Urban Rhythm Factory (URF) is a wholly owned subsidiary and audio post-production arm of the renowned Urban Brew Studios, the creative Johannesburg-based entertainment powerhouse that’s been the heart of the continent’s film and television production for the past 20 years. URF’s wide-ranging projects have included music and audio post production for Cold Sweat: A Race to the North Pole, South African sci-fi series Room 9, and music composition for Cartoon Network’s Pop-Up Party. It’s also been home to various South African historical documentaries, African wildlife features such as Wolhuter for Sky Vision UK and Raising Wildlife for Autentic in Germany, and children’s programming for South Africa’s YoTV.
At Urban Rhythm Factory’s Ferndale, Johannesburg campus, nine bustling studios focus on final mix, sound design, voiceover recordings, and foley, as well as custom music production and music publishing. URF prides itself on delivering premium service to its global clients. Looking to maintain its reputation for cutting-edge technology and create more production efficiencies, as well as better synergies with parent company Urban Brew Studios, URF decided the time was right for a far-reaching technology upgrade.
A regional first
Given the project’s scope and aggressive timeline for completion, URF called upon the region’s leading sound distributor Wild & Marr. “We knew Wild & Marr had the experience to bring the project to fruition,” says Theuns du Toit, head of Urban Rhythm Factory. “Their considerable expertise was invaluable in designing a holistic, high-performing and turnkey solution.” URF studios now boast one of the largest and most sophisticated post-production environments in Southern Africa, incorporating the latest technology offered today.
It’s also breaking new ground in the region. “Urban Rhythm Factory is the first audio post facility to feature the new Pro Tools | MTRX,” comments Ian Holden, head of Avid technical support and sales for Wild & Marr. “The MTRX is Avid’s newest I/O release that features a modular design capable of hosting a number of newer technologies such as MADI and Dante, as well as the ability to record up to 384khz DSD. It also includes Pro|Mon 2, giving you complete control over monitoring, talkback, summing and fold-down control, whether you’re mixing mono or a 64-channel ATMOS mix.”
Specialism by design
Now at the all-new Urban Rhythm Factory, nine studios are equipped with the latest industry-standard music and sound hardware. Every control room has its own primary booth as well as the capability to “cross patch/receive signal” from the adjacent booth into the same control room. This meets challenges that can arise when composers and audio engineers need to track and record two sources simultaneously, while maintaining separate control over each source.
Each studio is outfitted with the tools that best fit a given specialty. While some studios feature Pro Tools | MTRX, four others are dedicated to audio post production supported by Pro Tools | HD Native systems. Other studios cater to music composition and production through Pro Tools | HDX systems. Pro Tools | HDX may well be the heart of the upgrade, making it possible for URF to accommodate large, complex productions that might include dozens of audio sources, hundreds of tracks or thousands of clips.
Larger “live rooms” are designed to handle instrument recordings such as drums and other acoustic or electric instruments. Some of the studios are also equipped to accommodate 5.1 surround mixing productions.
Versatility meets efficiency
A range of other Pro Tools solutions support diverse sound functions. Pro Tools | HD OMNI, the versatile all-in-one preamp, interface and monitoring interface, can capture every performance nuance, including high-resolution audio through premium mic preamps, while Pro Tools | S3 and Pro Tools | Dock consoles provide intelligent control in portable, affordable surfaces. The URF teams turns to Pro Tools | Ultimate for top-of-the-line performance and quality audio software.
In addition to more powerful creative and production capabilities, the upgrade has alleviated the hurdles associated with full compatibility between studio systems, particularly when moving from file formats like ptf and ptx, and plugin formats like RTAS to AAX. Explains Theuns Du Toit, “All URF studios are now completely cross compatible from session to session, which increases efficiency, productivity and quality for us as a business, which were some of most important factors that we considered.”
All of the new Pro Tools solutions seamlessly integrate into Urban Brew Studios’ larger production ecosystem. “From a workflow perspective, there are tremendous advantages to practically function as one business,” says Theuns Du Toit, head of Urban Rhythm Factory. “We’re one of Africa’s leading content creators and studio facilities so our one-stop-shop capabilities—from concept creation scripting and pre-production all the way through post production, music and broadcasting—is a tremendous benefit to our customers.” It also makes it the choice of top international content creators.
Big opportunities, bigger responsibilities
The new upgrade was already given a successful test drive—a 13-episode comedy series produced end-to-end by Urban Brew Studios. “The client needed some music composed on the fly, as the show was quite particular,” explains Theuns Du Toit. “Our client was tremendously impressed by the quality of our new Pro Tools | HDX technology in the hands of our expert composers and engineers, especially in the amount of time allocated for the production.”
While URF has always relied on Avid stability, all nine URF studios are now running Avid Pro Tools, top to bottom. It helps that talented Pro Tools sound engineers are coming out of Avid-certified professional schools in South Africa, all of whom prefer the hardware and software to any other on the market today.
It’s a changing landscape across countries and continents and one that URF is now well prepared to embrace. “Producing content and providing production services globally is getting easier and easier as time goes by,” says Theuns Du Toit. “This makes it even more important to be competitive with quality. With the right focus on quality and efficient service, the well-deserved, big opportunities come our way.”
Learn how Pro Tools can open new doors of opportunity in sound.