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Beyond the Telephone: ATS Studio in Lyon Installs Yamaha Nuage

Mar, 2015

PHOTO: Patrick Guion, IT Manager; Alain Coulas, CEO of ATS Studios; Fabien Saadoun, Yamaha Sales & Marketing Manager; Patrick Gravel, its industrial manager; Stéphane Brocard, Yamaha Associate for the Southeast; Paul-Henri Wagner, President of 44.1

ATS Studio produces hundreds of thousands of phone messages each year, and is the leading French provider in the field. Clients include France Telecom, Orange, Nextira, Spie, and also the Société Générale, SAMU, and National Gendarmerie. There also tens of thousands of SMEs who entrust ATS Studio to broadcast announcements via their audio standards and servers.

“We have come a long way since the days when loops of Jeux Interdits or The Four Seasons were played while we waited on the phone. The telephone has become a mini media outlet, conveying commercial information or contacting customers about specific events,” says Alain Coulas who founded ATS in 1985 with the pioneering concept of using contemporary music and customized messages. His successful company now has a staff of 70 producing messages that are routed to all areas in dematerialized form. Their production technique uses local servers almost exclusively.

Industrial scale organization is required to handle hundreds of thousands of messages per year with minimum errors. It is not possible to check everything before delivery, so the strictest control and multiple checks must be implemented during production. The procedure is now firmly established and ATS has five small studios recording, timing, and mixing messages, plus two voice recording booths. ATS engineers use well-known software and tools such as iTunes, Cubase, and SoundForge.

But Alain Coulas is always prepared to go a step further. “Some of our satisfied telephony customers wanted us to do production for their corporate videos and other media, so we created an “artistic department” that could provide more personal care for each project than the industrial side of our business is capable of. Sometimes we are asked to work with existing content, but we also create totally new universes of sound from a purely conceptual brief. We also do sound post production for images where the scope of communication is determined by the type of display used, for example. The idea is to maintain some consistency: the same music might be used for phone hold, internally, in corporate videos that are shown at tradeshows, in external advertising campaigns … so that the company becomes identified with a recognizable sound bite!”

During a technical upgrade of ATS Studio a year ago, Alain Coulas decided to add a large studio to augment the existing facilities. “We wanted to give our customers open-ended possibilities for music creation and production while maintaining the capabilities of our smaller studios. Extensive discussions were held with Patrick Gravel, head of our industrial division, Patrick Guion, our IT manager, Michel Stievenard, our R&D manager, and our technicians. A number of well-known brands came up, but Nuage, which I did knot know about at the time, seemed worthy of further investigation for a number of reasons. It was not a straightforward choice: I was prepared to question, to discover a new world, to adopt a new tool that would allow us to “breathe” differently, a tool that is beautiful and offers sonic transparency that is as clear as daylight.”

The “44.1” company of Paris specialize in Nuage systems, and it was they who expertly handled the installation at ATS. According to Paul-Henri Wagner: “ATS contacted us in September of 2013. At first we were thinking in terms of control surfaces and more traditional software, but given the context Nuage seemed more appropriate for in-the-box TTY production, network audio potential, post production capability, and of course the obvious compatibility with the Cubase software that was already being used for “industrial” message production.” ATS visited 44.1 and tried out the Nuage system in a production situation, with the usual iTunes tools and SoundForge for recording and exporting messages, and it quickly became apparent that Nuage enabled them to work in the normal way while offering new possibilities in other areas.

The Nuage system at ATS was installed in 2014, with two fader units, one master unit, and two workspace units housed in an Argosy desk. The system is complemented by Focal SM9 monitors and Focusrite ISA428 preamps. “This studio has been used for video projects, music recording, and now it is ready for commercial operation,” says Alain Coulas. “The studio is not just decoration, it is not just there for show, but to help us move beyond telephony. We now have the means to that end.”

A small studio for industrial production (Yamaha 01V96, Mackie control surface, KRK Rokit monitors)

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