We here at The After Mac would like to give you something more interesting to read, apart from just the latest news, happenings in the world of Mac. As such we decided to try and get into the minds of our fellow Mac users. This will be the beginning of a series of interviews of fellow Mac heads like us.

Kicking of the series is an interview with Ditoy Aguila, president of Sound Crew, a Filipino company doing original music and jingles for corporate AVPs, events, theater plays, TV, commercials and movies. Among their work are themes from Popular TV shows such as Saksi, Reporter’s Notebook and Emergency. All of which air on GMA 7, the no. 1 in network in the Philippines. Sound Crew also did audio production for Trumpet’s version of “The Little Mermaid”.

Ditoy is also the head of the Audio-post department at Ignite Media, a complete post-production outfit with film, video-editing and visual effects services. His work at Ignite has won him an award for best in sound for “Exodus: Tales from the Enchanted Kingdom” at the Metro Manila Film Festival last December.

Between 2003-2005, Ditoy also worked as the head of Sales and a specialist for Digital Media who is the distributor of Pro Tools in the Philippines. Assisting in the design and set-up of a various facilities and studios in Manila, from schools like UP and Ateneo, to big networks like GMA and ABS-CBN. Part of his job was to also train engineers in these facilities. Popular recording artists who were his past Pro Tools clients are Jay R, Gary V. and Keith Martin.

Training is still in Ditoy’s blood as he is currently teaching the faculty of the Konrad Adenauer Center for Journalism at the Ateneo De Manila University.

TAM: So, Ditoy gives a glimpse of what’s it like at your desk/work areas, What’s your set up like? Hardware, software?

Ditoy: Our main computer is a dual 2.7Ghz PowerMac G5, 4Gb RAM, dual 17” Flat LCDs, an Infocus projector to view video on a wall mounted screen. 5.1 Genelec 8050A powered speakers, and a Digidesign Pro Control with an Edit Pack control surface and surround panners. For all our audio work, we mainly use Pro Tools HD-3, with Sync I/O, 96 I/O and Avid Mojo to handle video tasks.

For sound design work and simple musical compositions I use a Powerbook 17” G4-1.67 with 1.5Gb RAM, 120Gb 5400 rpm hard drive, dual layer superdrive and best of all the big 1680×1050 screen resolution. I use Pro Tools LE 7 with the Mbox2. It’s convenient doing sound design work with a quicktime movie running simultaneously with Pro Tools with this wide workspace.

Pro Tools have become an industry standard both locally and worldwide, for commercial production and film-work for its power and flexibility. I had past projects where I collaborated with other studios and having the same software with them enabled me to just bring my hard drive and exchange files.

I also use software synthesizers like Sampletank, Sonic Synth, Kontakt, Stylus, Atmosphere.

TAM: How did your setup evolve through the years?

Ditoy: Well I think most studio musicians and engineers started with a PC. From a cheap PC studio in Sound Crew, we were able to bring in the Macs and invest in software as well.

At Ignite we use mostly Macs. From the reception area, there are the Imac G5s, to the Powerbooks of the personnel and the Powermacs for workstations.

TAM: How has Apple/Mac affected the way you work? What’s your typical workflow.

Ditoy: For a typical movie, the 1st stage is ADR (dialogue recording) then Foley (footsteps and recreated movement sound effects), then Sound Design (special sound effects beyond the Foley stage) and finally the Mixing stage.

The engineers just get the Pro Tools session files from another computer easily via the Mac Network. 3-4 Mac computers all running at the same time to meet project deadlines is do-able.

The ipod is also useful for playing back our projects, to check translation to other audio systems. I have also used it to present our audio work to clients. For projects with video material it’s best to use the Powerbook. We use iTunes to manage our library of past material, musical scores and sound effects.

TAM: In today’s competitive music/sound industry, how does Apple/Mac give you the edge?

Ditoy: Using the Mac has enabled the studio to become more efficient. Due to its bug-free and reliable performance, you are assured of optimal productivity with no downtime for troubleshooting or reformatting a crashed computer. Files are safe, projects are secure. No headaches!

iTunes has also helped us organize our audio library, and best of all it’s a FREE program that comes with the mac!

TAM: What kind of setup would you advise people/hobbyists who want an economical home recording studio.


Level 1: Start-up

The cheapest Mac Mini G4 is a good start-up system. Garageband which is FREE with all macs is already capable of doing good audio-productions. The Mac Mini starts at around $599, that’s already a good deal. Buy a cheap USB-midi keyboard between $150-200 dollars so you can compose your own musical passages.

You can also get Logic Express for better MIDI and audio capabilities. That’s around $299.

Level 2: Better sound quality sound cards and microphones

Add these to the equipment above for an improved set-up.

An MBOX2 for under $500 will give you a desktop usb-audio interface with Pro Tools LE 7 included! (I remember Keith Martin using his 12” powerbook and the Mbox for his professional album work)

M-audio interfaces (from PCI cards for a little over $100 to a firewire multi-channel audio for less than $500)

Get Condenser microphones. The affordable ones are Shure, Audio Technica, Behringer between $150 to $400.

Level 3: More processing Power

For more track counts and effects, you will need more processing power. Enters the newer Intel dual core chips. For Pro Tools, there is still no support for the Intel Processors so the Powermac G5 dual or Quad is your best bet.

iMac Intel Core Duo starting at $1299
Powermac G5 dual starting at $1999

Level 4: PRO set up

If you have money to burn, get all the BEST available equipment to get the BEST sound possible. Investing in the best microphones, mic pre-amps, audio interfaces, sound-proofed vocal booths, cables, etc. will provide you with the best signal chain.

Rough estimate:

Powermac G5 with LCD maxed out $5000.00
Digidesign Pro Tools HD-3 TDM P $15,000.00
Digidesign 96 I/O audio interface $2000.00
Digidesign Pro Control and Edit Pack control surface $18,000.00
Focusrite Mic preamp $1,500.00
Blue or Neumann Microphone $1,500.00
Genelec 5080 powered speaker $2000 each
Software synthesizer software $600 each

So basically with a modest Level 1 set-up you can already start making music and audio productions. Remember that these are just the tools, the artist’s creativity is still the vital aspect for any masterpiece.

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