Travel directly north-west out of the chaos of central Paris to the suburb of Colombes and you will find the sanctuary of chic that is Studio Sledge. Located in a disarmingly, deceptively large factory building (it used to be a printing works), Sledge is the project of Bruno Mercere (pictured, right), a mix engineer/producer who earned his stripes at France’s famous Studio Omega in Suresnes.
Over the past three years, Mercere and his small team have created a stylish, cutting-edge facility catering for every aspect of audio mixing for cinema and TV. Sledge’s main offering are the three mixing rooms: one for cinema, one for television, and one for music. This way, for instance, Mercere can create his dramatic surround mix for a movie audience, then transfer to the smaller auditorium for the TV mix. “The right thing is to do the right things in the right place,” he says. “The client can pay the right price, and everybody is happy with that.”
A recurring feature of all the rooms, and the three edit suites, are ADAM Audio monitors. “I use them on all my projects: music, cinema TV – I’m always happy with them because what I hear on my ADAM monitors is the truth,” volunteers the owner.
Sledge was designed by acclaimed French acoustician Christian Malcurt. Mercere says he wanted the same designer as director Luc Besson. “If you use Malcurt you are sure of the result.” What the building’s former resident required for his printing presses – high ceilings, solid floors, natural light and plenty of room – were gifts to Mercere and Malcurt, who have used them to their advantage and created a sophisticated and attractive set of rooms.
It’s all about mixing sound at Sledge, for the French-language audience. No video post production, no music tracking, no dubbing or voice-over work: le mixage seulement. While not offering a ‘picture and sound’ package can be a little difficult, says technical manager Maria Luisa (pictured, right), she suggests Sledge takes a more “handcrafted, human approach. That’s why we are not fighting the big production houses.” And that philosophy has worked so far.
For instance, five cinema releases were mixed in the studios in 2012; and when PSNEurope visited, Mercere was halfway through his sixth season of mixing a forensic police show (…yes, it’s CSI, Paris-style) for the main commercial TV station TF1. They’re not short of work.
The two smaller mix rooms feature Avid 32-fader ICON D-Show driving Pro Tools HD3 systems, while the centrepiece of the cinema room is a Euphonix/Avid System 5. You’ll find ADAM Audio monitors in every room, too. Mercere is a big fan. He has used other brands – and he names them, though we won’t – and says he “hated” them. “Of all the ones I tried, the ADAMs I preferred,” he emphasises.
In the TV mix studio (‘4’) he has an ADAM S3A 5.1 set-up with an ADAM Sub unit. In the cinema room, there may be JBL cinema speakers clearly visible, but he prefers to set up the S3Xs and work with those.
“I just mixed for three weeks [solid] on ADAM for a small budget movie – and they were completely transparent. That’s very important, that’s the main thing,” he says. “You can use them for every application, and you hear what you’ve done.”
Several users have told PSNEurope how easy ADAM boxes are to listen to for prolonged periods: does Mercere find this?
“Yes, because of the ribbon tweeter. It’s a smooth sound and you can work 12 hours without any problems. With JBL for movies: no. With ADAM, I can work with one project during the day, and another at night… sometimes I have to do that!
“Another point,” he offers. “Musicians or producers or directors who work with me, they find them, really beautiful. Some composers and musicians have bought ADAM’s speaker after they’ve heard mine!”
Mercere is presently working with Michel Gondry, mixing the music for his next unnamed movie. “But I don’t want to mix a lot, that’s not why this place exists,” he remarks. “This place exists because I want to give people ‘atmosphere’. When I was a freelance, I was not happy with all the places I worked.” Working in studios in Paris, he says, was all about price rather than comfort. Hence he found a base for Sledge outside the city, where’s it’s cheaper – and where he and his staff are more than happy. “For the same price we can have somewhere comfortable with people smiling…!”