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Live is Life opens indoors

After starting out as a mobile recording unit, Live is Life moves to a more traditional set-up with the opening of StudioHD. Marc Maes reports.

Last month saw the official opening of StudioHD (pictured), Live is Life’s ‘indoor’ recording studio located in the Belgian city of Louvain.

Live is Life started out as a live recording unit, operating a mobile studio in 2000 doing audio recording assignments at major festivals such as Werchter and Marktrock. In 2006 it started its ‘instant CD’ project with the ‘Natalia meets the Pointer Sisters’ concerts at the Antwerp Sportpaleis, followed by the Clouseau concert series. Some 17,000 instant CDs were produced for each concert. That same year, the LIVE2 Mobile unit was brought into the digital domain, controlled by a Soundtracs DiGiCo DS-00 console.

Today, Live is Life boasts an impressive list of concert and festival recordings for both public and commercial broadcasters, production companies and individual bands or artists.

Live is Life also made its way in the domestic circuit recording local bands in their rehearsal room using the mobile facilities. “Due to the cutting of budgets the market shifted and many artists preferred to record in their home studio,” says Gert Coremans, manager of Live is Life. “Although the agenda for major acts and festivals was still quite busy, we did fewer on-site recording jobs for new acts because the mobile recording unit didn’t fit their budget – so we went on the look out for new opportunities.”

Het Depot, located in front of Louvain train station, was opened five years ago offering a concert venue, three professional rehearsal rooms (equipped with basic microphone amplification and console) and a percussion booth – Live is Life does live recordings of concerts for broadcast on public broadcaster VRT radio – the idea to install a ‘fixed’ recording studio in the building, making it Live is Life’s ‘pied à terre’, grew organically. So far, artists including Jamie Lidell (who recorded a new version of Another Day), Luka Bloom, Giant Sand, The Wombats, Us 3, Daan, Absynthe Minded and Das Pop have recorded at the venue, either for broadcast or multitrack production.

Under the banner StudioHD, Live is Life is becoming more visible, says Coremans. “Having a traditional multitrack studio gives us access to a new niche,” he explains. “Before, we recorded bands playing concerts – they mostly didn’t know who was recording. With StudioHD, we offer a budget-friendly solution for bands and live recordings in Het Depot.” The studio consists of a spacious control room, a small recording booth and a live recording room. The option is also available to use the centre’s main stage and venue, giving a natural feel and more open space for the musicians.

In the same philosophy of keeping budgets in control, Coremans opted for an analogue set-up in StudioHD with a DDA DMR12 56/44/12/2 mixing console with Genelec 1030 and Yamaha NS10 monitors. “The new Apogee Rosetta800 A-D/D-A converters guarantee quality recording on either Pro Tools HD 7.4, or the Nuendo 3 multitrack system with 56 channels 48 or 96kHz,” Coremans adds. “All the elements can also be used in the mobile studio, and vice versa; we made sure that equipment from the mobile studio is compatible for use in StudioHD.”

The official opening of StudioHD was part of the Depot Open event on 3 April. Over 1,000 people visited the venue and the studio, or attended seminars, concerts and the audio gear garage sale. At StudioHD, winners of the Open Mic singer/songwriter contest were invited for free recording sessions.

In the rehearsal and meetings room of Het Depot, musicians were invited to submit their (home) mixes to Tom Van Achte, mastering engineer of TVA Music Company, while iDeal Acoustics presented the Acoustics Simulator, analysing the acoustic characteristics calculating reverb times of recording rooms. Sessions on the use of Steinberg 5.5 and WaveLab software, digital pianos, Boss guitar effects and ear protection completed the programme.

In 2011, Het Depot will undergo a major refurbishment, in which Live is Life plans to play a role, creating direct links between the studio and rehearsal rooms. The venue, owned by the City of Louvain, is a former cinema theatre, and opened in 2005 as a non-profit organisation for live concerts. In 2007, Het Depot concluded a deal with Flemish public broadcaster VRT for the recording of live concerts for Radio 1 and Studio Brussel.

“We stage some 30 concerts per year,” explains Mike Naert, manager of Het Depot, “and two out of three concerts are sell-outs. Next year, we will be refurbishing the whole building, for which the city of Louvain has planned a budget of €5 million. In addition to increasing capacity (840 instead of 640) the project also includes the better incorporation of the recording studio, rehearsal rooms and public reception area and the improvement of acoustics and noise damping.”