Atlanta-Based Composer/Sound Designer Feels 'At Home' With Yamaha NUAGE
John Penn is an independent film/music composer, 3D sound designer, producer, media-tech entrepreneur, and owner of Undercurrent Labs, the company he founded in 2011. Part of the Atlanta tech community, the company is focused on virtual and augmented reality and content development for web and mobile applications. Working with several innovative companies that are pushing the boundaries on immersive surround, a networked infrastructure is key to the Company’s development. A software and content development company, it is focused on enterprise mobile apps for the MedTech and streaming video markets, and also currently developing augmented reality and location aware technology for mobile devices to help medical device manufacturers and hospitals reduce the risk of accidents, complications, and costs of operating complex medical equipment.
“I believe music is an important form of medicine and I've been researching the application of 3D sound and music as a more natural application to improve medical conditions that affect the brain, nervous system, and chronic pain conditions. Harnessing song, sound frequencies, and rhythm as another tool in treating physical ailments is an emerging field, states Penn. Fundamentally, our biological existence is closely tied to vibrational energy, and tapping into 3D space and other dimensions that is hard for us to consciously perceive, but our core being understands, can ultimately render medically beneficial outcomes previously not thought possible. There is a connection between dimensional sound vibration, m-theory physics, and medicine that we have barely scratched the surface on.”
Penn says the company’s strategy to provide full-service and on-time delivery is built on the best network infrastructure available for audio and video that helps to scale dynamically to each project with post-production talent, workflow, and equipment. For that reason, Undercurrent Labs purchased the new Yamaha NUAGE Advanced Production DAW System. “I was sharing my studio upgrade plans with my brother Mark, also a Nuendo user, and had just seen the Yamaha announcement for NUAGE. “For years, we waited for the right control surface for Nuendo, so when we saw the pictures and specs for NUAGE, we knew the wait was over.”
NUAGE dealer RSPE recommended a demo, and so Penn reached out to Yamaha’s Chris Hinson for that purpose. “You don't have a real appreciation of the presence and feel of NUAGE just by looking at pictures until you see it in person, touching the surface and realizing the freedom of not being confined to a box of semiconductors. Sitting at the NUAGE console and looking at the new Nuendo 6, I actually felt at home again, in a musical sense. The design is that good!”
The collaboration of Yamaha and Steinberg to harmonize the workflow of an established DAW like Cubase/Nuendo and Yamaha's deep portfolio of digital mixers and their combined design and engineering philosophy helped Penn to affirm NUAGE as a great result, since he was already comfortable with Nuendo since Version 2 and the Yamaha 01V and 01V96 mixers. “It is kind of like mixing peanut butter and chocolate, for most folks, you're going to get something great.”
Penn said he put NUAGE to the challenge on its maiden voyage in his surround mix room where he served as supervising sound mixer for Hollywood veteran actor and director, Tommy Ford (Martin on Fox; New York Undercover, UPN; The Parkers), editor Kevin Christopher, producer Shannon Nash and executive producer Bryant Scott of Tyscot Films, for a new film being released this year entitled "Switching Lanes", starring Michael Lerner (GLEE), Marla Maples (Executive Decision), Terri J Vaughn (Steve Harvey Show), Victoria Staley (Raising Izzy), Doc Shaw (House of Payne, Pair of Kings), LisaRaye McCoy (All of Us, Single Ladies), and Fred Hammond, talented gospel artist, musician and friend of Penn’s from the Detroit music scene.
“Nuendo’s ADR mode enables me to accomplish more in vocal and Foley sessions by allowing multiple takes in one batch for scenes, providing more freedom for greater spontaneity in performance by the artist and guidelines from the director or producer, says Penn. “I'm currently test driving Yamaha’s Rio 32-channel I/O box to remotely control the head amplifiers from either the NUAGE Master and Fader control surfaces, by-passing my analog patch bay and cable snakes.”
“Touch is everything to me when I'm in a creative vibe, a real break from flat glass. I love the natural texture of the hand rest, stainless steel jog wheel and the frame accurate precision it provides as I nudge video or audio tracks. Designing in 3D space in real-time on a Sci-Fi Q-Bik Muz soundtrack "PsychoPlasmic" was nearly impossible without JL Cooper's Surround Panner, enabling three axis of control and automation manipulating audio objects around 9 monitors. The integration of NUAGE to manage 3D audio for real-time 3D motion graphics for live video production, animation, and content branding, using virtual sets, and augmented reality, brings a level of creative collaboration to Georgia usually exclusive to LA and UK studios,” adds Penn.
“One of my film dialog editors, Elliot Glenn, a Pro Tools user said he never thought he'd be able to learn a new DAW using a control surface specifically created for that DAW. The integrated approach Yamaha has perfected not only sped up the learning curve but revealed many features of Nuendo sometimes hidden in software. Believe me when I say that the NUAGE integration with Nuendo is truly seamless.”
Penn is currently working on several projects including music scoring, sound design and technical consulting for his daughter, Maya Penn whose animation series has captivated a vast audience of tweens and adults alike. He is also producing an EP for an indie rock band The Endangered Species, producing and composing the first Q-Bik Muz sci-fi film and music release entitled “Anti-Gravity Machine.” “It’ll be a lot of fun as I'm approaching this music project from the POV of a film director and sound designer focusing on next generation audio that includes both surround, layered height channels, and 3D space including Soundfield, Auro 3D, Dolby Atmos and 3D Link.”