Sound Investment for M8 Media in Glasgow

M8 Media Glasgow
M8 Media is a classic one-stop-shop post production house situated around the broadcasting hub of Glasgow, Scotland. Until now though, the one thing missing from its list of offerings has been audio dubbing. To correct that Jim Allison, joint owner and co-founder of the facility, sought the talent and experience necessary to build and operate such a resource, and found it in Dubbing Mixer Brian Paterson. Together with the advice and support of UK pro audio specialists, Media Spec, they succeeded. The ingredients? Pro Tools, Genelec, and talent. On the day before the new audio suite was due to entertain its first client, Paul Mac spoke to Allison and Paterson about the road to now...

Paul Mac: Could you give us the brief history of yourself and M8 Media.
Jim Allison:I started working for the BBC in the early 80s, and I worked for them for seven or eight years, both down in London, and then latterly up in Scotland. After leaving the BBC, I worked for a couple of facilities houses in Scotland, and then I went freelance and started investing in my own kit in 1994. The company is owned by myself and my wife, and we’ve grown it from just myself, with one editing system, up to where we are now. We have probably one of the largest facilities in Scotland. The BBC and STV are larger than this, but certainly in terms of privately owned facilities... in terms of the number of edit suites and the capacity that we can cope with. We produce roughly between 200-250 hours worth of television every year ¬ programmes such as Location Location... lots of BBC jobs. We did Mountain with Griff Rees Jones, Still Game a Scottish humour thing. We do lots of stuff for channel 4 and Channel 5, Sky. You name it we do it. We deal with everything from commercials, corporates, broadcast... and we do all the way up to feature films with investment in the DI stuff that we’ve got here. What has been missing up until now is the one stop shop for sound, which is where Eric and MediaSpec has come into play. He has advised us. We have been very fortunate in getting Brian Paterson who was ex SMG to come on board to do that for us. That one step has made the entire unit much more cohesive. In the past, we have had problems with short notice changes in terms of voiceovers, and that kind of stuff. It has involved lots of bikes couriering things to other sound houses that are sometimes even down in London. This will enable us to react much more quickly. M8 Media studio
PM: How far away is the next comparable studio?
JA: There are other facilities in Glasgow that do bits and pieces, but there is nobody that really has the DI clout that we have in terms of the digital cinema projection and the grading system. Even broadcasters and the like do not have anything akin to that.

PM: Is your customer base mostly Scottish? Mostly from the Northern regions..?
JA: Historically, it has been from the Scottish market. Having said that, we had people in over the weekend doing a pop video who have come up from London, which is a bit of a coup as far as we are concerned... that is a trend we would like to build on. They have other work as well, so I am optimistic that word is getting out that we can compete almost head to head with Soho type places.

PM: And you have the advantage of a nice big flexible space ¬ it is a gorgeous building.
JA: It is a gorgeous building, and we have more space up above; we have another floor like this that we just use for storage at the moment... Potentially we have got five thousand square feet here. We can put on another two thousand square foot just by utilizing the space upstairs.

PM: I guess with BBC shifting stuff northwards as well, the future is promising?
JA: Well, several things come into play. One is the BBC moving. BBC Scotland is getting a new lease of life with their new headquarters along the road they are literally ten minutes walk from here and we have line of sight from the tower here to the top of their roof. They are optimistic that their output will grow both in terms of network and local stuff. SMG, which is the ITV station up here, is only five hundred yards away, and we have a good relationship with them. But in terms of growing more work, yes there is a move to Manchester, but there is also a move to move things outside the M25 as well, so we are seeing a lot more Indies using regional facilities, and we have a good relationship with them all.M8 Media studio

PM: Could you explain your background and how you got to M8 Media.
Brian Paterson: I was with Scottish television now SMG for 33 years. I took an early leaving package last November. Since then I have been freelance, general freelance dubbing mixer, working back at SMG quite a few times, and elsewhere. Jim approached me in June or July with a view to setting up a full Pro Tools dubbing suite, and he asked me if I would be interested in working with him as a semi-permanent dubbing mixer. At the moment I am freelance, but if Jim has work coming in I would hope to be the person who does it... So basically I am Jim’s dubbing mixer! Jim asked me to design the new audio post production suite and set it up.

PM: Where did you start with that?
BP: I was familiar with the latest generation of Pro Tools mix surfaces the ICON range D-Control, D-Comand. The room is probably slightly too small for the larger D-Control, but to be quite honest, I have used the D-Comand a lot at STV and you can do everything on the eight channel system that you can do on the big system. It has actually got a lot of advantages. It has a smaller footprint, you can get from one end of the desk to your keyboard without getting out of your seat, and it was the right size of control surface for the room.

PM: The choice of the small control surface is a more pragmatic approach to equipment than, say, big Soho suites sometimes have.
BP: Up here there are one or two very elegant dubbing complexes, and they will attract a certain type of client, but for the sort of work that Jim wants to do, the kind of programmes that come through the edit system here, it is more than adequate for that.

M8 Media racksPM: And the whole object of the exercise is to keep things in house...
BP: Historically you would do your work offline, then that would get signed off and you had picture lock. But now even after a program has been picture locked, the client is constantly changing things right up until it goes out. If you do not have the facility in house, it just gets so complicated and inefficient. The costs escalate. The big advantage of mixing in the box, the DAW approach, is that you can work on any project and if someone wants a quick change it takes a few seconds to take one project off and put another one on, and you have got absolute control of every parameter. The concept of the suite was no outboard kit at all. Everything is inside the computer, everything is plug-in driven, so any changes can be made instantly. The system is fully on line to Avid Unity, but can also do its own lift and layback to Digibeta or any RS422 machine, so you can push and pull from Unity, and also work to a tape that has been edited elsewhere... if it is half an hour long, you can be dubbing within half an hour.

PM: And you have chosen Genelec monitoring?
BP: Yes, a full surround system with 8030A active monitors and the 7060A active sub.

PM: Did you specify that?
BP: It was what I had seen elsewhere, and the dealer that supplied us, Media Spec, suggested them. They are a really good size for the room. Obviously the work we will be doing just now will be mainly stereo but the room is designed for 5.1. Everything has a 5.1 path, just reduced to stereo for broadcast properties. But if someone wants 5.1 it is ready to go.

PM: For a modest investment in a sound facility you are actually doing your clients a huge favour.
BP: The one stop shop seems to be the future. In terms of efficiency and cost, it does offer the clients tremedous flexibility... having the same things going on in the same place. If you are doing a grade in the cinema and you are doing a sound mix, and if you have got two competent people, the Director can duplex himself, whereas if you were in separate buildings that would be impossible... and I think they like that idea of not having to sit through a whole dub, because they do tend to nod off through that.

So, maybe from the acorn of a small Dubbing suite in a Glasgow post production house a much bigger concern will grow? M8 Media certainly has the space, and the forward-thinking, client-centered attitude that always seems to produce success. The day after I visited, the first session was due in the new audio suite, and I am sure many more will come.

Genelec would like to thank Audio Media and Media Spec for their help in making this article possible.