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Firehouse Recording Studios

One of L.A.'s most impressive new studios bursts onto the scene By Frank Moldstad
Last spring, when Disc Marketing CEO Tena Clark led visitors on a tour of an old livery stable explaining how the space was going to be transformed into a world-class studio, it was hard to visualize. The brick-walled livery stable, behind the restored 1889 firehouse in Pasadena where Disc Marketing is headquartered, was a construction site, with piles of rubble, 2x4s framing out the rooms and sheets of dust-controlling plastic hanging from the ceilings.

But now, Clark's vision has become reality. Firehouse Recording Studios is one of the most impressive new studios built in the L.A. area in several years. It serves not only Disc Marketing's burgeoning new media business, but also external film, recording, commercial and television projects. There are three separate studios, a main control room, a centralized network, composers' rooms and a kitchen/lounge area. The live room has 22' ceilings and a fine balance of live and dead acoustics, aided by innovative wall treatments and non-parallel walls. The facility also has floating floors, double drop ceilings and triple-thick walls. Sitting in the middle of the live room is a Bösendorfer Concert Grand Piano.

The Control Rooms for Studios A and B are outfitted with Pro Tools|HD, 192 I/O interfaces and Procontrol consoles, making this one of the largest Pro Tools|HD facilities in the U.S. The studio is using single-processor Apple 867 MHz G4s (dual-processor machines will be put into service when Digidesign releases Pro Tools for OS X). Racks of top-shelf analog gear are available for patching at any time, plus just about every ProTools plug-in. And of course, there's a reel-to-reel tape machine on hand.

Studio A control room with dual Apple Cinema displays and 48-fader Procontrols console (click for larger view).
This was obviously a labor of love. Clark, an accomplished songwriter and former session drummer, and Les Cooper, Director of Studio Operations and Chief Engineer, knew what they wanted in a studio. Clark's switch from drumming to songwriting paid off, as she ended up penning hits for Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, jingles for McDonalds and hit movie tunes such as ?Thats the Beat of a Heart (from Where the Heart Is). She founded Disc Marketing in 1997, and it has expanded to six divisions (Firehouse Recording is the latest), exploring creative uses for music in marketing. Most recently, she wrote a song called "Way Up There," commissioned by NASA for the Centennial of Flight Program commemorating the Wright Brothers' 1903 flight.

Cooper, an engineer since 1976, has credits including Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole and Anita Baker, movie soundtracks such as My Best Friend's Wedding, and commercials for McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Nike. He and Clark have worked in a lot of studios both together and separately, and their combined experience led them to specific requirements for Firehouse Recording.

"When Tena and I work on a song, well go and look for a studio that has a specific piano or a piano that we know sounds good," says Cooper. "Thats one thing we look for. Obviously, I look for gear as another. Its got to be the right console. We have a specific sound in mind. And the third thing would be a tape machine, or if they have one available. So we wanted to have all that here."

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Related Keywords:Firehouse Recording Studios, Pro Tools, HD, Tena Clark, Disc Marketing, film, recording, commercial, television, Bösendorfer


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