as a first-call piano tuner (for picky artists like Steely Dan, so you know he's got great ears), Hanifan's composing credits include such movies of the week as USA Network's Secret Cutting, A Crime of Passion and the documentary Breaking the News on CBS, and commercials for Lexus, Intel and Microsoft.
What was the path from tuning to scoring? “I was tuning for all of the studios, as well as for a lot of successful musicians,” Hanifan explains. “Some of them began asking why I wasn't out doing my own music. It finally started to eat at me that I wasn't expressing my creative side. I went back to music school, where I got a real education in the practical realities of being a composer. When I finished, I hung my hat out as a composer. I started doing radio spots and then TV spots — it just kept going from there.”
Movies of the week kept him writing music until trends changed; fewer MOWs are being made and those that are head to Canada. For Hanifan, documentaries have taken up much of the slack. “For me right now, it's about diversification,” he comments. “From the documentaries to trailers and promos to doing music recording and voice-overs, working as a music producer for other artists and even demo reels for voice-overs. I also have a huge library of my music that I can just plug in to projects.”
That library includes over 800 pieces. Hanifan's work ranges from classical and avant-garde to traditional orchestral and techno, and often incorporates ethnic and world music touches. “I've got a world-class sample library,” he notes. “I'm known to be able to get the sound of an orchestra, which seems to be a requirement for TV these days. Nobody has the budgets for orchestras, which is sad. We're definitely in the world of low budget these days; a lot of producers are searching for ways to save a buck, and small project studios like mine are making their mark.”
Hanifan's studio runs on “the mighty G4.” He composes on Logic and mixes on Pro Tools MIXplus. “I love the new version — 5 something — of Logic,” he enthuses. “It's got great automation features. I love Pro Tools for mixing, but Logic is definitely nipping at Digidesign's toes.”
Hanifan is also a fan of Genelec 1031As, his main monitors. The main keyboard controller is a Kurzweil PC88, from which Hanifan runs a collection of Roland, E-mu and Korg hardware samplers and synths, as well as a growing collection of soft synths. Two Mackies give him 112 inputs. “When I'm doing music, every one of those faders is used,” he says. “If you have a lot of hardware samplers like I do, it's all about having a lot of faders.”
You'd expect a classical pianist/piano tuner to have a fine piano; the Yamaha C7 housed in a separate recording room is, according to Hanifan, especially sweet. It's also starting to bring him business — the piano is available for recording, with or without Hanifan engineering. His pet piano-recording setup? A pair of Neumann KM184s through a Brent Averill-restored Neve preamp. “It's hard to find a piano perfectly maintained like this that records well in studios these days,” he says. “Most studios can't afford it. People can come here and do a CD master of a piano recording, from tracking to final mastering.”
Hanifan's other favorite gear includes Lexicon PCM 80 and 90s and his trusty Motormix — the “low-budget, automated-fader package for Pro Tools,” with which he's developed a novel use. “Tsangpo Gorge was shot in Tibet,” he explains, “Almost all of the location recording ended up unusable. I had to re-create all of the water sounds, which was a considerable task. They traveled through a whole canyon, with the point of view constantly changing — from up on a cliff looking at the rapids to down in them. I had to replace all that audio quickly; there wasn't the budget for two weeks of sound design.”
Hanifan met the challenge by constructing a multitude of hour-long water loops from “big Niagara Falls to streams and splashes,” and then running Pro Tools with Motormix and playing the faders while watching the footage. The producers were thrilled; he now finds himself the “go-to” guy for surf and kayaking films — since Tsangpo, he's replaced the water sounds on two other films.
Part of the current niche Hanifan has carved out for himself includes completing projects in a day, if necessary, as he did on the main title for CBS' Breaking the News. To accomplish such quick work, Hanifan often insists that clients attend the entire session. “If you're on a fast track and the budget is low,” he says, “there's no time for revisions, or for doing five versions and hoping one sticks. I say, ‘I'll do this, but you've got to sit in that chair, and every step of the way it's got to be approved.’ That works.”
Turning out so much music so quickly, one wonders from where Hanifan draws inspiration. “Sometimes I wonder myself,” he muses. “From the visuals, of course, because I'm writing in sync to the frame. For me, music is very visual anyway. Sometimes I think of it as a landscape, where I'm creating musical backdrops for various characters to live in. I guess there's somewhat of a channeling thing there, too,” he says with a laugh. “I'm really big on improvisation. One of my favorite things is to just sit down at the piano and go off. I guess I'm really good at reacting to outside stimuli and then bringing it, through myself, to music.”
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