The term 'sound designer' is bandied around a lot: and it legitimately can be applied to a vast swathe of audio professionals. But for someone who epitomises the craft, look no further than Dean Hovey of LA-based Soundwell.tv.
Dean has spent more than two decades honing his talent for creating new and unique sounds, and has worked on over 1000 commercials, feature films, TV shows and sound art installations. He's also designed sound for a number of tech devices and 'themed entertainment' attractions around the world, including the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Backlot Experience. Here, he installed multi-channel audio into the world-famous film production backlot environment for an evening of nightmarish interactive 'scare zones'.
Dean starts most of his projects in his Downtown LA Arts District studio — a sonic playground if you like — which is filled with synths, sequencers, and an assortment of one-off sound-generating curios. "Each box is unique and has very specific characteristics. They're all different, on purpose, and selected for generating a wide palette of sonic possibilities."
Dean's studio rig enables him to send MIDI information to each device simultaneously allowing for a novel workflow for sculpting sounds. "I thought it would be a great idea to capture all of these devices all at the same time discretely so I can figure out what the best sonic choices are for that given project." But with so many separate audio sources, he needed a sufficiently large audio interface system to allow him to record each signal on its own channel in his DAW software. Focusrite's RedNet system, which operates on the Dante Ethernet-based audio network, was the obvious choice.
Dean's signal flow is very simple: "I go from my analogue synthesizers and generators into my RedNet I/O, via three Synth Drivers for balanced signal conversion. Once my devices are connected to RedNet, then they're on the Dante network and I can record them into either Logic, Live or on my Pro Tools HDX system [or all three! — Ed]. If I were to work in a traditional method, I’d have to have 64 singular cables feeding from room to room. On the Dante network I have just one Ethernet cable going from the Ethernet hub in the back room to the Ethernet hub in the main room, lacing into my RedNet interfaces." From here, Dean creates completely unique timbres from numerous devices, giving him the sonic edge on his sound design projects.
But it's not just RedNet's high channel count that attracts Dean. With the RedNet 5 32-channel HD Bridge, he can patch his RedNet interfaces into any Pro Tools HDX system in the world, giving him the same sound, routing and expandability options as he has in his main studio. "I have two RedNet 5s on this system back here, and that allows me to have 64 discrete channels directly into and out of a single HDX card."
The RedNet's sound quality is also equally important, and superior in clarity to other interface systems that he's tried. "One thing I noticed right out of the box with the Focusrite interfaces was the degree of audio separation. When you start triggering over 60 voices at the same time, separation becomes a really big deal. Even with a dense sound-design build, I can tell how many things are being layered. The clarity of these interfaces is very important when I’m smoothing out the detail and hopefully increasing the emotion in my designed works."
To find out more about Dean's studio and his monster RedNet rig, check out this video.