What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
First and foremost, it's "Why should I need a surround mix?" There are multiple answers. First of all because it's safe, you never know what's the next main format will be and as driverless cars develop, there will be a home cinema onboard and you don't want to miss this. Next of course is that your music may be used for music-to-picture or video games. The sync business is ever growing and that's an option one should very seriously consider. Next, having a surround mix allows a very fine tuning for the stereo downmix, your mastering engineer will love you even more than if you bring him stems. And the cherry on the cake lies in the fact that it's also quite easy to derive a binaural mix from the 5.x version, and nowadays, lots of people listen to music mainly with headphones. Why not give them far more than a crappy mp3 ?
The other big question is "How do I listen to the surround mix to exhange with you about your work?" Here again, prejudice is strong that you will need to burn a specially encoded DVD, which need to be sent by the post, so it takes ages. For optimum workflow, I simply send you a lossless encoded 5.1 FLAC file that most if not all recent DVD/BluRay player will read from a USB drive or network storage. There are also tons of software, free or not, that will allow you to play those files using your usual studio setup. My favourite is Triumph for the Mac, but I also use VLC a lot. Of course, you will still need a decent speaker setup ;-)
Analog or digital and why?
[laughter] Full digital — period. You see, I'm not young. The all analog warmth, presence, bla-bla, I've been there, done that. It's not that it wasn't great but honestly, we just had no choice. I remember too well mixing 48 tracks with two Studer synchronized with a Lynx module. Never again. The outboard? Great sounding, my a$$. Not two devices with the same sound, even when serial numbers follow, noisy, unreliable.
Most people I see now that are for the "all analog" were teenagers in the early 1990's. When they discovered and got passionate about music, it is true that they had the worse of what digital could be. But now, with 64bits floating point summing, DXD, DSD, analog is just not relevant anymore IF, and that's a big IF, you know what you are doing AND you know the sound you want to build. I've had all the outboard of dreams in my hands, I know what they do and I don't need them anymore to reproduce that.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
Technical details aside, I like to hear about the story behind the song or album. It helps me finding the right overall color and space of the track. I also pay a lot of attention to the lyrics, the instruments must tell the same story.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
To make sure that the track is indeed ready for mixing. Meaning that everything is correct time and tune wise and that all the artistic decisions the team could make are final. That being said, there is always room for constructive talk...
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I started in 1984 in a recording studio attached to a music store where I was in charge of the keyboards and midi equipment. Then moved to London in 1988 at Roundhouse Studios, then Paris in 1990 where the Studios Davout became my second home for a decade or so. I started a first sourround dedicated studio in 2005 up until 2009, but the industry was not ready, too afraid by the filesharing they could not and still have not understood. Now there is a clear move towards higher audio quality that led me to start this new studio.
Can you share one music production tip?
Make decisions on the spot, do not use technology to delay.
What type of music do you usually work on?
In my 30+ years in studio, I came across almost all types but now I confess a clear preference for music based mostly on acoustic or electro-acoustic elements. In other words, the more microphones, the merrier ;-)
What's your typical work process?
I love taking my time and mixing in surround is slightly more time-consuming than simple stereo as it requires more thinking ahead. Every element of the mix, position, effects, eq, etc. must really be fine tuned throughout the track, not only for the surround mix itself but also for stereo compatibility, which must be checked at all time. This is why I will mostly listen to a song during the first day, maybe making a few edits to limit tricky pan automations later on, setup eq and compression and call it a day. Then, the fx settings, reverbs, delays and modulations and then automation, often lots of it as surround offers far more fun than stereo.
Tell us about your studio setup.
Actually it's a dual setup. On the one hand, there's the mixing room that has been designed for critical surround monitoring, hence the choice of Focal monitors, Merging Technologies converter and Dangerous Music monitoring management and all cabled with Mogami. The selection of plugins was made with the same uncompromising spirit.
On the other hand, there is a portable setup comprising a laptop, the Merging Technologies Horus interface and a selection of DPA, Telefunken and other microphones for capturing live acoustic events, also in surround of course.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
When the music industry managed to tear Napster down, I felt that stereo recordings would loose most if not all commercial value. That's why I started exploring newer formats and specialized in surround music mixing, and have been doing it since 2005.