The History of Remote Recording: Part Three

Throughout October, in the lead up to our very first live panel discussion Is Remote Collaboration The Future of Music Production? at AES conference in New York, we’ve been exploring the history of remote recording.

From the pioneering work of Ralph Peer who recorded some of the earliest remote recordings, to Abbey Road Studios’ trusty Lanica mobile unit which traveled the length and breadth of the country recording everyone from Malcolm Sargent to Ernest Lough. In the final part of our series, we explore the modern day story of remote recording, and how we here at Audiomovers fit into the picture.

We continue from where we left off in part two. By the time the ‘70s were underway, recording studios were quickly understanding the potential of having their own mobile recording units. Record Plant co-founder Chris Stone explained the key advantages it had over recording in a studio: “It is really not as expensive as studio time when one considers that the concert is two hours long, perhaps twice a night for two days. It is spontaneous music that is recorded live. This makes it more flavorable. And it is usually easier on the musician, who gets paid for the concert and gets the recording done for his next LP at the same time. Everyone wins.”

The Record Plant used its first remote recording unit to make its first-ever remote recording in 1971, The Concert for Bangladesh, held at Madison Square Garden.The concert took place on 1 August 1971, where George Harrison, along with his friend and mentor Ravi Shankar and a host of other stars, played in front of 40,000 people to raise awareness and funds for refugees from East Pakistan. The concerts were recorded with Phil Spector and used The Record Plant’s 16-track mobile recording facility.

At the same time, Abbey Road Studios were heavily in-demand for mobile recording, in particular the mobile engineers Graham Kirby and Richard Hale were in huge demand in the UK and abroad, often traveling to the States or the deepest depths of Eastern Europe during the Cold War era. Naturally, as Abbey Road started doing more films in the late ‘80s, the mobile team found themselves catering for a new clientele during the ‘90s and ‘00s and were often on the road recording music to picture.

However, fast forward to the early 2000s and we start to see the introduction to remote collaboration within the professional recording studio environment. Abbey Road Studios head of audio products, Mirek Stiles, recounts when director Peter Jackson was directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy and unable to be part of the recording sessions in London as he was filming in New Zealand.To solve this, “he would often call in using an ISDN line and a video system called Polygon. During that film there was a lot of remote involvement in the score of the film.”

The Introduction of Audio over Ethernet (AoE)

The early 2000s also brought in the next evolution in remote recording: Audio over Ethernet (AoE). In an analog world, moving audio around from one place to another is easy, as long as you’re using short cable runs and don’t have multiple channels of audio. However, if you’re running audio from different studios, or from one end of a large facility to another, then there could be some real issues. Analog signal quality deteriorates over long distances, and the process becomes exponentially more complicated if you need to distribute audio to multiple places.

This is where we’re introduced to Audio over Ethernet (AoE for short). The idea with AoE is that you can send audio signals over a single Ethernet cable. Dante in particular, which stands for Digital Audio Network through Ethernet, was developed in 2006 by Australian company Audinate and replaces all of those connections with a computer network, effortlessly sending video or hundreds of channels of audio over slender Ethernet cables with perfect digital fidelity.

Because all devices share the same network, signals can be sent between any devices no matter where they are located on a site, with no change to the wiring at all. It’s 100% lossless 24- or 32-bit, and sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz are supported. Audio over Ethernet is still an amazing and relatively new phenomenon, being used in the majority of recording studios around the world.

Covid-19 & The Rise of Remote Collaboration

As mentioned earlier with Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings score, remote recording software and tools in professional studios have been in play since the early 2000s. However, it wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic hit, which brought face-to-face recording sessions to a halt, where songwriters, producers and engineers alike all had to find a creative solution to still be able to collaborate.

Three years prior to the pandemic, Audiomovers was founded by two veterans of pro-audio Igor Maxymenko (Waves, Blue Microphone) and Yuriy Shevyrov (Universal Audio, Waves, Avid). Audiomovers is an ecosystem of simple applications and plugins, enabling seamless flow of high resolution multichannel audio between creators, devices and systems, anywhere in the world.The Audiomovers’ LISTENTO plugin allows you to stream audio in high quality and low latency, becoming a true necessity for many in the industry where remote collaboration is now the new normal.

Audiomovers is now being used by world-famous engineers and producers such as Bainz, Teezio, Andrew Scheps, Illmind, Pepe Quintana, DJ Rhuivo and Jess Ray Ernster, as well as picking up plaudits for its use in records by the likes of Taylor Swift, Bring Me The Horizon, Sigala, Kylie Minogue, Soul Clap, Young Thug, Burna Boy and Future Islands.

Matt Soczywko
Author: Matt Soczywko