From the Guild
TODD-AO GETS MAKEOVER
Stage 1 at Todd-AO West. Photo by Ed Colver
Todd-AO Hollywood Gets Euphonix Makeover––and Minkler Too
by Michael Kunkes
Post-production sound company CSS Studios (formerly Ascent Media) has concluded a yearlong upgrade process to the two large re-recording theatres at its Todd-AO facility in Hollywood. In addition, to solidify and demonstrate its commitment to the facility, CSS has moved three-time Best Sound Academy Award-winning re-recording mixer Michael Minkler has to Stage 1 at Todd-AO Hollywood after a 15-year run at the Santa Monica facility.
Minkler, who has shared Oscars for Dreamgirls (2006), Chicago (2002) and Black Hawk Down (2001), is christening the newly appointed and historic Stage 1 (the onetime home of Glen Glenn Sound) in high style with fellow mixer Tony Lamberti, creating the final mix for The Weinstein Company’s upcoming August 21 release of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. The company has not yet made an announcement on who will replace Minkler at Todd-AO West, though various strategies are being considered.
On the technology front, Todd-AO’s Stages 1 and 2 are now each equipped with brand new Euphonix S5 digital dual-position 500-plus-channel hybrid mixing consoles, bringing to eight the number of Euphonix consoles spread between the Todd-AO Hollywood and Lantana/Santa Monica facilities. Each system also features a ProTools 48-track stem recorder, five 64-channel ProTools HD source systems, one 32-channel ProTools Mix source system, high-resolution TFT console screens, a virtual VTR HD playback system and all new digital projection systems.
Inglourious Basterds re-recording mixers Mike Minkler, left, and Tony Lamberti.
Photo courtesy of CSS Studios
Minkler spoke briefly about the mix on Basterds: “As a writer-director, dialogue is number one to Quentin; a Tarantino movie is all about words and performances. Everything else––including music and sound effects––complements that, and if it doesn’t, then it does not go in the movie.
“Quentin does not want anything to distract attention from the dialogue,” Minkler continues. “In many scenes in this movie, backgrounds are almost null, totally quiet; and then there are times when he is really complex with sound effects, so he tugs and pulls at you with the soundtrack. We knew going in that there were going to be a lot of long dialogue scenes, and our philosophy was to stay away and let them live on their own, because it was all about the performances.” Minkler says that his and Lamberti’s job involved cleaning up the dialogue, making it sound natural and focusing on the words. “We didn’t have to think about anything else––except for the scenes where he likes to rough and tumble it up,” he says. “Quentin has his own way of doing that as well, and its very rhythmic.”
Elaborating, Minkler explains, “Quentin uses all production sound; he will not loop. He will even go back and re-shoot on location for sound, one of the very few directors who would ever think about doing that. It’s difficult for me as a mixer because it’s got to be really good. There is nowhere to hide in a lot of scenes; no backgrounds or sound effects or music or layers of dialogue. He wants the good sound, not only from the voices but from the production sound effects tracks as well.”
The Euphonix System 5 console. Courtesy of Euphonix.
Both of the new Euphonix System 5 consoles have 80 faders, include more than 400 DSP channels, and come with EuCon Hybrid that enables the console to control not only the Euphonix DSP channels but also the external ProTools HD DAWs that are installed on Stages 1 and 2 at Todd-AO Hollywood. ProTools channels and Euphonix DSP channels can be placed anywhere on the console surface and mixed simultaneously, a unique feature of the System 5.
“We’ve worked very hard to upgrade these two rooms at Todd-AO,” says Andrew Wild, Euphonix’ vice president of marketing. “The EuCon hybrid allows the console surface to talk to any of our DAW partners, including ProTools, Apogee, Steinberg’s Nuendo and CuBase. Our goal is not just to stay within the world of DSP, but also to allow mixes to go out in whatever applications are chosen. This is true for all our products, from the modular Artists Series all the way to our big film consoles. It’s all about how we connect to the world outside.” Wild also added, “ Every year since 2001, a mixing team working on a Euphonix console has been nominated for an Academy Award, so we are thrilled to have Mike Minkler move over to mix in this completely rebuilt facility.”
Minkler says he has been a Euphonix fan for over 15 years, when he took some time off to look at various console manufacturers and help develop more integrated digital audio mixing technology, then in its infancy. “One of those trips was to Euphonix,” says the re-recording mixer. “They said they were going to build a digital console, and asked how I would like it to look. The biggest things I am looking for, I told them, are multiple and bigger surfaces, accessibility and visibility. Six years later, I got a phone call from them, basically saying, ‘We built it.’ I was working with Myron Nettinga at the time, and we were impressed!” Minkler’s second movie on a Euphonix console, Black Hawk Down, earned his him first Oscar.
Re-recording mixer Michael Minkler. Photo courtesy of CSS Studios.
“What I have always liked is that the digital flow on the Euphonix is fantastic and its processors are first-rate, as opposed to editing devices that people try to use as mixing consoles, which have very limited processing capabilities––they just don’t have the horsepower,” Minkler says. “I am also a big fan of these consoles because of that visibility and accessibility to all the tracks; they make the workflow easy and intuitive,” he continues. “I don’t have to go looking around for things, there’s no difficulties building up or shrinking down the console, going from one format to another, or in finding and processing tracks easily and quickly. I can almost operate it blindfolded, and that’s saying something for a console that has all the functionality and sophistication that this one has.”
Minkler says that he is very pleased to have the opportunity to work on Todd-AO Hollywood’s historically significant Stage 1. “Recently, Tom Kobayashi, who originally built this room for Glen Glenn sound, came over and was very impressed by what we are doing here,” he said. “It’s one of the largest stages in Los Angeles, and it’s a comfortable, friendly and fun place to work. I am looking forward to seeing where we go from here.”
For more information, see www.cssstudios.wordpress.com and www.euphonix.com.
Michael Kunkes is a freelance editor and writer specializing in animation, production and post-production. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.