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Feature Interview: Scott Freiman - Part 2

In the second part of this exclusive two-part interview, Scott Freiman talks about his Studio (designed by the legendary John Storyk), his favorite go-to plug-ins & audio software, and his preference when it comes to the age old question of 'Pro Tools vs Logic'. Furthermore we chatted about his highly innovative lectures on the Beatles, why their music is timeless, and how the changes in the recently released Pro Tools 9 will affect more than just Pro Tools based studios.

You can read Part 1 of this interview here if you haven't already checked it out...

Listen and Read

Want to enjoy your breakfast without scrolling through the article on your computer / iPad / iPhone? No problem, sit back and listen to the original audio from the interview with Scott Freiman.

Audio for Q's 1-2:

Audio for Q's 3-5:

Audio for Q's 6-7:

Audio for Q's 8-9:

Audio for Q's 10-11:

1. Scott, tell us about your studio setup.

So, I have a studio that was designed by John Storyk. John's first studio was Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. He's designed studios for Whitney Huston and the basketball player Shaquille O'Neal and the actor Richard Gere and churches, schools and auditoriums all over the world. I did not even know what his background was when I hired him. I didn't even delve in too deeply. When I found out, I asked him why he was taking on my studio, which is located on the third floor of a 100 year old house. He said it was a real challenge. "Can you make a professional studio in a space where you don't have complete control over the layout and you're limited to what you can do?"

But he made it sound amazing! So I have three rooms. My main control room has a keyboard and a desk and my monitors and that's where I do all my composing and mixing. I have a booth that can fit a drum set. It's a room within a room: ceilings, floors and walls are all detached from the outer walls. I have a third room which is my office area, it's also like a lounge area. That room and my main mixing room are both setup for surround sound. So when a director comes here we can sit in my lounge and watch a film in surround or right in my mixing room.

I've recorded some great players up in this space. And it's worked out really well. Then down stairs I've got a living room which has a grand piano and I've used that to record large string ensembles and things. So, my house is sort of the quintessential home studio in that I'm pushing it as far as I can. Yet there's very, very little hardware in the studio. I run everything on Apple (computers) for the most part. I have a bunch of Mac Mini's running samples and then a main Mac Pro. I have audio interfaces and Pre's and so forth but I strictly do everything in the box, so all of my effects are in the box. Just about all of my virtual instruments are in the box so if I need to I can take a lot of my studio on my laptop and work on the road.

2. Do you find you prefer working while on the road - for inspiration?

No, I like my studio. I like being here and having room to move around. I have two screens and a nice big 88-key keyboard to work on. It's a nice setup so I really enjoy working here. But in a pinch if I'm on the road and I'm working on something I know I can a certain amount on my laptop. I can certainly sketch out ideas and do some composing. I'm probably not going to be mixing on my laptop but I can certainly do some editing on my laptop.

I was saying to someone the other day when I built this studio, which was 2003, the amount of money that I had to spend was a small percentage of what I would have had to spend a few years earlier. Now if I had to do it again it would probably be another huge drop because everything has gotten cheaper and more powerful, in terms of what you're capable of doing with much less hardware.

For example. I have a Yamaha 02R96 Mixer that I use as a big volume control. I don't do anything else with the mixer except use it to route the inputs and outputs around the studio. So that was about $10,000-20,000 when I bought it that's completely unnecessary. You could replace it with a device that's about the size of a book right now! (laughs). It's pretty incredible and I often dream about what my next studio will look like.

3. What are your go-to DAWs? I know you're a master Pro Tools user, but I believe you're a Logic user as well?

Yes, I do use Logic. I'm very quick in Pro Tools and I find composing and moving around and mixing in Pro Tools suits me just fine. I have everything organized (the way I like it). I love using the TDM plug-ins, which actually use processing power on boards on your computer. There are other ways of doing that, but for me doing that on a Pro Tools board means I can put a lot more powerful plugins on a session without running out of CPU power. And I'm just very familiar with Pro Tools and it is pretty much the standard - certainly when you're doing work for film and TV and you're doing mixing work.

I use Logic for recording my narration for macProVideo (tutorials). Just that's what I use. I don't know why! I do use it for composing on occasion. And I try and stay up-to-date with Logic. But I pretty much stick with Pro Tools mainly because I'm very, very fast with it. Beyond Pro Tools I've done a little work in Ableton Live and Propellerheads Reason, which I'll call on occasionally.

I have a couple of other software products that I use in my studio. I use Bias Peak, an audio editor. I can use it for editing audio files, for preparing CD's, for doing batch processing of audio. That's very useful. I use Audio Finder, which is a way of organizing any audio on your computer. You can audition it, you can copy/paste it right into Logic or Pro Tools, you can do process it. There's an awful lot of capability there and it's not expensive! There are much more expensive solutions to do the same thing, but I'm very comfortable with Audio Finder.

So you can actually set it up so that whenever you click on an audio file (wave, rex, aiff, etc) Audio Finder pops up with a picture of the waveform and starts to play the file. So from right there you can select a segment that you like and paste it right into Pro Tools at your cursor, or into Logic. That's really nice! Plus you can do searching, so if I want to pull up all my automobile, door closing (samples), I can search for that and Audio Finder shows me all of those files throughout my system. I can quickly audition them and find the one I like, grab a segment of it and paste it in a file. So that's very useful. It's a great way of keeping all your samples organized.

4. What about any 3rd party plugins that you use on a regular basis. Which are your go-to instrument and effect plugins and why?

Well, the main two plugins that I use are Kontakt for playing back samples and I have a large number of sample libraries so I use that a lot, and Vienna Ensemble.

Vienna Ensemble not only produces an amazing orchestral library but they have a host called Ensemble Pro which lets you run their samples as well as other virtual instruments across your network. So, without any audio or MIDI cables I can offload samples to other computers in my network and send a MIDI command over the network, and get audio back over the network.

I will put different parts of my orchestral libraries (which tend to be the real memory intensive ones) on Mac Mini's running Vienna Ensemble Pro. Then from Pro Tools I'll attach to those Mac Mini's and beyond that I treat it as if they were running on the same CPU. Everything works pretty seamlessly. So, all of my sample work I'm doing with Kontakt and often with Kontakt running within Vienna Ensemble Pro.

Then no studio should be without the Spectrasonics products: Stylus RMX for loop processing and drum loops, guitar loops, anything! And Omnisphere is just outstanding in terms of pulling up everything from pads to keyboard sounds and so forth.

I also love a lot of the stuff in the (Native Instruments) Komplete package. Hmmm... Those are probably some of the main things that I use.

And of course I completely left out Sibelius. When I work I tend to like to write out more complex stuff rather than just go and start composing or start writing inside the DAW. I will actually compose on paper on in Sibelius and then use that to work out an arrangement before I record it in the DAW, so Sibelius is just great! I just love it, I find it very, very easy to use and really quick for me to work in and there's so much capability.

I have friends who use Finale who swear by that... It's sort of like Pro Tools vs Logic. You have people who use what ever is comfortable (for them).

5. So, interesting that you mention Vienna Ensemble Pro because I wanted to ask you if you're working on any new tutorials for macProVideo.com that you're able to tell us about.

Ha! There are a couple of ideas in the works that we're talking about. Right now I'm concentrating on my Native Instruments Komplete Tips & Tricks tutorial. I'm working on the January edition which is going to be really neat. It's going to be.... (pauses)... I can leak this! It's going to be about organizing your sample library in Kontakt. Since GigaStudio has died a painful death, almost everyone is using Kontakt and I want to spend some time on how to easily organize samples. So I'm going to show some of the things that I do.

Then there's some calls for other advanced tutorials of other products that I've talked about... and so we'll see.

OK. So you're not letting the cat out of the bag then...

Not yet! I have to talk to the boss first! (laughs)

6. I've also been discovering from your recent blog post on controlling Keynote using an iPhone... which was great by the way...

Thank you!

You mention the lectures on Deconstructing the Beatles. So what attracted you to creating these  lectures on the Beatles?

Well, it's interesting. I've been a Beatles fan most of my life and I'm pretty familiar with their history and their music. Through the web I got hold of some of the 4-track recordings from the Sargent Pepper sessions that had been floating around. And as luck would have it I called over Steve H to have a listen. We listened to it and Steve suggested I should get some friends together and we should share this with other people. I made a big presentation out of it where I really talked about the recording process. I did a lot of research to understand how each take developed and how things were working in the studio and what equipment they used - there are some great books on that.

And I did a presentation in my living room for about 30 people, believe it or not. It was a great success. From that, people started asking me to do it other places. So this year I've done maybe about 20 lectures up and down the East Coast of the United States. In the new year I've got some opportunities coming up in the Mid-West and some more on the North East. I've got people asking me to do other types of presentations.

So many people talk about the Beatles and their whole history and who hated who, and all that stuff (laughs...) Of course, I'm fascinated by the music and how they made it, and especially since we have so much access to virtual instruments and effects and auto-tuning... Yet the Beatles were able to make these songs that last forever with very limited technology. So how did they do it? And what made their songs last so long?

So, what I do is try to explain that to lay audiences. Most of the people who attend my lectures aren't producers and composers. I try to explain in English what the equipment was that they used and how they worked in the studio and what was George Martin, their producer's role. And I show the songs and it's quite fun to watch and listen to.

7. So in your opinion, if you could sum it up, what do you feel is so special about the Beatles and how do you convey that in your lectures?

Right, It's a great question and I don't think I have the definitive answer. But I do think it's a combination of very, very talented musicians who not only pushed themselves and but always wanted to do better but they were doing exactly what we were talking about earlier: they were listening to what was going on around them. Paul McCartney was listening to modern classical music and attending concerts. He was one of the earliest promoters of Jimi Hendrix. They were listening to the Byrds, the folk scene on the West Coast, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan.

All the groups of that time were listening to each other and trying to figure out what they liked and how they could top that.  So, a combination of being very talented, wanting to continually hone your craft and do better than the last thing (they) did, and having an enabler like George Martin and engineers like Geoff Emerick... who were able to take the Beatle's ideas and translate them into an orchestral score. Or Geoff Emerick knowing how to place a microphone so that John Lennon could get the effect on his voice that he wanted. John Lennon couldn't have done that by himself. He needed Geoff Emerick. And Paul McCartney couldn't have written out the score to Eleanor Rigby. He could hear it in his head, but he needed George Martin to write that out.

So, it was this team of people that enabled this great music. I think a lot of it is a function of the times, because they were so innovative in such a creative time that they really did change popular music. But I think it was a confluence of really interesting and talented people who had the right work ethic.

Thank you.

8. On to questions of a more personal nature if you don't mind!


Scott. What makes you smile or what makes tick?

Ha! Mmm... Great music. Working with great people... and my family. I have a lovely wife and three kids and they're all very special to me and they make me smile more than anything I think.

9. OK. So you're stuck on a desert island you can have 3 albums. What would they be and why?

I've never been very good at this game, just because everything depends on my moods and feelings. So, I know I'm going to use my escape clause here but it really depends. You know I have days where I can just sit and listen to the Beatles and I have days where I need a Bjork or Frank Zappa or, you know, Abba! (laughs) It could be anything... and great film scores, you know John Cogliani - Red Violin... Great classical music, from Beethoven to Debussy to Copland... and then Jazz. So I listen to everything and it's very hard for me to pick favorites. I'm sorry I'm not so good at that!

But I should mention I'm definitely an album listener. I'm stuck in that mode. As much as I love iTunes and downloading stuff I still buy albums.

10. With Pro Tools 9 coming out recently. I mean there have been some seismic changes in that way it works. Is there anything about Pro Tools 9 you'd like to share?

Well I did a tutorial which macProVideo is offering for free on what's new in Pro Tools 9. The two major differences are that it takes all the people who are running LE and M-Powered and brings them up to pretty much the same capability as the HD folks. So everyone is running with the same set of tools and you can now run it on any hardware, not just Pro Tools hardware. That's a huge thing.

So, it lowers the barrier to entry into a Pro Tools system which is great. There are things that I'd taken for-granted being an HD user like Automatic Delay Compensation, which now all Pro Tools user have. And that's the idea that every time you put a plug-in or an effect or something on a track, you're adding a little bit of delay. The computer has to do a little bit of processing for that plugin, so there's micro-seconds of delay - but that can add up. Pretty soon you have things that aren't in sync because there's delay added into your processing. What automatic delay compensation does is it compensates for that so everything stays perfectly in sync. I have an example in my tutorial where you can absolutely hear (the tracks) going out of sync without it enabled.

The multiple track beat detective where you can take drum kits and get everything lined up in sync using Beat Detective... something we had in HD which was not in the other versions. That's a big thing.

There are a couple of other things that are very useful: MP3 export and OMF import. So I encourage people to check out my tutorial because I go through most of what's new. It's a big deal for the non-HD users because it brings them up to speed with all the top studio in the world!

11. Excellent! So, do you think this will help Pro Tools maintain it's industry-standard moniker?

I think so. I think they needed to do something because (computer) hardware is getting so powerful now that the advantage of having Pro Tools dedicated hardware has been lessened over the years. People are running Logic systems that are doing massive processing and they may or may not be using any dedicated hardware to so that. So I think this was a great step in the right direction for Avid. I think it was a way of them showing that after acquiring Digi Design they weren't going to give up on Pro Tools, but they were really going to invest in it. I think this makes it a lot easier to learn how to use a Pro Tools system and have it in their studios without having to spend a ridiculous amount of money buying all the Digi Design equipment and plugins and so forth.

Well, thank you very much Scott for taking the time to do this interview!

You're welcome!

Hit the comments below with any questions or suggestions! Thanks for reading...

Rounik Sethi

Rounik Sethi | Articles by this author

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & the macProVideo Hub. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic (and a self-confessed Mac fanatic) he's taught teachers, professional musicians and hobbyists how to get the best out of Apple's creative software. He has been a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University's Teacher training program, facilitating workshops on using music and digital media tools in the classroom. If you're looking for Rounik, you'll most likely find him (and his articles) on Ask.Audio & macProVideo.com.


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