With the opening late last year of its new Sound Arts room, Semillero Estudios in Guadalajara became the first post-production facility in the state of Jalisco to offer Dolby-certified mixing in the Atmos HE (Home Entertainment) immersive sound format. In addition, the new mixing room is distinguished as the first in Mexico outside Mexico City to offer the Atmos HE capabilities using a full 9.1.6 Meyer Sound spatial sound monitoring system.
“Producers and music artists have been very impressed with what we can offer here in Guadalajara,” says Álvaro Arce, founder and director of Semillero Estudios. “A big part of that is the Meyer Sound monitoring system. You can take it to very high SPLs yet it never distorts. It sounds beautiful and it translates well into headphones, where much of the music content in spatial audio is heard lately. You can mix quickly and trust the system without a doubt.”
Arce established Semillero Estudios in Mexico City in 2013 principally for music recording, but the availability of top-notch musicians along with a fast-growing film and video business in his home city of Guadalajara convinced him to make the move back home in 2019. The first studio in the new location also was focused on music recording, but when the music was destined for integration into surround soundtracks the mixes had to be done in Mexico City.
“At first we were thinking of doing a smaller room with only 5.1 capability,” Arce recalls, “and then expanding to an Atmos room later. But our architect Gabriel Beas, acoustic designer Alejandro Lepe, and Carlos Cuevas from Dolby convinced us it would be more cost-effective to go to a larger Atmos room in one phase. I’m glad we did. With the surging demand for immersive music mixes, thanks largely to Apple, we’ve been very busy.”
The Sound Arts mixing room is equipped with three Meyer Sound Acheron® Designer screen channel loudspeakers, with six HMS-5™ surround loudspeakers for the laterals (wide, surround, and rear) and six more for the overhead front, mid, and rear. A single X-800C™ cinema subwoofer supplies low-frequency effects.
“I’ve always liked Meyer Sound speakers for their amazing headroom and precise imaging,” says Arce. “I recall when we were using the Dolby tool for measuring sound pressure levels, to make sure we could reach the levels we needed in the subsonic frequencies. That’s when I realized a big difference with Meyer Sound, because with the other systems we considered we would have needed two – or even four – subwoofers instead of one.”
Arce also cited the worldwide acceptance of Meyer Sound monitoring systems in major film and video post-production studios, as well as the high level of customer support available in Mexico. “I received a lot of help on design and speaker selection from Antonio Manzo, head of sales for Mexico, as well as from Magu [Mauricio Ramirez] and Oscar Barrientos, who have been friends for years. The Meyer team was incredibly supportive through the whole process, and that can be a real game-changer.”
The mixing platform in the room is an Avid S6, with separate computers for Pro Tools and the Dolby Atmos rendering unit. A Focusrite ISA preamplifier and Neumann U87 microphone allow for the insertion of vocal or synth tracks during the mixing sessions.
The new room opened during the Guadalajara Film Festival in October of 2021, and as part of the festivities, Oscar-winning sound designer Carlos Cortés and re-recording mixer Jamie Baksht (both for The Sound of Metal) came to the studio to teach a master class.
Since opening, the room has been constantly busy with film projects, in-house productions, and immersive music remixes, with Arce and chief engineer Caleb Sevilla taking on the lion’s share of mixing duties. The studio quickly attracted the attention of several notables in the Latin music business, including guitarist/composer/producer Kiko Cibrian, known for his work with Luis Miguel and Christian Castro, among many others. “Kiko lives in San Diego, but he loves the sound of the room here,” says Arce.
Most mixing in the Atmos format has been for music, again driven by the demand for immersive products on the Apple Music platform. The Sound Arts Room has hosted mixes of feature films and documentaries as well, though most are rendered in the 5.1 format. One exemplary project mixed by Oscar winner Carlos Cortés was a “cinema minute” advertising clip for IWC watches featuring American football legend Tom Brady.
Semillero Estudios and associated staff have an extensive list of credits for original music composition, music production, sound design, and post-production mixing, with projects including feature films, television series, and immersive music mixes. The majority of projects are for distribution in Mexico, but about a third are distributed throughout Latin America with some also appearing on Spanish language outlets in the United States.
Photo: © César Béjar