Effanel Music turns 20 this year. Although the company is firmly established as one of the major remote recording operations in the greater metropolitan area, Effanel is changing with the times and the shifting nature of the business, says owner Randy Ezratty. The company has expanded to include audio post services at its West 25th Street facility, and Ezratty recently purchased a second AMS Neve Capricorn console.
"More than ever, it's important to maximize your resources-equipment and personnel," the owner explains. "I've got seven people working here, and two of them [lead mixer John Harris and Adam Blackburn, otherwise known as "Effanel's Next Big Thing"] are talented and sought-after mixers. We're not recording at remote locations every day, and so we needed to provide a place for them to be able to work further on the live concerts they've recorded.
"L7, our 48-foot, expanding-wall, mobile recording studio is the ultimate physical manifestation of Effanel's contrary ways," Ezratty says. "In 1980, the company was founded on the then-novel premise that you didn't need a control room or a truck to make good multitrack recordings. We built an entire portable recording system around John Stephens' brilliant 120-pound, 24-track, flight-cased tape recorders. We took that system all over the world-Mick Fleetwood in Ghana, Paul Simon in Zimbabwe, Peter Gabriel in Greece and U2 in Ireland [The Unforgettable Fire].
"In 1996, when miniaturization and portability had become commonplace, John Harris and I decided to build L7, the biggest-and, in our opinion, the baddest-mobile recording studio in the world," Ezratty continues. "Producers and artists really responded to the space. And with its 14-foot [expanded] width and 10-foot ceilings, we had built an ideal surround-mixing space just in time for DVD. The upgrade to a Capricorn digital console three years ago sealed our fate. With L7 and Capricorn, it was now possible for us to handle huge live shows that would have previously required two trucks. And in between remotes, we were booked solid, mixing CDs and DVDs. Post-production in L7 became so popular that we replicated its setup in our Manhattan studio."
Ergo, a dedicated move into the audio post field. "Correct. Remember, it takes time for our truck to get from point A to point B," says Ezratty. "While it's on the road, our guys are available. Over the years, clients have asked us to continue working projects through post. The Capricorn that we take on the road ends up with lots of data written into its memory. With the addition of a second, 72-fader console in-house, we can take that data and keep mixing a project while the truck heads off to another remote location."
The creative aspects of refining a mix balance out the highs that come with working live in the field. "We all got into this business because of the rush of live recording," Ezratty continues, "but we've been doing it a long time. Refining the work in post is part of our growth. Mixing and posting involves diving into the subtle aspects of the music, things that live recordists traditionally haven't had the opportunity to experience. DVD has particularly opened that area up for us. Right now we're mixing a Santana DVD. It's very exciting, but we're on week three of the project, and we can't wait to head off to Carnegie Hall tomorrow night to record Keith Jarrett."
Effanel has two 5.1 mixing environments, one at the studio and a second in their 14-foot-wide truck-that's the hydraulically expanded size it reaches on location, not the 8-foot width you pass somewhere north of Suffern on the New York State thruway. "My main comment about 5.1 mixing is that it's essential to commit to a monitoring system and not just bring in a couple of extra speakers," he says. "We voiced our room and our truck for our monitors. Before settling on our current Spendor 500 system, we bought more than one set of monitors. The Spendors are incredibly accurate and musical.
"Capricorn is also a fantastic platform-sonically spectacular and so refined in terms of its digital processing. The whole thing with any digital console is its power. We typically set up our A-to-Ds [either the Capricorn's own 20-bit converters or Apogee 8000s, which are 24-bit] next to the mics onstage. The signal is sent down a half-mile of fiber-optic cable to the board, and it's always crystal clear and in your face.
"I also want to point out how much we love our Otari RADAR II system," Ezratty continues. "It's joined at the hip with the Capricorn. It's a gorgeous-sounding hard disk recorder. We've gotten to the point where if we know we'll be mixing a project that starts out in another truck we'll specify that the client track to RADAR."
Harris has witnessed the evolution of Effanel, and the live recording business, since he started working at the company about a dozen years ago. The perennial choice as lead mixer for the Grammy broadcast, Harris recently won an Emmy for his work on the show. He also has handled live sound on numerous Unplugged segments.
"Much has changed since I began my career as a live recording specialist," says Harris. "Most of it for the better. It used to be that the guy who recorded a live performance hardly ever saw the tapes after the show. In most cases, the artist's studio engineer would mix the recordings, sometimes with great results, but more often than not, losing the energy and the essence of the performance. But as our craft has matured, some of us road guys have been invited to take our recordings through the final mixing stages. And I couldn't be happier. One skill bolsters the other.
"As for tools, the advent of high-powered digital consoles has been the greatest single step forward in our endeavor to faithfully capture an artist's performance," he continues. "With my trusty Capricorn console in tow, I've been able to generate real-time broadcast mixes that have led more than a few artists and producers to ask me to mix the CD and DVD afterlifes of their live performances. The 5.1 format is ideal for concert recordings, and I've enjoyed 'pioneering' that mixing style with DVDs by Santana, the Dave Matthews Band, the VH1 Divas, and Eric Clapton."