Pete Eaglesfield, co-founder
What are the most common problems your clients need your help to overcome?
It varies hugely, but the common denominator is that our clients need to get on with their creative work. Many of our clients are perfectly capable of sorting out their own technical issues and I can think of several who were initially reluctant to call on our services for precisely that reason - they didn’t feel they should have to. But the reality of the situation is that every hour they are fiddling with their system or looking up possible solutions to problems, is an hour that they are not earning money. Contrary to what some clients have said in the past, we are not magicians. We simply have a lot of experience and a team of skilled consultants, which means we can find and implement a solution fast, whatever the problem.
To answer more directly, we do a lot of sample library organisation for our clients these days. With so many libraries, authorisation protocols and proprietary requirements, it can be a bit of a minefield ensuring that all your libraries are functioning correctly. We have a big pool of knowledge, having set up dozens, if not hundreds of different systems with different sets of libraries. We have been known to remotely install a new library while our client has lunch!
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give composers / sound designers when thinking about setting up their studios?
It’s all about planning. When we’re building studios, we spend hours and hours in the planning stages. Decisions you make at the outset will have profound consequences on the final result. We have on many occasions been in the unfortunate position of having to make do with an undesirable situation simply because a bad decision was taken before we were involved.
We’d encourage anybody to talk to us before they go too far - we don’t charge for that service. Obviously there are always limits to what you can do - budgetary and otherwise - but in the vast majority of cases, a good solution can be found without changing the budget. One of the most rewarding and creative parts of my job is to find solutions within the
boundaries that have been set - and our clients love to give us a challenge (you know who you are)!
Are there any significant changes in the industry since you started out that stand out for you?
Where do I start? I began my career in the multitrack department of Hilton Sound. I was responsible for lining up analogue and digital tape machines, delivering them to studios and preparing them for sessions. This could be as a replacement for a broken machine or to provide additional track capacity. It is barely believable that we once had to have two expensive tape machines and a complicated synchronisation system in order to achieve a 48-track recording. These days you can achieve the same thing with a cheap computer and free software. But I have to say that the huge changes in technology haven’t really changed the creative process, in my opinion. The very best writers and composers work with whatever tools they have and produce great music regardless.
What are the most popular pieces of kit at the moment?
That’s a difficult question. Every client is different and every situation is different. One of the things that’s different about us is that we never look to sell our clients products because we have them on the shelf. We have no volume commitments to our suppliers, so we are always able to choose the right product for the job. In reality, this means we work with a vast range of products and there tends not to be much of a pattern. Two things I can think of: Firstly, the UAD system has gained a lot of ground. It is a very simple, high-performance and expandable plug-in platform that many of our clients are now enjoying. Secondly, the Blackmagic MultiDock, a four-bay Thunderbolt SSD enclosure, is proving a very good solution for those wanting a large, fast sample library system.
How do you feel Yellow Technology stands out from its competition?
Strictly speaking, we don’t have much competition. I can’t think of another company that offers the breadth of services and the depth of experience that we do. Of course, we have competition in the individual areas of equipment supply, studio design, acoustic treatment, wiring etc, but it is the fact that we consider all areas that makes us different and that gives us something unique.
We have no interest in short-term gain, be that through selling a product or building a studio. We look at long-term relationships with our clients. If we put together a new studio for a client and then never hear from them again, we’d mark this down as a failure. We want to keep it running and keep our clients working to their optimum level. The model works - we have dozens of clients who have been with us for more than ten years.
Have there been any exciting advances in studio technology recently or are any coming up soon?
Due to poor marketing on our part, we have bred a certain group of clients who think that all we do is provide computer systems and support! I mention this because the biggest advances over the past few years have really come in some form of computer infrastructure. Everything that we can do today that we couldn’t do ten years ago is down to improvements in computers and their associated devices, and I believe that trend is likely to continue.
The speed of processors, the size of data storage, the speed of data storage - all these things lead to big advances for audio. When Yellow Technology started in 2002, we had to squeeze every last MB/s out of our audio systems. We had to use multiple SCSI drives in order to get the bandwidth required for audio. It often felt like we were working right at the limit of what was possible, finding the best possible components to get to the absolute limits of performance. It’s so much easier today, but new challenges lie ahead. We have recently been working with a lot of new data storage technology that allows multi-location synchronisation or multi-workstation access.
And, of course, as processors improve, other software and hardware options become possible. Who knows what lies ahead?
What’s the most exciting studio project you’ve worked on recently?
We get excited about all our studios! We’re just in the middle of two studio projects that are exciting in different ways. One is for a longstanding client, where we’re installing a mixing console - not that common an occurence these days - having upgraded all the other areas of his studio over the last few years. It’s really great to be involved in the growth and development of studios over a longer period. The second is a completely new ground-up studio build for a completely new client. Again, this is relatively rare. We’re building the studio within an industrial unit and our client, a percussionist, is aiming to make it the go-to studio for percussion recording.
How do you see composers and sound designer studios being different in 10 years time?
In construction and layout, not very different at all - the physics of sound is not about to change! I think the big differences will be in computer technology (stop me if I’m boring you). I anticipate that there will be big steps forward in display technology over the next few years, continuing the recent trend. Flexible displays are still in their infancy but have a huge potential for many areas of technology, including audio. Such advances could lead to more interesting developments in control surfaces with more usable and tactile touch devices. Similarly, data storage advances are coming thick and fast at the moment and things are likely to change significantly there. In ten years’ time, we will look back and laugh at what we currently call “Superfast Broadband”! It is distinctly possible that we will be moving towards online processing, such that your studio no longer needs a powerful computer - you’ll just pay for the power that you need, as you need it. And I foresee a time not too far ahead when local disk drives will be a thing of the past - again, the improvement of broadband will see to this.
Coming back to the less nerdy side of what we do, as an industry we have managed to hold on to some old-fashioned technology in the music world - boxes with knobs and buttons - I hope that continues and that the smaller hardware and software developers are supported and allowed to thrive in what is a very small industry. I don’t know anyone who longs for the day that they just sit in front of a computer screen to write their music - let’s keep it interesting.