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Inside Track: sci‑fi movie Divergent

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Junkie XL & Alan Meyerson By Paul Tingen

Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, in his room at Hans Zimmer's Remote Control studios, Santa Monica.

With thumbprint data security and track counts in the thousands, the scoring process for sci‑fi movie Divergent was close to science fiction itself!

Based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, Divergent has been one of the most‑talked about movie releases of the first half of 2014. Released on March 21st in the US, it instantly became the highest‑grossing movie of that month, ahead of 300: Rise Of An Empire. Both were scored by Junkie XL.

A pseudonym for Dutchman Tom Holkenborg, Junkie XL is best known as an EDM musician and producer, who has six solo albums to his name. Back in 2002, he scored a worldwide hit with his remix of Elvis Presley's 1968 song 'A Little Less Conversation'. Holkenborg's most recent solo album, Synthesized, dates from 2012, and it appears that he has since been on a one‑man mission to single‑handedly corner the market for scoring dystopian Hollywood action movies, as he also wrote the music for the thriller Paranoia (2013), contributed heavily to the score for Man Of Steel (2013), and is currently writing the music for the fourth Mad Max movie, Fury Road, which is scheduled for release in 2015.

Holkenborg explains that his flurry of major Hollywood film scores is the result of a deliberate strategy on his part, starting with him moving to LA in 2002 to pursue a career in film music. "Throughout my career I have always wanted to do many different things at the same time, so I have been an artist releasing solo albums and singles, collaborated with other artists, have engaged in songwriting, production, done remixes, written music for commercials and video games, and so on. I moved to Los Angeles to really master the craft and art of film scoring. This was the result of me being really impressed with how someone used one of my tracks in a movie in 1995. To learn more about movie scoring I did bits and pieces in the film industry after moving to LA that were not so glamorous, like chopping up samples when assisting Harry Gregson‑Williams, while I, at the same time, had a worldwide hit with my remix of the Elvis Presley song. That was a bizarre situation!Divergent movie poster

"I gradually got more and more deeply involved in the film‑scoring world, and worked, for example, on the Matrix trilogy and the video game The Matrix: Path Of Neo. I also occasionally worked with Hans Zimmer and in 2009, when I began working with him more closely, he invited me to rent a space at his Remote Control facility. During the last two years, the film thing has completely taken over. I made a choice to focus on that, because I am 46, and you can be a film composer until you're 96. I don't see myself touring and jumping up and down on a stage at 96, so it was an obvious choice. I really enjoyed my years in the electronic music scene, but it's way more challenging and interesting for me to work with a director on a movie than to try to keep up with the flavour of the week in the EDM world. I am a sound freak, and a software and plug‑in freak, and I find that I can go nuts with those things when film scoring. Some of the things I do are too dark, too ominous, too scary for a music CD, but they find a perfect purpose in a film score, and for me that is really satisfying.

"I do most of my work at my studio at home, but sometimes work at Remote because of the excellent acoustics there, and the fact that Hans [Zimmer] is almost next door, and if we work together on a project it makes sense to be close to each other. In addition to that the three rooms at Remote Control are extremely important because they are used by my assistants to deal with the constant picture changes. The cues that I write are not going to stay the same for the entire project, because the movie is constantly being cut, scenes are deleted or extended, a flashback may suddenly be thrown in, and so on. Right at the end, the studio may not be happy with the ending, and a change is made and for this they have to change the story and re‑shoot parts of the movie. All these things affect the score, and I would say that the bulk of work in film scoring goes into adapting to the resulting changes. So when I have written a cue, and suddenly four seconds are cut, one of my assistants will load the cue, make the cut, and make sure it musically still makes sense. I may go over it as well and make suggestions. But the work that my assistants do is crucial. It'd be impossible to score a movie all on your own. The workload would just be too heavy.”

Multi‑tasking

Holkenborg's workload was particularly heavy at the time he was scoring Divergent, as for part of the time he was also working on the score for 300. One of the consequences was that Holkenborg, who normally mixes his own scores, enlisted the help of one of Hollywood's most respected scoring mixers to complete the score of Divergent. Enter Alan Meyerson, who has worked with Hans Zimmer since 1994 and also has a studio at Remote Control. Meyerson and Zimmer have collaborated on 200 movies, and Meyerson has an imposing credit list that includes movies like Man Of Steel, Iron Man, the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, Inception, The Dark Knight, Kung‑Fu Panda 1 & 2, Despicable Me 1 & 2, The Last Samurai, Gladiator and Hannibal. Man Of Steel marked the first time Meyerson and Holkenborg worked together.

So that's what happened to all the Minimoogs... this synth rack in Holkenborg's studio contains, from the top, no fewer than four Studio Electronics 'MIDImoog' rackmounted Minimoogs, along with the same company's own SE1 and Code synths, and a Cwejman S1.In the case of Divergent, Meyerson helped Holkenborg with recording additional drums and recording the live orchestra and doing a final scoring mix. Meyerson was the perfect man for the job, because he has a background in rock and club mixing, having worked with Arthur Baker and Shep Pettibone in the 1980s and in the same decade also clocking up music mix credits that include Bryan Ferry, New Order, Etta James and OMD. Meyerson has a reputation in Hollywood as the scoring mixer with the most aggressive orchestral sound, and his approach fitted Holkenborg's in‑your‑face score perfectly. Meyerson calls the score for Divergent "the most aggressive‑sounding score I have ever worked on”.

Holkenborg: "Every movie has a different sound and approach, and like with every other movie, I began by taking some time to think about what I wanted to do with Divergent, not necessarily musically, but conceptually. When we started there was no director's cut yet, so I read the script a few times and had long conversations with the director [Neil Burger] and the producers, and from that came up with ideas for the score. Divergent is shot as a first‑person narrative, ie. everything in the movie is told from the main character's perspective [Beatrice Prior, played by Shailene Woodley, PT], and the music needed to reflect this. Most movies have more of a third‑person perspective, and this means that the music is constantly commenting on the things you see on the screen. For example, the moment the bad guy appears, you have some scary music. But when a movie is shot from a first‑person perspective, the music should reflect the responses of that person to what she experiences.

Most of Junkie XL's sound design begins with audio, either generated by conventional instruments or synths. The latter include his two Analogue Solutions modulars; also visible are a Dave Smith Prophet 08 and Mopho, Roger Linn Adrenalinn, Roland JP8080 and XV3080, Novation DrumStation and Jomox Xbase 09."The story in a nutshell is that the main character has to make a very difficult choice when she is 16 as to what group she is going to join. The test she takes to help her decide is inconclusive, and means that she's a divergent, and is at risk of being killed, because divergents are seen as a danger in this society. She has to keep her divergent nature a secret, and the people around her do not know what she is going through. The only people that can root for her are the audience, and for this reason the music needs to be welcoming so it connects the audience with her. This is why the score starts small and an acoustic guitar plays the main theme. As the movie plays in a dystopian future, it would have been easy to have a synthesized score full of paranoia and fear, but this would have made the music colder and would not have connected the audience to the main character. The girl goes through varies experiences during the movie, many of them full of fear and anxiety, and in the process she matures and become a grown‑up woman, so the music needs to mature also, while it constantly comments on the things she experiences. In addition, the group she eventually joins is very tribal, which is why there's a lot of drumming in the score with a tribal vibe.”

Kyma: Chameleon

According to Holkenborg, once he has decided on the general approach of the score, his next step is sound design. This he mostly does in Kyma, which is "basically an extremely complicated version of Reaktor. You can do really crazy stuff with it. It allows live morphing between sounds and it allows you to calculate FFT envelopes and do very complicated vocoder functions, and so on. I then turn these sounds into Kontakt instruments, with very complex scripting, so they become playable instruments that I can use to write music. I use people who are really good at scripting for Kontakt, and the programming that we use in our sound libraries is as advanced, if not more advanced, than scripts used in commercial libraries. This is one of the reasons why we need these huge PCs with all the processing power. The cool thing about sound designing for movies is that I get to work with the sound‑effect guys, who are crossing over into the music world. Sound design, sound effects, and the score go hand in hand. For example, there are lots of train scenes in Dive

rgent, and they sync'ed all the train track sounds up with my rhythms, which worked really well.”

As with many movies these days, particularly those aimed at a youth market, Divergent features a number of pop songs, in this case specifically written for the movie. They feature the likes of Ellie Goulding, Pia Mia, Snow Patrol, Tame Impala, M83, Skrillex and others. As a result, Holkenborg was not only interacting with the sound‑effect department, but also had to take the pop songs into account while writing the score. "After I've done the sound design I start to write the actual musical parts, and this includes the orchestral arrangements. Because I am classically trained I write these myself. When writing the music I have to consider the licensed songs, because there are sections where the songs and the score overlap. So I may have to write a string overlay for a song, for example. Other than that I had no dealings with the licensed songs, but I did work with Ellie Goulding, who sang melodies I had written on my score. The female voice functioned almost like the inner voice of the main character and this was very effective in the movie.

"Once I had written all the arrangements and recorded my tracks, I invited Alan to help me with recording and mixing the orchestra. We happen to really like each other, and his mixing is impeccable. He has his own style, which added a unique magic to the sound and mix of Divergent.”

Feel Factor

Meyerson's first assignment was to record additional percussion samples, which took place at Remote Control. "Junkie had done all his programming and writing, and wanted to have some extra percussion recordings to make the percussion more transient and get more of a live feel. We had a percussionist called Satnam Ramgotra come in for five or six days for a lot of drum kit and ethnic percussion recordings. The microphones that I used for the latter were two condensers with great transient responses: the DPA 4011, which has a very high‑velocity small capsule, and the Sennheiser MKH800, which is one of the best all‑round mics that I know and that can take a tremendous amount of level. I have nine of them. Both mics can handle the sharp attacks of percussion hits that you usually use a dynamic microphone for, yet you still get the dynamic range and frequency response of a condenser. And the 4011 can take 150dB of level!

"I had a more or less standard setup for recording the kit, and modified it because in essence I recorded the kit in mono, and then panned the mono recordings in quad — ie. left, right, surround left, and surround right. Satnam would play the same part four times, exact enough so the combined image worked well, but the slight differences really gave it dimension. Much of the general score mixing that I do is, in effect, in quad, because you don't want to clog up the centre channel, which is used extensively for dialogue, and also, very few of the instruments that I record produce frequencies in the sub range. So when I deliver 5.1 stems to the re‑recording mixer [for the final mix], they often only contain quad information. On the stereo mixes you can hear two drum kits on the left and two on the right, but in the movie theatre you'll hear them from four sides. Because I was recording in mono, my overhead mic was just one ribbon Royer 122V, with a decent amount of compression on it, and I had a bass drum mic and a bass drum sub, which I made myself from a Yamaha NS10M speaker, and a few more mics.

Alan Myerson at Remote Control.

"Because Junkie had already programmed a tremendous amount of percussion, I wasn't looking for the entire sound, I was mainly trying to get as much of a transient response as possible. We wanted to make things more physical. So I used my Grace 801 preamps — I have 32 channels of them — which also have an incredible transient response, and I set the level a little lower than I normally would, so that the transients really came through. Once I had the transient responses the way I wanted them, I compressed the shit out of them, using the McDSP multi‑band compressor, which allowed me to accentuate different frequency aspects of the drums. After this I put the sound through a Waves SSL emulation compressor plug‑in to thicken up the sound a bit. I wasn't soloing things, but listening to it against Junkie's stuff, just cranking up the threshold of the compressor so it really added many additional colours and filled all the holes where the transients could go. I recorded everything into Pro Tools in 96k and then gave the recordings back in 44.1 to Junkie, who worked with them further in his sessions.”

Up In The AIR

Following the percussion recording sessions at Remote Control, Holkenborg and Meyerson travelled to AIR Lyndhurst in London, where the latter recorded the orchestra. "I have a substantial microphone collection, and several mics have been modified to have slightly higher outputs and to be slightly more sensitive to particular frequency ranges. I have three Dirk Brauner VM1 mics that have been modified by Klaus Heyne [one of the US's top microphone specialists] for my purposes, one having a slightly richer mid‑range for recording cellos, one having an especially silky and smooth high end for recording violins, and so on. I also have plate‑loaded Royer ribbon mics that run 6dB hotter than standard Royers, to keep the noise floor down. The mods allow me to get super‑clean signals on my woodwinds and orchestral percussion.

"I did not bring these modified mics to AIR, though I did bring six of my Sennheiser MKH800 mics, which are standard issues. The advantage of recording at AIR is that the studio is incredible, and it does have an excellent collection of mics, of course. We had a full, 90‑piece orchestra and when I record that, I normally look at it from three different heights, though I had four heights at AIR. At the lowest level are the spot mics, which to me give the least interesting sound, because they aren't really blending together. Then I have a set of mid‑distance mics at eight feet, consisting of left‑centre‑right AKG C12s on the strings and left‑centre‑right Neumann M49s on the brass. When I'm trying to get an aggressive sound, I use those the most. You get the closeness, but not the spottiness, and I can add air from the next level, which is at the height of a standard Decca Tree, 11 feet. At this level I had five mics plus two surrounds, so seven mics in total: left, centre, right, wide left, wide right, surround left and surround right, and they capture the general sound of the room. These were mostly my Sennheisers. In addition to this I also had mics high up the galleries at AIR, at about 25 feet, just for reverb. When you record at AIR and place your ambient mics well, you hardly have to add any digital reverb later on. I'd say that 50 percent of the orchestra sound came from the eight‑foot mics, 30 percent from the 11‑foot mics, 10 percent from the spot mics, and another 10 percent from the ambient mics.

"I ran the mics through Neve preamps going straight into Pro Tools — the Neve 88VR desk in the studio was mainly for monitoring — and was printing 5.0 mixes of each of the orchestral sections as I went. It's a really fast and efficient way to work, and if I'm unhappy with the balance later on, I can always unwind the mix, as I call it, and readjust things. As things go down I am only ever listening to the 5-mix. Usually these live mixes are pretty good, and they give me a reliable impression of what's going down. Just like with the percussion, I then pre‑mixed everything and gave Junkie quad mixes that he could integrate in his sessions and work with. He could process the orchestra the way he wanted it and find the balance between programmed and live material that he was looking for, and so on. For the final scoring mix I then took what we call his synth masters, and combined them with my original orchestra sessions. So we, in effect, had two different perspectives on the same material in terms of processing and mixing.”

Looking For Aggression

Meyerson conducted his final scoring mix for Divergent at Remote Control Studio A, using a Euphonix System 5, his favourite ATC monitors, and three Pro Tools rigs. "One rig would have the London orchestral session, the second would have Junkie's synth masters, and the third would be the mix print session. At this stage I was adding quite a bit of processing on the orchestra, because we wanted it to blend in with Junkie's incredible sounds. I added harmonic distortion using plug‑ins like the Nomad Factory Magnetic 'reel‑to‑reel audio tape warmer' and the Waves Kramer PIE compressor, which is a plug‑in I really like. This added some more harmonic content and an analogue‑like sensibility. I also used the [SoundToys] Decapitator and PSP Mix Saturator on the brass to give it more edge. Some of the cues had high‑energy, high‑action music, with frenetic percussion, and in these cases in particular I needed to make sure that the orchestra still cut through. Another helpful tool to achieve this was my six channels of outboard Manley Massive Passive EQ, with which I added high and low end, as well as multi‑band compression from the McDSP 4000, which allowed me to push certain parts of the sound forward at different times. I spent quite a bit of time messing around with the mid‑range on the compressor until I found something that was aggressive‑sounding enough to sit comfortably with Junkie's stuff.

"For reverb I used my six outboard Bricastis. I delivered strings and brass to the re‑recording mixer at the soundstage in separate stems, and Bricasti one and two would give me my left, centre, right on the strings, and Bricasti three my strings surround left and surround right, and the same with my Bricastis four, five and six for the brass. Because of the complexity of a film, and the fact that they're dealing with sound effects, dialogue, music, sound design, we give the re‑recording mixer stems of everything, so he or she can separate things out and re‑edit when necessary, depending on how the music interacts with the dialogue and sound effects. When the re‑recording mixer opens my mix session and leaves everything at zero, he will have my final mix.

"Most of the time re‑recording mixers don't alter the scoring mix very much — they mostly just want to be able to have the 5.1 stems for editing. There'll be a last‑minute picture change, and the director may decide he wants the strings a bit lower in the new version. Having separate stems allows the re‑recording mixer to edit the score as required. With regards to the stereo mix for the soundtrack album, Junkie used my initial orchestral mixes for that, and mixed those in with his material. An Atmos [that latest hi‑tech Dolby surround playback environment] mix of Divergent was also done, but I don't get involved with that. I will have conversations with re‑recording mixers about what kind of separation they need, and I may add a separate stereo reverb track for use in Atmos, but the truth is, unless you're in a dubbing stage that has all the different formats and that has the $1 million invested for Atmos playback, you can't do much more. So I just tend to deliver my mixes in 5.1, at 48kHz.”

With the topic once again returning to all the different formats that Holkenborg and Meyerson are dealing with, there's some reflection on the discrepancy between the ballooning complexity of audio in the film world and the decrease in audio quality in consumer music formats. "There are two aspects to that issue,” Holkenborg muses. "First of all, you have to go to these lengths to stay relevant in film scoring. All the people I work with, the film producers and directors, are extremely knowledgeable, and they are into technical details. I also do these things to satisfy my own quest to deliver the best I can, while I am at my peak. I have always done that. But you see in every art form today that it takes longer and longer to make something unique, and yet the public just consumes the highlights. While the composer's process is becoming more complex, more and more people are losing their capacity to hear details in a score. But that shouldn't stop you from doing the very best you can, for yourself, but also to get heard. You still need to put your heart and soul into a piece of music to get it played by consumers, even if it is just a couple of times. If you didn't, you would get nowhere at all. And you always hope that it will be different, that the music you create will become a classic, that your film score will become timeless, in the way that 'Yesterday' by the Beatles is. You can't predict or influence that, but you never know, so you try as hard as you can.”   

The Ultimate Template

Tom Holkenborg received his nickname 'Junkie' nearly 20 years ago because of his addictive obsession with music and music technology, and expanded on it by adding the XL extension, which stands for 'expanding limits'. The obsession has found the perfect outlet in film scoring, with Holkenborg composing on a truly industrial scale. He has four studios — one at home and three at Remote Control — each containing identical setups featuring racks of custom‑made PCs with overclocked quad‑core 3.5GHz processors, hundreds of gigabytes of RAM and super‑fast hard drives.

These PCs get so hot that they are placed in separate air‑conditioned rooms. They run Cubase and Pro Tools in tandem, and are "loaded with every synth, mix plug‑in, and orchestral library known to man,” as well as Vienna Ensemble Pro, Symbolic Sound's Kyma, Native Instruments' Kontakt and the SAM sampling system written for Hans Zimmer by erstwhile SOS employee Mark Wherry. The single most astounding detail of Holkenborg's setup is that his basic Cubase template contains 2800 tracks. "The reason my template has so many tracks is that I want everything loaded at all times, so I can easily and instantly switch to another sound or another articulation when I need to. For example, I have over the last 15 years recorded a very extensive drum library, of which I regularly use more than 300 instruments, and just recently I did another extensive drum sampling session for the Mad Max movie, for which I sampled another 200 instruments. So that's 500 drum tracks that are pre‑loaded with track settings, outputs, plug‑ins, and so on.

"In addition there are all my strings and brass libraries, all with elaborate articulations, which mean that my template pre‑loads 300 tracks just for the strings, and 100 just for the brass. I will have eight, nine or 10 MIDI controllers assigned to each unique library track, which give me all the different mic positions and the velocities and the key mapping, and so on. In fact, the VST returns for my Vienna Symphonic Library alone consist of 900 tracks, with aux sends and compressors and Transient Designers, and distortion plug‑ins! And it just keeps on going. The reason I need to pre‑load them all, rather than start with an empty session and load things one by one as I need them, is that the latter process could easily take an hour and a half. When you're scoring a movie you need to be extremely flexible and extremely fast. I don't have the time to load things while working or while the director is in the room and I want to quickly show him an idea.

"Of course, you don't need 2800 tracks to make great music. All you need today is a laptop with a DAW and a couple of plug‑ins and off you go. When I made my Junkie XL albums I never worked with templates. I would start every session from scratch, because that is what being an artist is about: you're creative in every aspect of what you're doing and you make decisions as you go. But when you're scoring a movie, you need to build your template before you start writing. The orchestral stuff is a given, so that's in every template I create, but I also do a lot of sound design, and work out guitar, bass, synth and drum sound palettes, and I can take three to four weeks working on the sounds I want to use for a movie. The cool thing is that this creates a sonic consistency throughout the score. Once I have sorted out the sound design and adjusted the template accordingly, I am ready to write music, and I may in reality often end up only using 300 tracks or so. But once again, the main reason for the huge templates and the track counts is the flexibility, which is essential, because I can at any stage, at the request of the director or the studio, even during the last day of the final mix, be asked to change the smallest detail in the score.”

Seen in this light, Holkenborg's eye‑watering track counts are part of a more general effort to streamline the entire production process. His main MIDI keyboard is the Doepfer LMK4, and his setup also incorporates a JL Cooper Fader Master, two Cubase controllers and an iPad. Most of his sound design is "based on acoustic recordings or organic sounds from analogue synths”, and so his studio contains 30 guitars and various hardware synths, with the most eye‑catching pieces of kit being the Analogue Systems 3500 and 8500 synths with a French Connection keyboard, and an upright piano that he has improved by, er, taking an axe to it. A fertile source of sound‑design material is Tom Holkenborg's 'piano from hell'. The woodwork has been removed to facilitate access to the strings.

"I bought the piano when doing the score for 300, and used an axe to remove the outsides until all I was left with was the metal inside, the harp, which I put in a new enclosure. As a result the acoustic quality of the piano is entirely gone. It's like an electric guitar when you play the strings now — there's hardly any noise. I use electric guitar and other pick‑ups that I place on the strings in different positions, and they go through ART valve preamps, and sometimes through other amplifiers, and eventually I record the instrument into Cubase. I play the piano with sticks or mallets or brushes. It's a very unique‑sounding instrument that I also used on the score for Divergent.

"The Analogue Systems synths suffer from all the down sides of working with analogue, like oscillators that go out of tune, and envelopes that don't quite work the way they should, but all that adds extra magic. It's fantastic. One of the modules I have is a direct copy of the first Fairlight sampler, and another module converts MIDI to CV and CV to MIDI, so I can hook the synth up to Cubase and other keyboards.”

Thumbs Up

Where budgets routinely run into tens of millions of dollars, as they do in film production, data security becomes a vital concern, as Tom Holkenborg explains. "We have everything wired in the studios at Remote Control with yellow cables for the Vienna Ensemble connection and blue for networking, and there's one massive cable that runs through the studio that's for going online, and that we only connect for system updates or to download plug‑ins. At that point, the drives with sensitive data, ie. music and pictures, are disconnected and put into a safe. To get data from my home studio to my Remote Control systems, I work with thumbprint‑protected portable drives. Only two people have access to these drives, usually me and one of my assistants, so even if a drive gets lost, other people won't be able to access it. It reads your thumbprint and then there's a process with three points at which you need to enter a pretty complicated WPA2 password, and only after that do you have access to the data. If someone tries to bypass the security the data gets destroyed.”

Revolving DAWs

Tom Holkenborg has used various different sequencing packages over the years. "I have all the different DAWs: Logic, Fruity Loops, Ableton Live — I used Ableton for my live shows. The thing is, because I am such a software and plug‑in freak, I ask myself regularly: am I working with the software that gives me what I need at this specific point in time? I began working with Steinberg Pro 24 in 1984, and in the late '80s, compared Notator and Cubase, and chose the latter. Three years later Logic came out, and I switched to that. In 1997 or '98 I switched to Pro Tools, and to audio editing instead of MIDI sequencing. Because I have a sample background, manipulating the timing of audio notes was way more interesting to me than manipulating MIDI notes. When I moved to LA I wanted to be able to sequence again, because I was working with orchestral samples, so I went back to Logic, since MIDI did not work well in Pro Tools. I regularly compared Logic with Cubase and Ableton, and when Cubase 6 came out, I went over to that. It's rough on my assistants,Tom Holkenborg's Cubase projects are far too large to print in their entirety. The excerpts shown are from a single cue, titled '6M32'. Holkenborg: "This cue has roughly 350 tracks. You can see at the top that I put in extensive markers. I enter these before I start writing, at the points at which I think the music will be changing. Underneath is the tempo map. The parts underneath that are the first half of the sound design that I created for this arrangement.” who need to adjust every time, but I feel blessed to have seen how Cubase and Notator started and to this day I can see things in Logic that come from the Notator days and recognise the origins of Cubase and Pro Tools.

"The main reason for me using Cubase today is the way it handles MIDI, which is phenomenal. When you're writing multiple string parts, the way it allows you to see all parts at the same time and place information in the foreground and background, and how control data can be linked to specific MIDI notes so that when you copy it the control data goes with it, and how you can lock the control data in the expression map, so when you throw the parts into Sibelius the articulations are automatically printed, is just great.

"Also, when using Cubase and Kontakt on the PC platform it can easilyThis shot of Cubase's Key Editor shows part of the drum programming for the '6M32' cue. handle my 2800‑track templates. Sampling is my main source for making music, and being able to have multiple samplers running at the same time has always been a very important part of my setup. For whatever reason, Kontakt as an Audio Unit grabs way more processing power on a Mac than [the VST version] on PC. When I work with Cubase on a Mac and open 40 or 50 Kontakt samples, my processing will be at the computer's limit, whereas on my PC I can have 200 samples open and still be only at 20 percent of my CPU. Plug‑ins in VST mode work much more efficiently in PCs than in Macs. On top, Logic has completely dropped the ball with version X. I don't know what they are thinking. Logic 6 to 9 were very exciting compared to Cubase at the time, but since Logic has moved more into the Apple sphere, its cutting edge has disappeared.

"I run Cubase and Pro Tools in sync all the time, connected via MIDI Time Code and a MADI card that allows me to send up to 192 channels from Cubase to Pro Tools. I do about 80 percent of mixing and processing in Cubase, and then deliver up to 60‑70 stems to Pro Tools where I can finesse things further. It's sometimes quicker to do things in Pro Tools. For example, suppose I have 25 string tracks and I decide that I want to take down the volume of all of them by 2dB. In Cubase I'd need to go into the MIDI for each part and adjust the expression and volume, whereas in Pro Tools I can just turn the group fader down.

Tom Holkenborg: "This is the Pro Tools session that's running in sync with the Cubase session that can be seen in the Cubase screenshots. You can see the track list on the left, which is all the Cubase outputs coming in. The Cubase mixer page with all the meters and old subgroups has matching inputs in Pro Tools. It's an elaborate system, but it works really well. You can see some of the meters in Pro Tools clipping, because I like that sound. The scroll bar at the bottom shows you that this is only part of the session — there are about 200 stem tracks in total in this session.”"Also, when I want to deliver a cue to the mix stage I can just hit print in Pro Tools and everything will go down at the same time, and it's time‑stamped so when the editor imports the tracks they immediately will snap to the right spot in the timeline and will sync up to the picture again. However, Cubase is also able to bounce off all these tracks at the same time, with the SMPTE information embedded. The reason I'm using Pro Tools in addition to Cubase is not because it's the industry standard and fantastic for mixing purposes, which it is, but because of the sound. For me mixing in Cubase is fine, but I prefer to do the summing in Pro Tools. If you drive things with strong transients slightly into the red, Pro Tools adds slight distortion and an additional punch that I really like. Summing in Pro Tools adds some magic that I can't get from any other DAW.

"I have a very large setup, and if it is stable, you run it for as long as possible. The last thing you want to do when you're in This Pro Tools Mix window screen capture shows the final stem session Alan Myerson delivered to the re‑recording mixer. The six live string tracks have sends called 'Str FX Rvb', which is a reverb created by Myerson. The brass tracks further down, 'Ad13‑15', have the Bricasti reverb on the sends. The brass stem tracks are muted in this screenshot.the middle of a project is to update your software, like for example go to Cubase 7 and find that suddenly some plug‑ins don't work and some functions aren't there any more. For this reason I'm still on Cubase 6, and an early release of Pro Tools 10. We also run an early release of Windows 7, which we can do because none of the computers go online. The computers in all four studios are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they never crash. I changed my setup after Man Of Steel 14 months ago and none of the four rooms has had a crash since then. The only thing we do is restart sometimes,just to clear the memory. I used to be one of the technology trendsetters, an early adopter, and would buy software the day it came out, so I have dealt with a lot of the initial bugs that came with all these programs. It's really nice to have had three years of not running ahead of the pack in terms of new software developments.

Published June 2014