Production Sound & Video

Fall 2018

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42 individuals who had a dedication to producing high-quality sound recording equipment specifically for the film industry. The Sonosax SX-S mixer was the brainchild of Swiss engineer Jacques Sax, who had begun his career as a live sound mixer. Frustrated with what was available on the market at the time, he took it upon himself to design something that was more to his liking, beginning with the SX-B mixer in 1980, and culminating with the current SX-ST series consoles. The Cooper 106 was designed and built by Andy Cooper, who besides being a bright designer, was also cognizant of the particular needs of the film production market. So instead of designing something that he "thought" represented the needs of production mixers, he actually went out and took the time to talk with notable mixers of the era (a lesson that some manufacturers still have yet to learn). The Cooper CS-106 marked a fairly significant departure from anything else available at the time. With straight-line faders, the option for seven inputs, three-band EQ, a lightweight chassis, DC powering, sophisticated monitoring and signal routing functions, the Cooper mixer embodied much of what production mixers had been looking for at the time. Film sound being a very small slice of the overall worldwide audio market, larger manufacturers simply weren't interested in developing a highly labor- and design-intensive console for a small market segment, when there were much bigger rewards to be reaped in the studio, sound reinforcement, and broadcast markets. Many of the consoles built by Sonosax and Cooper Sound are still in use nearly three decades later, which attests to Jacques and Andy's strengths as careful designers who understood the rigors of film production. There were of course, other options available in the eighties. Audio Developments continued with their line of portable mixers, which included the AD 062 and AD 075 series. Sony actually introduced a twelve-input mixer, the MXP-61, which had some features such as 12-volt T-powered mic inputs, which were clearly aimed at the film production market, but didn't generate a lot of sales. There were also some entries in the portable "bag rig" market, most notably by the British company SQN, which introduced the SQN-4S mixer. Being the highly individual craft that production recording is, many sound mixers weren't content with what was offered on the commercial market, and opted to design something that suited their personal approach to production recording, or make extensive modifications to stock consoles. Not everyone who sat at a mixing board had the kind of electronic background to undertake this sort of task however. Among the few who took on this challenge during the seventies and eighties include David Ronne, an Academy Award-winning production mixer (who also designed the RollLogic remote control). Bruce Bisenz, who built a highly customized console from the ground up, and Jim Webb, who commissioned a console to his liking that was built by Jack Cashin. The list goes on... There were also sound mixers such as Nelson Stoll, Ray Cymoszinski, Michael Evje, and others who decided they loved the big sound of the Neve consoles, and took it upon themselves to modify the boards to their liking for film work. Others (including the author) opted for the modular configurations offered by the Studer 169/269 series consoles. The important thing to note in this regard is that every one of these sound mixers had a particular approach to the challenges of doing production sound under all kinds of conditions, and wanted a console that would give them the most flexibility and best sound quality for their style. In a world that has now become defined by the stock offering of various manufacturers, the "signature sound" that many mixers had sought to achieve during this period has now become lost. Next up, "The Nineties." –Scott D. Smith CAS With sincere appreciation to Jeff Wexler CAS for invaluable contributions in style and content. 7. Highly customized mixer designed and built by Bruce Bisenz in the 1980's, utilizing Nagra mic preamps. Note the modified Altec graphic equalizer, with one octave band intended for dialog EQ, and the group buss assignments. Photo courtesy Bruce Bisenz 8. An example of the Studer 169/269 series consoles, introduced in 1977. Conceived originally as an all-around broadcast mixer for European radio and television broadcasters, it also became a favorite of many music recording mixers, and eventually found its way into the film markets as well. Renowned for its high-quality mic preamps and flexible configurations, this mixer is still sought after by many recording engineers. 7 8

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