A musical hub catering for every stage of an artist’s project has opened in Belgium with a Dolby Atmos mixing and mastering studio at its core.
Located in a large new building in Lokeren, near Ghent, Alaska Studios has five acoustically separate rooms including the 11.1.6 Dolby Atmos facility, which is equipped with a PMC monitoring system supplied by Joystick Audio.
Producer and engineer Peter Phillips, who set up Alaska Studios with live sound engineer Frank Voet, says: “We built the studio from the ground up as a commercial facility that could take artists and bands all the way through from songwriting, recording, mixing and mastering to preparing live for tours. We share the building with a live sound touring company and a merchandising company, and there is also space for clients to store tour equipment.”
The Dolby Atmos studio – Mix Room 1 – has a main LCR monitoring system consisting of PMC MB2S-XBD speakers. These are supported by 14 PMC Ci65 surround speakers, all powered by MC2 amps. The facility also has a stereo studio, Mix Room 2, which is equipped with PMC IB1S monitors. The three other studios are designed for band rehearsals, tour pre-production, live recording and recording vocals and podcasts.
With over 25 years’ of experience in the pro audio industry, Peter Philips has spent the last 10 years handling audio post production for TV shows, live music productions and festivals. This, he says, is what sparked his interest in surround formats and in particular Dolby Atmos.
“When we started looking into Dolby Atmos in 2020, we were mainly investigating its possibilities in the post-production market because at that stage Atmos for music was not something many people were thinking about,” he explains. “I already had my own studio, so I upgraded it from 5.1 to 5.1.4 in order to get to know the workflow and do some testing.”
In the summer of 2021, Apple Music announced its support for immersive audio formats including Dolby Atmos and this was the catalyst for building an Atmos room at Alaska Studios.
“We were already working with artists such as Stromae, Oscar and the Wolf, Selah Sue and Charlotte Adigéry, so the question Apple’s announcement raised was where would Belgian artists like these carry out their Dolby Atmos mixes?” Philips says. “It was clear that immersive audio was the next step and here to stay, and as we were already building a studio facility from scratch, we decided to build a room that was 100% up to Dolby Atmos specifications.”
The choice of PMC monitors was easy, he adds, because he was already working on PMC IB2S speakers in his own studio and was very happy with their performance.
“Once you’ve heard the detail combined with the punch and power of PMC speakers, there’s really nothing better,” he says.
Alaska Studios’ monitors were supplied by PMC distributor Joystick Audio, who worked closely with Pinna Acoustics to ensure that the right monitors were chosen for the room size.
“Both Joystick Audio and Pinna Acoustics have been really supportive and have helped us with every part of the design and installation process,” Philips says. “Our Dolby Atmos room sounds truly amazing, with an even decay across the whole spectrum and the finest bass response I’ve ever heard. I think everyone who has listened to mixes in this room will agree with me on that!”
With Alaska Studios now open, the Dolby Atmos studio is already busy and is being used for a number of projects.
“We especially wanted to build our Dolby Atmos room to mastering grade standards as there are not that many Belgian mastering studios that can offer a reference Dolby Atmos setup to finalize Atmos mixes,” he explains. “Although mastering in the traditional way is technically not possible in Atmos, we do believe that Atmos mixes created in smaller – and therefore less ideal – rooms can be improved if given a little touch up in a reference room like this. Also transitions between songs on an album and relative loudness levels can be a big challenge for people who are not used to Atmos.”
Mixing music in Dolby Atmos can be a challenge for people who are new to the format, but Peter Philips says his experience in audio post, combined with his Pro Tools skills, have made him well-equipped for the task.
“A lot of the technical and logistical side of things are not new to me,” he says. “However, the creative aspect of the mix is both freeing and a bit scary because, unlike stereo, there is no reference (yet). The definition of a good Atmos mix is still a moving target.”
For more information about Alaska Studios, please visit www.alaskastudios.be
For more information about Joystick Audio please visit www.joystick.be
PMC is a UK-based, world-leading manufacturer of loudspeaker systems, the tools of choice in all ultra-critical professional monitoring applications, and also for the discerning audiophile at home, where they provide a transparent window into the recording artist’s original intentions. PMC products use the best available materials and design principles, including the company’s proprietary Advanced Transmission Line (ATL™) bass-loading technology, cutting-edge amplification and advanced DSP techniques to create loudspeakers that present sound and music exactly as it was when first created, with the highest possible resolution, and without coloration or distortion. For more information on our clients and products, see www.pmc-speakers.com.