Fairlight’s New Pyxis-MT Makes Its Debut On The Emmy Award-Winning Ellen DeGeneres Show

Award-winning sound mixer Terry Fountain is using Fairlight’s new Pyxis-MT to record audio and video for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, a daily talk/variety show that is produced in Los Angeles and syndicated nationally across the USA by Warner Bros. Television.

Standing for Pyxis Multitrack, Pyxis-MT is a versatile audio and video capture, playback and file transfer system that combines the functionality of a fully featured HD non linear recorder/player with a professional 192 track audio recorder built in one. The system provides true HD VTR performance and includes Fairlight’s extensive drag and drop file handling capabilities. Powered by Fairlight’s Crystal Core engine, Pyxis-MT can record up to 96 tracks of sample locked, floating point audio along with High Definition video. An additional 96 tracks are available in the track laying process for track hungry applications.

Fairlight’s Pyxis-MT system, the first of its kind to be installed anywhere in the world, has taken pride of place in a new facility built on Warner Brothers’ stage 1-2-3 for Telepictures, the production company responsible for producing The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was specified by systems sound consultant David Crivelli. The tapeless high definition facility was built and engineered by systems integrator National Teleconsultants.

“As a former Fairlight user I am always happy to recommend the company’s workstations because they are dependable, consistent, easy to use and capable of delivering exceptional sound quality,” Crivelli says. “In this particular case, the engineers using the new facility were making the transition from tape to a tapeless High Definition environment. The audio requirement was complex because the show features music performances as well as Ellen’s comedic monologues and interviews with celebrities and members of the public. This meant there was a need to record multiple tracks of isolated audio and to link this to picture so that daily rehearsals could be reviewed and remixed prior to recording for taping.”

To ensure that the show captures the excitement of the on-stage performances, everything is shot in sequence in real time as though it were live taped as live. The Fairlight captures 48 tracks of audio along with video during the rehearsal earlier in the day. The mixer, along with the music guest engineer, are able to replay the rehearsal and modify equalizations, balances, and dynamics of every instrument discretely until all parties are happy. During the recording of the show, the dialed in parameters are applied to the actual music performance. If all goes well, no remixing is required. If the musical guest is not happy with something, the Fairlight is used to remix and perfect the area of concern.

“For The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Pyxis-MT is used as a live multitrack recorder that is connected via MADI to a Studer Vista mixing console,” David Crivelli adds. “The final program mix is carried out in the console but thanks to the system’s editing capabilities, editors can instantly locate the exact point where a remix is required. They can also copy and paste in post production mode to capture different elements of the performance and they can easily export the time stamped audio to a non-linear system using time code referenced broadcast WAV files. This allows editors responsible for the final delivery to seamlessly drop the newly mixed audio back into their timeline for the blending and conforming prior to the delivery of the show.”

The Pyxix-MT installed at the new facility has a Black Magic HD Link video card that makes it very easy to archive performances and retrieve audio and video from previous shows if the material needs to be re-purposed. Since the Fairlight has video capabilities built in, there is no need to repurpose expensive video servers to work with the workstation for video accompaniment.

Crivelli says: “This is such an easy system to use that in just a few weeks the show’s engineers have quickly become adept at operating it. It doesn’t need a controller because all of the software features are managed via a mouse/keyboard. Using Pyxis-MT as a multitrack recorder is a bit overkill because it is capable of so much more. Having it installed gives the facility the opportunity to multipurpose the room. At any time it can be used for post production when it is not being used for the show.”

Now in its sixth season, The Ellen DeGeneres Show began shooting in High Definition in September 2008. This coincided with a move to Stage 1 at Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California, after NBC sold the property where the show was previously taped. Produced by A Very Good Production and WAD Productions, Inc. in association with Telepictures Productions, the show airs in national syndication, including on the NBC Owned and Operated Television Stations Group.