CAS Quarterly

Spring 2019

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58 S P R I N G 2 0 1 9 C A S Q U A R T E R L Y DAN DUGAN: CEO of Dan Dugan Sound Design When was the idea of the automixer conceptualized? The invention was actually made in the seventies. How did this idea come about? I was doing the sound design for three of the resident companies of Hair. It had a very successful run in New York for several years. They opened a regional production in Los Angeles. The next one they were going to establish was San Francisco, and I was the sound designer at American Conservatory Theater from which Hair was going to rent The Geary Theater. The management hired me to do sound design for the next three productions, which were Chicago, Las Vegas, and Toronto. Tell me about some of the technical challenges with using the equipment available during that time period. In 1968, mixing consoles were hand-built by chief engineers of radio stations and TV stations and recording studios, and it would take a couple years. Part of building a station was building a console. You couldn't go out and buy or rent one. Hair was mixed on a rack of rotary knob mixers and no EQ, not MEET THE WINNERS I recently had the absolute pleasure of sitting down and chatting on the phone with Dan Dugan of Dan Dugan Sound Design and Paul Isaacs of Sound Devices. It was a couple weeks before NAB and excitement was already in the air. Even though I had not met Dan before I immediately had felt as I do about my friend Paul Isaacs, who I know I can tech talk with easily. So this opportunity culminated into a tech talk fest! Outstanding Product – Production Dugan Automixer for the Sound Devices 633 by Devendra Cleary CAS even high pass filters. There were about 34 microphones or so in the show. All that was handled by this poor guy twiddling knobs, and it was quite difficult. So, I thought, "There must be some way to turn on microphones when they need to be used and off when they aren't." So, I started experimenting with gates and a number of open microphone attenuators that had been tried by Ancha and Patterson in 1968. It took about six years, and I found that just gating over a fixed threshold was not going to work. The first system which I patented was a mixer that had an audio reference, which could be, but doesn't have to be, the ambience in the room, and the threshold follows the ambience. So when it's loud in the room, the threshold is high; when it's softer in the room, the threshold is lower, and that worked. There was a popular studio gate at the time, the Valley People Kepex, which wasn't just a gate. It was a downward expander with a 2-to-1 slope below the threshold, and was much smoother without popping off and on. The combination of those things made my first automatic mixer patent, and it actually worked! While I was trying to find somebody that might want to produce it, I was continuing to experiment and I'm thinking, when one mic is hot, all the other mics should listen to the ambience, and there should be some way to derive the ambience from the program mics. I had a big breadboard system that I kept patching around in different ways. I found a patch that seemed to do it all in the inputs and was smooth. When you talked in the mic, it came up and the others went down, and there was no gating. I had to reverse engineer it to write the patent so I could figure out what it was doing. It turned out to be a very simple algorithm. Now, if I had written that algorithm, I would really be a genius, but I stumbled upon it. Tell me about your company. I've always been a shoestring operation. I have one full-time employee that answers the phone and a technician that comes in two days a week. The manufacturing is done by a very good contractor here in San Francisco, BBI Engineering. I make a line of products which are for retrofitting automatic mixing into existing consoles via the insert points. I have five different products that have different connection schemes: unbalanced analog, balanced analog, AES digital, MADI, and Dante. With that range, almost any console can be accommodated. Sound mixer Danny Maurer uses the 633 and automixer. Before it was incorporated, he specifically said, "Man, I wish Sound Devices would just put Dugan Automixer in the 633." Now, he probably uses it every single day. You know, what happens with the manufacturers is you bring Dan Dugan with his award

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