Robin Nixon not only helped pioneer the electronic dance scene and launch the CD pre-listening revolution by programming music for Urban Outfitters in the ‘90s, but during this time, Nixon also managed to carve himself a place on the film side of music: working as a music video producer for the Fugees, Cypress Hill, and Boys 2 Men, as well as contemporary alternative rock acts like Oasis.

So almost natural that in March 2005, Nixon joined with several partners to open up rOOm Audio — a boutique deal inside the already boutique-y rOOm music video and audio post-production facility, just two blocks from the beach in Venice, California. And Nixon, the music video producer for the audio end of the facility, designed it to be the ultimate haven for audio post-production, composition, editing, and surround sound for music videos and commercials.

“It’s one of the few studios where a director can come down and work on a video edit, and then walk straight into another room and start working on the audio,” says Nixon. “And we can give them audio samples and audio design halfway through a project, which is a really unique situation.”

Composing 50 Cent At a Time

The rOOm music team, which includes producer Nixon, composer Elad Marish, and mixer Brandon Toh, is also jacked in to composing original lead-in music for music videos. “More and more videos are running as sort of short-form films, so they require more and more music composition to surround the actual track, as well as sound design,” explains Nixon.

Conveniently, rOOm is also home to commercial/music video editor Jeff Selis who works with several top hip-hop music video directors. “Our first job in this studio was to do a piece of music for the lead-in to 50 Cent’s ‘Just A Little Bit,’” explains Nixon. “We wrote the lead in music as 50 Cent is walking down the plane. To do this we had to match the tempo of the actual video. We recently just did the same sort of thing — wrapping sound design around a music video — for Snoop Dogg’s and System of a Down’s latest videos as well.”

The Sonic Vault

rOOm’s 5.1 surround sound studio is powered by a Power Mac G5 running a Pro Tools HD 192 system with two HD2 Accel cards. In addition, rOOm audio hosts a very, very large sound design library. “When people come to us — we have about 500 sounds of breaking glass,” he says. “Our sound libraries are so good that — if you pull up an automobile — it will actually categorize every make of car and year and you go into that subcategory and it will have ‘Wheel skid,’ ‘engine start,’ ‘engine stall,’ ‘drive by,’ and so on.”

The studio is also equipped with a Focusrite ISA pre-amp and several Neumann mics. But mics and pre-amps are about the only hardware they use in this ultra-modern loft-like studio. “We use a lot of plug-ins, but not much outboard,” says Toh. “The Waves plug-ins work very well for me. They’re clear and they’re transparent and it allows me to just sort of clean things up and enhance certain frequencies.”

Getting The Perfect Mix for TV

The final mixes are monitored first through a KRK 5.1 surround set of monitors, plus a set of Auratone monitors that they use to compare their mixes at a level that simulates the lowest quality home theater environment. Auratones are designed to mimic the sonics of television.

“A lot of the time, you’ll have a mix really sounding great on the KRKs, but then when you play the song through the Auratones, you realize that you’ve lost what you thought was the best part of your mix,” says Nixon.

The Future Is Surround

The surround sound system at rOOm audio was set up with the help of several audio industry big brains. “We totally balanced this room for surround by following the specs in the Producers & Engineers Wing ‘Guidelines for Surround Sound Production,’ and it actually worked quite well,” says Nixon, who sees the future as being highly immersed in surround.

“Until now, surround sound has been almost exclusive to the movie industry,” he explains. “Now, with the accessibility of home theater systems, people are more and more going to realize that you can put your music CD into your home theater and have the benefits of your surround system. Stereo is great, but surround is better.”