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Do We Need a Post Production A/V Suite? (and what is one?!)
Old 4th June 2019
Gear Head

Do We Need a Post Production A/V Suite? (and what is one?!)


I teach at a university. We have a "recording technology" degree. Currently we have a studio with 24 ch SLL console, PT HDX system (dual 16 ch) and plenty of mic-pres and other outboard FX/processing, 500 series, etc.) as well as a pretty decent Mic Locker (U87, C414, MD421a, Coles 4038, Royer 121, Nueman KSMs, Shure LDCs and SDC along with the staple dynamics, etc.

We also have a 20 workstation Lab with iMacs, a small Avid "Mbox" type interface, a very basic 61 key controller, and Pro Tools and Sibelius on these (we also use them for Theory and Ear-Training so they have stuff like Teoria - that Avid educational suite).

We also have an 8 workstation lab with various equipment - 88 Key controllers, Moog synths, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Sibelius, Cubase, etc. all with various Interfaces and Control Surfaces, various outboard synths and processors, iMacs, and so on.

We have an additional space I want to convert into a place for students to work on Sound for Video. Of course we can import Video into anything and work with it in PT or LPX, but I envision a place where Student Composers can compose music to Video clips - "score movies" if you like, and where the Student Audio Engineers can do "Sound Design" for Film - Dialogue, Sound Effects, Foley, and so on.

I would like to have a dedicated space, and dedicated system for this.

Of course, budget is always (and primarily) a concern.

I'd love to have an "industry standard" and "cutting edge" facility, but they're just not going to pay for that.

But I suppose the first question is, do we even really need a "Post Production" system dedicated to that? Is that something students should be learning? (I would say yes, and what's happening is, we are between hires right now and will be hiring someone to teach this stuff, but it's not my forte).

I could just build another workstation students could use by scheduling it - so they have a private space to work on "in the box" projects without being bothered by other students in the lab working, or trying to schedule studio time (which we have to monitor and limit).

My feeling is, yes, we should have a dedicated space for this, and it's something our students would benefit from, but what it should involve is our of my wheelhouse. And we're not going to be able to afford to have anyone design the space or a system for it.

So here's my thinking:

1. iMac with Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, and Sibelius (if necessary) (loaded with extra RAM and Storage).

2. 5.1 Surround Monitor System.

3. External HD (couple of terabytes) for Audio and Video file storage. Probably would be the working Session disk.

4. Controller Keyboard.

5. Orchestral/Sample Library software.

6. Audio Interface - probably only need a couple of ins - an Apogee Duet might do it - most people wouldn't be recording much more than maybe dialogue or sound effects in there, though I could see someone recording Acoustic Guitar, or Violin, or things like that in there. But it would all be "one man band" type stuff - they're not going to bring in 3 players to record live - it would be one person over-dubbing acoustic inputs, and using MIDI tracks, VSTs, imported audio, etc. for the rest.

7. Additional Monitor for viewing - I think an HDMI compatible TV would be fine.

Here are some caveats:

A. We have site licenses for Sibelius and PT, and can get LPX and FCP installed on the iMac when we purchase the iMac. But, we can not buy Software without the purchase of a new computer! So if there is any special Mastering Software, like a Waves Bundle, or the Orchestral Sample Library, we have to get that all at once with this one computer. Will the standard iMac be enough? Do I need to move to the iMac Pro, or even, a Mac Pro?

B. I was shocked to look for surround sound monitor systems online and come up with only one option - the Genelec system (almost 4 grand). We had a Blue Sky system a long time ago but IIRC that required a PCI card of something of that nature. So is 5.1 not a thing anymore? I know 7.1 and ATMOS are the deal now (and I didn't search for them) but is that where I need to be headed? Can students learn the "basics of surround" on a 5.1 system? Or do I really need to go to 7.1 - and if so, what options are available (if not, what options are available for 5.1 beyond the Genelec)?

C. I assume an external HD (or 2) would be necessary. I don't think iMacs support a 2nd internal drive - previously we went with Tower Mac Pros (thouse 8 cores with 4 drive bays) but the little black Trash Can - not sure how additional drives fit in there. At any rate, if Thunderbolt is good enough and I can get some multi-terabyte drives, if I can do this it's probably cheaper overall (and you can move the drives around to take them to the Studio and other facilities to transfer files as necessary - most students actually have 2TB drives and beyond now, so they can do it themselves - but if I need at least 1 drive dedicated to A/V files, and/or VSTs/Sample Libraries, I need to do that.

D. No problem with Controller Keyboard. I can handle that. But, on that same subject - do I need some kind of Control surface either for the Surround Sound (or can that all be done in software bussing?) or say for Video Scrubbing and Transport that would make life easier?

E. I don't think the Audio I/F is a big issue either. I'm more concerned with students learning to use the tools to put sound to visual, and not necessarily producing Hollywood level CGI, or image, or sound quality. If it's 44.1 K audio and 720p video, that's not all that important for this setup. Again, it'd be ideal to have the best - but they're not going to be filming their own video in most cases (or will use a Go Pro, or iPhone if they do!).BUT, if there's anything I'm not thinking about WRT to audio and video throughput that an I/F should be handling, it'd be nice to know. If a Focusrite Scarlett will work, that's fine. Again, they're going to plug in a LDC, turn on Phantom Power, and record some audio. Or they're going to add Acoustic guitar into their VST score. As long as it gets them the experience of actually doing these things, even though the end result might not be the highest quality possible, it's better than what we can currently offer.

F. TV prices being what they are, I think as long as I can get an HDMI feed from the computer it will be fine - 2nd monitor for Mixer window, or for actual viewing - 4K UHD fine, but otherwise, a decent video monitor would be sufficient. Again, I know there's stuff about color-matching and what not, but for this room I think just getting them a space to be able to put sound to image in an environment more dedicated to that than what we already have is the important thing.

As I said earlier, budget is always a concern. Any device I buy must be over $500.00 or I can't get it. Even if its' $550 when I quote it, if someone sells it for $499.99 I can't get it (and sometimes jokers quote absurdly low and this messes us up). Fortunately, most of what I'm looking at is over a grand, and I can find Interfaces and Controllers in the 750-1000 range to have enough buffer we don't get undercut (it happens when products are discontinued too and we have to find a replacement - got burned on 6 drives once and could only get 5 of the newer model...)

Room treatment and all that is just going to have to come later.

I have to get the system in there.

So to recap, the uses I'd see are:

1A. Student Composers coming into the room to "Score for films", using both DAW and Notation Software with both Audio and VST tracks.

2B. Student Audio Engineers coming into the room to "put sound to film" which could include Dialogue, Sound Effects, Music, Imported Audio, etc., using, some of which might be recorded in the room but might otherwise be recorded in the studio and brought over (could be done by Box and stuff like that as well so that's no biggie).

3C. I'd want Final Cut Pro primarily because it's easy for us to purchase with a new Macintosh (so is LPX) and just for students to have access to the software. So many of them think that Pro Tools is the only software that exists on the planet and are rather snobby (in an inexperienced way) about it.

4D. I could see that if I built this resource, our department would want to start doing things like "Producing Videos of Recitals" - honestly, that's more the realm of our Communications department and we usually just provide them the audio feed or the raw recording from the even, but it would be something good for our students to learn. But that's a justification I can use - and especially if this starts that ball rolling, I can justify better and more elaborate systems and dedicated spaces in the future.

Help? Please?

Maybe a basic "bare bones" setup (but still beyond our basic PT DAW setups), a "really good but not quite pro" setup, and then a "pro" setup.

I realize that's a lot to ask and there are so many variables (which is why the detailed post).

Worst-case scenario, I'll just build a workstation in there with a pair of Studio Monitors and the software, and let the students sign up for times to do whatever projects they see the space useful for.

Thanks for any help you can give me!
Old 4th June 2019
Lives for gear

1. It can make sense to teach audio students the basics of post production. Depends on the educational scope of your university
2. Have someone write a business case for top management. What can the university gain from this? How much more can they earn with a dedicated post production course?
3. Hire someone very experience with audio post production to define the curriculum. Can be a project for an experienced freelancer if you don't have the head count open right now.
4. Buy the equipment needed for the curriculum. Is one workstation enough?

If you want specific advise on hardware (and this should be the last concern), get a Mac mini /iMac Pro with 2-3 screens, an Avid Omni, an Artist Control, a small 5.1 system (say Genelec), a PT Ultimate license, a basic sound library, a license of sound miner and a standard set of plugins.

Most enterprises or universities have contracts with an A/V systems integrator company. Have them l
Old 5th June 2019
Lives for gear
I’ve got a bit of involvement with college level film sound and post classes.

So +1 to kosmokrator’s third point: you need someone who understands this particular branch of the industry to help you design the course... hopefully, the person who will ultimately teach it.

Together, you can figure out what your students need to learn to actually survive in the field: creatively, technically, and as a valuable employee or business owner. Once you’ve done that, it’ll be easy to decide what equipment is necessary.

Otherwise, you’re just buying toys and not really providing a service to your students.
Old 6th June 2019
I have a question for the OP. How many of your current students find jobs in the audio industry? Will this additional equipment and staff have an impact on those numbers? It seems to me that there are so many institutions that are now offering training in audio production but the number of audio related jobs available are declining at an alarming rate. This is due to any number of factors but mainly it is the switch over to DIY studios and more and more companies having the video editors do all the tasks that use to be done by a separate audio person. It is hard to estimate how many audio engineers are graduated from schools such as yours but it has to be well over 50,000 per year yet if you do a quick search on the WWW there are less than 1000 audio related jobs advertised and it maybe closer to 500. What are the other 49,000 student going to do, start their own studio and be in competition with their fellow classmates? It think the supply far outweighs the need at the present time. FWIW
Old 6th June 2019
Actually, I'd approach it from a standpoint of "If you can't beat them, join them". Require all media students to learn basic audio production, and require all audio students to learn basic video editing. Crosstrain.
Teach the "why", not the "what with". Fancy toys are fine, but not everyone is going to have the same equipment available to them when out in the mean cruel world. It's true that video editors are faced with more and more audio tasks, but are least prepared for it. Understanding basic audio post - how to cut dialog, properly using compression, limiting and EQ to fix problems, how to mix music and FX against dialog, understanding and delivering compliant mix levels - all this can be applied to benefit any project, using most any software. 5.1, 7.1, Atmos, ect. is fun, but you can be a whole lot more employable if you get something to consistently sound great on a laptop.
Rant over...
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