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METAlliance Perches at Blackbird Studio

When the METAlliance held one of its legendary two-day recording retreats at Nashville's Blackbird Studios in January, Mix was there to take it all in.

In Studio D, engineers Chuck Ainlay, left, and Elliot Scheiner turn away from the API console to talk to attendees.
In Studio D, engineers Chuck Ainlay, left, and Elliot Scheiner turn away from the API console to talk to attendees.

The Music Engineering & Technology Alliance (METAlliance), a select group of noted recording engineers/ producers who advise and consult on all things audio, held a two-day weekend recording program at Blackbird Studios, Nashville, in late January.

Each day included two four-hour sessions in multiple studios, each hosted by a different engineer, with attendees in groups of no more than 10 people per session.

Sylvia Massy and Niko Bolas, Studio A

Day 1 started in Studio A with Sylvia Massy and Niko Bolas tracking recording artist Sonia Leigh. Studio A’s perfectly restored Neve 8078 console easily handled the completely different approaches that the two engineer/producers took. Each described their mic choices and precise positioning: Bolas was meticulous out in the studio, “dialing-in” each mic, while Massy proved that she is a constant experimenter, with both quirky mic choices and non-standard placement and processing.

Frank Filipetti and George Massenburg, Studio C

Studio C is a unique mixing room with completely diffusive ceiling and wall surfaces, designed back in 2004 by George Massenburg. He and Filipetti discussed the differences between Dolby Atmos, Sony RA360 and Auro-3D as Studio C has calibrated monitoring for all three immersive formats. Massenburg played some of his recent work with Alicia Keys and Earth, Wind & Fire, while Filipetti played immersive mixes from Korn and George Michael. This was an unbelievable experience.

Chuck Ainlay and Elliot Scheiner, Studio D

Day 2 started in Studio D with Chuck Ainlay and Elliot Scheiner tracking some of Nashville’s finest session players with producer Jon Randall, sitting at an 80-channel API console. Using the Nashville number system, they went through the birth of a song, from demo to refining its arrangement to vocal production to creating a rough mix. Using parallel front ends, each engineer set up his own mics, so it was possible to compare two different drum kit sounds, as well as the differences in piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar.

Jimmy Douglass, Studio F

Jimmy Douglass showed his complete Atmos mixing process for Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience. He provided a one-of-a-kind peek inside his workflow, and talked about his discovery of certain limitations of Atmos and his early struggles with the format. He must have figured it out, as the Atmos mix was fantastic!

The METAlliance Report – The METAlliance on Miking