Although most of the multichannel audio activity to date has been focused on remixing classic recordings for any number of surround media, Gizmo Enterprises co-owner Brian Mackewich and producer/engineer Rich Tozzoli are determined to focus on current product instead of archival material. To that end, they have created a multichannel-only label, 333 Entertainment, through which they plan to release new surround recordings, starting with the upcoming release Un Segundo, Una Vida (One Second, One Life), by Argentinian guitarist Hernán Romero.
“We're dedicated to multichannel sound,” says Mackewich. “It's become a huge passion in our lives.”
Tozzoli adds, “Every record I do now is conceived for multichannel, recorded and monitored in multichannel, mixed in multichannel and released in multichannel. It expands the marketability of each project. Plus, from a creative standpoint, I don't think I could go back to stereo only.”
On the Romero album, Tozzoli (who is co-producing with the artist, as well as engineering and mixing) and Mackewich (who engineered some of the material) insisted on tracking and monitoring every session with the surround platform foremost in mind.
“Monitoring in surround while you're recording is incredible,” says Tozzoli. “It allows you to move mic positions as needed, and it allows the musicians to fine-tune their performances according to the surround field.”
Tozzoli adds that the members of Romero's band bassist Mario Rodriguez, percussionist David Silliman and soprano saxophonist/flutist Oscar Feldman were already familiar with multichannel audio from recording and mixing the live album Trinity Church. However, the current studio project pushed the multichannel envelope for all the musicians and technicians involved.
“The whole band, including Hernán as a composer, understood surround because we had worked in the medium before,” says Tozzoli. “Everybody heard their parts in multichannel, and it positively affected their playing. When we were recording the strings, we knew they'd be around us. Whether that made Hernán compose differently, I don't know, but our headspace was surround from day one.”
Un Segundo, Una Vida was recorded primarily at the Clubhouse, a studio in nearby Rhinebeck, N.Y., that, at press time, was not yet open commercially, according to Mackewich.
“We tracked directly into Pro Tools through the Sony R-100 board,” says Mackewich. “I can't speak highly enough about the quality of that console. The preamps are outstanding, and the routing capabilities are awesome. We were able to work in the Clubhouse before the studio had its patchbay installed because the R-100 allowed us to route signals any way we needed to.”
The mic selection on the project included Sony 800Gs, B&K omnis and Alesis/GT models. Although there was some discussion about tracking the project at 24/96, Tozzoli and Mackewich decided instead to keep it at 24/48.
“We wanted to have the ability to control everything in-house, as well as be able to take the system into other rooms if necessary,” explains Mackewich. “We're extremely pleased with the quality. It's one of the few recordings I've been involved with where it actually sounds like the source.”
From a musical standpoint, Un Segundo, Una Vida touches on Latin, flamenco, jazz instrumental, jazz vocal, world music and even new age styles. Approximately half of its songs are sung, either in Spanish or in wordless vocals, and the rest feature Romero's fiery guitar as the lead instrument.
Although Mackewich's energy is focused on finishing the Romero album and plotting its eventual marketing campaign 333 is busy with other projects in development.
“If Gizmo is the four-walled, brick-and-mortar structure, then 333 is a liquid entity that goes out and searches for projects that fit our mission statement. We're really hoping the market develops for multichannel sound.”
Meanwhile, Gizmo a five-year-old post house with three Pro Tools-based recording studios and three Avid edit rooms is hopping with other activity, according to Mackewich.
“We just did a two-hour KISS documentary for MTV, some audio and video promo packages for the MTV Movie Awards, a series of spots for J. Brown Advertising and an ‘advergaming’ DVD-ROM for Cadillac,” he says. “There's never a dull moment around here.”
Better Lathe than Never: When Digi-Rom mastering engineer Paul Gold began thinking about acquiring a vinyl cutting lathe for the New York-based studio, he undertook a grass roots market research project that harkens back to the pre-digital age. He went around to all the record stores he could find and personally polled the owners or managers for their opinions on the wisdom of investing in vinyl.
“I was looking around for a way to make the studio busier,” says Gold. “While walking around the East Village and NYU area, I noticed all the record stores were record stores again. They actually carried vinyl! So I went into all these DJ-oriented stores and asked, ‘Do you think there's room in town for another lathe?’ Almost everyone said, ‘Definitely. Go for it!’”
A long Internet search turned up a Neumann VMS 62 Special (circa 1963) with an SX-74 cutter head (circa late '70s/early '80s), and '70s-era VG-66 cutting electronics.
“It was a difficult search, because lathes are extremely hard to find,” reports Gold, noting that Digi-Rom invested approximately $25,000 in the system. “I found this particular one through a broker in L.A. It was originally owned by Rite Records in Cincinnati and sold to an engineer in Marion, Ohio, in '96.”
Digi-Rom owner Harry Hirsch says the studio's vinyl investment reflects a resurgence of interest in the format.
“We're in the midst of a serious revival of vinyl as a distribution format for DJs,” he notes. “Two turntables and a mixer is the de facto standard in clubs.”
Although other New York mastering studios are still in the vinyl business servicing a combination of DJ clients and audiophile customers many facilities have sold their lathes and focused on digital rooms.
“With the advent of digital mastering, many studios and engineers no longer want to deal with the maintenance requirements of owning a lathe,” says Hirsch. “Only a handful of facilities in the metropolitan area can cut lacquers today. It's funny the weaknesses of vinyl, which inspired the CD, are now part of its strength. It can sound very different on different systems and remains very tactile. The art of DJ'ing is growing. Kids who may have bought a guitar 10 years ago are buying turntables now and riffing with records.”
Among Digi-Rom's vinyl customers are such labels as Island/Def Jam, Rockafella and Spitfire. Besides club DJs, the studio's target market includes indie rock acts, who in recent years have released their work on vinyl as well as CD and cassette.
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