Just in time for the new TV season, Todd-AO upgraded its five TV mixing facilities. The upgrade was part of a two-year plan, said Senior VP of Engineering Bill Johnston at CSS Studios, Todd-AO’s parent company. “We first upgraded our projection with Projection Design‘s HD F-30 projection systems on all five TV stages, so the clients could run HD video,” he said. “That’s important for them to be able to view the final product in the mixing rooms presented the way they’d see it with full picture bandwidth. At the same time last year, we also updated our [Avid] Pro Tools systems with more digital signal processing power, so they could handle more tracks.”

This most recent upgrade was the last part of the plan. “We were one of the first places I know of back in 2000 to implement Pro Tools technology on our TV dubbing stages, and this is the first time since then that we’ve upgraded the controllers,” Johnston said. “It was our opportunity, after 10 years of running with older technology, to put in these new control surfaces.  For the mixers, it means that they have a lot more options in terms of control over Pro Tools. The new control surfaces have more knobs, it’s more logically laid out, and there are some major features in terms of being able to focus on particular tracks and access certain parameters more quickly.”

The end result for the client, however, is likely to be less noticeable than last year’s upgrade. “The projection part was immediately identifiable to the client,” he said. “They looked up on the screen and said ‘Wow.’  With this second part, more DSP and more tracks give them more creative freedom. A more tech-savvy client can take advantage of that. Editorial and mixing were certainly able to take advantage of this. Clients will notice their mixes are more efficient and happier. And that makes for a happier house all around. Will it be as stunning as HD projection? Maybe not quite so much, but easily just as meaningful.”

“There are always more chairs you need to buy, but from a technology standpoint, this puts us in a good position for time to come,” concludes Johnston. “Our tech advances next year will be to expand our server capacity and changing our server back-up mechanisms, which are boring as hell but super important. The servers and backbone network tie our facilities together all over town and is a basis of how we achieve the efficient workflow we have.”

Nonetheless, in a post facility, upgrades are constant. “Every year there is something that comes up, whether it’s plug-ins, processing gear, a new dialogue processor that’s a better compressor or leveler,” Johnston said. “Right now, there are changes in terms of delivery specs for TV that are requiring us to purchase Dolby media meters and other tools. The other thing that constantly changes for TV: we’re never in control of the final delivery format. Right now, most people want Panasonic D-5 or Sony SRW-5500. That could change at any time.”

Todd-AO provides creative sound services for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, EntourageMad Men and Family Guy, among other TV shows.