Tom Marks' young looks belie the fact that he already has a great track record in TV and film production. He takes up the story of the journey from high school to LA. "I grew up with music in my family, listening to live music & albums as a kid. When I was 15 in high school, I got a job at a local TV station near St. Louis. I worked there for three years until I went to college to study Electronic Engineering. A few years after graduating, I ended up going back to school at Full Sail in Orlando, Florida. I graduated in 2003, and three days later I was living in Los Angeles. My previous background got me work in television, and then I transitioned into films. About 5 years ago, I started doing some freelance work at Warner Bros. and it's been going pretty strong since." His time is divided between TV and movies "I spent last year working on some very cool TV projects with a few feature films mixed in.”
From Hardware To Software
As a mixer, reverb is an essential part of his toolkit and soon the discussion turns to reverbs. "I owned a TC6000 hardware box and really fell in love with it. When they came out with their plug-in, I purchased it immediately so I could run multiple instances. I used Lexicon 480Ls which several studios still have today. I also owned a Bricasti, which sounds amazing, but was too expensive when you need 10 of them."
He then turns to his new found love, Exponential Audio reverbs. "I started using the Lexicon reverb plug-ins when they were released and would see Michael on some of the forums."
For Marks, he feels it is important to strike up a dialog with companies to make sure they are better informed on the needs of the audio community. "I try to reach out to a lot of companies whose products I like. You’re never quite sure if they know what we do and how we use their products. I often say, hey I love using your products for these reasons. And then say if you could tweak this feature, it would really help us. Over time, I've developed a lot of good relationships with the companies. So I reached out to Michael about localization ideas with surround reverbs that eventually ended up in the surround versions. I was an early adopter of his stereo reverbs and was very excited when we started talking about the surround versions.”
Choosing A Reverb
The question often asked of Exponential Audio reverb users, does he have a favorite? "I mostly use R2 Surround, but I will give both plugins a shot. Especially if I'm trying something new and want to experiment.” Is there a reason that Marks chooses the R2 over the PhoenixVerb? "I'll put both reverbs up on two separate tracks and load a similar type preset like a small room. Then I'll switch between the two and tweak the settings. I have found that the R2 sits in the track better for me.”
Marks is honest "There are times when I'll try several different reverbs to see what works best. It comes down to the sound in your head and trying to get that to come through the speakers. A lot of times, the Exponential reverbs win.”
Power To The People
He continues "On top of everything else, what I do wish more people would talk about, and partly because I know how hard Michael works at it, is how efficient the plug-ins are CPU wise. In post production, we are using a lot of 5.0 and 7.0 reverbs. On the effects side of the console, I have hard effects, foley, backgrounds and sound design stems. For each of the four stems, you can have four or five reverbs going. So that's sixteen to twenty multi-channel reverbs you may have to run on one system along with over two hundred tracks which can have EQs, filters, and compressors."
We move to the question of the plug-ins being native only, does this bother him? “One issue people have is when the application runs out of processing power, which stops the playback, and opens an error window. But because Exponential reverbs are very efficient, it has never been an issue. A lot of times, I'm working on a Pro Tools HDX2 system with the DSP cards handling the voice count. I can have 16-20 Exponential reverbs running, look at the CPU usage, and it's not even sweating."
Finally we return to the discipline of mixing and Tom has advice for those just starting out. "Pull up projects you've completed and use them to try out new ideas. Another great thing about Exponential Reverbs is the way you can use the arrow keys to move through the presets without looking. So go through, try them, and experiment.”
"Learn something new every day!" That's my one piece of advice.