Fall On Your Sword

Surround To Atmos In Six Weeks

Fall On Your Sword is a boutique music and post-production house in Los Angeles. Home to Composer and founder Will Bates and Executive Producer Lucy Alper, their work encompasses film, TV, and immersive art installations.

For years, they had been interested in adopting Immersive Audio formats like Dolby Atmos but didn’t take the plunge until they got a call from Netflix to work on a new project. The catch? This – and all future projects – would require Atmos deliverables, meaning Fall On Your Sword needed to be Atmos-ready in only six weeks.

Phone a Friend and Call the Pros

“We knew that we needed something that could expand on our existing 7.1 system without replacing everything,” Lucy says. “And we had just upgraded all of our computers to the new Mac Pro cheese graters, which cost quite a bit of money. So cost was a concern.”

At the recommendation of their friend and fellow sound designer Jon Greasly (The Orville), Will and Lucy contacted Westlake Pro’s Stephen Bannister to see if he and the Design Services Group could retrofit their 7.1 surround room to 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos on such a tight deadline.

Will Bates and Lucy Alper of Fall On Your Sword
"...we were like, all right, this is it. We should do this too. I was just dazzled by the experience of mixing music in Atmos"
Will Bates
Studio Owner

Building the Rig

After studying the system, Westlake’s Design Services Group noted that the older ‘trash can’ Mac Pros that were replaced could be repurposed for the new Atmos system. “A lot of people don’t realize how efficient Atmos mixing has gotten over the past five or six years,” Bannister says. “It used to cost a lot of money to get two computers that could handle Pro Tools and Dolby’s RMU separately. A few years ago Dolby released an update that would allow Mac Minis to handle the RMU, and now some smaller studios can even get away with running everything off of a single machine.”

Monitoring is provided by JBL 10” Cinema Surround speakers, while interfacing, clocking, and control are handled by an Avid MTRX, Sync X, and S6 console respectively. Together with Pro Tools Ultimate, the Avid system provides enough power and flexibility to make quick work of almost any session.

Supply Chain Slowdown

With a plan in place, most of the difficulty with meeting Netflix’s deadline came down to actually finding some of the gear. “As most people are aware, product availability has been all over the place for the past few years,” Stephen says. “Six weeks is not a lot of time to account for working through supply chain issues, so I started working down the gear list right away.”

Will says, “There were so many pieces where Stephen was a little like, ‘Ooh. I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to find that one. I know there’s none available.’ And then he would call me a couple weeks later and have scrounged one up somehow.”

As gear was sourced, the design team cut into the acoustic fabric on the ceiling and framed openings for the height speakers to be mounted. After everything was installed, Stephen and the Design Services Group worked with Dolby to align the speakers and tune the room. Within six weeks of the first meeting, Fall On Your Sword was ready to begin mixing in Dolby Atmos.

Atmos Is Now An Attainable Format

“If there’s one piece of advice I could give to other studios who are on the fence about upgrading to Atmos, it’s that it’s now attainable for all of us,” Will says. “Don’t be afraid! Your project will sound incredible and it’s an easy add-on to offer if you’re already doing a lot of the work for a particular filmmaker or media company. You hear so much about how it will be really expensive, or really complicated, and we were pleasantly surprised with just how simple Westlake Pro made the whole process.”

With Fall On Your Sword’s unique collection of analog synthesizers and acoustic instruments, the possibilities for sound design in immersive format present a lot of exciting possibilities. Alongside their own projects, the co-owners have opened the studio to other mixers who need a place to work in Atmos. 

Getting Your Room Ready for Immersive

While the barrier to entry for Immersive Audio formats has dropped significantly over the years, there are still plenty of pitfalls involved with the setup and installation of your system. Before you start buying monitors or drilling holes in your ceiling, call Stephen Bannister and the Westlake Pro Design Services Group to discuss how you can get the best out of your system. Whether you’re looking to build a brand new studio, convert your surround system to Atmos, or retrofit an entire theater, our experienced team can help. 

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Stephen Bannister

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