How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Working From Home
When the pandemic lockdowns affected the lives and work for millions earlier this year, David Kalmusky was no exception. “We just didn’t know how it would go.”
David, who is an accomplished multi-platinum record producer, engineer, musician, and studio manager, had to make sure his company Addiction Studios wouldn’t miss a beat. Working with artists like Carrie Underwood, Meghan Trainor, Keith Urban, Tenille Townes and The Fray, there was no room for any technical hiccups.
I had the opportunity to meet with David over Zoom and discuss how his workflow had changed throughout the year. “We’re not set up like a commercial studio. It’s a creative space, it is a collaborative space,” he explains. “We’re in a big studio with grand pianos, three drum kits, synthesizers, and there are seventy guitars just hanging around the walls. To make a record, you have a whole team of people working together. Obviously, that’s changed.”
As quarantine lockdown measures started, the day-to-day life did as well. “At first, we really did shut down.”
As measures continued, work started up, and the lights slowly came back on. David explains that now “When I am working with an artist, I’ll create a bubble with that artist. So we’ll get COVID tests, and form a bubble. It will just be us, and some session musicians. The producers can join us virtually.”
The size of his facility helped make all of this happen. “I can still work with the talent; we’ve got lots of lines of sight. The vocal booth is here (behind the mix room) so we can see each other.” Like many of us working from home, David started using the conferencing app Zoom daily. “I’ve got iPads in every room; I’ve got an iPad next to the mic-stand in the vocal booth. So, I can isolate from the talent and we’re all still working together.”
“We’re still learning and evolving our workflow.”
Portable Drives… With Server Speeds
Even with spacing everyone out at the studio, not everyone would jump into a session at a whim. David regularly works from home, while his mix assistant and engineer work in the main studio. With David running Pro Tools Carbon and the main studio running Pro Tools HDX systems. This means that the different hardware interfaces are compatible with Pro Tools and there are no translation issues with plug-ins.
For this to work, David utilized the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron, an ultra-fast and ultra-portable SSD based on NVMe technology and USB-C for connectivity. “We mixed and matched all the technology and kept the ball rolling.”
The OWC Elektron is not only fast (more than 1000 MB/s sustained), there is even bandwidth to spare. David drives his Pro Tools sessions directly off of the Elektron rather than his internal hard drive for speed and convenience. “It’s got more space than my laptop, I can easily keep everything together than I’m working on.”
On top of running Pro Tools in a latency-free environment, thanks to Carbon, multiple cloud storage backups of the Elektron were happening in the background. “My Dropbox lives on the root of the Elektron drive. When I connect the drive it automatically syncs with my studio. Studio A, Studio B, my laptop, they are always up to date. I also have Amazon storage setup to backup everything on a minute to minute basis using ArcAgent. So, I always have a double cloud backup system in place.”
With work in the music industry and the film and television industry picking back up, David is prepared: “We were already working on some remote projects. We used to use Source Connect. So, we weren’t completely new to working remotely. But doing it every day has been new, it’s been a great learning curve. I did a session for Disney with a singer in the studio and the producers sitting in on the session from LA and Tokyo. And we’re all streaming high-quality output straight from Pro Tools and speaking as if we’re in the same room over Zoom on an iPad. And it was great, it was like we were all in the same room together. I can send out different feeds, different mixes, different outputs all from Pro Tools and decide how they all get routed for each audience.”
For David, having all his current sessions backed up and with him is extremely important. Between work and home, he could find himself jumping into a session at any time. “This drive is clearly superior to any spinning disk I’ve ever owned in my life. This is the fastest drive I have ever owned. I can put it in my backpack and not worry about it at all.”
Let There Be Light
In July, while lockdowns were still in effect, David Kalmusky recorded Billboard chart-topping musician Carrie Underwood and multi-platinum producer Greg Woodford-Wells, in-studio. Their song Let There Be Peace, “makes quarantine feel like Christmas on many levels.” A full-length album of their summertime sessions together is underway and is at the mixing stage now.
As the pandemic drags on, David is cautiously optimistic. Modestly, he shares, “In some ways, we’re getting more work than we may have. It’s people getting creative during covid and figuring out how to work with the studio and the musicians. I’m doing a lot of remote guitar work; I’ll sit here and plug in a guitar and send a stream over.”
Reflecting on the tools of the trade and products like the OWC Elektron, he notes, “If this were five years ago, we couldn’t have done this. Technology is just in such a great place right now. Because of OWC, my work environment is incredible. It allows me to be creative, with no limits”.