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Guitar Heroes Steve Ouimette and Ryan Greene Get Dangerous
Musician & Engineer use Dangerous Music 2-Bus and D-Box on Blockbuster 'Guitar Hero' Games
By Mi2N
(more articles from this author)
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It's not every day that a single videogame generates one billion dollars in sales. In fact, Activision's Guitar Hero is the first. In the music industry when the words 'one billion dollars' and 'guitar' are connected, people listen up! A couple of the heroes taking care of the musical and mixing gigs behind the game's success are composer and guitarist Steve Ouimette, playing amazing guitar solos among much else, and producer and engineer Ryan Greene, former Chief Engineer for EMI Music, mixing all the tracks. Both depend on their Dangerous Music hardware, Greene now mixing through the Dangerous 2-Bus analog summing amp - switching from mixing through his SSL 9000J large format analog console; and Ouimette, in his studio for hours-on-end, with his Dangerous D-Box, a combined monitor controller, headphone amp, summing amp, input switcher and more.

At his previous Arizona studio, 'Crush Recording,' Greene describes the moment of truth while trying out the Dangerous 2-Bus, "I had an industry standard, priced in the 6-figures large format analog console and because of the work that Steve and I were doing - a lot of stem mixing for quite a few video games - he suggested I try the Dangerous 2-Bus. I went out and bought it, and the console went away very quickly after that!"

"Steve and I shared the engineering of the Guitar Hero games and I did the mixing at 'Crush Recording' - that's where we did almost everything. We started off mixing through the console, but when it came to recalls it took 45 minutes to an hour recalling a mix. So we were trying to work smarter and faster. The stems were broken out into stereo guitars, vocals, bass and drums - that's where the 2-Bus came in." continued Greene.

Ouimette and Greene did a comparison between the sound of the Dangerous 2-Bus and the large format console, "When we went back and forth, I was prepared for the console to sound better, but I've got to say I didn't really notice a difference between them. I thought the mixes sounded fantastic on the Dangerous 2-Bus. You would have fooled me if you told me they were done on a big console, I would have said, 'Sure.' And probably more important is the fact that it is just infinitely faster and easier to work this way," says Ouimette.

Greene added, "I will be real honest with you, that it took me about 5 seconds A-B-ing through the console and through the 2-Bus, and it was a significant difference. It was a massive difference. I had no problem at that point getting rid of the console, that's how confident I was."

Greene continued the story about how they first got into the Dangerous 2-Bus, "We were about half-way through the Guitar Hero mixes. I brought the signal [from the mix stems] up through the console, through the 2-Bus and straight out of Pro Tools - all through the monitoring section of the console. I had three comparisons. The first thing that I noticed was that the bottom end sounded more open in the Dangerous 2-Bus, and the top end sounded really musical. My former console was known for that 'Radio Friendly Sound.' But when I ran things through the Dangerous 2-Bus, I was able to get the same thing; but for me the bottom end was different, it didn't sound as processed as the console - it sounded how I wanted it to sound."

"I love Pro Tools with the editing and what not, but being able to run the individual tracks out to a summing amp that actually sounds good: the 2-Bus changed my whole life, it truly did. I have my 2-Bus and the [Digidesign] D-Command and have no issue with ever going back to a big console again! It kills me to say that because I've been in the business over 23 years, and I'm a console guy!" concludes Greene.

In the beginning: D-Box
Steve Ouimette heard about the Dangerous D-Box on the forums, and had seen ads and reviews in Mix, EQ, EM and other magazines. Now he uses the D-Box on every Activision game since Guitar Hero 3, including Band Hero, which was just released in November 2009.

Ouimette says, "Because I am in my studio constantly I needed a tool I could use for everything, like a Swiss army knife, not just summing for mixing, but have my I/O setup and switching and monitoring control in one convenient spot. And even more importantly having something that allowed a really, really low volume setting that wouldn't let the signal collapse. It was a logical progression to get a higher quality monitoring system."

Ouimette has a Pro Tools HD3 Accel with a single 192 and uses digital out to the D-Box, and to his Focal Twin6 Be monitors. The 8 channels of analog out of the 192 go into the D-Box summing, but mostly he uses this path for monitoring since it sounds more open and dynamic. Ouimette adds, "The D-Box also has the best headphone monitor I have ever used. I work probably 50-percent of the time in headphones and to have a really high quality headphone amp is a big deal because of ear fatigue, and transient response - you have to hear the detail. To have that in the D-Box was a really nice change from what I was using before."

Describing his work process Ouimette says, "I write the music and I play guitar and bass and keys and sometimes I use drum libraries when I can't get a drummer in the studio. Ryan's studio, Crush Recording, was just down the street from my house, that's where we worked on a lot of this music. One project encompassed 55 cover tracks. That was when we realized we couldn't do what we needed to do with any sort of accurate recall on the console, so that's where the Dangerous 2-Bus made it happen," concludes Ouimette.

"When I run things through my 24 fader D-Command, 2-Bus and through my final process, it sounds like an analog console. There was a time when my mastering guy thought I was still doing everything analog. The funny thing is that now I listen back to things that are analog [that I mixed] and things that I am doing now through my setup and I think it would be very, very difficult to tell whether it is analog or digital. It all works very, very well," concludes Greene.

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