Ann Arbor, Michigan:
The Duderstadt Center on the north campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is a utopian's multimedia center, with an electronic music studio, a digital media tools lab, a virtual reality cave, multimedia collaboration rooms, and a recently overhauled, state-of-the-art audio recording studio. At the heart of the Walters-Storyk Design Group renovation lies a new API Vision console that allows its users to intelligently mix in both stereo and surround formats simultaneously. In addition to its use in classes and for faculty research, the API Vision is open for use by any University of Michigan student, as is every facility in the Duderstadt Center, provided they receive certification on its use!
The console is, in the words of David Greenspan, audio resources coordinator at the Duderstadt Center, "fully decked out" with forty-eight channels, thirty-two 550A three-band EQs, sixteen 560 ten-band graphic EQs, twenty-four 225 compressors, full fader automation, and API's Instant Reset Switch System (which is an invaluable asset when dozens of users are mid-project at any given time!) But what really separates the API Vision from every other analog console in the world is its ingenious panning and buss implementation. Each channel's panning section features three separate pots: a mode-switchable Left-Right/Left-Center-Right main pan pot for the front channels, a front-to-rear fader pan, and a rear-channel pan pot. The Vision's 24 busses are comprised of three stereo mix busses, a dedicated five-channel buss, and ten auxiliary busses. The stereo and surround busses are always active, allowing users to simultaneously mix in stereo and surround.
The API Vision gets a regular workout in three of the Performing Arts and Technology Department's classes. "We're effectively calibrating our students' ears and brains so that their baseline standard is pristine analog sound," noted Greenspan. "When they hear other technologies or manipulations, they'll be able to hear and mitigate artifacts. That was reason enough to get an API console. With the Vision however, students are also learning to explore and conceptualize movement in space and time and to think in both stereo and surround at a fundamental level."
As a way to integrate the various disciplines that work together in the music industry, the department has created a record label, Block M Records, which ran a contest early in the fall 2006 semester. Students from all over the campus were encouraged to submit a song, and a panel of judges (including architect John Storyk) selected eight winners. Those winners were then recorded on the API Vision in a beginning recording class, with students in a producers class stepping in to produce each song. Block M Records posted the final, polished songs on iTunes.
In addition to student use, the university's faculty has incorporated the new API Vision into their research projects. Among them is a project that explores the optimal microphone technique and optimal placement of speakers for spatial imaging of stereo and surround recordings. Researchers use the API Vision in conjunction with the Duderstadt Center's 3D graphics lab and virtual reality cave to push the envelope on three-dimensional sound.
In all, the renovation has been a tremendous success. "The installation process was smooth with API there at every step," recalled Greenspan. "To say our students love the Vision would be an understatement. They recognize that it's quite a privilege to have open access to such powerful technology, and it's been inspiring to witness the growth in sophistication and creativity of their mixing choices."