The Newman Scoring Stage, located on the Fox Studio Lot in Los Angeles, recently upgraded its control room with the installation of Meyer Sound’s Bluehorn System full bandwidth studio monitors. A seamlessly integrated system comprising three drivers in two cabinets along with proprietary digital processing, Bluehorn is uniquely capable of high acoustic output coupled with flat amplitude and phase response across the entire audible spectrum.
The Newman Scoring Stage project marks the first permanent installation of a Bluehorn System in any major commercial studio. Prior to installation, several Los Angeles scoring stages had Bluehorn System rental systems in place.
A revered industry institution for more than eight decades, the Newman Scoring Stage has hosted recording sessions for many of Hollywood’s iconic films, including The Sound of Music, The Matrix, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean and countless others.
After sitting idle for several years, the Newman Scoring Stage was completely refurbished in 1997 and a new 5.1 monitoring system was installed in the control room at that time. In recent years this 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,” says St. Amand, “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 a Bluehorn solution gained traction when, at the prompting of renowned 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” cone driver and 4” compression driver on an 80° x 50° horn) and a complementary 18” LF extension loudspeaker. The integrated Bluehorn processor applies a patented phase correction algorithm that results 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 ample 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.”
For Rettig, the shift toward increasing confidence in the new room monitors is no surprise. “Once you understand the full-bandwidth phase correction and the difference it makes in terms of accurate reproduction, you realize that there are things Bluehorn brings to the table that the others cannot. It simply paints a more transparent and accurate picture, and it certainly is in our interest to give our clients access to that benefit.”
Accuracy and translation are essential in scoring stage monitors, as any anomalies heard in the final dubbing mix can be difficult and expensive to fix. “The Bluehorn System better matches what is heard on the Fox dubbing stages,” says Marc Gebauer, chief engineer for all studios on the Fox Lot. “I find that the impressive improvements in phase response and dynamic tracking lead to a marked improvement in imaging, fidelity and transparency.”
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 state-of-the-art 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 1930’s 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.