Interview of Paul Mac from CineLab about DDP's spectacular results

CineLab is a very impressive audio post production facility. Whatever way you look at it, builds like this are rare and deserve celebration. Paul Mac goes on a tour of this latest Russian marvel...

Paul Mac talks about CeneLab:

"We should be absolutely clear from the start that CineLab SoundMix is a dedicated audio post production facility. Why do we have to make that clear? Well, because the basic room list goes on a little longer than sound people are used to. Also, the kit, the build, the quality of finish, and the quality of the staff, are all very special. Indeed, White Mark Limited, the acoustic and architectural consultancy entrusted with this project is no stranger to large projects, but David Bell, White Mark's Managing Director, says SoundMix has certainly been its biggest project to date. And it has to be said from the start that the results are pretty spectacular.

There are four main mix rooms, two ADR studios, seven editorial rooms, a dedicated Foley studio, and the ‘Universal’ studio (more like a music facility for soundtrack recording and mixing), and much more.

The studio is located on the North West outskirts of Moscow, Russia. It's a beautiful city, so there's lots of potential outside the studio walls, as well as inside. I was given an extensive tour of the facility by the Managing Director of SoundMix, Vadim Nerukhov; the Managing Director of White Mark Limited, David Bell, and the CEO of CineLab, Denis Glinsky."

The Tour

SoundMix has four main mix rooms. The first three are equipped with Pro Tools and Avid System 5 surfaces. The two largest, M1 and M2, have 96-fader System 5 frames and can mix over 600 channels each. M3 has a 48-fader System 5 surface with 184 channels to mix.

All three rooms have recently gained Dolby Premier certification. M4 is more of a pre-mix suite and has an Avid Icon surface installed with 5.1 monitoring.

M1 has both 35mm and DCP projection, while M2 has DCP (35mm via telecine). Both now have colour-grading facilities in too.

All the mix rooms are an impressive size, especially M1 and M2, which both have generous (and luxurious) seating provision in front of the mix position, complete with bass-shakers.

The rooms are comfortable, attractive, but also very functional and professional.

There are two ADR studios at SoundMix, both are a good size with large isolation booths, Pro Tools systems, and Euphonix Artist Series controllers. The two are orientated differently so the studio can cater for those who prefer the talent to be either to the side or in direct line-of-sight. Monitoring is 5.1 and a range of pre-amps are available in each studio, including Summit Audio, Grace Design, and TL Audio.

According to David Bell, White Mark's aim in the ADR studios was to make the control room/booth arrangement “As intimate as possible whilst acknowledging that in Russia, and a lot in America, they like to do it with a separate control room.” There are large windows between the two, incorporating a folded glass design that avoids a potentially damaging specular reflection from what would normally be a large flat surface.

What's particularly striking about the ADR studios (and other rooms around the complex) is that space, while plentiful, is not wasted. The room feels comfortable, not cramped.

Music Makers

The ‘Universal Studio’ is a self contained facility inside SoundMix that is based on a more traditional music studio model with a large orchestral live area (with Steinway D-274), two isolation booths (one high, one low absorption), plus a control room with a 48-fader System 5 console, Pro Tools, and a bespoke 5.1 Exigy monitoring system. Obviously its uses are many, but soundtracks spring to mind immediately, as well as the usefulness of a good-sized recording space for things like crowd recordings and so on. In this latter example, a generous provision of heavy curtaining should provide much of the absorption necessary to make this practical.

However, as a live room it was also felt that a more finely adjustable acoustic might also be a nice thing. This starts with a control system, even for the curtains, so that specific areas of the room can be deadened. This is in conjunction with slatted ceiling elements that can be rotated, revealing absorbent material behind, as well as other portable elements.

Settings for the variable acoustics can be saved and recalled. Vadim Nerukhov suggested that this system might be more used for post production duties than with straight music recording sessions, but the fact that it is available at all is completely in line with the CineLab aim of making every space as flexible as possible, and trying to cater for as many different clients as possible without compromise.

As well as these main facilities, there are a variety of other spaces around CineLab, including sound effect/sound design suites, artist/client lounges, a central machine room, transfer suite, and so on. 

Core Competence

CineLab SoundMix is impressive – from the moment you reach the front door it is obvious that the objective from the start was to create an exceptional audio post production facility, without compromise. The building, the structures, the interiors, the equipment, and the staff all have a part to play in the whole, but perhaps the most important contributors to future success will be the key pillars of service, relationships, and excellence that have been etched into the very foundations of CineLab itself.

IT Infrastructure around ClineLab SoundMix is based on a centralised hard disk storage system, sophisticated KVM switching and control, and SSL MADI-X8 MADI routing systems, amongst other things.

Every workstation in the facility works from the same storage array via iSCSI technology, which is the Ardis Technologies DDP (Dynamic Drive Pool) system, with SSD devices for audio and magnetic disks for video. This essentially means that multiple workstations are accessing and you playing a session from the same logical disk space. All of the console DSP, outboard, and matrix switching for the four ‘M’ studios and several of the others are stored in one room. The outboard routing is done via the MADI matrix so that every room can whatever outboard it requires at that time, easily patch with the SSL Logictivity browser-based control software.Another MADI matrix is used to connect all of the Dolby equipment – encoders and processors – for patching around the facility.

The Universal Studio is connected to the rest of the facility with a variety of exchange lines, including AES and MADI. This allows other control rooms around the facility to use the large live room when necessary, without disturbing the Universal Studio control room.

A large KVM switching system allows any terminal in any studio access to any workstation.

It's also worth mentioning that CineLab SoundMix is, at the time of writing, the only film sound company in Russia to have been granted the CDSA certificate for high standards in anti-piracy and content protection – an endorsement that could be very important to a wide client base.