Thursday, December 1, 2022

Chris Lord-Alge chooses Focusrite RedNet for his new Dolby Atmos® setup

Chris Lord-Alge is a five-time GRAMMY®-winning mix engineer who has Green
Day, Keith Urban, Madonna, and Rod Stewart among his clients. He has
recently upgraded Studio A at his MIX L.A. complex for Dolby Atmos® work,
facilitated by an interface and converter infrastructure based on Focusrite
RedNet components. The Dante®-networked RedNet setup helps interconnect
two Avid Pro Tools workstations and a new 9.1.4 Ocean Way Audio speaker
system with Chris’ beloved Solid State Logic SL4064E mixing console.
Chris has had to rethink his long-established workflow with the addition of the
new immersive audio capabilities in Studio A, but with encouragement from
various industry colleagues, he says, “I decided to make the leap into the
unknown and finally eliminate all the vintage gear that was connecting my
audio to the console.”

For many years, Chris’ mixing workflow required projects to be initially
transferred to a 48-track Sony DASH tape machine, which he favoured for the
performance of the converters and the metering (he eventually eliminated all
use of tape and just used the machine’s converters). He has now replaced that
machine with a Pro Tools HDX rig, operating at 96 kHz/48-bit, that feeds a pair
of Focusrite RedNet HD32R 32-channel HD Dante network bridges. Using
Dante Controller, Chris selects the tracks for distribution over the Dante
network through four Focusrite RedNet A16R MkII 16-channel analogue
interfaces and into the mixing desk. His stereo mix from the console is then
routed back through one of the A16R MkII units and an HD32R HD Bridge and
captured in the Pro Tools computer.

The converters in the A16R MkII units offer a noticeable improvement in
performance over the DASH machine, Chris says, plus he no longer has the
hassles of his former setup, where he had to synchronize the DASH machine
and two Pro Tools rigs. “Once I figured out what level worked and the
headroom, I found the sound of the A16R MkII was much better and clearer
and more open,” he reports.

For more information about Focusrite RedNet A16R MkII, visit:
https://pro.focusrite.com/category/audiooverip/item/rednet-a16r-mkii
A second Pro Tools system is now dedicated solely to mixing in Dolby Atmos,
which is natively 48 kHz/24-bit. “I get a great stereo mix of the record with all
my colours of analogue gear and an analogue console, and we break that out.
Once I’ve done my stereo mix and I’ve created all the stems I need for Atmos,
into computer number two they go. So, my Atmos mixes are made from stems
that are created with all the vintage outboard gear. Then computer number
two with the Dolby renderer becomes my second playback system,” stated
Chris.

“The second Pro Tools system doesn’t need I/O because it’s all in-the-box,” he
continues. “All I need is one RedNet PCIeR Card, which gives me 128 channels
over Dante at 48/24, connecting through a Mac Mini as the Dolby renderer. So
Pro Tools can send 128 objects to the renderer and the monitoring. None of
this would be possible without RedNet.”

While it does take some time to print all the stereo stems from his mix and
create a session for the second Pro Tools system for mixing in Atmos, Chris
says, “At this point in time, that is the way that works for me. I use the Atmos
computer and the renderer for the object placement and the three-
dimensionality of the mix. But for the actual nuts and bolts of creating the
sonics inside the mix, I use my stereo rig.”

The MIX L.A. complex is now fully wired for Dante and RedNet, he says. “The
whole room is networked with RedNet and so is my new studio next door. We
can capture from there; they can capture from here. I’m able to use Dante to
connect to my other studios and move forward into the future. And it works
seamlessly.”

Chris, who by his own estimate has mixed more than 25,000 tracks in stereo,
admits that he is a Dolby Atmos novice: “I am completely a newbie. But I’m
learning about the future, about how it works and what can be done.” To that
end, he says, he has received welcome support from the Focusrite team in the
US.

“The Focusrite support is undeniably amazing,” Chris says. “Because it’s one of
those things that, once you get the puzzle pieces correct, it boots and works
every time. But you have to understand how it works, and I didn’t.”
He does have some reservations about some of the Atmos music mixes that he
has heard, though. “As soon as you go into Atmos with some records,
everything’s exposed. Once you start to unglue it, it doesn’t have the same
impact that you remember and it becomes more about, ‘Wow, I never heard
that part.’ Well, maybe you weren’t supposed to hear that part. And this is the
problem I have with it. I feel that a lot of records have been pulled apart and
have revealed the ugly side of the song, not the good side.”

Live performances delivered in Dolby Atmos in a theatre could provide the best
listener experience, he believes. “I feel you should be able to go into a theatre
and hear these live concerts remixed in Atmos and take advantage of the
three-dimensionality of it. Because when you’re in a concert, it is three-
dimensional. So, if you could actually do that in a theatre, I think it’d be
exciting.”

Chris may be a relative beginner where immersive music mixing is concerned,
but he is determined to be successful at it: “I like to win. I like to have the
edge. And the only way to stay ahead is to find your own path with Atmos,” he
says. “I’m just letting my ears decide what works. But you know, it’s a fun ride
every day, so I’m enjoying it.”

Find out more about Focusrite RedNet products visit:
https://pro.focusrite.com/category/audiooverip

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