Metallica’s digital audio engineer Mike Gillies, who has been using the A/V SAN for about three years, described what he believes to be “a first” in the recording process: “For the St. Anger [Metallica’s latest album] sessions, not one bandmember showed up to the studio with a single riff or lyric written. They would jam out for hours, sometimes for eight- to nine-hour sessions, and anytime anyone had an instrument in their hands, I recorded it. Then we went through and found the little bits that we liked, looped them and that’s how the songs were written. This just isn’t the way records are made, and there is no way this could be done before the Fibre Channel technology of the A/V SAN.”
The A/V SAN system uses the Fibre Channel communications protocol to achieve extremely high transfer rates and is capable of eliminating almost all hard drive and I/O-related PCI bus errors.
“This will give an idea of how much data we’re talking about,” Gillies continued. “Just the cross-fades alone on some sessions were 12 to 13 Gigabytes, and all told, we totaled over 2.5 Terabytes and more than 1 million files. I never lost a single bit of data, no drive ever went down and I never had one DAE error. We even found the finite end of Pro Tools, which stopped at about 13 hours on a 44.1kHz, 24-bit session. One of the most powerful pieces of recording software quit before the A/V SAN.”
Gillies, who has been working with Metallica since their 1996 album Load, not only ended up with songs that had an incredible amount of edits across every track, but he also accrued every bit of a year’s worth of recording, all sitting on the same edit template as the final mix. The A/V SAN is currently out on the band’s Summer Sanitarium tour. “I find that most pieces of gear that are so high-tech and efficient tend to be a bit finicky and delicate,” Gillies continued. “But not the SNS drive, and I have really abused it. The A/V SAN is out in the summer heat, right next to flashpots and other pyrotechnics on top of a shaky, rattling stage. Combine that with dust, smoke and the rigors of traveling from city to city, and I’m really astounded that I’ve never had so much as a hiccup out of it.”
According to Gillies, the unit is out on tour so that he could quickly turn over live tracks to radio stations that wanted cuts from the festival shows. As opposed to renting several expensive 8-track tape machines that require synching and archiving large amounts of tape, Gillies could run 48 tracks directly into the A/V SAN, where he can quickly recall a given song and prepare it for radio airplay.
“This had to be 100 percent reliable,” he continued. “You simply can’t have a hard drive drop in a live recording situation. You can’t have the band play anything again live, so your system has to be able to handle long, 48-track programs, which I knew the A/V SAN could.”
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