The Newman Scoring Stage, located on the Fox Studio Lot in Los Angeles, recently upgraded its control room with the installation of Meyer Sound Bluehorn System full bandwidth studio monitors. The project marks the first permanent installation of a Bluehorn System in a major commercial studio.
A renowned industry institution for more than eight decades, the Newman Scoring Stage has hosted recording sessions for many iconic Hollywood films, including The Sound of Music, The Matrix, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean and many more. After sitting idle for several years, the it was completely refurbished in 1997 and a new 5.1 monitoring system was installed in the control room at that time.
In recent years that system had been showing signs of age, but according to Denis St. Amand, recently retired as supervising engineer for the facility, there was a lack of clear consensus on a preferred replacement. “Very few mixers were using our old installed front monitors,” he says, “but instead they were using a variety of mid-field monitors that they brought in themselves or we took from our own inventory. Needless to say, setting these [personal monitors] up was a time-consuming inconvenience for everybody.”
The momentum toward Bluehorn gained traction when, at the prompting of noted score mixer Shawn Murphy, a temporary system was brought in for a month-long trial demo. “We had positive feedback from just about everybody who heard them, but it was really Shawn and Armin Steiner who helped me convince management to make the investment,” recalls St. Amand. “I remember the first day when Armin walked into the room with the Bluehorns. He sat down and listened for a while, then told me he was hearing things that he knew had to be there but he couldn’t really hear before. The clarity and definition were just astounding, he said. After that, he campaigned hard to have these put in.”
For screen LCR, the installation comprises three self-powered Bluehorn Systems, each with a full range loudspeaker (12-inch cone driver and 4-inch compression driver on an 80- by 50-degree horn) and a complementary 18-inch LF extension loudspeaker. The integrated Bluehorn processor applies a patented phase correction algorithm that is designed to result in flat response from 25 Hz to 22 kHz. Four HMS-12 surround loudspeakers are installed for side and rear channels while four X-400C compact cinema subwoofers — arranged in two end-fire arrays — provide power for LFE channels.
“Acceptance of the new Bluehorn solution has helped streamline and simplify operations here,” says Erin Rettig, currently supervising engineer for the Newman Scoring Stage. “As a group, the scoring mixers who work here have shown a great deal more confidence in how these monitors will translate their mixes to the final dubbing stage. Some have stopped bringing in their own mid-field speakers in favor of just using the Bluehorns.”
Scores mixed using the Bluehorn System monitoring include feature films The New Mutants, Call of the Wild, and Togo and television shows “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (final episode). Structural modifications to the soffit and installation of the new loudspeakers were carried out under the direction of Brian McEvoy, head of facilities construction, with overall project approval and supervision by Stacey Robinson, vice president of sound operations at Fox Entertainment Group.
Other technology available at the Newman Scoring Stage includes an AMS-Neve 88RS console (96 channels) with Encore 3 automation and 48 channels of Neve remote microphone preamps; an extensive collection of premium condenser and ribbon microphones from Neumann, Sennheiser, Schoeps, Royer and AKG; and a wide selection of outboard signal processing equipment. Four Pro Tools systems enable recording of up to 112 inputs with playback of 768 tracks.
The Newman Scoring Stage structure was built in 1928 for filming but was converted to a scoring stage in the early 1930s under the direction of illustrious composer and arranger Alfred Newman, head of the studio’s music department at the time and for whom the facility was eventually named.