Technicolor (Paramount)

With state-of-the-art stages and award-winning sound teams, Technicolor chooses Avid to drive its new 900,000 sq. foot complex.

As Paramount Pictures celebrates its 100-year anniversary in 2012, its post-production sound outlet, Technicolor, will be doing some additional celebrating of its own. The division just opened the doors to its new three-story sound facility on the Paramount lot, featuring the latest state-of-the-art systems to enhance the team’s motion picture and broadcast production workflows. Their systems of choice: Avid.

“The new facility will comprise a high-density, one-stop sound facility,” explained Curt Behlmer, EVP of creative services and COO of worldwide digital cinema at Technicolor, before the first phase of the new complex opened. “Avid represents an ideal workflow solution, with its seamless integration of System 5 digital consoles with EUCON connectivity and Pro Tools digital audio workstations, in addition to Media Composer-based Nitris DX servers for HD video picture playback. Film and broadcast post production is a highly collaborative process; we went with the Avid solution because it offers us the most time- and cost-effective workflow, with a focus on end-to-end flexibility.”

Housed within the original footprint of Paramount’s Crosby Building and Stage 10, the new complex occupies close to 90,000 square feet and is designed to accommodate a wide variety of audio post-production projects, from feature films and TV shows to games, commercials, and new media. When it’s fully completed, it will feature a total of eight re-recording stages—two large theaters, plus two medium-size and four smaller rooms—as well as three ADR stages, eight sound design suites, 16 editorial rooms, and two 7.1-channel HD video layback/QC rooms.

State-of-the-art stages, award-winning sound teams

The two large theaters are the new home bases for two teams of award-winning sound mixing veterans. Re-recording mixers Scott Millan (The Help, The Bourne trilogy, Ray, Gladiator) and Greg Russell (Transformers trilogy, Spider-Man trilogy, Pearl Harbor, The Usual Suspects) occupy Stage 1, while re-recording mixers Anna Behlmer (Puss in Boots, Thor, Star Trek, Kung Fu Panda) and Terry Porter (The Smurfs, Spirited Away, The Lion King, Rain Man) reside in Stage 2. Both stages feature identical 80-fader, 746-input System 5 digital consoles, each connected to seven 64-MADI I/O channel Pro Tools|HD systems for playback (of over 1,300 audio tracks) and a 128-channel Pro Tools rig for recording stems and print-mastering mixes.

 Film and broadcast post production is a highly collaborative process; we went with the Avid solution because it offers us the most time- and cost-effective workflow, with a focus on end-to-end flexibility.
Curt Behlmer, EVP of creative services and COO of worldwide digital cinema, Technicolor

“We did some initial mixes for our current project, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, with director Tommy Wirkola, on several stages here at Technicolor,” Russell recalls, “and the sound compatibility was amazing—our mixes also translated perfectly to outside theaters.”

“The System 5’s unique combination of DSP power and—using EUCON—ability to work within the box with all of the power of Pro Tools, is new to us,” Millan explains. “But that hybrid process is an ideal scenario: taking advantage of the DAW horsepower you can utilize by writing automation in-the-box, but still mixing on a traditional, high-grade platform.”

Russell agrees, adding, “I am very excited about its capabilities. With EUCON, we can reach into the tracks and make any necessary changes to plug-in settings, for example, while having full access through layering to whatever we need to bring to the on-surface controls in front of us. It is an easy-to-learn format that is going to bring a lot of power to our motion picture projects.”

Behlmer confesses that the studio actually chose the System 5 before any of the mixers had joined the Technicolor family. “We [selected] the consoles for the larger Stage 1 and Stage 2 without talent attached, which is unusual,” he admits. “But we knew that the System 5 would offer the mixing power, flexible connectivity, and enhanced digital workflow that our re-recording mixers would need to remain competitive and, in turn, let them offer the kind of services our director and producer clients now look for from the new Technicolor at Paramount operation. Filmmaking is a highly collaborative, time-critical process—the System 5 was absolutely the right choice!”

Stages 5–8—the smaller rooms—all feature 48-fader, 368-input System 5 consoles, each linked to five Pro Tools|HD playback rigs and a 128-channel Pro Tools recorder. These stages currently handle re-recording projects for a number of successful TV shows, including Criminal Minds, Castle, and Revenge for ABC, Vampire Diaries for Warner Bros., Glee and American Horror Story for Fox, Dexter for Showtime, and Hung for HBO.

“The System 5 is a really good control surface that’s a pleasure to mix on,” says re-recording mixer Andre Perreault (Criminal Minds, Vampire Diaries, Army Wives, Monk), who has been with Technicolor for more than a dozen years and mixes in Stage 5. “The full integration of EUCON, which lets me access and automate every control plug-in directly from the [System 5], is a major timesaver… Each stage has at least one ‘toy box’—a dedicated 64-channel Pro Tools system loaded with every available plug-in on the market. The setup is really something else!”

 With Avid System 5, Pro Tools, and a fully integrated digital workflow, it was certainly done right; Technicolor has built a world-class post facility.
Greg Russell

A work in progress

Two of the three ADR stages are open and feature 24-fader ICON D-Command control surfaces, each with 32-channel Pro Tools systems. Stages 3 and 4 (the medium-size rooms) are set to be completed in Phase 2 later this year (along with the remaining ADR/animation stage, eight sound design rooms, and 16 editorial suites) and will house identical 80-fader/746-input System 5 consoles, each connected to seven 64-channel Pro Tools|HD playback rigs and a master Pro Tools recorder. The sound design rooms and editorial suites will be equipped with a choice of Avid C|24, ICON D-Command, or Artist Series control surfaces, each linked to multichannel Pro Tools workstations.

Once the facility is fully updated to Pro Tools 10, all of the re-recording stages will be able to mount Pro Tools volumes directly from the centralized data store. “With Pro Tools 10, our workflow will be dramatically enhanced, both in terms of speed and asset management,” explains Michael Novitch, chief engineer of Technicolor sound services. “Avid Satellite Links also dramatically streamline the synchronization of audio and video playback systems via Ethernet connections—an operator simply mounts the appropriate drive and hits play.”

Built for the future

“We believe strongly in using appropriate technologies to ensure our new facility remains at the leading edge of sound post production,” Behlmer stresses. “This multi-room, ground-up complex represents Technicolor’s first foray into offering theatrical re-recording stages. Compatibility between all eight stages is of crucial importance to us, since we know that films often require access to a variable number of stages during pre-dubbing and print mastering, and mixes often need to move from stage to stage. We looked at a number of solutions and when we saw that the System 5 offered full control of Pro Tools from the surface via EUCON connections, it was the final and decisive piece in our jigsaw.”

“Paramount Studios has never had a complete post production facility,” Russell concludes. “It was exciting to talk with [Paramount Film Group president] Adam Goodman two and a half years ago regarding the possibility that they might open a full-scale post facility. At the time, he asked me, ‘If we build it, will you come?’—right out of Field of Dreams! I replied, ‘If it's done right, I would absolutely consider it.’ With Avid System 5, Pro Tools, and a fully integrated digital workflow, it was certainly done right; Technicolor has built a world-class post facility.”