Trackdown Scores Film And TV With Neumann
Sydney studio specialising in film and television scores headlined by Sennheiser and Neumann
Trackdown is a renowned recording and post-production studio specialising in musical scores for film and television, as well as a diverse roster of music genres. Entrusted with some of pop culture’s most celebrated film franchises, revered orchestras, and even operas, Trackdown Lead Score Engineer and Sound Supervisor Craig Beckett uses a Neumann studio monitor array and an extensive collection of modern and vintage Sennheiser and Neumann mics. The 7.1 monitor system setup includes, but is not limited to, three KH 420 and four KH 120 monitors, as well as two KH 805 subwoofers, while some of the preferred control room microphones in Trackdown’s arsenal include the Neumann U 87 AI, U 89, a first-generation TLM 170, and Sennheiser MKH 50 and MKH 8020.
Trackdown has been a key figure in the Australian music world for over 30 years. Since its humble roots as a rehearsal studio, the space has been graced by acts such as INXS and Divinyls. In recent years, the studio has expanded to include Australia’s only purpose-built scoring stage, named the Simon Leadley Scoring Stage, after the Trackdown co-founder. With this, the building houses an automated dialogue replacement (ADR) and foley recording studio, the Theatre One screening room for mixing, as well as 18 fully furnished production suites. The studio has earned a strong reputation for providing a suite of services in audio and music post production for film and television, most recently servicing such projects as The Crown, The Mitchells Vs The Machines, and Mortal Kombat.
Craig Beckett has been working at Trackdown for more than 15 years, having started his career as an assistant, working his way to lead engineer. “I started off playing in heavy metal bands and recording them as a hobby. When it came time to get a ‘real job’, as my parents put it, I got the opportunity to come into Trackdown thanks to a band I knew that was recording there.” In Beckett’s time at Trackdown, the studio has continued to build on its standing and expand its offerings. A few years ago, the studio underwent a redesign and with it, an upgraded monitor array. “We restructured the scoring stage about five years ago, which was when we had the chance to upgrade the monitors in the room. We tried out a few monitor brands and ended up going with the KH 420 as our primary speakers. After listening to a lot of different recordings in the room, I found that I was able to hear many more frequencies with the Neumann monitors versus other speakers,” says Beckett. “I not only could hear more while tracking, but I was able to get a better signal-to-noise ratio, and great high and low-end response.”
The Neumann monitor array in the Simon Leadley Scoring Stage is coordinated via a Euphonix System 5 console with 340 channels. The digital-hybrid console enables easy calibration and the monitors are effortless once they are set up. According to Beckett, “I never have to touch the monitors. I double check them once every six months, but we have had no issues even as they have aged over the last five years.” The 7.1 monitor array includes three KH 420s, four KH 120s and two KH 805 subwoofers.
The control room also houses a covetable microphone locker with several models from several manufacturers. The collection includes two Sennheiser MD 421-II cardioid microphones, two MKH 8020 omni-directional RF condenser mics, an MKH 50-P48 super-cardioid RF condenser mic, and three MD 441-U dynamic studio mic. Beckett’s go-to mic has become the MKH 8020 for a variety of recording use cases, “the MKH 8020 microphones are on my list every time. They are great room microphones for piano, as an ambient microphone extension to blend with other mics, and I even used them to record a didgeridoo this morning.”
With this, the control room also features several Neumann microphones. This includes a set of KM 85 cardioid microphones, a pair of M147 tube microphone, a matched pair of KM 184 small diaphragm condenser mics, six KMR 81-i short shotgun mics and a few vintage studio mics like the U87 and a first-generation TLM 170. The microphone and monitor arrays converge to enable Beckett to do his job to the fullest extent, “the best part about our Neumann monitors is that there is no difference between what I hear in the control room or booth. The microphones and monitors pick up everything so accurately.”
The monitors have served Trackdown well during the last few years. As more and more film and television productions have moved to Australia, the studio has received an influx of scoring work. Beckett shares that this was especially amplified during the pandemic, “we have been fortunate in Australia as we did not have the same [COVID-19] caseloads as other countries. Because of this, we have been able to stay open and support a lot of projects that were on hold while the United States and Europe were in lockdown.”
In recent months, Beckett and the team at Trackdown have shown no signs of slowing down. You can hear Trackdown’s recent scoring work in recently released films and television series, including Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (Sony Animation), Maya and The Three (Netflix) and La Brea (NBC).