Recording and Production in the News
Renowned film score producer/editor kidnaps OrpheusCambridge, UK, March 2008: Mark Willsher of pin3hot.com, the San Francisco-based producer, recording engineer and film score editor known for his work on New Line Cinema's Lord Of The Rings trilogy and such blockbusters as The Aviator and King Kong, has fallen for Prism Sound's new eight-channel Orpheus Firewire recording interface in a big way. "I've been in this business quite some time, and it is rare that I pick up gear and get really excited about what I'm going to be able to do with it. However, when the guys at Prism Sound started calling me to get me to return the Orpheus they'd lent me as a demo unit, I started thinking, 'Damn - you're not getting this back!'"
British-born Willsher studied music at the University of Ottawa in Canada, became technical director of the internationally recognised Chamber Music festival there, and ran a mobile recording facility. He worked on editing Howard Shore's score for the Extended DVD edition of the first instalment of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and subsequently worked on the remaining two films, taking over as Associate Music Producer for Return Of The King. He now lives in San Francisco, and continues to divide his time between film work and chamber music recording on a laptop-based Merging Pyramix DAW.
"I've worked with a lot of different converters over the years, and definitely have my favourites," explains Willsher from his San Francisco studio. "I first worked seriously with Prism Sound gear on Lord Of The Rings, where we used a lot of ADA-8s. I liked the fact that you could hook them directly into Pro Tools - that made life a lot easier on that film. I've since rented them for film work several times, but I've never owned one. Until recently, I was still using a couple of other converters for my mobile recording work, but I had to use a Magma chassis to interface them with the Pyramix Native system on my laptop, which wasn't ideal. And then Frank Oglethorpe, from Prism Sound's US office, told me about the Orpheus, which was being designed at the time, and asked me if I'd like to try one out when it was ready.
"I really liked the idea of just plugging the interface into my laptop and recording over Firewire, but I wasn't sure if it would be good enough sonically - none of the other Firewire interfaces I've tried or heard about have really been up to scratch. So I said I'd like to try it, but that I'd reserve judgement."
Frank Oglethorpe sent an Orpheus to Willsher's studio at the start of February. "The first thing I noticed was that it sounded really good. And then the other features began to win me over: its portability and ease of use, the stable clock and the decent mic preamps, which did really well in a test I set up with some Sanken CO-100K mics."
Speaking of the Orpheus's reliability, Willsher echoes the experience of other Prism users who have found the company's interfaces to be highly crash-resistant, even when the Firewire connection is completely interrupted. "I was recording a classical concert for television broadcast the other week, using the Orpheus as the master clock source, recording the audio to Pyramix on my laptop, and giving the TV crew a stereo feed from the Orpheus's internal mixer. During rehearsal, the Firewire cable was accidently pulled out of the laptop while I was recording. Of course, the audio stopped going into Pyramix immediately, but the Orpheus kept on routing its internal mix to the TV guys via the digital outputs without a hitch - they didn't even know anything was wrong! Most other interfaces I've used would have crashed.
"I'm still discovering features I like - nicely thought-out touches. Loads of interfaces I've used have dual headphone outputs for monitoring, but I love the fact that I have independent level control over the two headphone outs on Orpheus. And the assignable master volume control is great - I can even use it as a high-quality 5.1 master level controller."
Willsher likes variety in his career: at the time of writing in early Spring 2008, he was simultaneously finishing work on the score for Pig Hunt, a darkly comic horror film (with nods to Deliverance) about a weekend pig-hunting exhibition that goes horribly wrong, and also completing a series of chamber recordings of late Beethoven Quartets for CD release, with the San Francisco-based Cypress String Quartet. He plans to use Orpheus to complete the remainder of the Beethoven recordings.
"I'll be honest - I haven't unplugged the Orpheus or stopped using it since it arrived. I haven't even booted up the main tower-based Pyramix system in my studio, as the combination of Orpheus and Pyramix Native on my laptop has been giving me everything I need. In the end, when Frank from Prism started leaving messages for me to see what I thought of the Orpheus and if they could have the demo unit back, I just rang him up and said, 'How much is it? 'Cause I'm not sending it back...!'"
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