Nashville is rapidly becoming a Pro Tools town. Few majorconventional facilities can get by without at least a basic systemin house, and the number of large systems in personal use isballooning. That's prompting some fundamental changes in thestudios business here, as well as creating a host of newopportunities.
The infusion of Pro Tools has inspired studio JamSync, one ofthe city's earliest PT champions, to offer Pro Tools data transfersto various other formats — including 24-track analog and MDMformats — as a stand-alone service.
“It's funny. Transfers were something that we always justdid as part of a Pro Tools project,” notes K.K. Proffitt,chief engineer and co-owner, with her husband Joel Silverman, ofthe three-year-old studio, whose core business has been digitalaudio for corporate and special-interest video. “But more andmore people began to come in and needed to have their audiotransferred to Pro Tools, to the point where it made sense to offerit as a service.”
Proffitt — who stresses that she has been working in ProTools for a decade, long before it surfaced in the Nashville marketand when it was often derided as sonically inferior — addsthat where the transfer business clientele is coming from is alsointeresting. “It's from studios that I've never heardof,” she says. “A lot of home studios, personalstudios, project studios; ones that had invested in ADAT or DA-88as their main format. Now they're coming to transfer to Pro Toolsso they can go and edit, tweak and mix.”
(JamSync also added another New Economy-type service this year:doing “upmixes” — creating a multichannel audiomaster from a stereo one using phase, EQ and other techniques toextract and isolate audio elements — and then authoring themto DVD-R discs, which serve essentially as previews for recordlabels considering catalog reissues in a multichannel format.)
If the Pro Tools phenomenon seems to be hitting Nashville a bitlate, compared to New York, L.A. and Miami, then it's worthremembering that Nashville's studio community was the first as agroup to significantly embrace digital audio in the late 1980s,particularly the Pro-Digi 32-track format, and later the 48-trackDASH format. There was a time, in the early 1990s, when Nashvillehad more digital multitracks than either New York or Los Angeles.The major difference is that this technological round of renewal iscoming from the bottom up, not from on-high at the city's majorfacilities. Milan Bogdan, general manager at East Iris, agrees.“Studios at this level in Nashville adding Pro Tools havebeen driven by demand from beneath, definitely,” he says.“It's not the [major] studios that are driving it this time.This time, the studios are reacting to a trend. But that's the wayit's supposed to work. There's certainly no shortage of Pro Toolssessions; the session we're doing now with John Hiatt is the only24-track analog session we've done since November.”
Predictably, Pro Tools proliferation has drawn considerableresponses from major facilities. In March, Sound Stage opened itsDrive-Thru studio, centered on a large Pro Tools systems with a40-fader Pro Control. “It's definitely in response to clientdemand,” says studio manager Michael Koreiba. “But ourapproach is that everyone using Pro Tools on their own has certainlimits. We see that as clients come in because their drives arecompletely full. We say, when you've maxed out your system, come inhere and let us take it from there.”
Jim Stelluto, partner in Entropy Recording, watched his businessgo from recording band practice at rehearsal facility Soundcheck tobecoming a full-blown, Pro Tools-based tracking facility usingSoundcheck's 80×40 room. “Now there's so much Pro Toolsin Nashville that you have to have something — in our case,the large tracking room — that differentiates one Pro Toolsstudio from another,” he observes.
The project studio was slow to arrive in Nashville, but now thatit's here, it's proliferating at a very rapid rate. And, in theprocess, it's creating an ad hoc new audio infrastructure inNashville: more personal/project studios based on hard diskrecording and more conventional studios adding technologies andservices to support them the minute the bedroom or garage dooropens.
In other news, noted Nashville studio designer Steve Durrhas merged his firm, Steven Durr & Associates, with A/V projectmanagement and installation company Broadcast Marketing Associates.The new entity is called Durrell, and its newly combinedcapabilities will broaden both its customer base and its range ofcompetencies, Durr says.
Coda: A wag once described the U.S. and England as similarcultures separated by a common language. Nashville and Austin,Texas, have had the same sort of relationship; the fence they sharebeing country music. So here's a little gem on that topic I ranacross. Take it for what it's worth. From Brett Sokol's report inthe Miami New Times on the South by Southwest musicconference in Austin last March: “…Austin itself hasbecome something of an exiled Grand Ole Opry, maintaining the sametortured love-hate relationship with Nashville that Miami's Cubanexiles enjoy with Havana: a longing to return to what's seen astheir cultural wellspring, mixed with a loathing for a regimeviewed as illegitimate usurpers.”
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