School Farm Studios is an amazing state of the art recording and mixing facility built within and around a 17th Century barn. Founder Andrew Sunnucks is a music producer with over 30 years of experience, additionally he founded the company Audio Network with Robert Hurst. For School Farm Studios Andrew partnered with sound and mix engineer, composer, orchestrator, and musician Stefano Civetta. Stefano was a recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios for 6 years and has an impressive list of work across albums and cinema scores. Together the pair worked to build a space where musicians feel welcome, in a very homey setting, but also have the best technology, microphones, and outboard available.
Now complete the facility has a main studio that can comfortably host 26 musicians. In addition, there are two purpose-built booths adjoining the main room and two further large booths in adjacent buildings. The flexibility in size and technology allows for the dynamic nature of the studio where there is no such thing as a typical session. “We are lucky enough to work on all sorts of genres, from orchestras for films to small intimate acoustic sets, from jazz ensembles to big bands. The big main room and the spacious booths allow us to isolate every single element, giving us and the client absolute control on each component,” says Stef.
For recording an orchestra, the main room can host up 28 strings, with four musicians in the large booth, a soloist in the small booth. The neighbouring annexes could accommodate several additional players. When working on a typical pop session, the drums would be placed in the large booth, to leave the large barn for the Steinway Model D or the Hammond, either guitar or bass would be recorded in any of the external booths, and the small booth would be utilised for vocals. This all works together due to the extensive video and audio communication throughout the facility.
The facility is a fantastic blend of new and old including the use of digital and analogue. Stef works by committing all the analogue outboard and processing while recording. This is done by recording through outboard, printing to “tape” EQ, compression and so on. Then when it comes to mixing, staying in the box is preferred. With the ultimate flexibility in terms of resources, automations, recalls and the advantages that such a situation brings. School Farm’s set up allows for a fully analogue mix, or they can use the SSL Duality Delta as a DAW controller, or an Avid Pro Tools S1 through EUCON.
Another flexible solution seen at the studio is how they manage recording classical music with an orchestra, which doesn’t always agree with the use of a click track. The studio uses two different video systems. One is fully digital, through SDI cameras/lines, the other is completely analogue. This allows for a conductor to conduct the orchestra via video stream with almost zero latency. Another example of this is when a soloist must be recorded separately, the recording will be done by the analogue feed through a BlackMagic Ultra Studio 3G, which introduces close to no latency.
In striving to incorporate the latest technology into the original build of the studio, ensuring the facility could produce work in Dolby Atmos. Now the studio can accommodate every sort of format a client could need. To do this they enlisted HHB Communications. Rather than relying solely on the Dolby Atmos Production Suite, School Farm Studios choose to utilise a Dolby RMU (rendering mastering unit).
“We knew that we would have to run large sessions that would include tons of tracks, and plugins. With an RMU we are able to offload everything concerning the Dolby Atmos aspects of a session was a good choice. This allows us to not run the Product Suite on the main rig and keep things working smoothly,” says Stef.
“It was a pleasure to work with such a unique studio, we were happy to share our knowledge and experience with Andrew and Stef,” comments Matthew Fletcher.