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ARTIST INTERVIEW

September 27, 2019

Francesco Donadello & the Emmy-winning sound of Vox-Ton.

From recording orchestras to mixing the OST for Netflix's popular series 'Chernobyl'. The Italian mixing engineer shares his experience.


Hello Francesco. Thanks for being with us today. First of all, congrats for your fresh Emmy Award!

Thank you for having me! It's a well deserved award for the composer, Hildur Gudnadottir. I think she really pushed the boundaries of modern soundtrack composition.

What did you think when you were proposed the OST for Chernobyl? How did that happen?

Hildur is a dear friend of mine. We have worked together many times before for both her own projects and in conjunction with Johann Johannsson productions (i.e. Arrival), so when she asked me to be part of this soundtrack I was immediately interested!

Tell us a bit more about the technical process.

95% of the sounds you hear are coming from a recording session inside a Chernobyl "identical twin" nuclear power plant in Lithuania. At this time the plant is in the process of being dismantled. Hildur, Sam Slater and Chris Watson (from Cabaret Voltaire) went into the power plant, dressed in full hazmat suits, and recorded mostly with sound field techniques, but also contact microphones to capture the sounds. Back in Berlin they used these sounds to create sample libraries, as well as edited them together to make rhythmic sequences and then compose the soundtrack. When the composition was done, we re-amped each sound through a combination of different guitar amps, a Leslie speaker, and hi-fi studio monitors into the Vox Ton live room then captured the sound with a 5.0 microphone setup, plus close microphones. Everything was mixed with a mobile setup while I was in Joshua Tree, CA with some additional re-amping at Sunset Sound in LA, which I used also as an extra monitoring room to check the mixes.

 

Vox-Ton is the foundation of Acustica Audio Cola. How close to your console does the plugin sound?

Acustica plugins are amazing! I'm so happy to have found the sound of my beloved Cadac console back in the box. Really helpful while mixing. I can say with confidence that these are the only plugins that don't make me miss the original gear!

You were the first engineer ever to take part in Acustica's Iris Project™. What do you think about AI technology applied to plugins?

Acustica often recreates very unusual and rare gear. The Iris™ Project is really helpful to everyone that may have otherwise not had the possibility to try the original machine and needs a starting point to work from.

What is your approach when recording orchestras and how does that impact your studio work?

Of course the room must have great acoustics. Aside from that, microphone choices and positioning make the biggest difference in sound. I first focus on the Decca Tree, and then move on to dialling in a nice mid-close bass sound. I also work with the orchestrator and conductor to find the right balance within the orchestra.

You travel a lot. Do you ever mix on headphones?

Of course! I mix a lot on headphones these days. I have a special rig that I've found after many tests. I love it!

Do you have any mixing tricks you swear by?

Nothing really special... Checking the phase and using sample delays is a big thing for me. Otherwise, a ping pong delay made with my Studer A80 is probably my most used fx!

 

Visit Vox-Ton's website here.

 

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