MasterMix: A Dream Come True

When Hank Williams decided to expand and build an all-new MasterMix in Nashville, he was aware of all the uncertainties associated with being a studio owner in the late ’90s. New technologies. New formats. New delivery systems. New business. New competition. So, he decided, when you have the chance to build from the ground up in the audio industry, it’s no longer enough to stay current; you have to look ahead. And looking ahead for Williams translated to DVD authoring.

The new MasterMix includes sister company/facility MasterVision (pictured on this month’s cover), Nashville’s highest-profile DVD-authoring environment to date. A joint venture between Williams, Mike Poston and Tracy Martinson, MasterVision shares the same Russ Berger-designed space, shares files over the same Sonic MediaNet network and share clients with MasterMix. But the new facility brings new opportunities, and the markets seem to be there.

Corporate is a huge market here in Nashville, Martinson says. It’s a short plane ride to Chicago and Atlanta, and we’re centrally located to tap into a lot of that work. As DVD-ROM becomes more prevalent in laptops and office machines, there will be more interest. I think DVD-ROM is what people wanted CD-ROM to be.

Then one of the more interesting markets, especially being here in Nashville, is the Christian-religious market,  Martinson continues. A lot of the religious organizations have archival footage of their speakers and their leaders, on both film and video, as well as audio-only. We get everything from S-VHS to 1/4 inch to 8mm film to Digital Betacam to D1 “the whole gamut” and we clean it up, NoNoise for video, basically, and assemble it. To have the ability to put their message out and have picture being played, with access to eight different languages, becomes very interesting to them.î

The project Martinson is most excited about, however, is a benefit for the Center for Missing children, with a song written by veteran Nashville songwriter Peter McCann and performed by Kathy Mattea and Michael McDonald. The song was recorded and mixed at Seventeen Grand by Gary Paczosa and Jake Niceley, produced by George Massenburg. Video was shot, documenting the process, and the resulting DVD, due out on RCA in January, will feature a randomize function to pop up screens of the hundreds of missing children across the country. All the time and effort was donated. To Martinson, who has five of the top ten reviewed DVD-Video discs to her credit from her days at Sony, it was a perfect use of the medium.

As we went to press, the stereo mix had been completed, and Martinson was awaiting a 5.1 mix and video of the performers. MasterVision houses a production room with three Sonic Solutions stations, along with the DVD Theater (on the cover) for client presentation, quality control and critical listening. An 8-channel Sonic Solutions system sits to the left of the Panasonic DA7 digital console in the spare, comfortable room. Monitoring is via a custom PMC surround system, with IB1s left and right, a custom IB1 in the center and TB1s in the rear. Bryston 4B amps power the system, and all wiring is from Kimber Kable. The choice for high-resolution converters had been narrowed to Apogee or db technologies at press time; the facility can encode/decode in Dolby and can decode in DTS (though MasterVision is in negotiations with DTS to develop onsite encoding).

DVD-Video has garnered a lot of the glamour press, and with 2 million players already out there (yes, it’s true, they won’t play DVD-Audio discs), that makes sense. Still, there is a lot of technical misinformation out there, Martinson says, and much of her job in the early going has been educating clients about the possibilities for the format, whether Video, ROM or Audio.

People ask me all the time how much a DVD costs to make,” Martinson says. I ask them what they want to do. You can’t say that it’s ten songs and is going to take x amount of hours. It’s so much more layered. You have to sit down with the client, storyboard it, work with the video people ” the misnomer is that it’s like mastering an album. But it’s not. Mastering is a part of the process, not the end of it. For a full-on DVD-Video project, the client will be more like the director of a film working with the picture editor ” day-to-day interaction.

One thing about moving to Nashville that surprised me was that DTS has done an excellent job of getting the word out here, Martinson continues. I was surprised about the debate between DTS and Dolby being as hot as it was. It’s not something I saw in New York or L.A. My personal opinion is that it’s not just an audio quality issue, but also a marketing issue. It’s very different for a corporate client who will make a kiosk or give them to sales people vs. someone who is going to mass-produce a disc and send it out to Tower Records. To say which is better, DTS or Dolby, takes more looking into than just a bit rate. I hope in the future it’s possible to put both formats on the same DVD-Video disc. But with DVD-Audio, there’s no reason to choose, since you can have multichannel, high-resolution audio. It’s not up to me to decide on a specific format and hawk it; it’s my job to provide the best options to my clients, for their individual projects.